Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thank you, Kevin Kling

Sunday evening, Nick, Jack, Daisy, and I went to the baseball fields in a nearby park. While Nick had practice, Jack played in a mound of dirt in the parking lot, and Daisy sat in the front seat next to me, gently woofing at passing dogs.

I tried to listen to Krista Tippett interview Kevin Kling on NPR's On Being, but the experience reminded me exactly how motherhood interferes with intellectual pursuits. Children do, after all, demand our attention, even when we're passively watching them play.

Why did Nick walk around the fence, away from his coach? Oh, another player's doing the same thing...must be expected. Good question, Krista. Woohoo! Nick pitched that ball perfectly! I've thought the exact same thing, Mr. Kling! Jack, don't throw dirt in the air. It will get in your eye. Brilliant observation of the human condition. I want to read this man's book. "Woof," says Daisy to the German shepherd. "Mom, I have dirt in my eye," says Jack. Oh, wow! Kling is connecting his experience to Dante's Inferno; I think I'm in love. How many water breaks does Nick need during an hour-and-a-half practice?

After the twentieth or thirtieth attention deficit attack, I consoled myself that this week while the kids are at school, after I take the dog to the vet, go to Bible study, and run a few errands, I can listen to the show on my computer...really listen, like I listened to professors lecture in college and graduate school.

If, indeed, I am still capable of that sort of listening.

As Kling spoke to me through the radio at the ball fields, I jotted sound bites in my lime green Moleskine notebook.

"By telling a story, things don't control me anymore.... The idea of comfort in the mystery.... You can survive anything with a sense of humor and a sense of self.... Connection of myth and reality.... Rejoice, recreating the joy.... Disability broken down to Dis (chaos, hell) and ability.... Being recognized for what we bring, not what we're not."

In an instant, I wrote whole volumes in my head using these notes as springboards. So much of our understanding comes from how we organize words, how we communicate our story, and Kling communicated in a way that drew me in, made me think, engaged my own thoughts and words. Stephen King once said, "I write so I know what I think." I relate to that so well. Listening to Kling's interview made me want to write to know what I think, to break out of my slump, to focus on words again, to tell stories.

He made me want to rejoice, to recreate the joy, and share it with someone.

That's why people who don't share their stories, who keep their thoughts private, even with close friends or family, make me so sad. There can be a terrible loneliness in silence, especially the silence that comes from fear, from feeling vulnerable, from embarrassment.

For others, silence comes like a thief, stealing their words. I remember how my grandmother loved to talk, to tell stories and sing songs and share jokes. I remember how well she could communicate her feelings, in joy and in tragedy, so perfectly. I also remember visiting her in the nursing home, watching her try to form words and fail. When her brain failed her in these moments, she would close her eyes and wince as if in pain. One day, we were alone when she couldn't get the words out. I took her good hand and told her it was okay and asked if she wanted me to comb her hair. She nodded. Touch filled the silence.

But the words were lost.

The writer in me connects with Kling's words. He makes me remember my own stories, the stories of my family and trauma and healing. He makes me want to share them. He makes me want to write while I can, while the words still come because one day, they won't.

I pray I can hold onto the gift of Kling's inspiration.

Between my Moleskine notes and the recorded podcast, perhaps I can.

What or who inspires you to tell stories? Who told you stories that shaped your own telling?

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