Training in the ETD Methodology

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Dana Black reflects on her experience thus far with the Methodology training:

 “If you can’t honor them, you can’t take the journey with them.” 

“Not every story has a climax.”

“There is power in silence.”

“Clean your own container before holding someone else’s truth.”

“It doesn’t always happen in the order you want.” 

“Hold them lightly…respect the teller first and foremost.”

It reads like the best self-care book there is, doesn’t it? As if this was the little book of sayings you would buy in order to learn how to be a more compassionate and active listener to those around you. If I were a crafty person, I would compile all my notes from the recent Erasing the Distance story-collecting workshops and make them into a book to sell on Etsy—and then donate all my proceeds back to the organization. Hmm… something to think on!

I never knew I wanted to be the person collecting the story, the person who met with total strangers as they opened up about very personal aspects of their lives and relationships. Sharing their deepest fears, regrets, and even secrets with me. I just wanted to act their words…to be a vessel for them, but somehow removed at the same time. 

I actually consider myself a good listener and someone who excels with rapid-fire follow up questions and occasional callbacks to earlier comments. Many people in my life (my therapist included) would say that’s because I don’t want to share stuff about myself. That I will keep the conversation going so as to remove my feelings from the table, to make it not about me and to keep the focus on the other person. These people…are not totally wrong, and I’m working on getting better at opening up about my own feelings and needs. However, listening is a skill that comes naturally to me, and I am excited to get to use that skill to help someone else find their voice. 

We are currently between workshop sessions, and by December 3rd, we will have met with our assigned or chosen storyteller to collect their story. The final workshops in January deal with the transcription and shaping of the story we collected so that it can be used in a possible performance.

Recently, Brighid, with ETD, emailed me to say that the original topic/project I was going to collect around was put on hold and she asked me what are some other topics I might be interested in, so she could pair me with a teller on their end. What topics am I interested in? Where do I want to put my energy? What a huge question. I mean…I thought about wanting to talk to transgendered youth living on the streets of Chicago, I thought about wanting to talk to veterans, I thought about wanting to talk to foster children, I thought about wanting to talk to illegal immigrants who have lived here most of their lives, I thought about wanting to talk to a girl in rural Alabama who had to decide whether or not to have and raise a child at 16, I thought about wanting to talk to people in Standing Rock, I thought about my grandmother, who buried both of her daughters and who will turn 90 in January. 

Instead, I simply wrote, “Just put me where you feel there is the most need.” 

At this moment in time, this moment in the world, where is the most need? It’s hard to say. But I know I’m ready to listen and share space with a beautiful stranger—or my complicated uncle I don’t always agree with—and help empower real conversations about things that matter.

We all have a voice. 

Let’s listen to it. 

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