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The Brave Ones

 The thing about shame and embarrassment is you can learn to consume it, to swallow it piece by piece, to make it go down a little smoother each time. But, at the end of the day, it's still a poison that accumulates inside, and the stronger you yell out that you're still fine, the weaker you inevitably feel.

That's just me, though.

I had a particularly rough day with my speech today, and when Sartre said "L'enfer c'est les autres," I didn't think he meant it literally. And to me, it is quite literal. When I'm alone, I am completely "normal." Put another homo sapien within earshot, it's like the backdrop changes and someone's suddenly got their hands around my throat, making me choke out what I could say as smooth as velvet just a moment ago.

If there's anything insidious about stuttering, it's the inconsistency. It's like a little goblin that waits in the corner all day, and while you're staring at it, it doesn't budge. It stares at you with its big dark eyes and you feel as if you might be able to reason with it this time. It might let your voice pass through your vocal chords unfettered for a while, if you're really nice to it and feed it yummy treats. And maybe it does... for the unimportant sounds. For when you're just beginning a conversation, or you answer something while caught off guard, or you're talking to an animal or small child. But then, you need to talk to an authority figure or make an important phone call or talk to a potential romantic connection, and the goblin smells your vulnerability, so it leaps up and strangles the sound clear out of you. And no one else sees him do it. You are left to face the ramifications of being a completely cognizant, intelligent, WORTHY human being reduced to garbled animal-like noises that would make a 3-year-old drop his lollipop in wonder. And you want to say, "No, this is all wrong... this isn't my real voice, nor my real personality, nor my distorted facial expressions. I can sound indifferent and humorous and passionate and articulate, I swear." Who would believe you? In that moment, would you believe you?

Just had to spew out some of the venom from today. At least, when I'm by myself, I am able to hear and experience myself as I truly am. The mirror gets fogged up a little when I'm in a more public space, but I carry the clear reflection inside. Most days, anyway.

For people who don't stutter, the idea of not being able to say what you want must be unfathomable. If I were fluent, I know this condition would seem inexplicable. And that's exactly what it is, even for stutterers. It still catches me by surprise every day of my life. It feels like having a sporadic broken leg. Meaning, you'll be walking along, and all of a sudden, your leg just gives out from under you. Outwardly, there is nothing wrong with your leg, but once in a while it just collapses, and you don't know when or why or how, so you can't even put out a hand to catch yourself. You hit the ground hard every single time. Other options would be to crawl. Or simply to not move at all.

We walk, of course. And the brave ones run.


de beauvoir

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July 2011


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