Extra special heartfelt thanks to everyone who came out in the record-setting rainfall we had Thursday night. It was a perfect night to stay home and so many of you came out anyway. It took me two hours to get there from Olympia that night and I was ready to do a show with a handful of us sitting in front of the fireplace. Instead, almost 50 of you showed up at the last minute and made it a show. Thank you!

We had so many beautiful stories that night from beginning to end. Sue led us off with a story about the last days of her father’s life. One of my favorite things about storytelling is how we can find laughter in tragedy. Even though we could hear the sadness is Sue’s voice as she talked about her dad, she also blessed us with some really funny moments that made it a truly rich story. Thank you, Sue, for all the work you put in on that story.

Pykasu, one of our newer tellers, told a story that had so many lines that went right into my heart that I could feel myself rocking back into my chair trying to take them all in. There were two that I woke up this morning thinking about, “You don’t move on from loss, you move forward with it” and “loss is a monster that feeds on isolation.” The most amazing part of Pykasu’s story was she didn’t intend to tell that night. Thirty minutes before showtime there were seven people in the cafe and none of them were there for the show. Twenty minutes before showtime, Pykasu walked in and I asked her if she had any story about anything she’d be willing to tell. I figured the show was going to be me, her, and a few other people sitting on two couches trading stories. She graciously pulled a notebook out of her backpack and started working on something she’d been thinking about but hadn’t worked out yet. Thank you, Pykasu, for stepping up on such short notice. My advice for the rest of us? Add Pykasu to your Grammarly dictionary. You’ll be telling your friends about her one day.

Neal was our only first-timer that night. He told a touching story that had us all leaning forward in our chairs until the very end when the room exploded in laughter. I love stories that remind me of how ridiculous life can be sometimes. Sometimes we do something so unbelievably goofy that the only way we can deal with it is to share the story with someone. Thank you, Neal, for sharing that one with us.

Mike, a teller we haven’t seen in a while, shared the story of how he and his wife came back together after a year and a half of thinking they were done forever. So many of us have stories of leaving people who weren’t right for us, it’s good to hear a story about a couple who managed to work out their differences and stay together. Stories like that give me hope. Thank you, Mike. 

Colleen, one of our new regulars, shared the story of her mom protecting her from a house fire four months after she died. Was this a story about ghosts or the afterlife? No, it was a story about a mother’s love for her daughter. Would Neal deGrasse Tyson dispute the cause of Colleen’s photos and baptismal gown being the only things not destroyed in that fire? Yes. Does it matter? No. Faith is what gets us through the hard times. Sometimes, in spite of all the facts, we just have to believe that the universe is going to take care of us. 

That night we also had a rare appearance by Afifi. Afifi, who is Lebanese, told us the story of escaping from Tehran during the hostage crisis in 1979. I always look forward to Afifi’s stories. They come from places I’ll never see and a life I’ll never have. If you’re ever wondering if we’re living through a civil war in this country, I would ask you to sit down with Afifi and let her tell you what it’s like to live in the Middle East. Next time I get all worked up about the state of affairs in this country, I hope I can pause long enough to remember that I’ve never had to worry about my house being bombed, or had to talk my way onto the last plane out of Seattle to save myself from being shot. Thank you, Afifi, for the perspective you always bring to your stories.

Chris, one of our most regular regulars, told my new favorite Chris story. There’s something about the stories she tells about her parents that always resonates with me. That night, she had this amazing line, “We both knew it was a lie, but there was nothing he could do about it.” You don’t need to know anything about her story for that line to mean something to you. That one line says so much about how people interact with each other. Next time I see Chris I’m going to ask her if that line meant as much to her as it did to me.

Kris-with-a-K told a super sweet story about her parents which was almost the exact opposite of Chris-with-a-C’s. We got to meet Kris’s parents at an FGS show a few months ago and I can totally see why she turned out the way she did. It was wonderful seeing them smiling in the audience as their daughter told a story. There’s a lot of love in that family. If you want to know what that love looks like around the holidays you’ll have to talk Kris into telling that story again. If we’re lucky, she’ll let me post it online 🙂

Our last teller was Bill Bernat. Normally, I get nervous when someone tells a story about something that just happened. But Bill is an exceptional writer and teller and I knew it was going to be ok. His story of love and loss was one of the most touching I’ve ever heard him tell. He almost told it last month but neither he nor the story was ready. Last Thursday they were both ready. Storytelling allows us to make something beautiful out of something painful. Watching Bill do that after a recent heartbreak was inspiring. I’m grateful we have a place where we can do that.

I’m going to do something I don’t do very often. I’m going to ask you to visit Bill’s website, https://stayawesome.com/. He’s a speaker, coach, and storyteller. In all the years he’s been telling stories with us at FGS he’s never asked me to promote his business. Not once. He doesn’t come out to network or sell himself in any way. That’s why I’m deciding to tell everyone now what a great speaking coach he is. He really is one of the best. You know what would be a great gift for someone? Hire Bill to do a storytelling workshop for you and your friends. Is your workplace trying to figure out how to talk about mental health issues? Hire Bill to come show you how to do that. 

Here’s his TED talk that’s been seen 1.6 million times: 

 

That’s all I have for now. My apologies for all the electronic problems we’ve been having during the shows recently. The PA system and the audio recorders have been acting up lately. I’m doing my best to figure out what’s going on. Thanks for your patience. 

Our next show is January 16. The theme is “Failure – Stories from the ashes.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as possible. See you then!

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com