Telling Stories

I just had a story go live on the RISK podcast.

I am sitting with stories.

I wonder how the other people who were part of a moment will hear them. I wonder about recollection, and the power of filters, years later.

Was rape a rape if we did not call it rape at the time?

In the last year, I have started doing storytelling events. I have been a bard, a storyteller, a source for transmission of tales for most of my life. I often teach through anecdote. I teach through story.

Stories can take on so many shapes and sizes. The same moment becomes a heartfelt prayer, becomes words of wisdom, becomes a learning lesson, becomes a shard of sorrow passed down through the line of experience. You hear my story, and it becomes your story. You listening to my story finds me sharing it with different words than I would otherwise.

Stories can become anecdotes. Punch lines that we use to punctuate our lines, our sentences, our lives. Complex moments and truths become simple quips, inside jokes, moments of pain transmuted into comedy gold.

But stories have a heart, a soul, a truth.

I have been storytelling, and I have a fear around it. Even though I have had my life on display on the internet since 1998, it somehow feels different. This is a story, front to back. Yes, there are things left out. Yes, it is sculpted… a good story after all tends to have an intro/hook, raises in energy, has a climax or anti-climax, and then delivers us back with a message or a thought or some other sensation at the end. Having a thing you lived is not the same as having a story that you lived.

My former husband, Adam, used to refer to the two of us as living in the mythic. All things had stories. All things were stories. All things are stories. We become the fable. We are the wicked witch, the white knight, the mud faerie who longs for her mud monster. The fallen tree is a witches home, the moonlit sky a beautiful painting.

Whenever I see a beautiful skyline, I thank the painters who worked so hard.

I made a list of stories. Things that, for these storytelling events and podcasts, might be stories. They have a beginning, a middle, an end. They have a point, or a journey they take the listener on. I have this notebook page scribbled full of stories shortened down to under 7 words. Lines like “Inquisition,” “Dave Sword Story,” “ToA Rapist Redemption,” “Night I decided to have chest surgery.” My reality boils down to shorthand.

As I get ready to tell a story, it is a process. I can share snipets of my life in classes or with friends, but it is not storytelling. I like knowing the general script my story will follow. Where in the tale do we begin?  Sometimes, the answer is not at the beginning.

In the piece I shared on RISK, I went in a fairly chronological order, at least, between the initial incident and then re-meeting him.

I don’t think I’ve ever called it “rape” to his face. It is hard to use that word at all. If I was never broken, battered, bruised… was it rape?  I wonder validity, levels of truth, definition.

When I re-told the story for the Bare! storytelling night in Brooklyn, I led with the club, then the awareness of who it was I just saw.  It became a better story, with the opening hook “If you don’t already know, Seattle is full of perverts.”  It catches attention. The lights are bright in my face, and I try to focus out into the room. Catch eyes, catch hearts. Catch eyes, catch hearts.

I am scared of telling stories. This is already true of my teaching stories.  I need to remember that the stories are not just stories, I was there. It’s not just 7 words on a piece of paper. It was a complex moment with complex truths informed by a lifetime that I have lived, and lifetimes beyond.

The fear is that the story looses its soul, like the eyes, caught before the camera lens.

My eyes have been caught on film, over and over again.

My words and stories, they have been shared, over and over again.

What becomes left of me?

I become a person, living a life for the purpose of crafting stories.

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Lee Harrington

Lee Harrington is an internationally known sexuality, relationships, and personal authenticity educator. Having taught in all 50 states and in 6 countries, he brings a combination of playful engagement and thoughtful academic dialogue to a broad audience. An award-winning author and editor on gender, sexual, and sacred experience, his books include “Traversing Gender: Understanding Transgender Journeys,” and "Sacred Kink: The Eightfold Paths of BDSM and Beyond," among many other titles. He has been blogging online since 1998, and been teaching worldwide since 2001. Welcome to his world, and your chance to expand your mind and heart alike.

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