I like to think that words hold each other’s hands like best friends, this might have explained the spasms that came when I opened my mouth to speak; the uncontrollable repetition of words joined side-by-side not unlike Siamese twins.
For the most part, save for its reluctant shadow, my terrible stutter has left me but I don’t miss it as much as it misses me. Surprisingly, our destinies weren’t as intertwined as they seemed after all. It had a field day when I was younger when the thought of addressing unfamiliar people would make my blood freeze even before my vocal cords froze.
There were meaningful words dancing in my head, I just couldn’t contain their struggle when they arrived inside my chest. Carefully, I’d strung them together neatly but like children without home-training, I couldn’t control their unruly behaviour when they were let out to play in the open.
Now, I have learned to calm the whirlwind of words that get caught in my throat when I am nervous, excited, even at ease or simply tired. I have managed to suppress my stutter with the habit of speaking quickly. The outcome is a smooth rush of words that board a rocket ship and shoot past my lips.
Yes, I’ve conquered but there’s a price to pay. I haven’t mastered the art of listening; that engaged silence that lets the person speaking know that they have my undivided attention, assuring them that I am hanging onto their every word.
The thing is this because I speak quickly, the words form just as quickly in my head and need to be released exactly as I’ve arranged them. And because I am stirring my pot of alphabets rapidly, I place the hat of presumption atop my head, positioning it at a jaunty angle, thinking that I know what the speaker is going to say even before it comes out of their own mouth.
So, I have my response ready, albeit prematurely and it keeps getting in the way until it becomes a confused symphony of voices, the speaker’s and mine, each trying to overpower the other. A battle of words armed with swords of tongues.
Sometimes, when I lose control of my word-children, I apologise for my now mild stutter. I am mostly sorry that the person that I am speaking with has to go through the pain of plucking out the sense swimming in the sea of jumbled up words.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be so sorry, it is who I am, simply another silk thread specially woven into the fabric that is me.
I suppose we all have the various facets that interlock perfectly to produce who we are; that person that no-one else can be.
Still, I must learn to trust myself more and believe without a doubt that the ropes I have used to harness my words will not slip from my fingers. Then, be still and listen.
© ’Nedu Ahanonu 2016
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