September’s theme is “Silver Linings: Finding the good.” Sometimes I think that life is a constant search for silver linings. I have to admit that until a few years ago I wasn’t really concerned with finding the good in the bad. I wouldn’t say I wallowed in the bad but I definitely liked to splash around in it.
Sometimes I did it because I needed something to write about. And to be honest, writing about the hard times is easier and more fun to read than writing about the good times. I’m not a chicken-soup-for-the-soul kind of guy unless the story is written from the chicken’s perspective.
Recently, though, I’ve realized how many regrets I have. I hesitate to say that because I don’t know a single person who will admit to having regrets. They could be in the hospital with their legs jammed into their neck and they would still say they don’t regret skateboarding off the roof of their garage. I, on the other hand, have a whole house full of regrets. Seriously. I write them down on little slips of paper and many of them find their way to hidden corners of my apartment. If you were with me right now you could probably jam your hand inside one of these couch cushions and find something I wrote in 2009. It might say, “It’s never funny to introduce your girlfriend as ‘your old lady.’”
Yes, I actually did that. I thought it was funny because she was obviously young and beautiful. Turns out she didn’t feel that way inside so she believed from then on that I thought she looked like an old lady. I still can’t believe I did something that dumb. Years later after we broke up I wondered how many things I had said trying to be funny that she took seriously but never told me. How much of our breakup was caused by my desperate need to be funny?
Now whenever I think of something funny I pause for a moment and wonder who I might hurt by saying it. I may not wring every laugh out of a situation but at least I’m not going through life using my wit like a wrecking ball. I still regret hurting that woman but at least now I can say there are a lot of people I won’t be hurting in the future because that lesson went deep. One of the best things that came out of that lesson was learning how to be a better host of this show. Five years ago I would have tried to get a laugh every time I stepped onstage between stories. Now I I can walk up there after a heartbreaking story and just say, “Thank you so much. That was beautiful.”
Earlier this summer I took a big risk and asked my son what I did wrong as a parent. It occurred to me that I really had no right to give anyone parenting advice without asking my own son if it worked on him. It took him two days to believe that I wasn’t fishing for compliments. He first told me all the positive things he remembered from growing up and then when he ran out of those I said, “Ok, now tell me what you wish I hadn’t done.”
So he told me. And it was just as hard to hear as you think it was. Luckily, it wasn’t anything you’d call CPS over. Most of the things he remembered weren’t things I had done but things I had said. He told me how much it hurt when I said, “I can’t believe you don’t know your times tables.” All these years he had that inside him and I never knew how much it hurt. I do remember saying it and I’d give anything now to take it back. I wish I had found a better way to express my frustration that night. I have no idea how I can find a silver lining in this. How in the world can I find something positive in making my son feel stupid?
Right now the best I can do is be patient with the people in my life who frustrate me. I can remind myself that when I get frustrated it’s more about me than it is about them. It doesn’t seem like enough but it’s the best I can come up with right now. I’ve spent most of my life assuming no one remembered what I said. Now I know, thanks to a kid who still loves me, that a lot of people remember what I say so I better be careful what I say.
And that’s the kind of story we’re looking for. Bring a true 8-minute-or-less story about finding a silver lining in something you might otherwise regret. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big thing or a little thing. It could be something you did or maybe didn’t do. What was something positive that came out of it and how did it change you from then on?
Remember to keep it clean and practice your story out loud as much as possible. Here are the rules & guidelines to help you get started.
I hope to see you on September 28 at 7pm at Roy Street Coffee and Tea.
I almost got out the old Roget’s thesaurus today to see if there was a better way to say thank you to everyone who came out to the show Thursday. But then I thought “Hey, does hearing thank you ever get old? Of course not.” So all I can say is thank you over and over again as I write this. It was a wonderful show and one I know people are still thinking about.
Dave, one of our new regulars, started the show with a story about his low-speed getaway from a dog catcher in a Golden Gardens Park. It was so nice to hear that no matter how mature we get as adults when an authority figure waves us over sometimes our first instinct is still to run away. Luckily, Dave and Yankee, his standard poodle, are slightly faster than your average animal control officer and they made a clean getaway. I don’t know if Yankee’s mugshot is on the wall of every doggie daycare in King county now but you should know that if you give either one of them a ride home from a park you may be charged with aiding and abetting.
After Dave’s Bonnie & Clyde adventure we heard from two first-timers who I hope will keep coming back. Tiffany told us about meeting the world’s kindest drag queen in a Seattle Value Village and Rebecca Lee told us how she went from working at Club Med to being onstage in LA doing improv. Oh, Rebecca, why didn’t you ask me first about a life in comedy? Do you know how many comics would kill to work at Club Med?? Well, now that you’re here I hope you come back and tell another story. And, Tiffany, I hope your days are filled with kind and helpful drag queens and that you don’t accidentally drop any more desks on them.
Elliot, every time you walk up to the mic I know I’m going to hear about a corner of your life that I thought I knew well but didn’t. Thank you for letting us know how you went from protecting America in Iraq to female phone sex operator in Seattle. Can you imagine what we could accomplish around the globe if we took just a fraction of our military spending and put it into phone sex operations? If we could get Elliot on the phone to certain high-level people in North Korea we could have peace on earth for $3.99/minute. Joking aside, Elliot is one of the most honest, and vulnerable tellers I’ve seen. He doesn’t know it but he’s inspired me over the years to be more like that myself.
Zoe, our friend from last month who got bumped because we had too many tellers, told a story about John Lennon that I just loved. I asked her for permission to post it on our website and I’m crossing my fingers that I can share it with all of you. It’s one of those quiet stories where the little details stay with you for a long time. Parts of Zoe’s story I remember hearing as a kid and I would never have dreamed that I would one day meet someone who had experienced them in person. Thank you Zoe for reminding me that, in a world of internet and reality show celebrities, sometimes a person comes along who really is important and who really does matter.
I should probably end this here but I want to thank a few more tellers before I leave this coffee shop and start my day.
Chad, my friend, you made me very nervous with that story about hitchhiking. Here I am glancing over at my son in the corner while you talk about how you were never murdered by getting in a car with a stranger. What am I supposed to tell my kid now? Honestly, though, I wish I had your courage and faith in humanity. Right now I think it’s good for all of us to hear stories about how there are actually a lot of nice people in the world and if we give each other a chance we’ll be pleasantly surprised. Now that I’ve said that, please stick to safer places for meeting strangers like dark alleys and dive bars.
Stephanie, I feel like we just got to know you and now you’re flying off to Australia for love. I am happy for you and also a little awestruck. Most of us wouldn’t drive to Tacoma for love and here you are getting ready for an 18-hour flight to a giant rock in the Indian Ocean. I know you often get a tattoo to commemorate something you’ve lived through but I hope this time you don’t need a one. I hope this time the story is so big and beautiful that no amount of ink could ever cover it.
Deborah, your story of falling in love with a man for his heart before you even knew what he looked like was so sweet. Every time someone tells me I should go onto one of these online dating sites I think about what it would feel like to know that hundreds of women have swiped past me because I didn’t have the right nose, lips or hairline. I’ve never fallen in love from seeing a woman’s photo but more than once I’ve fallen in love after hearing their story. Thank you for reminding me that the app store isn’t the only place to find love.
Scot, my old friend, it was great to see you back at the show. I’m so happy you survived becoming a human bobsled on that mountain. We’re even happier to know that you didn’t leave any body parts on the rock that launched you into space 🙂
Moreah, one of our new regulars, has only shared a few stories with us so far but there seem to be about twenty stories tucked into the ones she’s told us. I love how she drops interesting little tidbits of her life into the last 10 seconds of a story just before she walks away from the microphone. Moreah, how do you just casually mention that if we want to hear more about what you’ve done since leaving the convent in the 70s that we should join you Saturday at Nudestock? How do you just walk away after that?!?! And where can we get tickets to Nudestock?
Our final teller was Ginger who told us about the party she threw where all the parts of her life came together. Some of us are lucky enough to have a moment in life when everything came together and sent us off in a direction we never expected. It’s something else when you purposefully create that moment for yourself. I love that Ginger knew what she needed to do and had the courage to do it. It was the perfect story to end the evening. This morning I woke up with two things in mind. I wanted to know more about kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery, and I wanted to spend more time thinking about this: what would I do if I knew what I had to do?
Thank you all for coming out and sharing the evening with me. As always, special thanks to the tellers, especially our first-timers, for doing the hard thing and sharing a part of your life with us. My personal gratitude goes out to everyone in the audience who gave each teller all the love and patience they needed to get through their story.
Our next show is September 28. The theme is “Silver Linings.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can.
The tape recorder did its job so send me an email if you told a story and I’ll get the audio to you. I only give out the audio to the people who told and it’s only the audio of their own story. Most of the stories we hear at FGS are very personal so I don’t share them or put them on the website without permission.
See you on the 28th 🙂
Just a quick reminder that our next show is coming up this Thursday. The theme is Risk: Stories of taking a chance.
Here are the rules/guidelines for telling a story if you have one ready:
Of course the most important thing I have to share is the fantastic article on one of our storytelling regulars, Nathan Vass!
Also, if any of your are in Tacoma this week, there’s a storytelling open mic called Something to Tell happening this Wednesday. It’s run by another friend of FGS, Big Tim.
That’s all for now. I hope none of you lost your retinas today 🙂
Let me know if you have any questions.
This month’s theme is “Risk: Stories of taking a chance.” It took me a long time in life to be ok with taking chances. I’m embarrassed to say that my fear of failure was greater than my desire for success. In fact, that sentence was so uncomfortable for me to write I just went back and changed it from present tense to past tense. So even now, after lots of practice taking risks, I still worry about how shaky my faith is that things will work out.
I don’t know where I first decided that any mistake was the end of the world but I know I lived with that belief for a long time. I felt anything could be taken away from me at any time and I was always a half-step away from something terrible happening. For decades I lived with the fear that I was going to lose my job, my home, my health, my kid, and just about anything else I cared about. You can imagine what I was like to live with. I could have been the Tony Robbins of demotivational speaking. Have you read my book, “It’s Never Going to Happen” or taken my 12-week course, “Bury Your Dreams: How to Stay Shackled in Life and Love”? What about my Amazon best-seller, “The Seven Habits of Highly Delusional People” or my children’s guide to life, “The Power of Not Now, Maybe Later: How to Just Kind of Survive Until You Die.” Of course not, because I didn’t write them. Writing them would imply hope and I am nothing if not true to my delusions.
Thankfully, I’m starting to move away from those beliefs. Or maybe I should say I’m recovering from those beliefs. I’m not going to go into any stories here about the chances I’ve taken over the last few years. I’ll save those for another time. But I am interested in hearing stories about risks you’ve taken. What did you do and how did it work out? Or maybe you didn’t take a risk once and you wish you had. How did that affect your life since?
Bring a true 8-minute-or-less story about taking a risk to our next show on August 24. We’d love to hear it. I’d love to hear it. I’ve been hunkered down for the past couple of months not risking too much, trying hard not to dream too much, just working on restoring my energy and faith enough to where I can start asking myself “what if” again. I haven’t asked around but I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one who’d like to hear a story about how you found the gumption to take a chance one time. Extra credit if you can work in the word gumption 🙂
Remember to keep it clean and practice your story out loud as much as possible. Here are the rules & guidelines to help you get started.
I hope to see you on August 24 at 7pm at Roy Street Coffee and Tea.