It’s one thing to observe – remaining safe on the other side of the microphone in the passively judging darkness beyond the stage. Watching and scrutinising and hopefully enjoying. No pressure there.
It is with this trepidation I approached The Moth StorySLAM event held at the Rich Mix in Bethnal Green last night – in essence, an open mic themed storytelling event. The theme of the night was Caution and I’d concocted my story idea over the previous week, practicing it repeatedly with patient colleagues.
Arriving in East London and walking out of the train station I noticed this piece of street art. It describes almost perfectly how I felt at the time putting myself in the spotlight, which felt a bit like a firing line. Bag of nerves slung over my shoulder, I threw my name in the hat to stand up in front of strangers and be honest. No biggie.
|Singular Shoreditch ‘shroom|
I had a fantastic group of friends cheering me on who filled me with all the courage, Dutch and otherwise, in advance of my storytelling debut. While much of the event is a whirl and a blur of anxiety and hilarity, I must say what a humbling yet equally warming experience it was to stand in front of a room of strangers and tell them about something that happened to me.
I can barely remember what words I actually used, but below is the draft I crafted for myself. What actually fell out of my mouth in the moment was hardly the same, but in the spirit of the night I threw caution to the wind and just winged it. Judging by the kind feedback I received from strangers afterwards that was the right call.
The next event is on the 11thSeptember and you’ll find me there.
My cautionary tale is about lessons learned. I had a perspective enhancing experience recently. It started with a rough Thursday evening a couple of weeks ago. I was going to bed exhausted. It had been a long and difficult week at work, my thoughts were with my sister in Cape Town who was overwhelmed with sick wilful toddlers and I’d had a friend in emotional dire straits on the phone earlier that evening.
This was the kind of tired that requires you to lie on a beach for a week only moving the hand holding your cocktail closer to your mouth before you feel ready to engage with life and other humans again.
I knew I had fallen asleep because I was disturbed by a *tap tap tap*. This was a tap I knew well, a tap that had persisted for weeks. It was the sound of the back breaking straw.
After an initial complaint my landlord had still not come through and the roofer he’d been in touch with had not done what he claimed and rainwater now was streaming into my flat at 5:30am. Each drip started reminding me of my so called failings in life.
My life plan did not include of scrambling around to lay down towels, strategically place buckets and save my handmade crafts – a menagerie of knitted toy sea creatures, the most recently completed project being toy whale – from ‘drowning’. The irony was not lost on me, even though my sense of humour most certainly was.
My brain started down that negative slippery slide reminding me was I was 35 and single, living alone in an expensive (and broken) shoebox, feeling like a foreigner with my family on the other side of the world.
It felt like my the cracks in my esteem were leaking like my ceiling and that at any moment it was all going come crashing down on me, burying me in a soggy pile, and maybe that’s where I should be.
Feeling isolated, vulnerable and pretty helpless, all I could do was cry, and seethe, and text my landlord at that very moment to tell him I’d been awoken by his failings and he needed to sort this out.
I lay back down and listened to this moist metronome until my alarm sounded, completed my morning routine and got to work as per usual, but inside I was on the warpath. Some strong but still polite phone calls later I had ten thousand apologies and a hundred promises from landlord and builder which helped – along with a two pint pub lunch with colleagues – it was a Friday after all.
That night I was grateful not to have to go home to a damp flat with towels and buckets everywhere, but out with a dear friend whom I’ve known since high school for a drink and a catch up. I chewed her ear off for ages ranting on about the leak, what annoyed me about this that and the other.
I eventually stopped monopolising the conversation and told my friend it was her turn. She then leaned forward a little and said ‘friend, I want to ask you something, and you don’t have to say yes’. My brain froze.
Her next words were ‘If you want I would hope you would do me the honour of being one of my bridesmaids next year’. I cried for the second time that day. In the middle of a bar under the arches of Waterloo station stood two women hugging long enough to make any English person cringe – one of whom was in tears.
All the recent negativity had dissolved, simply vanished. 15 hours earlier I felt pushed to the point of giving up. I had seriously contemplated not using the return portion of my ticket when I visit my family at the end of the year, of cashing in and just heading home for good.
I was then reminded of the times when I had managed to come to my own rescue when I was my own worst enemy over the years. Where some magical seed of truth germinated inside and grew into a warm creeper of reason and rationality enveloping me, telling me to hang on.
Yes I’m single – but in one of the most exciting towns in the world surrounded by amazing friends. I can be as reckless or irresponsible as I want. I only have myself to answer to, and my own space to go home to. No housemates not doing their chores or waiting in a queue for the washing machine or bathroom – just pure unadulterated me time.
In that moment I realised there is truth in the cliché – things do get better because who knows what’s coming. It is always too soon to give up. Things always get better. There is always something around the corner.
Oh, I’m not entirely sure if my roof has been fixed, there hasn’t been another leak, but whale and his friends are safely dry-docked.