SPOTLIGHT: Snapshots from the Stage
On April 13, we had the honor of putting on our second production of ‘this is my body,’ a creative program that takes a cohort of women through a series of writing and performance workshops to create an original 5-minute one woman show and perform it at the end of the program in front of an audience. The program is rooted in vulnerable storytelling and requires immense trust and courage on the part of the participating women. All of the performers met that challenge with grace and the type of force that we realize we can generate when we stand in our truths and take up the space we deserve. The following vignettes represent the voices of three of the women in the show and their experience performing their original piece for the first time. You can watch the full show here.
In viewing myself as a human sack of empathy, I have always been against violence and even more so against it for those in my life. This might seem obvious, yet it may surprise you to learn that those folks and I assumed it was a natural aspect of our lives from which we had no recourse. Our abuser, my mother, kept us captive within our own minds and convinced us that we were good partners and good children as long as we withstood the fervor of her sharp tongue and hard hands. It took 25 years for me to break away from this spell as I survived near-death experiences which she caused…. twice within the same weekend just September of last year. These run-ins with her rage were not sensible and there was no justification to believe that motherhood granted permission for foul play. I would not allow myself to be placed in these circumstances ever again and so I took to the stage to declare it to everyone else – I would set the story straight of the circumstances of my immediate departure and my supposed abandonment of my family.
This wasn’t the story I had initially chosen. I thought this space would benefit more in hearing the other issues I work around, but this didn’t feel right. I knew that I had to tell the story for my own healing process and when I had told it the first time to the group, I was surprised by my immediate crying. This was hard but this process allowed me to work through my trauma and acknowledge my strength ever few weeks. Yes this happened, yes I am getting over it, and yes I am understanding of my refusal to let this experience define me. Putting together the story, setting the arguments, vocalizing my thoughts as events unfolded, and bringing in the Urdu as it had been screamed at me was similar to enduring all that had happened again and again. And yet, I knew that with every reiteration came restoration and remedy. Performing my story on stage felt as if I had redeemed myself and found all the strength, courage, and silliness I forgot. Through performing “Choosing Me,” I finally felt most like me.
When I took that stage, I felt a grounding that I had never had before when taking a stage. Powered by my breath and body and the covering of my Ancestors and Black Jesus, I was able to speak my authentic truth and bring my whole self to the stage unapologetically. It felt really great to go first and open up the show, because I did not have the thoughts of others running through my head or the spirit of comparison trying to get me to tweak my piece last minute based on what my other wonderful peers were doing on stage. I was setting the stage, and only had to look to myself for how I wanted my story to be told. I felt more powerful than ever before. I also got to experience the power of radical self-love and self-compassion in real time, as there were mistakes and the forgetting of a few lines from my piece. It was the first time in my life where I just let silence be there when I could not remember, and let my breath fill the space in my lungs until my ancestors brought my words back to me. No self-shame, no self-deprecation; just a full acceptance of who I am on this stage in this moment being a Fat Black Goddess telling her Truth. :) It felt good to spark joy in the audience and touch people with my radical sunshine present in my story.
There is a force that tries to put us back in our place (could be satan, negative energies, our traumas etc) to prevent us from taking these huge leaps of faith and to give us the perception that we should be punished or remember the significance of our growth as a threat and go back to our old ways.
This force was trying to take me down. I re-watched my performance recorded online when I got home after the performance and gave myself chills! Chills filled with excitement and also laced with fear of my own newfound embodiment of power through my storytelling. So the force manifested by lulling me into self-sabotaging behaviors and getting me to disassociate. I was unable to sleep until 4am. I woke up the next day disoriented; struggling to hold on to the realness of what I did on Saturday night. However, I am grateful to Black Jesus and my Ancestors for giving me wonderful friends who gave me sunflowers as a memento of my performance (which I placed on my altar), grounding me in a clarity that I am no longer the same person after my performance on Saturday. I had blossomed into this new being! I am committed to continue this transformational journey of writing my whole self into existence for the rest of my life, (even when it gets especially uncomfortable).
it's funny now to look back and think that i almost decided not to perform. like many women, i have a complicated relationship with my body. the idea of getting up on stage in front of loved ones and strangers alike, to talk about this deeply personal and vulnerable thing, was daunting. this is something that i think about every day, but rarely talk about with other people.
the turning point was when i realized that i was in the driver's seat. i could control exactly how much i wanted to share with the audience, and the messages i wanted them to walk away with. i didn't have to perform my pain for others. it sounds obvious in hindsight, but it was a journey to get there.
one of the best things that's happened as a result of the performance is the conversations it's sparked with friends and family. i feel more supported by and connected to them than i ever have before. a lot of what makes vulnerable topics hard is the lack of community and dialogue around them. if sharing my story can play a small part in changing that, that makes me really happy.
If you are inspired by the show and these stories and want that experience, we are doing an intensive day-long workshop version of the program on June 1. See our events page for more details and to reserve your spot!