Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Telling Life: Light and darkness

Today is the autumnal equinox, the shift in the world from from light to dark for the Northern hemisphere. I love equinox and solstice time. I love the way the world hovers for just a moment in balance or at at extreme and then tumbles so rapidly towards a new state. Watch the world over the next few days and you'll see what I mean. Darkness is coming.

I have long seen the autumnal equinox as an invitation to consider balance, to ponder the value of the journey through the dark. As a storyteller, this means I think about the dark stories I tell, considering their meaning and impact.

I've always loved dark tales. I love the old fairy tales that may not end so happily ever after. I've long told stories with broken characters that look at who we are in the dark, when we are in our dark times and when we allow our darkness to be revealed. We are different in the dark. We are at once disguised and exposed. Darkness allows an intimacy and honesty we might not otherwise be able to bear but it also puts us at risk. When we look at ourselves in the dark we may learn things we never knew.

When I started telling stories I was immediately drawn to stories of love and death, dark tales. I told myths and fairy tales and original stories that explored this, over and over again. Mot were something like the story below, stories that explored the darkness but brought the listener back to some place of safety.

At the time very few people were telling dark stories, certainly not in the Boston area. There were generally two different reactions to these stories, which were rarely violent or explicit. One group of people would tell me how much they loved the story, how they needed to hear it, how the stories changed them. The other group, which far outnumbered the first, would tell me I was inappropriate or otherwise wrong for telling this kind of material, regardless of the fact that I was mindful of my audiences.

It was hard, I struggled to retain my belief that these stories mattered. I persevered. Eventually I found myself exploring a broader range of topics but dark stories have remained a vital part of my repertoire. I love what I learn about myself, about the world and about my audience from them.

We need all kinds of stories. Now you can find stories that contain difficult material at every venue, in almost every performance. When we talk about the tough stuff in a place of safety, we share the tools we need to withstand the dark. As importantly, we have a chance to make the darkness our friend, the thing that protects us rather than exposes us.

We will all experience darkness, whether the literal darkness as we slide towards the winter solstice or the figurative darkness of a broken heart, depression, loss or our own secret pains. When we talk about it, when we tell stories, we tell the hidden that they are not alone. We tell the our listeners that there is a path through the darkness - or maybe there isn't, but they are not the only ones who have been there. We tell ourselves that we have survived the dark well enough to talk about it.

As we pass through this tilt in the year and the nights become longer I invite you to consider the wisdom you may find in the dark. What are you more willing to reveal? Who do you want in there with you? How will you remind yourself that the world will tilt again and the light will return?

Share your stories.
Listen well.
Know that you can reach out, find a warm hand and know that there is solace in the dark.

(c)2015 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. I find that I am drawn to the dark stories and know they need to be told, but am hesitant at times to tell them because peoples reactions are so hard to predict. Thanks for reminding me to keep telling them.


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