Living on guard is exhausting. It consumed all of my energy to be that watchful for so many years, yet I had no other choice. I passed through life avoiding social interactions with the hope that no one would talk in my direction. I missed opportunities, friendships, jobs, and all of the everyday connections in between.
If I let down my defenses, I would be vulnerable to attacks.
With some distance between that period of my life and the present, I see that the number and frequency of attacks did not equate to the penance for standing watch. The attacks were too few in number to live life in survival mode.
Tone reveals attitude, and mood follows action. The things I chose to do instead of just surviving gradually changed the tone of my approach to all things, not only how I publicly presented myself as a person who stutters.
Tone stretches me into new territory. It shows others that I am not afraid. It radiates a quiet self-confidence that invites others to hear me out. It is not look at me but this is me.
When I stand before an audience, of one or many, they see and then hear my stutter. It is inevitable. And you know what? No one says a word anymore. It’s not because I’m not stuttering. It’s because I lay myself bare every time I open my mouth to speak. I willingly undress my stutter, muster courage, and reveal all of who I am. My stutter made me and I’ll be damned if I let it hold me back any longer from living the life that I choose. This is the tone with which I learned to carry myself, without sheltering in place and with a hint of edge.
I set the tone for how others receive me. No one or nothing else can.
It is empowering, attractive, and healing, and from which connection grows.
This is the reward for resetting my tone. I stepped forward into the many opportunities to defy my defenses until my presence broke free.
I wish I had done it sooner…