On days like today when the fog fills the deep, narrow valley to the west of us and every pine needle is individually coated in ice, I feel like the witless victim of an impending Stephen King plot. The creatures in the mist are not going to get us this time though … we will escape to a place where the sun still shines. And by “we,” I mean all seven of us!
A hideous stomach bug struck our house last weekend. It was fast and violent. By Tuesday morning, it seemed like we were done – a solid twenty-four hours had elapsed since the last of the vomiting. We had no fevers, no complaints and breakfast consumption was exuberant. I sent them to school and there followed a week of the most bizarre game of child illness whack-a-mole. Kids that I kept home would be fine and bouncing off the wall, kids I sent to school puked after lunch. I think in hindsight that we acquired a second bug mid-week, but I honestly have no freaking idea. A hideous fever and cough definitely blazed through the school. I’m sure the secretary had my number on speed dial by Thursday. Quinn randomly spiked an 104 fever right after school on Friday, adding to my burden of guilt over my poor mommy choices, but his teacher said he’d been fine all day. Currently, he is wrestling post enormous pizza lunch.
So, we’re quarantined while the snow falls outside, and the overburden heater tries in vain to combat our useless 1920s single-paned windows. I’ve banished the kids to the basement playroom while I try to prepare for next week. Listen To Your Mother Spokane is on track for our FIFTH annual show. Elise and I have already received a ton of audition requests and we’re working hard to get the word out to more people. We’re also teaching a Creativity Salon over the next four months intended to inspire (and gently pressure) participants to write more and share their work with our group. It’s our first try at this and we are so lucky in the women who joined the class. I’m teaching a Circle of Security Parenting (You all know how I love Kent Hoffman, et al. so!!) series this month on Wednesday evenings that involves another astonishing and interesting group of men and women. And then, I have my own writing club once a month – an intimate and delightful group that grew out of last year’s LTYM cast.
It is the proverbial embarrassment of riches. The dynamics of group discussion can be hard and I am still learning the best ways of facilitating, but mostly I feel a sense of privilege that I get to participate, even when I’m in charge of moving the discussion and keeping it on track. It helps that personal essay writing and Circle of Security principles are pretty much my two favorite things on earth besides my family and a good novel.
But my interest in the subject matter is not what makes these experiences so rewarding. The uniting thread is the connection that comes from sharing stories. There are very few shortcuts to intimacy with another person, but sharing stories honestly and vulnerably and receiving and holding another’s stories with empathy and delight is the foundation of close relationships. I don’t know if these group environments are a shortcut to connection or simply a safe space to let connection thrive. All I know is that I feel overwhelmed by the joy these diverse groups have brought me in a season that can be so grim and isolating. Connecting through story telling is healing, whether it’s personal life narratives or tales of struggling to support children’s emotional regulation. I swear it. When we’re feeling down, we should all have to sit in a circle and read a personal paragraph on a random prompt. It’s like an SSRI for the soul.
(Give it a try … LTYM auditions are happening in THIRTY NINE cities around the country. Could be one near you?)