For some, the acts of sharing and ‘being vulnerable’ come easily: social media has transformed the way in which we can understand the stories of others. Those who are brave enough to stand publically and say with courage and integrity ‘this is what happened to me’ or ‘this is what is going on for me’ are to be commended. But for many of us, sharing in this way is either not possible nor desirable. The act of peeling off a layer of skin and offering the world a peek of what lies beneath is too much for us. And on a purely practical level, we have colleagues, bosses, families and even friends to whom we don’t want to show our unmasked selves. The risk of ‘oversharing’ is too great.
A delicate dance occurs between the need to be witnessed in our vulnerabilities and keeping some of ourselves private. At the heart of Sister Stories gatherings is the cathartic act of sharing. ‘To share’ in the context of a soulful gathering is often interpreted as ‘to speak’, forgetting the inherent reciprocity of the word. For sharing is a two-way process. Generosity is in the very fabric of the word: just as those who speak can experience the power of being witnessed, those who listen are enriched by the act of offering their ear.
When founding Sister Stories, I spent lots of time fretting about being judged for creating the space- would setting up a gathering of this nature suggest I had terrible secrets to share, things to articulate that must be uttered behind closed doors? Would people dare to say ‘yes’ to coming along to something new and unknown? These fears almost prevented me from taking action. And yet, I was compelled to act: I believe we need to create spaces for sharing in which the private and public collide: where we can find an audience to bear witness to our words and the relative anonymity of a group who meets in a space designed purely for the purpose of this kind of gathering.
In a society where so much of our time is dedicated to presenting a carefully curated personal and professional life, what could it feel like to have a space where, just for an evening, the mask could come off? Where the heavy garments of the outside world could be left at the door and we could simply exist as human beings, showing up however we find ourselves in that moment, and that moment alone. There is no need to be performative in our vulnerability: sharing the mundane yet unspoken can be as free-ing as telling a tale that has stayed locked within our being for many years.
At its most simple level, sharing our stories, however simple the tale, holds up a mirror to our humanity. There are multiple narratives happening in the room at any one time: that which is being spoken aloud, and the narratives that are being received by every other woman in the room who is connecting the story back to her own, weaving it into a new tapestry, where the story of the speaker and listener are newly intertwined.
This reciprocity is one that has to be understood through lived experience, through taking the plunge into this special kind of giving and receiving which feels at once so alien and so familiar.
If you are curious about what committing to sharing could do for your life, we have a full calendar of events shaping up for 2019 in England and Scotland. You are so welcome to join us.