I grew up in an atmosphere where I learned very early on that it was not safe to express myself. It was of the utmost importance that nobody ever suspect that anything was ever not perfect. Consequently, people who knew me as a child thought I was and happy and very shy. Little did they know that nothing was further from the truth. As life went on and more and more experiences that could not be shared for various reasons built up, living got harder and harder. There were even times when I considered not continuing to live, but my yearning to be alive outweighed my suffering.
Every once in a while someone would hear my real voice.
One such situation was in eight grade. We were all made to write a graduation speech in English class and then the teachers read them all and chose the ones that would be read in the ceremony. My speech was one that was chosen. Thank goodness I wasn’t the reader. One of my friend’s mothers was using a still somewhat rare camcorder to record the whole shebang. Consequently she heard the speech better than the rest of the audience, or maybe she was just better at hearing. Afterwards, she approached me, told me that she had heard what I said in my speech and asked me if I was ok. Of course, I was not but I also couldn’t let her or anyone know without opening up a huge can of worms. I got scared and said I was fine, that she had misunderstood. I could see that she knew that wasn’t true but she let me have my space anyway. In the moment, I didn’t know that’s what I was experiencing but the benefit of hindsight has made it clear.
The next time I encountered being heard was on stage. Over the course of high school, I participated in many forms of performance from straight plays to musicals to madrigal choir to band and, outside of school, in dance classes and performances. Performing arts gave me the veil I needed to be heard without being exposed. As I told these fictional stories, I was also telling the stories I needed to tell without it being “about me”. Every time an audience reacted to my story underneath the story I felt emboldened on many levels. I was hooked.
Over the years, I sought out training programs in every performance art I could from every perspective. Acting training in particular often includes telling our personal stories out loud in public, practice being vulnerable and being heard. It eventually became overtly clear to me that the reason I needed to perform was becasue I craved being heard- really heard. That connection to another human being was healing me slowly but surely. The more I shared and was heard the better I felt about myself, until one day I realized that I had become quite fearless. That’s not to say, I literally have no fears. I still get shivers up my spine in dark places and feel the pit of my stomach churining near edges, drop offs and on bridges. But I no longer fear being exposed and that is very powerful.
Even now as I type this I worry about what people will think or how they might react but the difference is that I can now own my story regardless. That is the power of being heard. I can be vulnerable because I know that in the end someone reading this will hear me. That hearing will heal them and might even empower them to tell their story, be heard and heal some more.
This is why I have recruited my friend and colleague, Gerard Stropnicky, to lead his Story Circle program through Art Play Learn. Story Circle provides a platform for people to tell stories that heal without having to be exposed. It allows us to express our stories and to be heard. That hearing heals both the expressor and the hearer, hence the circle part. The stories focus on joy and gratitude and always connect to what we need to say so that we can heal by being heard. The best part is that you don't need any special skills or training. Literally, anybody can participate and benefit. Afterall, we all have stories to tell.
We are experiencing a new kind of living life right now. We have new opportunities to connect on different levels thourgh different vehicles than usual. Jerry has been kind enough to offer this program at a severe discount so that as many people as possible can participate and benefit. I hope you will join us live and online to share a piece of yourself and gain a piece of everybody else.
The meetings will be held on Zoom but will only be recorded with the express permission of every participant. Protecting the safety, security and privacy of each person is our top priority. We have separate events for different age groups in order to tailor the content and strategy in an age and developmentally appropriate way. For more information and to register, please see the links below.
Middle School: https://www.artplaylearn.com/product-page/story-circle-middle-school
High School: https://www.artplaylearn.com/product-page/story-circle-high-school
Adults (must be at least 18 years old): https://www.artplaylearn.com/product-page/story-circle-adults