Good evening everyone,
Throughout the course of my life I have taught many lessons about stuttering to the outside world, and received them as well. We have many gifts as human beings and no doubt we determine whether those gifts benefit us or are detrimental to the way we live our life. I'd like to use this edition of the blog to talk about one of those special gifts which we have but sometimes do not use the right way. That is, the gift to hear.
We can hear many different types of things. Yet when I say the gift to hear, I do not mean listening to the local radio station when your favorite song comes on. Nor do I mean listening to the local news talk about what depressing events are going on in the world today. I speak of hearing positive things in an age where everything seems to be overwhelmingly negative.
As a person who stutters, I have heard all kinds of taunts thrown my way. Who can forget hearing these comments: "Come on, Porky!" "Spit it out." "I don't have time to wait," or anything along these lines. I began to see myself as living these comments every day: "Freak." "Loser." "Outcast." I almost started to believe that these were absolutely true since I was surrounded by them every day in high school and even throughout college. I seriously didn't know at the time that I had the power within me to tune them out.....but was so afraid to even discover it. I began to feel burning anger which eventually took on a "It's me against the world" mentality, which in respect was probably the worst attitude I ever could have had. There's a saying that actions speak louder than words. With all due respect to the person who coined that phrase, I strongly disagree. Words hurt people. They can do serious damage to our psyche and irreparably harm us.
It's so hard to live our lives today without one person saying another thing about someone else. We all have opinions, and it's so easy to say them with disregard for the consequences. But we have the power to ignore them. We have the ability to surround ourselves with people who care, who will support our goals and encourage us to live the lives we want. In the latest edition of The Hockey News, there were two great quotes that immediately jumped out at me that bear repeating. Joe Thornton, the center for the San Jose Sharks, made a comment about the fans and critics who constantly ridicule him as "No-Show Joe" for his team's lack of playoff success: "If you let that stuff get to you, it would kill you. It would just kill you."
One of the biggest themes with the National Stuttering Association, the greatest love of my life, is acceptance. And the fact of recognizing that you are a person who stutters, and that is OK. It need not define you in any way. Once you accept that fact that you stutter, as the adage goes, "The truth will set you free." All the doors open up, all that collective weight of fear, shame, and guilt vanishes. For me, I have felt like I have become so desensitized to these comments that once ripped at my core, that I have no comment on it. I just continue living my life, and what a great feeling that really is!
The coach of the San Jose Sharks, Todd McLellan, also lent some very important insight: "I believe there's a danger in always hearing and believing." This quote was in reference to the team's acquisition of Dany Heatley, a player who I discussed previously on the blog, for his reputation as a notoriously bad teammate. There IS that danger of hearing comments that put you down and if you allow yourself to believe them, your stuttering will continue to wreck havoc on your life.
All it takes is an easy adjustment-and it starts with what you choose to listen to.
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.