What's your story?

To be a person is to have a story to tell.
— Isak Dinesen

A friend of mine once produced her own one-woman performance. She was fulfilling a "bucket list item," a 65th birthday present to herself to get up on stage, tell her life story and sing some ballads and show tunes (some original, some not) with a three piece band. She called it “My Personal Musical” and from the stage of the cozy American Legion Post 313 Hall in Larkspur, California, she sang and spoke about her childhood, parents, marriages, and her search for spiritual connection. Her story, really, was about being true to herself.

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It was an inspiring performance on several levels. She’s greatly talented with a gorgeous voice, a charming smile, and an engaging stage presence.

And her story was compelling: a lifetime of searching for a way to sing out loud and clear, to overcome voices that wanted to shut her down, to express her deepest passions, and to find self-acceptance.

What’s yours?

I’m a podcast junkie. I especially love listening to the ones with personal narratives like The Moth and Strangers. I also crave the real, gritty, soul-baring stories of a good memoir. I want to know what real people go through and how they handle what life hands them. I notice what similar threads are woven through our lives and thus, how we are connected. 

That’s what’s important to me: Connection.

After her performance, I overheard my friend ask if any of it came off as corny. I jumped in and told her it was courageous. I don’t mean the courage it took to step up on the stage in a glittery outfit and sing by herself into the mike, though that was part of it. What I mean is, it’s courageous to own your own story and believe that it’s worth telling. And that in the telling is something meaningful, not only for you, but for anyone lucky enough to be listening.

My friend’s choice to get up and spin her own tale, to sing about her divorces, about being a housewife, about her mother’s depression, was courageous. She wasn’t just being brave and confident. Quite the opposite. She was showing us her vulnerable, tender heart.  And as Brenè Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.” We should all feel so courageous.

Is your story enough to be a musical? Isn’t it? Don’t you owe it to yourself to tell your story?

Your Personal Musical doesn’t have to be show tunes with a three-piece band. There are lots of ways to creatively construct it. Your Personal Musical could be a picture book that you write and illustrate for your grandchildren, or a song you compose for your love that you sing at her 50th birthday party. Maybe your Personal Musical is a self-published book of poems, or a website with your photographs, or an art show of your quilts. 

I told my friend that what moved me most about her story was that it was about her search to own her own voice. To be as big as she was, to not apologize for who she was and what she wanted to do in her life. Her performance was inspiring because she was owning her voice and fulfilling a life’s dream.

I hope you think about what your own Personal Musical might be. And then I hope you sit down and write it.

Because I’m sure that the world needs to hear your voice.

This piece first appeared in Sebastopol Living Magazine’s August 2018 issue.

Susie MillerComment