A Sea Change

I was invited to join my first monthly stammering support group about a year ago. I remember the feeling of excitement at being in a room full of people who sounded like me and who had some understanding of what the daily experience of stammering is like.  A couple of months back Patrick Campbell, co-author of ‘Stammering Pride and Prejudice’ popped into the meeting. We had a short discussion about disability and stammering which I found intriguing, so I thought I would give it a read.

Every so often, if you are lucky, you come across something that profoundly challenges your world view. The arguments in this book have created one of those mind-bending moments for me. It made me think that instead of striving for fluency perhaps I should be trying to discover stammering self-acceptance and find happiness there. Reflecting on the monthly meetings, I realized that I really enjoyed hearing people stammer. This led me to wonder if my stammer could give others a similar pleasure. If that were possible, perhaps I could derive enjoyment from my own stammer?

I find drawing the world gives me a greater understanding of it. Often something that I think I know reveals new insights through the visual language of drawing. I thought I’d try to paint myself stammering and see what emerged. The chapter by Sveinn Snaer Kritjansson, Alda Villiljos and Sigridur Fossberg Thorlacius called ‘Capturing the Stammering Aesthetic’ contained three great photos that brought into focus an unexpected beauty. They made me wonder what my own stammering aesthetic might look like.

Instead of feeling shame in my speech and in the way my stammer takes temporary control over my body, I would have to seek out my stammer and try to properly experience and picture it. Time after time in the book, and in Stamma’s recent successful campaign, it is pointed out that the language we use to describe our stammer is important. I wondered if it would be possible to try to capture a slowed down stammer and almost luxuriate in the moment. Could you have a stammering reverie? I tried to keep these ideas at the front of my thoughts as I painted.

In the Tempest, Ariel sings about ‘a sea change into something rich and strange’. I guess this comes close to what I feel about this painting. I find a strange beauty in what I used to perceive as ugliness. I am reflected back to myself in a new revealing light. I think it portrays the sea change in how I feel about myself and how I feel society should frame me and other stammerers. A society like that could and should be a place of strange and new beauty.

Paul Aston