As an expat kid who grew up in the Middle East, and then hopped around different states for a few years, I believed – with the confidence of youth – that home was where I was. Now that I’m a mother of two kids going on ten years in the Bay Area, it feels more and more that home is who I am.
Despite the good fortune of traveling to different places, the most important journey of my life has been that of self-discovery and to be totally cliche, it coincided with motherhood. Nothing forces you to ask who you are or what you want out of life than being a mother, but by that same token, nothing places you in a more alien, unfamiliar position. For me, motherhood did not feel like home and that was because I didn’t know who I was. If home equals self, identity, and voice, then Listen To Your Mother has been both the foreman and the fengshui master of my abode.
Listen To Your Mother (LTYM) is a critically acclaimed, national live-reading series celebrating motherhood, but before all of that, there was just a friendship. I first met Ann Imig, the Founder and National Director of Listen To Your Mother, back in 2009, when we were both just bloggers trying to write funny stuff – much of it about mothering stuff. Ann, frustrated with the commercialism and individual focus of Mother’s Day, started LTYM in 2010 as a way of bringing mothers together and highlighting both community and self-expression. From her hometown of Madison, WI, the Listen To Your Mother movement has grown to 41 cities across the United States and Canada this year. That is how much people connect with this beautiful, amazing storytelling vehicle and want to share a piece of themselves.
LTYM came to San Francisco in 2012 and the next year, I decided to toss my story into the ring for consideration. It was accepted and I became a part of the LTYM movement and history. There is a unique thrill to performing your own words and having it connect with people. No one listened to me at home, but by God, this was an experience of listening – and understanding – at the highest level. After the tornado of marriage and kids, I felt like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” asking “Where am I? Who am I?” Both questions one and the same. But from my directors to my cast-mates, and then of course, to the audience, I felt heard and acknowledged. Home.
Once the performance was over, I had to actually go home: a return to reality and the work of finding and speaking my voice. My connection to LTYM would never be severed, but I felt that the magic was suspended to that one night.
Until last year.
In the fall of 2015, Janine Kovac, part of the directorial and production team for the 2015 show, and current 2016 director and producer with Mary Hill, approached me about joining them. I was already committed to producing a huge event at my son’s school, but I said yes. Because magic and self and storytelling!
Becoming a director and producer for the LTYM San Francisco 2016 show feels like a huge home-coming. I am back in the fold. This time the magic is about productivity, creativity, and esteem. Which got me thinking about other members of the LTYM community and their connection to the show. How did the concept of home play into how they felt about sharing their stories?
First, I turned to my 2013 cast members and Sarah Pearce, author of the novel “The Promise of Fate,” wrote back immediately. Her piece was wickedly funny and performed completely deadpan – I’ll never forget it. Sarah remembers, “My experience with LTYM was feeling part of a “Home” of artists, collaborating together for what turned out to be a highly polished, professional and entertaining piece. This was my first time performing one of my pieces in front of an audience. I felt so supported and encouraged by cast and directors. Unforgettable time of warmth, camaraderie and fun. It really motivated me to finish by first book.”
Then I asked Grace Kraaijvanger, 2015 alum and Founder of The Hivery, an amazing “inspiration lab” and co-working space for women in Mill Valley, about her thoughts. She responded, “In a world of busy to-do’s and running to and from our schedules, sometimes life’s best remedy is simply to stand up and tell your story. Using our voice gets us closer to who we really are.”
For novelist Thais Derich, who performed in 2014, it was about possibility and freedom and voice: “Unless you’re a best selling author, when else do you have the opportunity to read your work in front of an audience of 350 people?” I could relate. LTYM gives motherhood a microphone, and boy, once you have that microphone in your hand, speaking truth gives you power.
For 5 years now, the Listen To Your Mother San Francisco team has worked hard to create not just a home for motherhood stories, but a home within ourselves. On Friday, May 6th at the Brava Theater in San Francisco, I invite you all to join me in bearing witness to the beauty, the beast and the barely rested of motherhood. And I hope it feels like home.
This was originally published in the Southern Marin Mother’s Magazine April 2016 issue.
Our big show is this Friday and I would love to see your beautiful face in the audience.
You can purchase tickets HERE.