Thursday, June 16, 2011

flood stories

This past weekend, my friends and I visited the Skirball Cultural Center, a museum in LA that tells history from a Jewish perspective, for their new exhibit on Harry Houdini, arguably the most amazing magician and escape artist the world has ever seen. The exhibit is incredible, and I highly recommend going to see it, but while you're at the Skirball I also highly recommend the permanent Noah's Ark exhibit they have, primarily for kids (or, in our case, for adults that act like kids).

The Noah's Ark exhibit is built like a huge ark that you walk through, with stuffed animals and cubby holes and other larger animals made out of all re-used, found objects like spatulas and rubber tires, and it has roped passages running along the top for kids to crawl through. My friends and I had a blast playing like little kids around this ark.

But something stuck with me besides just the playfulness. When you first enter into the exhibit, you sit down with your group around a pretend campfire and listen to a storyteller who tells you what you are about to experience. Our storyteller noted that across land and time, different cultures and religions from vastly different regions all had mythical stories about A Great Flood. The storyteller went on to explain that each culture's story of a Great Flood was very similar - it starts with rain. The winds pick up, the thunder booms and the lightening crashes, people gather their loved ones together into a boat or a house and they ride out the storm together, less afraid and strengthening the bonds of love with each other.

Our storyteller asked us - a few adults and mostly small children- what every flood story had in common after it started raining. The adults wavered. They got in a boat? "No, before that," our storyteller said. "What did the people do after it started raining but before it started flooding?"

A little boy raised his hand and said, "They told someone."

The storyteller pounced. "They told someone!" In every flood story, the main idea is not that it was pouring rain, or that there was a boat, but that the people told others and asked the ones they loved the most to get in the boat with them.

Ever feel like when it rains, it pours? That your own life is flooding? This past week has been like that, and even with its highs (successfully raising enough funds for a second season of my web-series; my kickass Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in over thirty years), I also hit some serious lows, most involving my car being in the shop for two days and me spending, once again, the equivalent of several months of car payments to get it fixed. Again. I've also been overwhelmed career-wise, and let's face it, I've just been feeling... well, like I was drowning.

But I'm ridiculously bad at telling someone. RIDICULOUSLY. Maybe it's the Robert Frost-Stiff Upper Lip-New Englander background, or the fact that I'm stubborn, or the fact that I like to focus on the positive and not talk about the negative. But whatever it is, when my life is flooding, I don't tell anyone. I just sort of sit there and watch as the water inches up past my chest and seethe. (I'm sure none of you know what I'm talking about here.)

But as I listened to this storyteller talk to the kids, I started to realize that maybe she was on to something here. After all, why do we tell stories in the first place? Why do we blog, why do we post Facebook statuses, when things aren't exactly going well in our life? I think we do them to gather up our friends and family, into one safe, small place, and feel comforted, and loved. And it doesn't start until you tell someone.

Lately I've been leaning a lot on Lira, my "sister", who has literally dropped what she's been doing and driven over to my place numerous times just to sit down and talk me through my discouragement, and I lean on Alyssa, my best bestie, who always knows exactly what to say and when to try to help me fix it and when to just listen, and of course, Benni, always Benni, being there, being consistently wonderful, picking my sad butt off the ground again and again and giving the best hugs in the world. But lately, I've brushed this amazing trio off with mutterings of "I don't want to talk about it," because I'm sick and tired of feeling like a burden, like my life is ALWAYS flooding in one capacity or another, and that I should just suck it up and fix my own damn problems without a word to anyone about needing help.

That hasn't really worked out so well, so glad you asked. So Plan B, which is supposed to be Plan A but it's funny how we reverse those sometimes, is going back to basics:

Pick myself off the ground. Put one foot in front of the other. And start telling someone.


Wine and Words said...

I've a boat
floating still, with the sheer force of my will.
The buckets of my hands
ending the oars of my arms
fulcrum of broad shoulders
forged in the rain
forest...of so many
wet trees

under the umbrella of my hair
where even flood waters can't reach

We'll be okay.

The video of my all time song. My favorite audio recording. If you can wear a groove in the vinyl of the web, I've done it here.

((Hugs)) Lisa. I love it when you reach out. Difficult, ain't it :)


Anonymous said...

The Joker always listens...and likes a good story. You know how to reach me. Give me a shout if you need to talk.

Anthony Duce said...

The flood stories and the message, such a great thing to pass on. There is much to be said for expressing, telling others what you are drowning from. I’ve pulled myself into a few boats after almost drowning a few times myself.

Elisabeth said...

When I feel flooded Tracy, I write, though I think sometimes it might be better to speak about it first or second in whatever order is possible.

I'm glad you have friends with whom you can talk.

Thanks for terrific post. I enjoy the ark story as metaphor.

What with climate change we ought pay it more attention.

Lydia K said...

Keeping it all inside can be so destructive sometimes. Let some of the pressure out, before the whole levee breaks. Okay?

JJ said...

I am ALWAYS positive, so e-mail me if you can't hold your breath long enough in a flood.

One of the by-products of those treading-water timelines in our lives is the feeling that the entire world is glaring at us as though we are less than perfect. It is just not so. From where I sit, you have it all, and others should admire you. You are an actress, writer, poet, and raconteur, which I find exhilarating. Klutz, geek, Ninja, and troublemaker is fascinating.

Career? Do you like what you do? If so, you have it all! And you're a Bruins fan - you are perfect!

kj said...

i had no idea we were sisters! :^)

what a great story to make a great point. (you are a storyteller yourself, tracy)

it's not easy for me to ask either. but i'm learning. i got my butt kicked a few years back but in my full up emotional way, it only made me treasure and rely on the help of people i trust (and love) even more.

i very much appreciate the simplicity of this message, tracy. i won't forget it.

ps you can tell me anytime. :^)


Bathwater said...

Indeed you should start speaking up, you are so good at listening to others we often assume that you must be fine. How could you not be, you seem perfect to us.

Yet we are also here to listen and encourage you. Because without you who would encourage us ;).

Marion said...

Oh, the visual of the museum visit had me wishing I'd been there with you to hug you and also to share the experience. We must all hold each other up. What else are friends for?

Sending you love and hugs. Yes, we all have times like this...some of us more than others.

Love & Blessings,

"Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow." ~Swedish Proverb

"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares." ~Henri Nouwen

ed pilolla said...

rich stuff to think about. the symbolism of the flood, of massive destruction, followed, one hopes anyway, with renewal, certainly is a historical tradition, even if in our imaginations. i really like the angle of telling others about it.

i used to tell friends about my problems. that didn't help. then i kept quiet about them. that didn't help. so i'm learning my problems will keep coming around, but it's up to me how i want to handle the pressure of these problems. and you are right, a couple people who are close and willing to listen can relieve the pressure. wonderful post. i think i'd like to check out that ark exhibit.

Gwen said...

Sometimes I swear God speaks to me through you (whether you are a believer or not). I've definitely been in danger of drowning lately but because of your post I am going to tell those closest to me that it's time for me to get help and just take a few steps back. They can help me for once when I need it. Thank you and I pray that your flood waters have already begun to recede. Have a wonderful weekend my friend!

drollgirl said...

i didn't realize the noah's ark thing was still going on! i have wanted to see that 4EVER and have somehow managed NOT to! must get there soon!

and telling helps. it is hard for some of us (myself included), particularly if we were raised by strong-and-silent-types that thought they were clint eastwood.

Lira said...

We are all here to listen, Tracy. I'm just one of the lucky ones, who gets to hold you when you speak.


Anonymous said...

Yes, another stiff-upper-lip New Englander here! I tend to keep my mouth shut when I could really do with some help as I don't like to bother anyone.

Oh, and GO BRUINS!!

Jo said...

Oh boy do I get it!
I'm not a teller. At all. I never have been. Some of the biggest, most devastating things in my life have happened without the closest people to me ever even having an inkling.
I don't do Facebook. Don't like status updates. Don't like giving them.
I have a wonderful boyfriend who shares so much with his family (via phone, as they are on the east coast) every day. I used to wonder why. Why not figure it all out on your own?
Lately, I've been thinking that my way is not the best way. It may be the worst.
I'm great at listening. Horrible at sharing.

From what I know of you here on your blog, you seem pretty amazing to me. I always find I can learn a thing or two here. :) Like tonight.

I'm sorry for the rains and the flood. I'm hoping you start to see that rainbow very soon.

Two Tigers said...

First of all, that Ark exhibit sounds like the coolest thing ever! I'm a big fan of stuff meant for kids that we adults who never grew up can get just as much out of - if not more!

Second - we are all drowning more or less on and off all our lives. Anyone who doesn't appear thus is just a better swimmer or better at concealing it, and that makes the rest of us afraid to show what we consider to be outrageous weakness. Then we show it, and find we are not as strange or as weak as we thought.

Witness here - most everyone answered not with jeers but support and a resounding "me too!!" I'm so glad you have people to unload onto, online and off - use them and love them wisely and well. They treasure you too.

Barbara said...

They say it always helps to share. I've always thought the advantage to sharing is getting opinions. Not so much for me to feel better, or to lean on someone else, but to get ideas on what I could or should do next.
Hang in is never easy, but it sure is fun to live it, isn't it? Never a dull moment.

Lori ann said...

i had to learn this the hard way myself. i learned that by not sharing, i denied my family and friends the opportunity to help me (when it would be obvious to them that i needed it). i learned that people who love you are happy and relieved to have a chance to help lighten your load. and most of all, i only like feeling alone, when i want to feel that way.
hugs + love

krista said...

yeah. i get it. the floods, the wet feet and legs. sometimes i find myself twirling in circles, making waves with my fingers. but i'm not so sure that really gets me anywhere.

Okie said...

First of all...I am truly jealous of your visit to the Houdini exhibit...and this Ark exhibit sounds way cool as well. Jealous. :)

Secondly...this is a very cool and insightful post. As I read it, I experienced some of feelings you describe. Far too often I hold problems close to the vest and don't really open up to others when I need help. In almost a strange contradiction, I often jump at a moment's notice to help friends, loved ones, neighbors or even strangers if they need help.

This actually came up a little bit in a church class this weekend...the need to not only serve others but to allow them to serve us. If everyone would just open up and be willing to help and be helped, things could go a lot more smoothly.

From a literary/movie/etc perspective it just makes sense...if the problem/conflict isn't shared or discussed, then the story would be very dull and the characters wouldn't have much in the way of experience and growth. The same is true for life.

Chris said...

There is a beautiful essay by Walter Benjamin on the nature of storytelling and its waning role in society, written back in 1936 (yes, go figure). The most powerful thing about oral storytelling, he finds, is that it comes from experience, the trials and tribulations of real life, and the wisdom and advice it offers its community. So next time a personal flood occurs, perhaps there is advice for others in it that should be shared.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin