Saturday, September 23, 2006

Radical Truth Telling - Paul's story

Having returned from Edinburgh, I recognize that no matter how self-expressed I am, there remain many ways in which I still try to describe myself in ways that are respectable, acceptable, palatable and socially appropriate. Performing 2 Men Talking every day for a month has led me to see how harmful it is for me to leave parts of myself out as I present who I am in the world. So here is my latest attempt to describe the work that I do, and my place in Narativ, in Two Men Talking and in life. Please comment!

What would you do if you were told you had only two years to live?
I know what I did. I was 24 years old and was given a diagnosis that was pretty damn scary. So I finished medical school and left my home in South Africa to go to Drama School in England. I had always wanted to go to Drama School, and so I chose to spend my last days doing that….

But I didn’t die.

So once again I asked myself, now what? What if you only live another two years, what do you want to do?
I have always been fascinated with the human mind. In fact my interest in acting was mainly an interest in the minds of the characters. What motivates them? What makes them tick?
So I decided to spend my last years doing a residency training in psychiatry. Learning about the mind.

And still I didn’t die.

In fact it looked suddenly like I might live for a long, long…….long…time.
Uh Oh!! A long life.

Probably a better question. What do you do if you know you are going to live for a LONG LONG time?
I know what I did.
I took a job, with sensible benefits, and a decent salary. I suffered through meeting after boring meeting, because it’s part of the job. I told nobody at work what was really going on in my life, because the story in my head told me that if anyone knew my secret, my career, my job, my life would be doomed.

However, secrets have effects, and boy did I learn them. I had panic attacks driving home, so that I had to stop the car, and thinking my blood sugar was low, downed a whole coke and a packet of peanuts…. I avoided bridges….always sat on the aisle in the movies…

Pretty damn scary!!!

And then I told my story:
I came out publicly about the diagnosis I had been given. Suddenly it was no longer a secret.

and at this moment in time, now in 2006, I choose not to name it. I am currently exploring the effect that public disclosure has on me. Even though it is not a secret, today I choose the illusion that it is private. I have a choice as to when and how I reveal its exact nature. Today, I do not choose to name it, other than at that time it was a life threatening condition.

And so Murray and I tell our story together. How I encouraged him to tell a story at age 12, and how I bullied him, and later apologized, how he encouraged me to tell mine, and how we go around performing this friendship to audiences.

What is Two Men Talking?
It is friendship.
It is listening.
It is sharing the space in as non-competitive a way as possible.
It is acknowledging feelings.
It is connecting one person to another through story.
It connects to an audience.
It is about apology and forgiveness and hatred and love.
It is about fear and death and courage and life.

And so in Narativ, we bring ourselves, and this ever evolving ever shifting storytelling work to you….
To you the individual.
To you the organization.
To you the family.
To you the group.

We bring our whole selves with our whole lived experience to you.
And we ask you to imagine what is possible.

We have devised a way of sharing our storytelling methodology.
We know how to create safe space.
We know how to listen, and can teach you how to listen.
We know that stories are vessels for shifting stuck energy, for inspiring and moving ourselves and others,…

A word of warning: our conversations are not ordinary every day ones. We talk about subjects that are painful, embarrassing or shameful. We do this with great respect and first hand knowledge of what it feels like to be vulnerable, and we have worked for years on creating safe spaces, listening environments, in which anything can be said., and listened to.

So if you are interested, we are excited to work with you. We trust that when you approach us, it is because you already get a sense of who we are.