Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Stuttering and frustration are a volatile mix. When I’m having a difficult day, one bad block can make me break down. It is the proverbial insult added to injury. Let’s take yesterday for example. I ride my bike for two hours to a training race (I race bicycles – more on that in a future post). I planned to do the race and ride home. My chain breaks when I get to the race, and I have to sit on the sidelines while I wait for my wife. I go to my local bike shop and ask for a chain. I stutter, and the sales guy laughs. I know he doesn’t mean anything by it, but it stings. I’ve been on my bike for three hours, so I’m tired and lacking patience. I want to go home and relax with my wife. Instead, I get home and find that I have made a mistake on a work project. Now instead of relaxing with my wife, I have to stay up late and fix it. I go to tell Sarah and find her on her computer with her back to me. I start to talk and launch headlong into the mother of all silent blocks. I dance a silent jig in the doorway while I try to force the words out, and she doesn’t even know that I’m behind her. When I finally get the words out, they sound angry. Now Sarah thinks I’m mad at her. Crap. I call my dad/business partner to discuss the work issue, and by now my stuttering is on ten. Thankfully everyone in my family is a certified stutter translator, so my dad magically understands every word I say. Even so, I get off the phone even more tired. I end the day feeling worthless. All I can think about is stuttering. The point of this story is that a broken chain and an error on a work project are easy things to deal with. Stuttering makes little annoyances seem monumental.

Now that I am done whining, let’s get positive. I’m probably going to have problems to deal with tomorrow, and I am probably going to stutter tomorrow, so I need to figure out how to handle these things.

I recently found a quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn that stopped me in my tracks:

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.

Mindfulness? This might be the tool I have been looking for. I get so caught up in the effects of stuttering that I let myself be a passenger to it. If I could pay attention “on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally,” I might be able to take back the reins. I might be able to stop the snowball effect that stuttering has on my life. I might even overcome shame and fear. This is exciting stuff.

I wish I had more to share about this topic, but this is a brand new journey for me. I’ll keep you updated.


  1. Non-judgmental mindfulness. The non-judgmental part has been the key for me. I have chronic back pain (damaged nerve) and I've been through a lot of years of treatments and then surgery and recovery from surgery. Some of the things I've tried work for awhile- some have made it worse. Until I changed my whole relationship to the pain.
    Now I give the pain no emotional import. I feel it, I know what it is, but it is ok. I just watch the pain and do not get emotionally involved with it. It is a miracle, because I still have the pain and it still takes over sometimes, but it no longer rules my life, since I changed my relationship to it.
    I think stuttering will be extra challenging since other people can see/hear it, but I really believe you can exert some control- not over the stuttering, but over your emotional involvement with the stuttering. These are exciting times!
    Please do not judge me because this is a grammar nightmare, I don't have time to re-read and edit it and I really wanted to comment.
    Have a really good day,Mark!!

  2. Thanks for sharing that, Virginia! I'll see you at Twilight!

  3. Great post. I have tried to use mindfulness, and have read two books by Kabat-Zinn. I find it useful to quiet my mind whenever possible. I also stutter, not severely, but I guess between mild and moderate, depending on the day and my mood, I guess. Sometimes it is hardly noticeable, other days I get those blocks that garner the same reactions as you.
    I too write, and find that sharing my experiences gives some purpose to my life long journey with stuttering.
    Great post, this and another one I just read. I am going to check in often, thanks!