A few days ago, Sarah and I stopped by my parents' place to see their new furniture, and we sat down to chat. I was having a noticeably difficult time with my speech, so I said something like "stuttering is kicking my ass lately."
Everyone agreed with my assessment and said encouraging things, but my dad said something that made me think:
"People always tell me that they are impressed with what you have accomplished in spite of stuttering."
In spite of. That phrase stood out to me. I began thinking about the accomplishments of which I am proudest, and it hit me that most of them were done in spite of something. For example, I have only won bike races in bad weather or with some kind of mechanical problem. When the sun is shining and my bike works perfectly, I can get second or third, but I have never won.
Last weekend, I drove four hours to a cyclocross race in Fayetteville, TN. There was a prime (cash prize) on the first lap, so I took off at top speed. I quickly got a small gap and poured it on. I was going to get the prime easily... or so I thought. I overcooked a turn and landed on my right shift lever. It broke off and left me with one gear and no control over my rear brake. To make matters worse, I was using a different front wheel than I had planned to use, so my front brake was not set up properly and barely touched the rim when I pulled the lever.
While I assessed the damage to my bike, the whole field passed me. By the time I got going again, I was at least half a lap down. I rode easily to the start/finish line where I planned to pack it in and head home, but when I crossed the line, something clicked in me. I didn't drive four hours to do one lap. I was going to finish this race, and I was not going to get last.
I began to pedal like a man possessed. I couldn't brake going into turns, so I would unclip my inside foot and try to slide. I was riding "tape to tape" with a good amount of speed and little to no control. Things weren't going well - I was in my element.
As the laps ticked off, I made steady progress. The crowd was great and cheered me on every lap. In spite of three more crashes (due to my lack of brakes), I managed to finish in fifth place. Right after I crossed the line, the race promoter handed me some cash even though I had finished out of the money. "You put on a good show," he said. "You got back up and kept racing in spite of a disabled bike."
There are many afflictions that are far worse than stuttering, and I don't pretend that my life is any harder than anyone else's. In fact, my life might be easier because stuttering has taught me how to succeed in spite of.
Now, if I could just figure out how to act when things go right...
Happy Tuesday, everybody.