The Power of My Story

by elaine on May 26, 2015

“Thank you.” Exit stage right.

I did it. I bared my soul to the audience and did minimal crying. Listen To Your Mother is everything I wanted it to be and more. The variety of the stories in the show, the many facets of motherhood all get a chance to be heard and I love that.

My story was hard to tell. I couldn’t even get through the first rehearsal without sobbing each time I read through the story. It hurt. The story was my life, and it hadn’t been that much time since we moved from Austin. It was just about a year ago. Not doing LTYM was not an option, however. I knew that I had to do it, that I needed it. I had a draft completed by September before I even knew the audition submission deadline.

The day I received the email congratulating me on being selected as a cast member, tears of joy and fear ran down my face.

“Okay, this is happening. It is really happening. Oh, shit. Okay.”

The first rehearsal day left me emotionally exhausted. I cried and I couldn’t believe that my story was good enough to be amongst the other stories in the group. And just sharing my story for the first time left me feeling completely exposed. For several weeks after that I really questioned myself and my story and what I was doing.

The second rehearsal felt completely different. I had practiced, I had gotten over the insecurity of my words and story. I looked forward to it. It was raining off and on, which added another level of comfort to the day. I was also wearing my sweet jean jacket that boosts my confidence. (I don’t know what it is about the jacket, but everyone should own one.) I left feeling completely confident and ready for the show.

The day of the show, I couldn’t stop sweating. I stuffed napkins in my armpits to help soak it up. I wore wedge shoes that I could actually walk in. I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I thought I would be. I knew that the possibility of me crying was real and that that was just fine. I knew I’d have support from my fellow cast members. I knew I’d have supporters in the audience. I knew my husband, who lived all of this with me, would be there for me.

Once it was over, I felt liberated. The next day I felt a little sad that it was all over. Listen To Your Mother made me realize how much I enjoy writing and how powerful it is. I keep thinking, “What’s next?!” because I enjoyed my experience so much. Being in the presence of accomplished writers and accomplished individuals has encouraged and humbled me. I want to keep writing. I want to write about everything. I want to bring the power of writing to everyone. I want to make people laugh, cry and think. I want everyone to realize how important their story is, even if they don’t think it is.

As I continue to figure out my next writing venture, I want to say a million “thank you”s to Elaine and Jennifer for bringing LTYM to Southeast Texas. My life is better for participating and I am honored to have been a part of the show.

 

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Listening for Common Ground

by elaine on May 21, 2015

On Saturday, May 9th I stood on a stage in front of more than 100 people with nothing but a podium, a microphone, and some words I had written separating me from a room full of strangers. Blinded and a bit disoriented by the harsh stage lights, my words came slow at first. Hands ice-cold and clammy, voice caught in the back of my throat, I silently repeated the mantra taught by my college public-speaking professor: It doesn’t matter that you’re nervous. Just pretend that you’re not. Three or four sentences in, I found my pace, hit my stride, got lost in the telling of my very own story. The more I talked, the more it became clear that I was actually being heard. A room full of people listening to my telling: A story of my fears and inadequacies, culminating in a loss of control and ending with a hard fought resignation. Heads nodding, breath bated, sighs of relief and tears of understanding. I guess in my story some of them recognized their own.  Common ground was discovered lying right there beneath that story.

 

In seven years, 1 month and 23 days of motherhood I have already gained a lifetime of stories. Yes, these three boys of mine have armed me with an arsenal of tales. Tales of hilarious predicaments – bedtime, bathtime and dinnertime shenanigans galore. Stories of those near-perfect moments of pure love and joy; the newborn asleep on my chest, breath heavy and even; the chubby toddler hand curled up inside my own; the gaping, toothless smile of my six year old climbing into the backseat of our car. Everyday is a story of it’s own. Some beautiful. Some heartbreaking. In some, I shine – the mother every child wants – loving, gentle and self-assured. In others I stumble, falter, and fail – too frail in my own abilities to help grow them in theirs. Story upon story, each one builds upon the next until you get a whole life out of the beautiful mess of those jumbled stories.

 

These stories make us who we are. It’s a part of the human experience to share these stories with one another. This is how we make sense of the world. This is how we find our place in the world. We tell our stories.Truth be told, though, my preference is to tell my stories over a cup of coffee. With a close friend. Or a like-minded sister. It’s safer this way. I risk much less. Little stands to be lost in the type of environment where you are known and loved and people assume the best of you and your motives. But last Saturday, I stood beside ten other story-tellers and together we threw caution to the wind. One by one we took our place behind a microphone that amplified our stories and risked a little bit of ourselves in the hopes that something might be gained. And we had every reason to believe that it would.
In the months prior to last Saturday night, the eleven of us had dared to do exactly what we were asking of the audience that night – we had dared to listen for common ground.

 

The thing about common ground is that it almost always exists, but it can be oh so difficult to spot. We’re prone to pile our differences up over and on top of it. When I walked into the first rehearsal for Listen To Your Mother at the end of March, there was not too much common ground in sight – and believe me, I was looking. A room full of strangers, each one of us varied. Accents and personalities galore. From reticent to unruly ;), our motley crew ran the gamut of dispositions. Yet despite our differences, we sat in a tight circle and one by one made our way to the front of a much smaller audience to read the words that revealed a portion of each of our lives. And somewhere in that process of telling and listening we unearthed an entire mountain of common ground.

 

And I, the type-A, perfectionist, control freak mama of 3 boys found common ground

 

with a woman who had been a mother since she was 12 years of age.

 

with a man who shares his mother’s temper.

 

with a mama who raised a criminal.

 

with a daughter of a fruitcake.

 

I could go on, but I guess you get the picture.

 

We shared and we listened, we laughed and we cried, we formed a bond that we extended with open hands to a much larger audience just last Saturday night. Perhaps most importantly, we learned that when you take the time to really listen to someone’s story you judge less and love more. And that, my friends, is no small thing.

 

Tell your story.  Someone is listening.

 

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Set Free – Donna Gail Ellis

May 18, 2015

One of the things I love most about doing the show is sitting in the wings on show night while each reader stands at the podium and pours her heart out to the audience. As she reads, you can feel her words grow power. You can almost see the weight drop off of her as she lets her burdens go. That’s how I felt watching Donna. Today Donna shares what the experience of being in Listen to Your Mother meant to her. The walk to the podium that night was the longest and hardest I think I’ve ever made with the exception of a day in court a few years back. With a couple of stumbles but quick recovery, I put my secret “out there”, wherever there is, for eventually anyone who follows me and watches YouTube to see. I knew I had Elaine and Jennifer’s full support and that they would stand […]

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People Listened!

May 12, 2015

I have a hard time believing it is over.  I keep saying that these shows are kind of like a wedding – so much preparation for one night of amazing-ness. But of course, it’s all worth it. I felt electric all night.  First, while making sure my lipstick was just right, back in the dressing room, then, toasting with my cast mates and my wonderful LTYM partner, Jennifer.     However, most of that feeling came while watching our cast from the wings, as they told their individual stories.     I was up there too but that went really fast and since I was first, I was done before everyone else.  Of course that doesn’t mean I wasn’t full of excitement the entire time.  I got chills over and over even though I had already heard these stories three previous times. That did not matter.  There our cast members were, finally telling it to others, to an […]

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Meet the Cast – Andy, Betty and Lauren

April 22, 2015

This will round out the cast feature posts for this year’s amazing readers.  These three individuals are some of the “coolest” people I’ve met and two of them have really great accents and one of them can probably pull off a few accents of her own if she wants to. First up, we have Andy Coughlan. Andy is is a native of Brighton, England and has lived in Southeast Texas for more than 30 years.  He teaches journalism and English  at Lamar University where he is advisor to the University Press, the student newspaper. He is editor of the award-winning ISSUE, a monthly arts magazine, and has won multiple awards for his arts reviews and features. Coughlan has also been the editorial cartoonist for the Beaumont Enterprise for more than 20 years. He attended art college at Brighton University, before earning a master’s in English at Lamar University where he wrote his thesis on Chekhov. […]

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