We held Listen To Your Mother auditions yesterday in a white-out blizzard that started cute and cozy, as snowstorms do, pillowing the murk and grime with feathery white, smoothing the rough spots and fluffing the comforter before letting it float down over Spokane, thick and heavy. It quickly became a royal nuisance and then, as dark fell, an actual danger with jagged edges and closed roads and oil-slick ice patches.
Elise and I sat, our pens arranged, our venti coffees hot, our review sheets blank and white, in front of the overly-energetic heaters in one of the rooms of our children’s preschool. The windows above the heaters were open to let in some air that didn’t smell like burning church dust. We wondered if anyone would make it. Did their horse know the way through the blind and drifting snow? Would they come and if they came would they have a story? Would they tell it well? Would we laugh, cry, snort, empathize, nod?
All of the worries that roost on our side of the table are still far fewer than the fears of those on the other side of the table who speak their truths to strangers, trusting that we’ll hold them gently.
We needn’t have worried (and I hope they feel the same). They came and their stories were gorgeous. Our stories are gorgeous. Terrible and hilarious and heavy and light. That is the magic of Listen To Your Mother. The same magic that inhabits BlogHer’s Voices of the Year (… submissions are open). It’s the transformational power of storytelling. The power to make us acknowledge the humanity on every side of us and our place in it.
I love every minute of LTYM auditions, but they leave my unsettled and jittery. Somehow wanting to be a part of it all in a bigger sense. More connected. More in tune. At the same time, they force me to take a step back and see how temporary my little world is, so much so that I want to bury myself in my own children’s now. If I wait, will I lose my chance? Will it pass me by? Should I dive in deeper, find a way to go to BlogHer, connect, learn, grow? How can I miss it? I look around the dinner table and I know I can. I am helping people to share their stories in my own small way and it is enough. It is balanced perfectly on the scale against my four babies, the driving and the tucking and the feeding and the playing. For now.
I am no less changed for not wanting more.
Spin in a circle in a public place tomorrow. Go on, do it. Think you’ll look foolish? Who cares? That woman over there in the heavy gold earrings lost a child – a married, happy, 28-year-old child – when her bus plummeted over a cliff in Brazil. The young, timid girl on the bench is searching for her birthmother. The exhausted woman without a coat? Her son was hit by a car three weeks ago and even as he heals, her hands keep shaking. The woman you think you know at preschool lost her sister at sixteen. Your acquaintance in heels and pearls at Kindermusik worked an oil rig in Louisiana after college.
Now take a spin around your favorite haunts on the internet. Remember that post that you could not stop thinking about for weeks? Submit it here. The writers you love do not have to be going to BlogHer to be honored (only to present at the keynote).
I’m going to stand in my kids’ room while they sleep for a little while. Maybe press my forehead to the window and contemplate the way the snow coats each branch of every tree, the way it transforms our quiet boulevard into a fantastic palace in a fairy tale. I’m going to let the knowledge that they are children for ten – maybe twelve? – more years slowly drain all the restlessness out of my soul.