Transformations – Stories that changed you

Yesterday, I said something to someone that I instantly regretted. Not because it wasn’t true but because it was uncomfortably true. As soon as I said it I knew they were going to leave me. Maybe not completely and forever, but it was going to change our relationship in a way that I didn’t want. I didn’t say it in anger. I said it because I didn’t understand why she was doing something. And as soon as I said it I knew I had broken my number one rule, “Never be honest with people.” If you’re honest they’ll go away.

Loneliness has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. The way I deal with it is by telling people what they want to hear. The intellectual part of my brain says this is not a good way to go through life. But the primal part of my brain says this is how you survive. If you want me to be honest with you, you’re going to have to wait a few years until I know you won’t bolt.

If you corner me for my opinion, I’ll say something funny to distract you. While you’re laughing, I’ll suddenly see someone across the room that I need to talk to immediately. Being honest means trusting people. I’m not so good at that. I’d rather have people around me for the wrong reasons than be alone for the right ones. That’s what happens when you can’t see past your pain. You reach out for the tiniest bit of relief even if you know it’ll hurt you more in the long run.

But then one day, if you’re lucky, you meet someone who knocks you upside the head with their honesty and strength and you start to question some core beliefs. That lady I said the thing to? She didn’t kick me out of the car. She got real quiet for a while. And then she said, “I hate you. I hate that you saw that in me. I hate that I can’t hide this stuff from you.”

We didn’t talk much until she pulled up at the airport to let me out. I was waiting for her to say, “I’ll call you sometime” which means they aren’t calling you sometime, anytime, or ever again. Instead, she said, “Thank you.”

I said, “For what?”
She said, “For showing me what I need to work on.”

I wanted to say, “You don’t have to work on anything. You’re great! I like you just the way you are.” That was the old me. The me from 10 minutes ago. The me that would bend any painful truth into a little ball he could hide away so no one got hurt.

Instead, I said, “I’m here no matter where this takes you.” Then I got on a plane and came home.

I don’t know why I didn’t try to patch things up right there in the departure lane at Oakland International. All I remember is that there was a sense of gratitude in her thank you I couldn’t avoid. It was the most courageous thank you I’ve ever heard. It made me want to match her courage with my own.

So now I’m going to try to be more honest with people. It’s probably going to hurt me more than anyone because love and connection are the things I value most. Until now, it didn’t matter how I got them. But that feeling on the sidewalk outside the airport, I want that back. I want to be surprised by people’s trust and willingness to forgive my poor timing and awkwardness. Tonight I’m going to write that lady in Oakland and thank her for showing me what I need to work on.

That’s the kind of story we’re looking for at the next Fresh Ground Stories. The theme is, “Transformations – Stories that changed you.”

Tell us about a time where you were transformed in some way. What happened to change the way you saw yourself or the world? Were you grateful when it happened? Did it change you in a way you wish it hadn’t? Are you a better person now because of how it all went down?

Here are the rules and guidelines for telling a story: https://freshgroundstories.com/2013/01/22/storytelling-rules-and-guidelines/

Make sure the story is clean, practiced, and under 8 minutes. We’re getting more names in Mr. Coffee and some folks aren’t getting to share their story because we run out of time. Your story can be as short as you want but not over 8 minutes. Thanks for understanding.

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

 

Advertisements

Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who came out last Thursday to our biggest show yet in the new place. Ben the manager stopped counting when we hit 120. We had so many people the staff had to bring in chairs from the patio. I never know how anyone finds out about the show but I’m grateful for all the positive word-of-mouth I hear 🙂

We had some amazing first-timers on the microphone that night and I hope all of them come back and tell again. Melissa, our Scone of Courage recipient, told a hysterical story about meeting President Obama in a hotel gym in San Francisco. Have you ever tried to stay on the elliptical while you’re nonchalantly sneaking glances at the guy on the treadmill behind you? Melissa has. Have you lifted weights with the Secret Service staring at you while they’re mumbling into their earpieces? Melissa’s done that too. What about slowly sinking into a former president’s sweat as you trade places with him on the bench press? Yes, Melissa has touched presidential sweat! And she was still pretty giddy when she told us about it. Thank you, Melissa, for giving us some of the biggest laughs of the night.

David, one of our regular tellers, sometimes calls me to say he can’t make the show because his volunteer shift at a homeless shelter across town doesn’t end until 7pm. Even though it’s always great to see him in the audience, I love knowing that when he isn’t there he’s doing good work. Last Thursday, he told the story of how he became friends with one of the guys who stayed at the shelter. It was a beautiful story of how this man went from client to acquaintance to friend and then roommate. We can’t build shelters and housing like governments and non-profits, but each one of us can lend a hand in our own way. David reminded me of how different it feels when you call someone a homeless person rather than a person without a home. That’s something I need to remember when I’m driving past certain overpasses.

Sepee, another first-timer, flew all the way from Oakland to tell her story about loving someone enough to stay and then learning to love herself enough to leave. It was one of those stories that you can’t get without a lot of pain. She’d shared some early versions of the story with me so I knew what it took for her to get up there and tell it. Last Thursday was the first time she told it without crying. I’m always touched by how supportive everyone is when they see someone telling a hard story. It was only Sepee’s third time on stage and I couldn’t have asked for a better audience to help her get through it.

I’m writing this on a plane and I just heard that we’re on our final descent. I’m running out of time! I haven’t told you about first-timer Greg growing up in Detroit and how getting into a stranger’s van can sometimes be the safest way to get home. There was a point in his story that blew the roof off the place with laughter. Thank you, Greg, for driving straight from SeaTac after arriving from Italy so you could share that story with us.

Sara shared a super sweet story about a pigeon family that made their home on her porch. My son and I were talking on the way home that night about how something as simple as a couple of birds sitting on an egg can make for a great story if it’s framed right. Sara’s only told two stories with us but she’s already an excellent teller.

I can’t keep this seat tray down too much longer so I’ll leave you with a couple of thoughts before I sign off. Our final teller that night was Bill Bernat. He shared the story he was telling the next night at the NAMI conference downtown. It was a tour-de-force story of his journey through bipolar disorder. You won’t find anyone who talks about mental illness with as much humor and insight as Bill Bernat. Everyone there that night will tell you it was a powerful ending to a great night of stories.

In my last email, I talked about all the things you can do with storytelling https://freshgroundstories.com/2019/06/16/what-can-you-do-with-storytelling/. I’d like to leave you with one more place storytelling can take you. In the links below are two stories from KNKX’s Sound Effect podcast. The first is by Sara, who told the pigeon story that I mentioned above. The first story she told at our show was about growing up without a sense of smell. Gabe Spitzer, the Sound Effect host, was so charmed by that story he decided to put her on his own show 🙂

https://www.knkx.org/post/woman-can-t-stop-smell-flowers-gross-port-potty-no-problem

The story below is from a woman who has been to FGS but hasn’t told a story yet. One night a couple months ago, we were standing in the parking lot after the show and she told me that it was the anniversary of a life-changing phone call she received seven years ago. The story of that phone call left me stunned. It’s one of the few times I’ve heard a story and not wanted to talk about it on the way home. When she was done, she told me that she wished she could help others who had experienced the same thing. I told her that I could put her in touch with people who could help her do that. Telling her story on the radio was the first step in turning that terrible experience into something positive. That’s the alchemy of storytelling. If she hadn’t seen how FGS audiences support their tellers I don’t know if she’d be on the path she is now. I’m sure she would have gotten there sooner or later but it wouldn’t have been now. And if sharing her story in public helps one young person feel like they’re not alone then we’ve done our job. Even if you never get up and tell a story at Olive Way, you’re still making a difference by listening to people tell hard stories and letting them know you’re glad they made it.

https://www.knkx.org/post/seattle-woman-learns-her-childhood-home-away-home-was-really-house-horrors

Our next show is July 18th. The theme is “Transformations – Stories that changed you.” I’ll get the official invite out as soon as I can.

Take care everyone. See you on the 18th.

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

What can you do with storytelling?

Hi All,

I just discovered two of our FGS regular tellers giving talks at Ignite Seattle. I was so proud to be connected to Ginger and Susan that I wanted to share their stories with you. This is the kind of thing that storytelling can lead to. Once you learn how to shape a story and speak to a room full of strangers it opens up opportunities you never knew were out there.

A Transgender Band Walks Into a Rural Olympic Peninsula Bar… – Ginger Chien
Forgive and Remember: How Forgiveness Really Works – Susan Fee

Next Friday, three of our tellers (Bill Bernat, Maryanne Moorman, and myself) will be joining three storytellers from The Stability Network https://www.thestabilitynetwork.org/ and sharing stories onstage of how we manage to have great lives while managing mental health challenges. If I had never discovered the kind of storytelling we do at FGS I wouldn’t have met these amazing people and would never have gotten involved in the work I do now around mental illness. I guarantee you that when I told my first story in 2010 I did not envision being asked to speak at a big conference nine years later.

One of the things storytelling can teach you is how to reach people who normally wouldn’t want to have anything to do with you. I have a friend whose son died by suicide. She goes to gun shows now to give away free lock boxes and talk to people about responsible gun ownership. Instead of arguments, she gets hugs. Hugs, from big dudes who own lots of guns. You’d think people at these gun shows would resent this woman reminding them how deadly their weapons can be. But because she’s learned how to share her story without pointing fingers she’s making a difference. Long-time gun owners walk away from her table with a handful of safety devices and a new way of looking at their hobby. No guilt, no shame, just connection. That’s what storytelling can do. This woman will be sharing her own story with us this Friday. I’m proud to share the stage with her.

Click on the link below if you’d like to attend the show

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/brainpower-chronicles-mental-health-stories-tickets-58123105774

Ok, one more thing then I’ll let you go. Below is a link to a really neat podcast where guests tell stories about songs that mean something to them. I was asked to be on the podcast a few weeks ago because the host saw me onstage at  FGS. So here’s another cool thing that can happen to you when you start telling stories. People start asking you to be on the radio 🙂

https://www.mixcloud.com/MyTenSongs/episode-47-paul-currington/

Of course, I hope to see a bunch of your at out next FGS show this Thursday, 7pm at the Olive Way Starbucks.

https://www.meetup.com/Fresh-Ground-Stories/events/261605346/

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

 

 

 

Good stuff coming up this week

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick note to let you know of two story-related events coming up and to give you a couple great stories from our May show.

First is the debut party of Story Launch Media this Tuesday at the Olive Way Starbucks. Story Launch Media is run by Kris, one of our FGS regulars, and offers writing and public speaking classes, live events, and digital media publishing services.

Her writing classes will focus on how to identify and write your story. The public speaking classes will focus on how to speak your story without notes or read your story aloud in a way that holds people’s attention.

I’m always happy to let people know about new workshop opportunities for storytelling so that’s why I’m letting you know about this event. The poet Marshay Mitchell will be reading some of her poems that night so I’m making the trip from Olympia to be there. I’m a sucker for poetry. https://marshayartrellmitchell.com/

Doors open at 6 pm, event starts at 6:30 and ends at 8 pm.

Second is the monthly storytelling open-mic in Tacoma called Something To Tell. It’s an open theme so you can bring any true, personal story you want (see their rules for more info)

https://www.meetup.com/Something-To-Tell/

Lastly, here are a couple of stories from our show a couple months ago 🙂

Bruce protests his Catholic elementary school for giving him too much homework:
https://soundcloud.com/paul-currington-759157086/bruce

Sara learns she has no sense of smell:
https://soundcloud.com/paul-currington-759157086/sara

That’s all for now. Hope everyone is ready for the heat wave this week. We don’t want to hear any stories about heatstroke! Stay cool, everyone.

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

 

FGS teller given 2019 Seattle Living Legacy Award

Hi Everyone,

I want to share with you a quick bit of wonderful news that came my way. Maryanne Moorman, one of our regular tellers, was just given the 2019 Seattle Living Legacy Award. Did you know we had such esteemed artists in our midst? Me neither!

Maryanne is a pioneering storyteller in Seattle (among many other things) and has been a big supporter of FGS. She also runs her own story show at the Olive Way Starbucks on the last Thursday of each month (which is two days from now.)

If you’d like to congratulate her or see the cool people who perform at her show, head on down to Olive Way this Thursday.

Here’s the link to the award:

https://artbeat.seattle.gov/2019/05/24/civic-poet-honors-our-literary-living-legacies/

And here’s the link to her show information:

https://www.maryannemoorman.com/upcoming-live-events

Lance Lambert, who has told many times at FGS, will be headlining that night 🙂

MAY 30, 2019

Theme: MEN AND MACHINE
Time: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Featuring:
Music by Wes Weddell
Auntmama (Mary Anne Moorman), Kathya Alexander, Olubayo are joined by storytellers Siv Prince and Lance Lambert