Reassurance up front: I won’t tell the stories from this place that you don’t want to hear. Because as much as you don’t want to hear them, I don’t want to tell them that much more.
One night a few years ago, I stood in front of a small audience at the Tacoma Public Library downtown in a room near the art that hangs on the wall and close to the Northwest Room. I spoke at an event produced by the Drunken Telegraph after some excellent coaching from Megan Sukys, who once worked for NPR and KUOW.
I had forgotten from my drama days that stage lights blind the person performing utterly to the audience. It unnerved me to speak to people I could not see when I normally stand in front of classes and see each and every eyeball, adjusting what I say according to their reactions.
After a time, though, I discovered that my own eyes adjusted to the glare slightly. I could also feel the mood of the room like a vibration even as I heard the small noises people make while listening.
I started my story with pigs chasing me down the rows of kennels–one of my favorite experiences from that time in my life. I felt and heard the amusement of those in the blackness before me.
As I shifted to the much darker places in the shelter, I could feel the people on the other side of the lights resist me. They did not want to hear about the bad parts of my job. I saw their shadows shake me off and felt them put up walls around their minds. They needn’t have worried. I had no intention of telling them and skimmed over what none of us could bear to say or hear.
As I sit to write this to you now, I consider how much in my life I will never tell to an audience. I’m not sorry about my silence in the least.
Some things, like my weekend away to Bellingham are more special because I just soaked them up with my husband and didn’t even take photos to share with you here. I was better able to be in the moment because I didn’t think so much about writing about it.
Other things hurt too much and writing about them would only spread that pain to others, something I don’t intend to do.
Still others are not my stories to tell. I have student confidentiality to maintain and relationships to respect, after all.
For each story I tell, whether fact or fiction, hundreds sit underneath, safely tucked away in my experience. I’ve found they make what I can tell that much more alive as they shimmer beneath the surface.
It doesn’t make much sense.
But I’m okay with that. The biggest parts of my life never make logical sense, and writing, as much as anything, looms large–perhaps even as large as those sitting behind the hot lights with their feelings so closely linked to my own for a shining moment in time.