I was invited to participate in a storytelling event in Berkeley called “That Really Happened.” The show was last night.
I’m going to be honest with you: I was scared out of my wits. Although I have participated a number of times in a stage show called “Mortified,” that’s really the only experience I have being on stage.
And the reason I started doing that show is because I wanted to overcome my stage fright. (It has eased a bit, but I definitely wouldn’t say I’ve overcome it yet! I get butterflies from my belly to my toes! And they aren’t just fluttering, they are spastic!)
At least with “Mortified,” all I have to do is read something. (We read our teenage diaries aloud on stage — hence the mortification!”)
But last night, this show was all about telling a true story — without notes.
So not only am I up there baring my soul about something that happened in my life, I am trying to do it with those lights blazing and with a vague sense of there being a sea of faces, but I can’t really see any of them. And the story needs to have an obvious arc — with a flourish of meaning at the end. All within a specific amount of time.
So today, when I first started reflecting on my experience, I found myself saying, “Wow. That was a gift to myself to choose to do something that I am afraid of. It feels so good to push the edges of my comfort zone and survive. It was a gift to prove to myself that I can be afraid and still do whatever I’m afraid of.”
And that is true.
Then I thought on it some more and I realized how very much I loved hearing the tales the other storytellers told. They were moving. They were funny. They were heartfelt. They were life affirming. They were grounding. And I realized that each of those people had to muster the courage to show up, get on stage, and share their story. Those stories were each gifts.
And that is true.
Then, afterward, a bunch of the storytellers and audience members went to a pub to celebrate together. And even more stories were shared. One of them was that I learned that the show’s producers, Susie and Marc, started hosting this show after they’d done some private storytelling events as celebrations. It had been Marc’s birthday and he asked his friends to each bring a 10-minute personal story to share instead of material gifts. They had a blast. It was a great way for new friends to meet one another. And Marc learned so much about his friends that he had never known. Then Susie did the same thing to celebrate her birthday!
Think about it: isn’t it just such a gift when you get to hear a great story from one of your family or friends? Do you even consider what a gift it is when you share your stories? It connects us. It gives us common threads. It reminds us of our humanity. It gives meaning and texture to life.
So there are two things I want you to get from this post:
Never underestimate the value or power of your stories. Think of them as gifts you carry in your pocket and give to friends, family, and people you meet on the bus! As you go about your day, try to consciously remember interesting things that happened to you or things that truly moved you. (This is a gift to yourself, too!)
Consider a storytelling event to celebrate an upcoming special occasion. Say it’s your sister’s birthday… you could surprise her by asking all her friends to bring a five or ten minute true story from their life. They could be random stories. But better yet— invite them to bring a true story about a time they shared with your sister. And make sure you have a way to record the telling of the stories. Can you imagine what an amazing gift this would be for your sister to have a video of all these wonderful memories?! You could do something similar at a graduation, anniversary party, bridal shower, or post-wedding brunch.
Stories and memories are the best gifts— & they don’t cost a dime!)