Today, Friday June 8, I am reading one of my recent essays at a ticketed event in Seattle. Eleven writers in my memoir group have crafted, honed and polished their words with grace and guts for the last few months. Writing a personal trauma story is a naked enough feeling. To read it in public takes exposure to a whole new level.
Last year, after my diagnosis and series of surgeries, three years of writing a manuscript went up in smoke. The questions came fast and hard, especially at night: do I bury my mother’s story, interweave mine, move on from past to present or take the story present to past? Do I even have the skills to do any or all of this? Do I want to?
When I finally wrote down the words which became my essay, “We Don’t Know Everything,” I felt there had been a nuclear explosion in my head; the collision of my story, my mother’s story, cancer information and understanding illness, all locking together in believable — and unbelievable — ways. All the pieces will be sharing, for lack of a better word, the radioactive fissure — the cracking of the fault lines — that comes from speaking out on trauma. Eleven times over.
This is the second year of this event At The Fault Line. I hope we do this forever. The experience of professional coaching — by our mentor Tara Hardy — speaking our words aloud into a microphone, into the atmosphere, into the ears of friends and strangers, validates our writing. And our existence. And our purpose.
Last year we sold tickets at the door. This year we have been sold out for almost two weeks. I am watching the seedling of a mighty tree of storytelling grow and grow and grow.
The stories will crack open hearts, from the mundane to the profound, from folding laundry to holding an Alzheimer patient. I am so proud of all of us.