Blog by James Hayden
Dec. 13, 2018
One of my favorite Christmas movies is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. During one of the final scenes, our loveable protagonist, Clark Griswold, received a one-year membership to the jelly of the month club as his Christmas bonus in lieu of his expected check. To which Clark’s bumbling cousin-in-law, Eddie, said, “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.” Recently I saw in a Facebook group for people who stutter (PWS) that stuttering is a gift. I have never thought of stuttering as a gift, but maybe it is. Like the jelly of the month club, it’s a gift I would never give to someone nor ask for. Yet, I have it and I choose to see the beauty of the gift. So, if stuttering is a gift, then what has it given me?
Stuttering has given me a community of people who get it. I’ve been a part of national support groups for close to three years. During that time, I’ve met so many people who get it. That let me know that I am not alone. That challenge me to see stuttering in a different way. A group of people that have helped me grow in acceptance of my stutter. A community that I can celebrate the small victories of stuttering with and can share the struggles of stuttering with. A community I’ve grown to call my stamily (stuttering family).
Stuttering has allowed me to strengthen friendships. For the longest time, my lack of willingness to discuss my stutter was a good way to choose friends. If anyone would say the even the slightest negative remark about stuttering, I would immediately chew them out and end our friendship. A few years ago, I only talked about my stutter with the closest of close friends. It was my way of showing him/her that I trust them. Now, I openly talk about stuttering with anyone. As a result of my sharing one of my biggest vulnerabilities, people tend to trust me quicker and as a result share with me their vulnerabilities. Because of this, all my friendships have strengthened.
Stuttering has given me the opportunity to learn and re-learn many life lessons. These include, but are not limited to: seeing and hearing people for who they are, appreciating the small victories of life, always being resilient, seeing the positive in the negative, that some days will be harder than others, having patience, and that I may not be able to change the outcome of a situation, but I can always change my outlook on the situation.
My stutter has allowed me to grow my self confidence in unique ways. Before I accepted my stutter, I buried my feelings about it and in turn buried my feelings about everything else. Now that I’ve accepted it, I proudly wear my stutter for to see and hear. In turn, I’ve allowed myself to be more open with my strengths and triumphs, but more importantly I no longer try to hide my struggles, insecurities, weaknesses, and my many quirks. I am proud of and far more confident in who I am because I have accepted my stutter.
Stuttering has given me another opportunity to serve others. One of my passions is community service and helping others in any way I can. By being open about stuttering and willing to write honest articles about my stutter, I am showing other PWS that they are not alone. I strive to provide those who read my pieces an honest view of stuttering and show them to continue to find the good in all things.
Stuttering has allowed me to discover the joys of writing. Up until a year and a half ago, I only wrote academic papers and the occasional thank you note. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would write recreationally, much less write about stuttering. However, I wanted to get my story out there and writing was the only way I knew how to accomplish that goal. Through that first article, I discovered that I enjoy writing. I finally had an outlet to express my thoughts on stuttering in a way that could reach, and hopefully impact, others.
So maybe Cousin Eddie is right. Maybe, just maybe, stuttering is the gift that keeps on giving.