After an awesome holiday party on Saturday night that set the New York City stuttering community abuzz our chapter met once again on Monday evening to connect, share, talk, laugh, listen, and learn. We had 14 attendees in total, 13 old- timers and one newcomer. Welcome Rajiev!
Our meeting started with the reading of the opening words and was followed by a brief introduction of all those present. We opened the floor to sharing and got straight to the heart of things with a conversation about being “put on the spot” and how it affects stuttering, a topic that resonated with many in the room. A member shared his experience of representing his work team on a conference call for the first time on short notice, and how it exacerbated his stuttering, leaving him feeling disappointed and defeated. The conversation led to a reflection about what happened and we spoke about what did and did not work. One member pointed out that there was an unmet expectation going into the experience, namely that there would be sufficient time to mentally prepare for such a call, and that changing the expectation could result in a different outcome. Another member pointed out that although the conversation did not go as liked, it was a success in that unchartered territory was stepped into and that such a situation would likely result in less fear next time. We spoke some more about how sometimes we don’t know how capable we are until we are pushed into a corner and our limits are tested. As one person said “we don’t know what shoes we are capable of filling until we dare to step into them.” We also spoke about how victory is not always obvious at the time we are achieving it and that it’s only when we look back that we are able to see how the moments of pain were the moments of unbelievable growth.
Following this the conversation took a more contemplative turn. A member brought up the topic of the universality of stuttering, how fascinating it is that it’s one of the oldest communication disorders known to man and that it affects people all across the globe. Another person built on this thought and said that stuttering has this magical ability to connect people of all races, religions and backgrounds. We took a moment to be grateful to be part of a group that understands what it means to look beyond exteriors and connect through matters of the heart.
We had one inspiring share that got the whole group excited. A member challenged herself to step out of her comfort zone and sing a karaoke song out loud in a public setting. This individual shared how she was shocked at the level of comfort she experienced while facing her fear, and that the experience boosted her self confidence. Because of this she is finding herself approaching speaking situations with a positive attitude and is more open to facing challenges that arise with stuttering. Members in the room echoed their admiration for this incredible feat and this started a conversation about the benefits of desensitization exercises. We spoke of how frightening it feels at first to do the thing we fear the most, and then of the sense of freedom and invincibility that follows once we’ve looked our demons in the eye and see that they are nothing more than a mirage with no substance.
Of course a meeting is no fun without a few good laughs and we did just that by reminiscing about our past. We talked about what we did during our school years to get out of uncomfortable speaking situations in class. How we craftily calculated paragraphs, letters and numbers to know exactly when our turn would be. How we’d make a mad dash for the bathroom and hang out there for way longer than we cared to, all so that we would be saved from the unthinkable horror called reading. Some of us lied and told our teachers that we did not have our books when they were right in our bag, others convinced friends to read for us. While the terror was real then, we found it is incredibly healing to laugh about it with other people who get it in a way that no one else can.
Speaking of the past, one member brought up how sometimes just when he thinks he moved on and got over a particular experience the feelings resurface in a real and raw way that make it challenging to move forward. Another member spoke about the mystery of stuttering, and how a particular fear of the past can creep up and become a problem again. This brought us full circle to the topic of desensitization, the wonderfully terrifying heads on approach that has the ability to break through fears deeper than the thickest icebergs.
Toward the end of the meeting we discussed the benefits of advertising. Those in favor of advertising agreed that it puts both the speaker and the listener at ease and makes speaking a more pleasurable experience. Since advertising can be done in so many different ways, we discussed that there is no “right way” to go about it. Some prefer a direct approach while others prefer an indirect one. Even those who love advertising sometimes choose not to do so at all.We all agreed that at the end of the day it is most important to respect our feelings and go with what feels right at that given moment.
Our meeting ended on a high note, when a member who never read out loud before volunteered to read the closing words. It’s such risk taking and acts of courage that keeps the momentum going and the incredible energy flowing.
Adios for now my friends, until next time.