Moments of stuttering are ever present in my mind from over 20 years ago. The feelings, emotions, and aftershock of each still vibrate through my mind and body, usually outside of my control.
These are the imprints of stuttering that have lasted, impeded my life, and those that I’ve focused on to smooth over their influence over shaping who I become.
I denied their existent for too many years. While I stashed the side effects of my many moments of struggle behind the proverbial wall in my mind, my body holds their energy and determines how they influence my interactions with the world around me.
My stutter keeps the score, if I allow it.
The truth is, I’m always going to stutter, just as I will always have brown eyes, a somewhat oversized nose, and broad shoulders. I’ve lived with these defining physical characteristics for years without shame or a combative relationship with them. They’re unconcealable like stuttering.
This type of identity alignment has taken years. I’ve consciously chosen to illuminate the cognitive, emotional, and physiological imprints left behind from my apprenticeship with stuttering to understand how the lasting imprints have impacted or still influence my life.
Doing this by choice was the key.
As the tannic acids allow a leaf to bequeath its signature on a sidewalk each fall, so do our decisions of how we process our moments of stuttering determine whether they stain our collaboration with our stuttering. Our decisions either leave behind imprints that keep us stuck in the past and stall our growth in the present, or they allow us to feel all of the moment of stuttering without those that preceded it—free to stutter how we choose.
I often reflect on the stains that have slowly faded away with my acknowledgement of them. I know that processing trauma right after experiencing it blows away the leaves more quickly. But, scrubbing away at the years old stains is unhealthy, can become obsessive, and even inflict a re-experiencing of the traumatic moments. After all, thinking about stuttering fuels its life-impeding nature, right?
Ultimately, though, this exploration is what allowed me to shed the trauma, both past and present, to truly be able to freely stutter in each moment. I’m not worrying about negative feedback, what my listener thinks about me, how my stuttering looks or sounds, or running circles in my mind afterwards about what I should have done in the moment.
I just talk and bring along my stutter for the ride. The bequeathing is a mere seconds long before I’m blown into the next communicative interaction, without a chance to leave behind an imprint.
I’ve worked hard to keep the wind blowing, and, in doing so, have learned to use the imprints of stuttering to fuel my ever-evolving acceptance of its presence in my life.
The falling leaves will never look the same to you again. I hope you use them as a reminder to work with the wind instead of fighting against it (and your stuttering).