Well, once again I’ve chosen a theme for the show that in my personal life I’ve been trying very hard to avoid. Why do I keep doing this? My therapist, who reads all these invitations, is probably writing something down right now that she will casually bring up in next week’s session.

I hate starting over. I’d rather quit forever than start over. My motto is, “If at first you don’t succeed then you’ve probably already reached your potential.” Instead of thinking of it as another chance to get something right I always think of it as a failure to get it right the first time. I realize this is not the healthiest way to go through life. It’s probably why strangers come up to me on the street and ask if I’m ok. (true) Or why well-meaning co-workers walk into my cube and say, “What are you doing here?” (Only half-true. Yesterday one of them called instead of coming over to tell me that he felt I was “grossly underutilized” and that I should find a way to “monetize my skill set.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I have no idea what my skill set is.)

Anyway, what I’m saying is that I’m awfully hard on myself. A few months ago my friend Chris said one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. She said, “If I had gone though all the stuff you did I’d be messed up too.” You might think that was an insult but to me it was like an unexpected kiss from the prettiest girl in school. She wasn’t saying that I was a complete screwup. She was letting me know that she understood where all my fears and misguided beliefs came from and that anyone else would have ended up the same way. It felt so good to hear that!

Thanks to people like Chris, Barb, John, Michael, Emily, Diane and Michaela I am going to try something different this year. Really different. I’m going to try to treat myself the way I treat others. I have no idea how I’m going to do this. It’s scary and completely foreign. This is somersaults-on-a-slackline-over-the-Grand-Canyon-while-texting kind of stuff for me. It’s emotional Parkour and Relentless Compassion Therapy. (Should I trademark that? Can I monetize it?)

Luckily, I’ve already figured out how to begin this new therapy. I’m going to start writing with pens again. Two years ago I stopped writing with pens and started using pencils. I had no idea why at the time but I just couldn’t bear to write anything down in ink. I didn’t think much about it at the time I just knew I had this strong, sudden aversion to pens. Now it seems perfectly rational. I had lost all confidence that anything I wrote was worth keeping. Every time I picked up a pen I felt like a phony, a con man. So I switched to soft pencils that smeared and smudged and made every note, joke, story and thought seem temporary and barely worth a second look. I know now it wasn’t just the writing I didn’t believe in. It was me. It was the idea that I mattered.

But now I’m back on the ink. I’ve only been using the old pens for a few days now but it feels good. I found my old Bic Velocity with the 1.6mm tip and Easy-Glide ink flow system that’s working pretty well but I have my eye on the Sanford uni-ball Jetstream that’s been sitting on my nightstand since 2012. I sold pens and pencils for eight years and let me tell you, you won’t find a pen with better action then the old Jetstream.

Every time a new storyteller comes up to me before the show and whispers that they’re not sure anyone wants to hear their story I tell them that I want to hear it and if it’s important to them it’s important to me. If I can say that to a stranger than I can say that to myself. It’s going to be weird for a while, telling myself that I belong not scribbled in pencil in the margins of people’s lives but in the center, underlined in ball point pen.

Starting Over is the theme for this month’s show. Bring a story about how you had to start over or somehow reinvent yourself. Did you move to another town? Change your look or your beliefs? If it’s true then it’s worth sharing ‘cos we’re all probably starting over or wishing we could in some way.

The next show is Thursday, January 28 at 7pm at Roy Street Coffee and Tea. The rules for stories are below but you know the kind we’re looking for: true stories that happened to you personally that still mean something to you days, months or years later.

Remember to keep it clean and under 8 minutes. And unlike this invitation, your story should have a beginning, middle and an end.

Rules & Guidelines: https://freshgroundstories.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/storytelling-rules-and-guidelines/

I hope to see you there.