One of the greatest lessons that the internet ever taught me was that I was not alone.
As our barriers have been broken down by social media, people have been bolder and bolder about sharing their stories — and their traumas, their stigmas, and their secrets — without shame in a public forum.
As a result, I saw that I was not the only one who was suffering, and that my suffering didn’t make me less of a person. In fact, because I found a “tribe” of people like me, it actually enriched me. It made me both unique and similar. A special snowflake in a snowstorm, if you will.
But over the years, I’ve grown tired of trauma. In order to stay a part of the snowstorm, I have to whip myself into a flurry come back to the trauma over and over again — identify with it, or my specialness will melt away.
And so, I told my story over and over and over, even after the story stopped being part of my present and was firmly in my past.
I believe that we have to tell the stories of our traumas and hurts. To normalize them. Remove stigmas. Prevent future traumas. Show others that it gets better.
Ah — but this last point.
It gets better.
But in order for it to get better all the way, you have to stop identifying with your trauma. Separate yourself from it. Look at it from an objective place of hindsight, and not from a place of current, subjective suffering.*
*This is not a call to start bootstrapping yourself when you’re in the middle of major trauma. I’m writing specifically for those who have done the healing work and are ready to move on.
So how do you continue to tell your story — to normalize it for future seekers — without staying in the story?
Believe it or not, I believe that burlesque can help.
I know that people hear “burlesque” and immediately think: No way. I’m not taking off my clothes.
But hear me out:
Burlesque is more than rhinestones, pasties, and tassels. It has become that, especially in the 20th century and in the current neo-burlesque revival, headlined by Dita von Teese.
But did you know that burlesque is actually…a genre?
Like, a literary genre.
A storytelling genre.
Burlesque is parody and satire, plain and simple. It is a commentary on a serious story, told with humor. It juxtaposes tragedy, drama, and expected outcomes with humor, comedy, and the unexpected.
To quote classiclit.about.com, “The purpose of burlesque literature is to imitate the manner or the subject matter of a “serious” literary genre, author, or work through a comic inversion.”
And that is what burlesque once was — with the addition of ladies in little clothing, because the risqué is what gets butts in seats (although sexuality and general debauchery can also be used as satire and commentary, too).
classiclit.about.com goes on, “…the point of the burlesque is to create an incongruity, a ridiculous disparity, between the manner of the work and the matter of it.”
And this is why I think that burlesque in particular can be a healing way to tell the story of trauma without forcing you to relive or stay in it.
Burlesque allows you to stand outside of the story (the matter) and tell it with the vantage point of someone who has more information than the characters (the manner). You’re not the character you play; you’re the writer and actor.
When you write/choreograph a burlesque dance number, you have the ability to take the subject matter and wink at the audience knowingly. You can say: I understand this enough to play this character and I know that this is a story that must be told. But I also understand that I am not this character and that this story doesn’t have to continue after the final bow.
Yes, burlesque is also amazing for body positivity and sexual empowerment. I found a lot of healing by taking off my clothing and not being afraid of what others might see.
But it is the ability to tell my story without living my story that has continued to make burlesque a beautiful, challenging, liberating form of art for me.
What story are you holding onto? How could you tell it from the vantage point of someone who has healed and can now control the storyline? Where can you find humor? And can you humanize the main character so that others will be able to identify with them without having to embody that character’s pain after you’re done?
That’s why I wrote my one-woman show, How Lovely to Be a Woman. I believe it’s possible to tell this story without reliving it because I’m making it possible.
This year, my goal is to help make it possible for others. I’d love to hear what you’re holding onto that you believe you need to keep reliving in order to tell it with authenticity. What is your story?