Jan 29, 2015

LTYM 2104 - audition

Even the most private person sometimes feels a call to share the things that matter. I'm not one of them. A private person, that is. I over-share as a rule. So When I heard about the LTYM call for submission, my default reaction was 'But of course!'

My head is usually crowded with the kernels of tales so it was easy for strands to start forming around the theme of 'motherhood'. I grabbed the one that floated closest by - a shimmery, warm thing - and pinned it down in words. It turned out to be reminiscences about my young mother in our Africa days. It took the form of a homage to her love, spirit and beauty.

As my audition date drew closer though, my unrest grew in surprising ways. You see, another story had worked it's way into my mind and was refusing to be banished no matter how hard I tried. It was a little sordid, sad and was a misfit for a positive Mother's Day event. 

But I had little hope of making it through a competitive public selection process and this particular story would not quit tugging at me, no matter how I tried to ignore it. Strategically too, while an homage to my mother and the joy it would bring her was invaluable, so was a chance to talk about something that most people shun. To right an imbalance in my own way. Also the LTYM call for submissions was crystal clear about wanting ALL kinds of stories. 

So I sat myself down, shoved the misgivings to the side and wrote out 'first unborn', detailing what it was like to meet the deceased fetus from my miscarriage right years ago. 

After my loss back then, I had no outlet.  Even the most caring friends didn't really know how to react and console so they maintained a respectful distance from the topic.  I, in turn, hesitated to preemptively bring it up (though I know I needed to) in order to spare them vicarious distress. The grief had bottled up and I was not doing well. I found an anonymous message board and two  compassionate friends to whom I released a few thoughts, gaging their reactions and stopping when they seemed to hurt. Then I gathered myself together and strode forward, trying to leave it behind.

Eight years later, I was to find that though my life was full of joy (and a 7 year old), ghosts lingered in carefully ignored recesses of my mind. 

The morning of the audition, I flipped maniacally back and forth about which piece to read aloud: warm homage or raw confession? I knew which one needed to be heard so others would perhaps not struggle the way I did. If even one person heard me, felt the value of release and learnt to extend a listening ear to heal another, that would make it worthwhile. 

At the Boston Improv in Cambridge, Cheryl came out to greet me 10 minutes before my alloted audition time. She looked exhausted at 3 pm and shared that this 10 minute breather was the time the team of three producers took to recover from the previous story. The care and integrity started broadcasting themselves at that moment. They listened carefully enough to require a recovery period? Wow. 

Inside the little black box theater, Jessica warned me that she was a crier and I was to pardon the sniffles in advance. The box of tissues were placed directly in front of her. 

Phyllis wore a warm if exhausted, smile and an expression of compassion that convinced me she was already on my team. They had all read both my pieces beforehand and were obviously bracing for whatever I would slam their way.

I'm wordy to a fault so feeling at a loss for them is a rare experience for me. Yet that's how I feel about what came next.

LTYM readings are meant to be 5 minutes long so it didn't take very long but they were some of the most transformative minutes of my life. Not to sound ungrateful, but sharing with 200 ticketed audience members in a prestigious venue on the actual day paled to the experience of having three caring, engaged strangers opening their hearts to be touched. 

I read slowly, looking at each upturned, pale face in turn. Each set of eyes locked with mine every time I landed on them. Their faces reflected emotions that must have mirrored mine. And THAT is what did it. The validation was not just that caring people heard me out, but that they felt my feelings too and so set me free.

Those 5 minutes set me free. 

I was no longer the only ones to have felt those emotions. My two close friends (Radha and Anu) who'd felt them vicariously because of their love for me, weren't the only receptacles of my grief. A few interested strangers had just quietly accepted what I gave them and lifted the weight of it off my weary shoulders. 

Since the show, strangers have approached me about the relief they felt at my words. Two therapists have even shared it with grieving groups of patients as a form of treatment. Yet my personal value lay in that little dark theater that held an audience of three. 

It feels like two of us walked into that room: me and my Pain. 

Only one walked out. 

There are not enough words for this.

Nov 7, 2014

5 Random things about me

    My friend Cheryl recently blogged about 5 truly random facts that help me see and  know her that tiny bit better. She tagged me to do the same. In the words of Cameron (also tagged), I'm also usually "the place where memes go to die" but not this time. I'm taking the bait and tagging others. Because celebrating random traits rocks in these times when carefully crafted images are so easy to perpetuate. They often deceive whereas the honestly random ones might just give you away. The real 'you'. 

Here are '5 random things about me'

Oct 9, 2014

Fall, falling, fallen

The streets are lined again.

Summer has zipped by as long awaited delights usually do. This year it felt particularly crowded with memorable experiences. Perhaps it's just the welcome relief of easy exhales: the past couple of years held a series of challenges that had left me feeling rather wrung out.

This year, amidst a celebration of unremarkable health and stability (which felt remarkable nonetheless), we got away from home and hearth and their constant tending for a few easy mini-breaks. They amplified the wash of gratitude and ease quite a bit. 

Oct 3, 2014

Phones that chatter

When the toddler's diaper trilled with my ring tone, I had only a fleeting moment of pause. In those sleep-deprived and semi-catatonic days, dredging up concern at anything past the bare necessities was beyond me. That my cutie's privates were ringing registered only as "So that's where my phone is."

Sep 11, 2014

Penguin Pez and the car door

On the way to school the Penguin chain-pull on Oyon's book bag got caught in the car door. He recovered it before we drove off but we spent the ride to school making up a giggly tale  about what might have happened if he hadn't. This preamble is mainly in defense of the liberal use of behinds (and all it's 7 yr old synonyms) in the tale. I may have been driving the car but 7 year old scatological sensibilities were steering the story. 

Jul 26, 2014

Finding my 'maybe'

About three times this past year I've felt an odd and overwhelming need to give thanks. It's taken me to an interesting place.

Jul 15, 2014

The funnies: LTYM, Boston, 2014

It's not always easy to laugh freely. Daily annoyances, over-the-limit personal baggage and the sheer grind of Life, can preempt the handiest of smiles and reserve them instead for self-identified 'perfect' moments, which are invariably few and far between. So to tease them out of people, can be a Herculean task.

Jul 14, 2014

Un-stereotyping 'motherhood': LTYM Boston, 2014

I'm annoyed by the word Motherhood'.

It's too easily associated with over-simplistic tropes of noble self-sacrifice, loaded with implied superiority and dripping with saccharin sentimentality. The narratives seem reductionist at best, marginalizing at worst. As if you can't be capable of love if you haven't had a child. As if that there truly is no greater joy than parenting. As if the only path to wisdom and empathy tracks through a landscape of dirty diapers and sleepless nights. And by the way, what of the Fathers?

Jul 10, 2014

A whale named 'Hancock'

It's almost as if I never saw the whale...at least, if you go by the pictorial records of my days. 
The way memory seems to work is that the ones you preserve (visually or by retelling) stand in as summaries of the entire experience as the surrounding details fade, even the important ones. 

But this was the first of my many whale watching trips, where I had the ability to easily archive this joy on my handy phone camera. Yet I didn't click. Not much anyway.

Jul 8, 2014

Bonfires and things

The mop-topped little boy looked like he was about 5 years old. He stood quite still just outside their Yurt, a few hundred yards from our campsite.

   "Are you going to the beach?" he called to Oyon, who was the obvious focus of his attention.

Jul 2, 2014

Scratching on rocks

This beach is crowded with rocks of many colors. Some stack comfortably together and others tumble in the tide. There's a salty tang in every breath and prickles of hot sun on suncreen-less skin are so intense that sensation overwhelms any concerns about UV rays. It's promising to be a lovely afternoon on the island where we are camping. I'm starting to hear the quiet in my mind as my hands busy themselves with nothing.

Jun 16, 2014

Fathers Day

This Fathers Day my husband requested I not make a fuss on Face Book about anything around it in our home. There's too much sharing on social media these days for our comfort and though I blog about all things personal, even I'm developing a bit of a privacy reflex when it comes to the crowded world of FB.

Sugared almonds, fathers and brothers

North End, Boston

Many years ago, Gabriel Garcia Marquez crafted a Pavlovian association for me with almonds. I'm sure many, many others too think of the bitter smell of cyanide and a tired man forfeiting his battle with disappointment ('Love in the time of cholera'). Yet I had strong memories of almonds in my life before, though I'd all but forgotten. 

They had to do with my father and brother. They were not bitter.