When the show season ends for LTYM post-Mother’s Day I notice two things: My body rediscovers its relaxed state, and my brain navigates noise it cannot afford to pay attention to in the months leading up to Mother’s Day. The relief from pressure feels luxurious, and yet I seem happier when I’m functioning on overdrive.
But then I get an email, read a post, or see a status update and remember what this project does for people, and what it means for some people; how that 5 minutes reading at the podium or 90 minutes sitting in the audience actually can and does change them.
Giving voice can give people the authority to break open their concept of what they can and might do, and even who they are and who they want to become. Turns out that this LTYM energy–this current flowing among us– holds far more power than any of us who helped start this project realized.
For instance I got this email this morning in my inbox from Audrey Berns of the LTYM:Chicago 2012 cast:
I’m on page 116 of my novella, which I would never have started without the experience of LTYM, and no matter what happens, it’s a
dream come true.
A few weeks ago I had the honor of listening to Alexandra Rosas (@GDRPEmpress) tell her story with The Moth‘s prestigious live tour in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Of the five total readers, the only two women storytellers included Alexandra and 1980s film icon Molly Ringwald. I sat alone with my tears in the jewel box Pabst theater–packed with a thousand or so others–as Alexandra got up and told her story about how this national reading series called Listen To Your Mother gave her the courage to speak out and set herself free from a lifelong burden. With her trademark grace, warmth and yes humor, Alexandra brought us back to the day of her dad’s suicide and how LTYM not only changed her life but how the video of her LTYM performance quite literally saved at least one other. Since LTYM Alexandra has spoken before audiences enormous and small. She blogs, she parents, she writes–just like so many of us–and setting her story free set her on a new path and toward her true self. At the heart of LTYM lies regular everyday previously non-performers like Alexandra, compelled by an opportunity to give meaning to or make meaning of some part of themselves, by sharing their story with an audience ready to witness it.
I will thank LTYM forever. Because on that stage, is where my life changed. I remember the exact moment. It was like a Patty Smyth song: “And the sky split. And the planets will shift. And existence will stop.” It was JUST like that: out of body experience. A holy experience. What you’re doing is changing lives: giving voices. Thank you. –Alexandra Rosas, LTYM: Madison 2011
I told the story…a story I have been burning to tell for 6 years. Here, with all these people listening, I shared one of the deepest moments I have had with my daughter. –Patty Chang Anker, LTYM: NYC 2012
I was no longer a faceless writer telling a story of pregnancy and medication. I was a real mother- authentic and exposed. By speaking my story, I was given the opportunity to force the audience to hear it with the passion and vulnerability that it took for me to write it. They could feel my pain and experience the internal struggles that I faced while deciding to choose drugs, not for me, but for my family. Through strength of my spoken word, they knew that I am a good mother, not so different from them. –Rhiana Maidenberg, LTYM: San Francisco 2012
Meeting these women face-to-face, learning from them and laughing with them, made me feel like I was a part of something — parents who are trying to put something real out into the world, in a time of ridiculous baiting of so-called “Mommy Wars” and negativity all around…The power of that evening will stay with me always, encouraging me to be more honest and vulnerable in my everyday life, as it always leads to me more connection, more true community. –Rhea St. Julien, LTYM: San Francisco 2012