As you venture down your path of tales and telling, you will eventually come across a foreboding figure who has the potential to, literally, drain the desire to tell from your being bit-by-bit.
I like to refer to this person as, “The Dreaded Sourpuss.” Here’s how our old friend “Webster” defines the word sourpuss:
sour·puss (soor’poos’) n. [slang] a person who has a gloomy or disagreeable expression or nature.
Although I rely heavily on the ancient, traditional methods of finding my word definitions (reading a book), I do also enjoy some of the more contemporary forms of research (Dictionary.com). Here’s how “Dictionary.com” defines the word sourpuss:
sour·puss/?sa??r?p?s, ?sa??r-/ Pronunciation Key [souuhr-poos, sou-er-] noun Informal. a person having a grouchy disposition that is often accompanied by a scowling facial expression.
Now that last one really says it all. As you carry on in your journeys from place to place sharing your tales, you will continually encounter this character. Talk with any teller you want and ask them if this is true and you will hear a resounding, yes! Oh, yes! Your sourpuss will usually be someone responsible for acting as your liaison. If your sourpuss is not a liaison, then they are usually an audience member seated in an area where you are forced to make eye-to-eye contact.
Fear not my fellow teller, there is aid for you here. One thing to keep in mind when you are venturing outside the confines of your safe little hermitage filled with books, recordings and items of comfort is this; We are all, each and every individual, having different experiences throughout our day. Some us are falling in love for the first time, some of us are starting families, and some of us are just learning to tie our shoes. Whatever the experience your audience (I prefer to use the word community here instead of audience) has had prior to your arrival they have made a conscious decision to place themselves before you in order to experience your telling of a tale. Now that is a powerful, nonverbal statement if I’ve never heard one. Please keep this powerful affirmation in forefront of your mind. This person, whose countenance rivals that of the saddest looking hound, has come to you for something or has crossed your path for a reason.
As a storyteller, a communicator or a transmitter of truth, you have a responsibility to, not only this individual, but to yourself as well. They have entrusted you with helping them to transcend whatever it is that weighs on them in this moment. The way you do this is by remembering that old sage advice, “above all to thine own self be true.”
I’m reminded of a proverb that says, “for news of the heart ask the face.”
If you engage a person who chooses to be in your presence from their place of pain instead of a position of appreciation for the gift of your craft, then you are doing your craft a disservice. All of your preparation, reflection, planning, reading, interacting and interpersonal growth should arm you with the necessary tools to transcend any interpersonal impediments.
What I have found is that, after a performance, I can never find the dreaded sourpuss. Why? Well, no, it’s not because they have departed the premises; I’m unable to find them because, like the mythic phoenix, they have been transformed. I am now accosted with bright smiles and flashing teeth. The metaphorical ugly duckling has become a swan.
There is no task worth doing that is easy. Every craft has its painful sacrifices. If you can overcome your own personal revulsions at encountering the “unpleasant personality,” then you are well on your way to becoming a master teller. If your heart can remain calm and beat in a smooth rhythm when all else around you calls for your participation in chaos, then you are well on your way to becoming a master teller.
Don’t view the dreaded sourpuss as an impediment to your progress; instead look to them as opportunities to test the quality of your mettle.
“Dooni dooni kononi bè nyaga da.”