The Interstitium: I have a gift for you

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June 27, 2019

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The Interstitium: I have a gift for you

By Alexis Rehrmann

The space is Portland-hip: Cup & Bar serves artisan coffee and avocado toast, and we crowd together on artfully rough-hewn wooden benches. The audience is warm: supportive, attentive and intimate, 50-people strong and the show is standing room only. The stories told at the mic are real.

Seven storytellers performed at Intersititium: Stories of Illness, Wellness, & Beyond—I was lucky to be one of them. This evening was a first in a series of storytelling evenings inviting us talk about health and wellness, sickness and death, and how they shape the way we live.

From an experienced nurse practitioner to a doctor in training, from a nursing assistant to a patient coordinator, from a doctor to a patient, the stories came from many points of view.

I heard humanity, honesty, and humor in every single story. I am not a doctor and for me, hearing the real stories behind the white coats felt nourishing, connective, and precious.

There was the story about working as an operating room janitor—It’s not the blood and gore, but the anguish of the family’s cries that sends the story teller spinning back to his own childhood.

There was the Nursing Assistant who, on a walk with a heart transplant patient is brought to tears by his gratitude as he tells her, “I didn’t remember I could be this warm.”

There was physician spending a week in a hospital—not as a doctor, or as a patient—but as a prospective adoptive parent, waiting for a new baby to arrive.

And so many more. The theme of the evening was, “I have a gift for you…” and each story gave the audience one.

As a story teller, I found writing and performing to be quite healing—I even managed to work in some jokes (in a story about multiple miscarriages, this is no small thing)! Interstititium gave me the space and the encouragement to bring that story, particularly intimate to me, into being. I wouldn’t, couldn’t have done it without an invitation to dive deep, and a compassionate acceptance of what I had to say, and of course, a performance deadline.

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