Over the past few weeks I’ve been participating in a story skills online workshop, and I’ve got to say, it’s pretty amazing. I’m learning so much. One of the things that’s surprised me, was the power of storytelling in our day to day lives. So I thought I’d do the only appropriate thing to do about a topic like that. I wrote a story about it, obviously. I’m not saying I’m very good at it, but I’m enjoying the practice.
At the beginning of the year I was talking with my daughter about what she wanted for the year ahead. Her reply, “to be in a performance”. OK, that sounds pretty achievable, I thought. I looked up dance schools and was pleased to find a good one within walking distance. After initial disappointment of no availability, she was able to start dance lessons mid-way through March. In three weeks time she has her big end of year concert. The excitement is building. They have learned all the choreography. On Saturday she was provided with her costume in all its glittery glory.
Seeing her with her blue tutu prompted me to get online to get our tickets. I had left it too late to get prime view seats I was sure. What I hadn’t expected was for them to be completely sold out. My heart sank. Her first big concert and we couldn’t even get one lousy ticket. I only wanted two! Why had I left it so late? Why do I always leave things to the last minute? My mum would never be in this position. My sister would never be in this position. Why did I put us in this position? I couldn’t hide my disappointment. I couldn’t hold back my tears. When my daughter asked what was wrong I told her I’d stuffed up. “That’s OK, I’ll have other concerts” she said. That helped me refocus, and turn my attention from woe is me to what now.
Previously my instinct would be to get mad. Surely they’d allocate tickets for each kid! Surely they’d communicate this more proactively! Surely they’d make a point of telling first timers! These thoughts did go on in my head, but they didn’t take hold of me like they would have in the past. And sure, I did go back and search through emails to gather evidence, but I kind of knew it would be evidence that I had ignored their communication, not evidence of their transgression. And sure enough, there in the email I received at the end of October announcing tickets were on sale it stated very clearly “tickets will sell out”. In red type and all. I just didn’t interpret this as act now or miss out. In my mind, buying with three weeks to go is planning ahead!
So I didn’t get angry, but I was still upset. An emotionally together person would have got on the phone straight away. But I hate talking on the phone at the best of times, let alone when I know it will end in tears. Disappointment or anger, I wasn’t sure which. I emailed. As I was writing my email I thought, what’s the point? I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s missed out. They’re probably used to getting blasted by angry parents about this, that’s why they have the disclaimer in the email. They’ve probably prepared a standard response they use for everyone. Then my mind shifted. Maybe I could communicate in a way so they actually want to help me? Maybe I could tell them a story.
I mustered up all the story telling skills I’ve acquired so far and started on my story. I tried to engage them by making it clear that I wasn’t like the other angry parents – I was the one at fault and wasn’t blaming them. I tried to make them care about my situation – I was feeling terrible that I had misinterpreted the information and just wanted some way of being there to support my daughter at her first performance, volunteering back stage, whatever. I acknowledged that I had learned my lesson – I would never ignore their spammy emails again (obviously I didn’t say it quite like that).
I didn’t get a reply, but the process did help me to get my head around the situation enough to call them, which I did just now. As I predicted, the conversation started with a fairly standard and guarded response, but she gradually softened throughout the interaction. My name is on the waiting list for the “ticket master”, and I’m on the list for backstage volunteers. The storytelling might not have made any difference to the outcome, but it made a difference to the process. I still feel a bit sad and annoyed with myself, but I don’t feel angry and distracted. So I’ll take that as a win.