It was my turn to tell my story and I couldn't remember it. How could I not remember my own story? It was my life for Christ's sake. The only thing running through my head were TV theme songs from the 1980s and early '90s. Theme songs from popular, long-running sitcoms like "Facts of Life" and not so long-running shows like "The Greatest American Hero." I could remember every single word of those songs but not my story.
Thank god it was only a rehearsal. I stumbled and fumbled through my way through my story and just hoped it would get better for the big night.
The big night was my opportunity to tell a story with The Secret Society of the Twisted Storytellers in Detroit. The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers is a production of the The Secret Society for the Re-Institutionalization of Storytelling, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, TSRS has a global mission and purpose to connect humanity, heal and transform community and provide an uplifting, thought-provoking, soul-cleansing entertainment experience that is unique through the art and craft of storytelling.
I found out about the show from Satori Shakoor, who is the executive director of TSRS. I met Satori in a coffee shop in midtown Detroit last February when she made me cry with a story. She was auditioning for the Listen To Your Mother (LTYM) show I co-produced/directed. Satori read her story to my fellow producers and myself and we all wept. She of course was in LTYM in Detroit last May, click here to watch her powerful story and tribute to her mother.
From the first moment I met her I knew she was a force of nature and I knew I was a fan. I went to her show and became a bigger fan. The Secret Society of the Twisted Storytellers blew my mind. It was room full of powerful stories, brave storytellers, compassionate audience members, music, dancing, self-expression and art and honesty and love. It was community.
It was a community that I wanted to be a part of. So when Satori asked if I had a story to tell I said "yeah, I have a few."
I thought about telling stories about my kids, my addiction to television, my dog, my marriage, my bike, my tour of Southfork...but I kept going back to my mother. My mother. I felt like I shouldn't tell that story because I've told that story so many times on my blog, in therapy, to my friends and countless journals. But I kept going back to my mother.
Satori scheduled a phone call a few weeks to hear my story. I read something I had written. It was short. It was about my mother. She told me it was a rich story. She also told me to give it more details and to find the poetry. She told me to "dig for it."
I dug. It was like therapy. I thought about things I hadn't thought about in a long time. I added details and tried to find some poetry.
During the second call, I heard her laugh a little and felt like I scored some points. I knew I might have dug a little too deep and added too much and made it too long (it needed to be about 15 minutes my story was 20 minutes). She listened intently and then said "Well, you have something...a short story or something, don't fuck with it." You might as well have told me I won the lottery. I felt like Rudolph when Clarice said she thinks he's cute. Remember when he sing/says "she thinks I'm cuuuuute!" I wanted to sing/say "she said don't fuuuuuuuck with it!"
She did suggest I edit it a bit for time for the show. So I went back to work editing my story. I went to work memorizing my story--I practiced in the car, in the shower and in the kitchen after the kids went to bed.
Last spring when I got on stage to read my story for the Listen To Your Mother show I co-produced, I felt like I was sort of home. It felt natural, good and right. For that show, I read my own essay (click here to watch it).
Reading and memorizing are very different. I was nervous that I wouldn't remember anything I worked so hard to memorize for the Twisted Storytellers show. My back up plan was to just bust out singing the theme song to "The Greatest American Hero" and encourage the audience to join in...that's community right?
|The one and only Satori Shakoor.|
|I was killing it in the pre-show interview. Actually I was making stupid jokes and faces because that's what I do when I get nervous.|
My story was the second story of the night. I made my way to the stage and my heart was pounding so hard I felt like people could see it thumping in my chest. "This is happening, you are here, don't blow it, enjoy it, they are all waiting, go for it, oh shit, here it goes," was running through my head as I stood in front of the mic.
I started talking. It felt like home, it felt good, it felt natural, it felt right. My story, my truth, my confession, my soul....I let it all out into the microphone. The audience laughed and nodded. They listened, it felt good to be heard. They came up to me during intermission and after the show to tell me how they connected with my story. It felt good to be understood. I felt like it was bigger than my story. I felt like part of this community. A community full of compassion and love and hugs and inspiration. I felt less alone.
Satori helped me find the poetry in the story. She mentored and mothered me. She helped me have the courage to tell the story about my mother which is the story of growing up with someone that is mentally ill, and loving them and feeling helpless and lost because of them and being rejected by them. It's the story about how watching her shaped me. It's the story about my fear that I will become her.
Being embraced and understood and mentored and mothered helped me find the poetry and the courage to not just tell my story but be healed by it.
If you live in Detroit or plan to visit Detroit, you should go to The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers show. It's at the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit on the third Friday of every month. Click here for more details. And click here to watch videos of ALL the stories.
(The video of my story isn't up yet, but it will be soon.)