27 May 2008

The space between us

I attended a new writing group this morning and am thrilled -- the house is too quiet for how I am feeling! This is a group that started at my in-laws' church and expanded outward (though for all I know I may be the only non-churchgoer in the crowd) and it's about writing life stories.

First a big disclaimer: I will never reveal personal details (names, biographical details, etc.) of the people in the group in my blog. I won't say something different in my blog from what I would say in front of anyone or everyone in the writing group. I don't want anyone to have to worry about what they can say in front of me and trust to be kept private, nor do I want anyone to feel they have to question what I am really thinking that I am not saying when I am in their presence. That's a promise.

Since I got home from the meeting, I've come to one little conclusion: The group writing experience reminds me of what a hopeful person I am at heart. It's good for me to be with others who are listening and responding to their own true voices, their own true stories. Because every one is amazing, everyone else's and mine too. Today there was a tea party at someone's house and a warm introduction, followed by gentle but firm critiquing, just the kind I like. Everyone was so respectful, and so joyful about the opportunity to bring all of our stuff together: our writing and our selves.

And right now it's all reminding me of last night's TV, a reality show I had never watched before. "So You Think You Can Dance?" makes it sound so tough, like the judges must be these high-schooly, mean people, sniggering and pointing fingers. And the show is some of that, but so much more. Each of the judges is capable of being surprising, so there's plenty of natural suspense in the judging of each dancer -- well, the dancers that don't get stopped mid-move and virtually laughed out of the room, that is. The English judge with the fluffy ginger hairdo has a real soft spot for rappers and hip-hoppers, and a sharp eye for talent. The middle woman, with her big hair and brassy attitude, has good observations about technique and is never afraid to laugh out loud, with delight or disgust. The artsy Sharon Stone-lookalike on the end has dance chops, you can tell, yet takes this this parade of hopefuls and wanna-bes and positively embraces what these dancers bring to the stage. She delivers her critiques in the most loving possible of ways, gently preserving the potential dance stars' oh-so-fragile ideas of themselves as dancers and trying to help them lose all the baggage and misinformation that hold them back from becoming real, professional dancers: the bizarre costumes, the out-there quirky personas, the lack of information about what dance is.

After an hour and a half of the show (and there's more tomorrow night!), I found myself full of admiration for every one of the dancers and the judges both for putting themselves out there and for trying to articulate what dance truly is. I love what happens when people create that creative space for themselves and others. I love it in music and Greg Hamilton talked about it in Mystic Ball. It can be a form of meditation and can open pathways to perception and insight. So I too feel joyful and grateful that we can gather and support each other as we share stories in these sacred spaces we create, these spaces where we can define anew every moment what it means to write, to be social, to share.

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