Step 1. Write your story
Step 2. Tell your story to a group of strangers in an auditorium
Step 3. Tell your story to a videographer, who documents every facial wrinkle and urge to ugly cry, which will be posted to YouTube (for eternity).
Step 4. When you are finished telling your story, act calm. You are still on camera.
Step 5. Calmly walk off stage. Sigh heavily with relief.
Step 6. Sit in a comfy chair, lean on the other Storytellers surrounding you and clutch the Kleenex box.
Step 7. When the last Storyteller speaks their last sentence, clap wildly and sob hysterically.
Step 8. Look behind you. The audience is crying and laughing and clapping.
Step 9. Go back on stage, take a bow for speaking your truth.
Step 10. You are now a Storyteller.
On May 3, 2015, I read my story for Listen To Your Mother (LTYM), a live show dedicated to celebrating and validating motherhood. The show is nationwide, in 39 cities. I participated in the Albuquerque, NM show. Ann Imig, the creator of Listen To Your Mother also just published a collection of stories from previous storytellers.
When I auditioned for LTYM and read my story to the Albuquerque Producer, Ashlee Othick and her fellow blogger Adrienne Jones, I cried through most of it and was convinced my story was too sad to be included.
I walked out of the audition asking myself
“Why do I put myself through such humiliating experiences?”
“Why do I not have anyone talking me out of this stuff?”
In my mind, auditioning for LTYM was the literary equivalent for “Hold my beer!”
I was about to do something epic.
To my surprise, I was invited to read for the Albuquerque show. And that’s when the real horror of what I’ve done set in. What if I AM the saddest story? What if my story lands on the audience with a very loud thud and the audience doesn’t get it or understand me? Would I hear applause or crickets after my story?
There were ten of us on stage. Reading incredibly moving stories about their own lives and the mothers’ in their lives; these were stories about courage, fear, death, growth, winning, losing, trophies, survival and love.
There are no words to describe the awesome feeling of speaking your truth. Yes, my voice sounded shaky. Yes, my knees trembled. All ten of my fellow storytellers were pulling for me: they knew my story, saw my tears in rehearsal and all were supportive, encouraging and loving.
At the end of the show, my husband and children were in the audience, clapping and waving. Well, my husband was. My children were chest bumping each other and then falling to the floor at their seats.
I could feel the love. My children chest bumped me, too. It hurt a little.
I was elated. The hard part was over.
As I walked to my car, I was chased down by a man. I recognized him from the audience. He sat with his wife/girlfriend who was on crutches. He said that she wanted to speak to me about my story. And then he said “You’re story was so powerful. I was in tears at the end. Thank you for telling your story.”
I was shocked. I walked over to his companion, and she practically dropped her crutches and threw her arms around me and said “Thank you so much. Your story impacted me. Many of us have sad stories and are too fearful to tell them. I think I’m going to audition for the show next year.”
I sure hope I get to hear her story next year. Maybe she’ll make some boys cry too.