Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Stories I have told in the last three-and-a-half years of storytelling:

-          A pivotal night that began the end of my marriage

-          The events in the weeks leading up to my mom’s passing, and my siblings and I being in the room when it happened

-          My siblings and I being in the room when our dad passed, and the nightmares they caused me for a couple of years after

-          A cruel April Fool’s joke I played that blew up in my face a year later when my dad died on March 31

-          The night I dreamed I was punching a burglar, and actually punched my sleeping girlfriend in the face

-          Being a 16-year-old boy, confronting a 60-year-old man for assaulting my girlfriend

-          Getting second degree burns from having scalding water accidentally poured on me when I was six, and my primary memory of it being my dad getting angry and yelling at me for crying about it (a typical response from him when my siblings or I got hurt.)

-          A huge fight my ex-wife and I got into the night before we got married, and I how I came within a hair’s breadth of calling off the wedding

-          The unlikely way I met my best friend

-          How Betsy’s and my first date – something we both thought would a polite, couple of drinks, courtesy date – blossomed into us moving in together

-          An open letter of apology to the first girl I dated after my divorce

Eleven stories, that I can recall - Many of them very sad, though I try to inject any humor into the pieces that I can.

Several months ago, I began shying away from the storytelling scene because I realized that, for me, storytelling had largely become an unhealthy exercise in living in the past. Keep in mind, I didn’t just tell these stories once; I presented most of these at least two or three times at different live lit events in Chicago. A lot of time was spent writing, editing, and performing, and performing again sad chapters from my life.

In the last few months, I’ve slowly began reentering the storytelling scene, and most of the stories I’ve shared have been a little lighter and not so damn morose.

But here’s the catch: When I go to a live lit event, it’s those stories I crave. It’s those stories that touch me. I want high stakes. I want to see storytellers expose a raw nerve and be vulnerable. I’ve heard some declare these kinds of stories – and honestly, in my most cynical moments, I have agreed – as free therapy for the teller, unloading personal traumas onto the audience. So be it.

A few months ago, I gave myself a challenge to present stories that didn’t dig up painful memories from the past, to tell stories that take place more in the present, and were more or less more positive. I’ve found that actually excites me very little.

My new challenge to myself this year is to feel free to write and talk about my tragedies, but present them from the perspective of how it’s shaped me today and lessons gleamed from them – something that is very often missing from my stories as I’ve presented them. I want to take this approach because, like I said, it’s the stories where the teller is incredibly vulnerable that touch me the most.

“Without your wounds where would your power be? It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.” – Thornton Wilder, The Angel That Troubled the Waters

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