Your Crazy is Showing

Narcissist self portraitSo here’s the thing. I’m crazy.

Not in a Have the Lambs Stopped Crying, Clarice? crazy. But enough to warrant psychotherapy and be excused from the occasional jury duty order (my bright idea that, no doubt will kick my kharma down the road, I’m sure).

So how crazy is my Crazy?

Being an adult entertainer in my former life twenty years ago, grabbing my ankles on stage was just another day ending in “y.” You’d think unveiling my official medical diagnosis to the World Wide Web would be cake.

You’d think.

Pumping the breaks on conclusions jumping off the screen, I’ll say this: I’m happy to report this post isn’t coming from a locked down facility with padded walls. But the mere fact this scene was a vacation fantasy from my life during some of my worst depression days?

There’s the rub.

One of my favorite writing tasks was to sum up my memoir in six words, thanks to friend, Larry Smith and his brilliant Six Word Memoir empire. My post was well received and actually ended up being a feature on his website. Check it:

Ex-stripper turned writer. More exposed now.

So although my comfort in performing in the buff six days a week was in check, I can’t say the same for sharing too many personal details of my mental illness. Let’s just say I have issues (mainly PTSD from childhood and trust issues with men – go figure). I’m sure your working on

Christine Macdonald

So, what’s your story?

To quote Larry Smith, founder of SMITH Magazine, brain-child of the enormously popular Six Word Memoir series, and editor/author of The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous & Obscure:

Everyone has a stor2

Seems a simple enough question. We’re all a product of personal circumstance. And no matter how different we are – our common denominator is that we are all here to share our story.

Mortified? That’s cool. No one’s forcing anyone to stand up in front of the class. In fact, you don’t even need to be on campus. But just the knowledge that you aren’t alone – that someone else can relate – is worth a second thought.

As I continue to work on my own personal story (you can read a chapter “Sunset Strip” in Larry’s book The Moment), I’m constantly reminding myself who I am. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day juggling act with where we are now, (kids, school, work, family…), the very fabric which made us the kick-ass people we are today ends up tattered through time.

Remember that time you lost your shit, and didn’t think you would survive a life without that girl or guy?

How about when you learned about that horrifying accident which caused so many tears?

Then there’s that one boss or teacher who blindsided you, leaving your self-confidence in a million pieces of self-doubt, shattered on floor.

Well look who’s surviving, learning and looking better than ever in a custom Self Confidence Suit constructed from that priceless spool of fabric, Failure (I may or may not be in the midst of a Project Runway marathon).

Don’t be afraid to revisit your truth. You’ve earned it. Even if you’ve tried to forget, shoved it under the rug – it finds you. Best to own it, and embrace even the ugliest corners of your past.

Remembering the darkness brings so much more to the light. For no other reason, than to remind yourself how far you’ve come – what your soul is capable of surviving.

Truth matters. Even if you’re living a lie. Your insides know. Your bones, the space between the beating of your heart. It lives in truth. And if, for whatever reason you aren’t living in yours, it saves you a seat at the table.

“This is how you survive the unsurvivable, this is how you lose that which you cannot bear to lose, this is how you reinvent yourself, overcome your abusers, fulfill your ambitions and meet the love of your life: by following what is true, no matter where it leads you.”  – Augusten Burroughs, This is How

Here’s the part where you tell me: What’s your story? As always, anonymous comments welcome.

Christine Macdonald

A Shift In Perception: My First Book Reading for The Moment

A couple weeks ago I wrote about facing my fear with the book read in Los Angeles. This was one of many book events promoting and celebrating The Moment, a book that I am thrilled to be a part of. Although I am no stranger to performing in public, my nerves were still off the charts.

Something about reading my personal story to a group of strangers in a book store seemed…unsettling. A curvy, middle-aged woman talking about stripping nude in her 20s just welcomes judgement and ridicule, I thought. Also, I was going to talk about my skin; the scars I’ve tried so long to ignore, my words now shining a light on them. I needed to remember to breathe.

And breathe, I did, having spent nearly three hours in traffic (gotta love LA). With each minute passing on my dashboard, I grew slightly more anxious.

I arrived at Chevalier’s Books fashionably late. The place was packed, but as soon as I saw my friends, I was bathed in relief. There’s nothing more reassuring than knowing you have the support and encouragement of your friends – especially in times of personal challenge. We exchanged kisses and hellos, and I soaked in every hug.

“You look beautiful, girl. Are you nervous?” Elly squeezed my arm.

“Sooooo much so. Thank you.” My knees were buckling with fear.

“When are you on? You’ll do great.”

“Soon, thank you…” God, I hoped she was right.

We listened and watched each writer share their essay, and my trembling only seemed to increase.

Fuck. Can I do this?

Then, the hostess read the next speaker’s introduction:

A self-proclaimed recovering narcissist, Honolulu native, Christine Macdonald has worked as an ice cream scooper, a stripper, and an advertising executive – not on the  same day. Her essay, Sunset Strip walks us through her final night at the strip bar, after a decade-long career working the pole in Waikiki. She is currently writing a memoir and you can learn more about her story through her website www.poletosoul.com.

Shit. That’s me.

The applause lifted my feet toward the stage and with every person I walked passed, I shared a grin underneath a veil of uncertainty and fear.

There I was. In front of a sea of faces, all waiting for me to speak. I froze, wondering if they realized I could pass out at any moment. Without thinking about it, I turned my thoughts inside-out and spoke.

“You know, it’s so funny to me. That I can be so nervous speaking in public, when I had no problem stripping on stage.”

Spontaneous laughter.

“It’s true.” I laughed along with the audience, opened the book to my page and began to read.

I made it through the part where I talked about my skin, and although I was still trembling, my breathing continued to save me. It came as no surprise I choked up on the same two lines that caused me to cry so many times in private. I forgave myself for taking pause to wipe my eyes and continued on.

As soon as I completed reading my story, the air filled with raw emotion. I smiled, walking back to my group of friends in the back, but this time, my pride was showing. I felt pats on my shoulders and heard a few cheers. As I collected congratulatory hugs from my loyal posse, I let out a huge sigh of relief.

After the event wrapped up, we started to mingle and I felt much more relaxed, although I was still not prepared for what happened next.

Countless strangers introduced themselves to me, opening their arms, letting our embraces linger in the envelope of gratitude. Some fought back tears. I was thanked over and over for sharing my story.

Wow. This shit is real.

When a fellow writer’s mother came up to me, I found myself a little embarrassed. This was someone’s mom – and I was talking about taking my clothes off for money. She intoduced herself and thanked me with a hug and spoke softly, holding my hands.

“You are a brave woman and I want to thank you. You helped me realize that every person has a story, and not to judge someone just because they are on a different path.”

My eyes welled up as I thanked her.

I’ve been so worried about people judging me – a middle-aged, curvy gal, talking about stripping in my 20s – that I forgot to welcome the idea that sharing my story may actually be a positive thing.

I am excited for the next two readings in Los Angeles and San Francisco. I’m sure the trembling fear will return, but it’s okay. The fact I was able to help shift a mother’s perception after my first read, is enough to keep me going.

Christine Macdonald