Life is one huge story — really long, really weird and flecked with beauty. Its hugeness, weirdness and beauties hit me again last night, as I took the stage at the Egg to tell my tale of F.S.O. before a crowd of a thousand at “Lost and Found: The Moth in Albany.” Although, to be perfectly honest, I couldn’t see these thousand people, having been blinded by the light, wrapped up like a douche when I was rollin’ in the night, or whatever Manfred Mann was trying and failing miserably to enunciate back in 1976. (Whipped up like a mousse? Decked out in chartreuse? )
Not seeing the audience was a blessing, it turned out. I’d been told, by the lovely People of the Moth and my equally lovely fellow storytellers, that rehearsal can often prove more nerve-wracking than the actual performance. So when the full-on tectonic body wobbles overtook me during my run-through Friday night, shaking off my cool air of imperturbility along with sizable chunks of past dental work (Hey! I know that filling! That’s from 1997!), I was told not to worry about it. This meant the performance would go well. They said that. I tried to believe them. I did. Then I started shaking again, and I spat out a crown from 2002.
But just before speaking, as I stepped up to the microphone and faced those blinding, douche-wrapping lights, a brief, blessed thought streaked through my adrenaline-spazzed brain: It didn’t matter whether the performance went well! This was a story! This was my story, mine and my children’s, two of them seated among the unseen thousand, and it had already brought enormous gifts my way.
On Friday I had already met with a group of extraordinary storytellers — my old friend Steve and my new friends Mike, Lynn and Shannon — on this path to the mike. At rehearsal I had already heard their stories, glimpsed their broken inner parts and marveled at their pluck. I had already felt, once again, the warmth that comes from moving outward after a chilling loss — making new connections, gleaning new insights, finding new ways to feel alive.
And already, my world was bigger.
Stories do this. They give. Telling them, hearing them, grasping the commonalities between them — it’s all healing, and it can only happen when we strip away our layers of defense and bare our mushy human middles with other people. Whether we bare and share them over cups of tea around a kitchen table or in public, blinking before a crowd, matters less than the willingness to cough them up and spit them out at all.
I’m grateful for the chance to spit them out at the Egg. I’m grateful but fuddled, as always, by the bizarre and magical calculus that tosses up joy in the aftermath of loss. Had my husband not committed suicide, I would not have written about it. I would not have told a story about it. I would not have met the people I met this weekend. I would not have shared moments of reflection, resilience and laughter with friends old and new.
It doesn’t make sense. It never will. But then again, neither does Manfred Mann.