I have always had a gift of writing what I want to say. The quote “the pen is mightier than the sword” is never as true for most of us who write for a living, career, or on our free time. You can jot down a few things or write up a story or dissertation on what comes to mind.
For those who are close to me, family and a few friends, they know that I have a form of speech disfluency called “cluttering.” Cluttering is different than stuttering. When you think of stuttering, you think of Porky Pig stammering throughout the cartoon. Cluttering involves excessive breaks in the normal flow of speech that results in talking too fast or unsure of what one wants to say. It would go out like this for me:
“Hi, I want a…hi, I want a box of…Hi, I want a box of cards for…Hi, I want a box of cards for Christmas.”
While trying to say the aforementioned sentence, I use what are called “fillers.” Fillers would be phrases like “I mean,” “Well,” and ”Ah.” All of this does sound foreign for most of you and could be looked at as an embarrassing to deal with. I have taken speech therapy most of life. Different speech pathologists, different tactics, different ways to speak clearly without fail.
In the summer of 2005, Des Moines Register reporter Reid Forgrave followed me for several months to chronicle how someone with a speech disfluency get by on a daily basis. I received accolades for being brave enough to talk about living life stumbling through my speech and resorting to writing to “get by” each day. Internally, something was missing. I deflected most of the attention by saying that if my story reached at least one person, then it was worth being open about it.
I didn’t give myself credit.
People are talking faster now than we have in the last three decades. In the process of doing that, we are combining, slurring, or taking short cuts to spit out our words and sentences. To add, our listening skills has decreased to where that if we don’t get our point across in 20 seconds or less, we will lose the attention of our audience.
The perception is that those who speak slowly are mentally challenged or not very smart. Perception can make us disillusioned to the reality and the facts.
I do live under fear of my speech disfluency: I hate the phone, feel uneasy talking without a prepared statement, and asking questions without falling apart. For a long time, my cluttering was a crutch.
I want to speak and deal with people on the phone. I would like to feel more comfortable in personal conversations, without having to wait for the other person to initiate the discussion. Not that it’s a bad thing, for I learn more from listening than gabbing for attention.
The severity of my cluttering will continue to be a major flaw in my character. It’s who I am. The most encouraging part is that I have large support group this time around, rather than walking this path alone and confused.