We asked writers, artists, readers and anyone with a story to share to share their interpretation of the theme: “hope.”
Contributed by an anonymous writer, this moving essay is the first response to the call.
Whilst There is Breath There is Hope
She had mothered me out of my traumatic teenage years and into adulthood. She had coaxed me back from my first dark night of despair with tenderly enforced trips to quiet cafes to drink tea and smoke cigarettes. She had tried to love me by plugging holes as my vitality leaked away.
On a hot Saturday afternoon she took a rope, tied it to a tree, fashioned a noose and hung herself. He told me later that when he’d found her her toes hovered an inch or two from the ground, the bough of the tree couldn’t quite reach to put her down.
She died and I didn’t
I took scissors, which had only been returned to the drawer along with all knives after her death, and cut late spring flowers from her lovingly tended garden. Her suicide note revealed she had planned to die there but ran to the woods when it was realised she had escaped from the house. Without knowing what else to do I took the flowers to the tree and placed these delicately pathetic offerings of aquilegia and poppies at the edge of the gaping abyss- where despair had run out, movement ceased, breath ran out. It was an offering of love, mine and hers, left to wither at the place where hope ran out.
My whole adult life I have ricocheted between the opposing poles of hope and despair, at one extreme the pull of suicidal thoughts, a desire to delete myself, and at the other the magnetic draw of hope; salvation by the blessing of external circumstances, or to put it another way, a feeble belief it’ll all work out in the end. Both poles are dangerous. When this kind of hope gets shattered time and again by life’s ordinary offerings of trauma and disappointment the downward spiral to the opposite pole becomes a well trodden path.
Arriving at despair, this time as a mother, prompted a different course of action. I feared for myself less than I feared that my children might become motherless so I asked for a new model of hope.
The NHS, unsure what to do with me, sent me on a meditation course. Every Friday afternoon, I sat with my comrades from the four corners of Despairesville and we learned to watch our thoughts. At first I ran at my despair with a war mongering cry, “Come on then you fucker, show yourself so I can annihilate you!” – not quite the mindset the teacher was looking for, and with a bemused kindly tone he encouraged a friendly, compassionate approach.
We practiced listening to sounds; silent sounds of the room, the faulty fire alarm that blipped, gurgling stomachs. Immersion in the sensory awareness of life was a welcome break from the analytical mode I usually inhabited. We watched our breathing, we watched our thinking, we felt the tingle of aliveness in our muscles. We dwelled in our bodies and in our pain; we did not run from it. Actually we did, constantly, but we tried to notice ourselves doing it and not tell ourselves off.
I didn’t like much of what I saw. But a tiny miracle occurred; with gentle attention I prised open a paper thin gap between being in ‘it’ and observing ‘it’. That gap sprouted a seedling of hope. I noticed that my immovable rock-face of pain, whether a plague of anxiety-rats scattering around my head, or the dampening thick white-out of depression, was not as solid and immovable as it appeared. Diminutive changes occurred as I breathed. The embodied sense of despair moved, in a geographical sense, across my body. Sometimes it moved like waves, sometimes like slow compacting earth. The important thing was that it moved. As long as there was breath there was movement. Movement meant change and change meant potential and with that came a crack in the rock-face just large enough for my seedling of hope to grow. Not the shiny and alluring hope-as-flimsy-optimism but an authentic hope grew out of the ground of despair.
With achingly dull repetition, meditating led to a fleeting, scarcely perceptible sense of one vast net of interconnectedness; the warp and weft of the present also had living threads that stretched far back into the past and far forward into the future. It was impossible to see it all, only my little corner of it, but I had the sense that whatever I did, even just breathing, it mattered.
Stories at the Storey is 2 years old!
Join us as we celebrate our two-year anniversary with a two-month virtual True Story Open Mic Night.
The theme is “hope.” Hope and action, hope and love, hope and prayer, hope and…We can all use a little hope and we’re hoping you have some to spare. We would like to hear your stories loosely interpreting the theme “hope.”
How can you join us?
Between now and December 31, 2016, share your 300-750 word true story or your 3-5 minute video or recording telling your true story about hope.
What kind of story?
A true one, otherwise it’s up to you. We like stories that make us laugh, cry, reflect, wonder…We just like well told true stories.
What happens next?
Well-crafted written stories will feature on our blog. We’ll compile the videos and audio recordings into a short production and share it with the world.
As 2016 rolls into 2017, we can all use a little hope.
All roads lead to…where? Whether you’re on the right path or the wrong one, are exactly where you want to be or on a detour, life is full of journeys. Stories at the Storey wants to hear yours. The theme for this month’s Stories at the Storey is Journey.
Do you have an engaging 3-5 minute true story to share? If so, Stories at the Storey would love to hear it at this month’s true story open mic night. To sign up for a storytelling slot, email us at email@example.com.
What kind of stories are we looking for? At Stories at the Storey we like true stories told well. Stories that make us laugh, cry, think, wonder, imagine…it’s up to you. We are a warm, supportive crowd and the evening is a lot of fun. Stories at the Storey is a great place to get to know people, make new friends and be a part of the community. Stories at the Storey is open to the public (18 and over).
Date: October 27, 2016
Time: 7-8 PM
Location: The Storey, Lancaster
Sponsored by Grad College, Stories at the Storey is an award-winning community arts event and a BBC Get Creative Event.
Light refreshments will be served.
This month Stories at the Storey True Story Open Mic Night is hosting our first ever True or False night.
The stories will be funny, sad, touching, moving and those that aren’t true will be false. The storytellers will not reveal whether their tale is true or false; it will be up to the audience to decide.
Why is Stories at the Storey True Story Open Mic Night hosting a True or False Night?
Some of our audience members would like to share their stories but may be less comfortable sharing true stories. We get it. Sharing your innermost thoughts, dreams and experiences with an intimate group of strangers can appear daunting. So we’re removing the barrier of truth–for one night.
So join us for a night of true or false stories. Drop in to read or to listen. Either way, you’re welcome to join us. The event is free and like always, light refreshments will be served.
Whether it’s true or false, you’re nervous or excited, the piece is written or memorized, we’re looking forward to hearing your story.
Order your free tickets via Eventbrite.
To reserve your storytelling slot email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Future is Now
The theme for this month’s Stories at the Storey is “The Future.”
Stories about where you thought you would be in 2016, letters to the past, letters to the future or anything in between, we’d like to hear your 3-5 minute true story loosely interpreting the theme “The Future.”
Stories at the Storey is a true story open mic night held at The Storey in Lancaster. It’s a lively evening of stories, food and community. We are looking for true stories from writers, readers, storytellers,students: anyone who can tell a good story.
Date: June 30
Location: The Storey
Message us today to share your true story about tomorrow.
Have a true story but not able to make it on the day? Email your true story to email@example.com and we could feature it on our blog, Facebook or Twitter