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I Speak Freely, Not Fluently

Last week I went to lunch with my daughter, and after being seated by the Hostess our server came over, introduced herself and then asked what we like to drink, when she got to the word drink she began stuttering severely.

There is that awkward moment when you don’t know whether to jump in and say the anticipated word or just wait. When she finished her sentence, I asked her what she preferred, and she said with people she didn’t know she preferred them not to speak for her. With her friends however they bantered back and forth easily.

I said I didn’t need a drink but asked if it was possible to turn the music down because I could hardly hear our conversation. She laughed and said I get that, you’re hard of hearing and I’m hard of speaking. She said indeed there was a private dining room in the back, and it wouldn’t be a problem serving us back there. It was the perfect place, and for the next hour and 1/2 we listened to each other’s stories.

Paige is 22 years old, from a small town in Oklahoma, and had just come to Phoenix eight weeks ago, without a job, place to live, family or friends. In the last 2 months, she found a place to live, and got a job where she had to talk to strangers and face her challenge every day. She acknowledged that some people were insensitive, occasionally even mean-spirited, and if that happened, she’d flash them her tattoo. She raised her forearm to show it to me, on it was tattooed “I speak freely not fluently”. I’m a stutterer she tells them but that’s not all I am; here I am, deal with it.

This beautiful young woman comes to me at this extraordinary time in my life when I need reminders to live joyfully engaged in every moment. Paige is living her truth every day, facing her struggles, and growing in all those ways she dared to imagine. She comes to everyday joyfully, engaged in what she’s doing, and I am reminded that I talk that talk, but walking it is not always easy.

I want to tell my story with Paige’s courage; I want to come from that place where I don’t hide my vulnerabilities but am also not defined by them… Here I am, let’s deal with it.

We discovered each other just at the right time in our lives, and it always happens when you need it most. Every act of creativity/insight is the result of a prepared mind and a serendipitous moment; you find yourself in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, and you learn something you need to know.

First thing I did when I got home was to look her up on YouTube where she told me she had made several videos. She blew me away again, watching and listening to her brought tears to my eyes and courage to my soul.

I asked about her dreams for the future and she said, “I want to be a public speaker.” It just so happens I know something about that and can help her. The right person, in the right place, at the right time and it changes your world.  

4 Responses to “I Speak Freely, Not Fluently”

  1. Katelon says:

    What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing. What a brave young women. And hurrah for you accepting your present challenges and still choosing joy!

  2. Serendipity – Discovering Unsought Rewards is what comes to mind. I also feel I received an “unsought reward” by reading your story and listening to Paige on YouTube.
    Beautiful, Jyoce

  3. Annie Morrison says:

    I love this. Even though I’m only 61, I have developed a facial twitch. It’s a hemifacial spasm. It can be treated with Botox, or drugs that might make me sleepy. I opted for a light dose of Botox. It wasn’t enough, I still twitch. I’m a teacher, so my face is on full view every day for students. It is funny that I have taught for years, that we are who we are on the inside–we are not our surface self. Now I am facing feeling twitchy and awkward every day. I am living, and hoping for the best. I’m still me. I just twitch. This made my day, thank you for writing it.


  4. Cheryl Stauff says:

    Just had the opportunity to read your story about your encounter with Paige. Yes, timing is everything.
    I have written to you before, on Facebook, and years ago had the pleasure of listening to you during many Pentegra (Omar Reed) continuing Ed programs.
    My husband and I just moved to Casa Grande, AZ from Bremerton,WA 2 weeks ago.
    I was wondering if you still offer times when people can enjoy your storytelling?
    I would love to give my husband the experience of attending one.

    Cheryl Stauff

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Dr. Carl A. Hammerschlag, M.D., CPAE is a psychiatrist, author, and professional keynote speaker. He is an authority in the science of psychoneuroimmunology mind, body, spirit medicine and speaks about health and wellness, healing, leadership and authenticity . He has delivered motivational keynote speeches to corporate and business clients around the world.