What was your most liberating life experience

Admitting that you are going to die is perhaps the most liberating thing you do

A tall man-child is how I like to describe it. A person with all my heart. He cried, laughed, inspired and grounded us in minutes.

I screamed with the audience "I'm going to die!" The fear of the word "to die" left the room and was viewed by everyone as gone for the next three hours.

One woman in the audience shared her desire to die by suicide and how she frequently visited the Golden Gate Bridge. Another told about the process of losing his sick father through Facebook posts he had collected. Someone shared a song about her sister she hadn't heard from in years.

Although I didn't plan on sharing, I felt inspired to go on stage and talk about loss too. I read a poem about my struggles with despair. At the end of the night the fear of dying and death left the room and my chest.

I woke up the next morning and felt a weight off my shoulders. Was it that easy? Is it more open to talk about death in order to free ourselves from what we think we fear most?

I contacted Ned immediately the next day. I wanted to know more.

But most importantly, his message should reach as many people as possible. His bravery and vulnerability are contagious. We all could use a few - and a conversation or two about death.

This interview has been edited for brevity, length and clarity.

How did YG2D start?

I was asked by the Graduate Literature Association of SFSU San Francisco State University to host an event that creatively connected students and the community. In May 2009 I ran the first open microphone. And that was the beginning of the show.

But YG2D actually grew out of a long, more complex story in my life. It started with my mother and her private battle with cancer. She was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 13 and then battled cancer multiple times for 13 years. With this illness and the possible death of our family, I was exposed to premature mortality.

But because of my mother's privacy in relation to her personal illness, death wasn't a conversation made available to me either.

During this time I attended many grief counseling sessions and was in a one-year support group for people who have lost a parent.

How did the name come about?

A friend of mine who was helping with events asked why I was doing this. I remember answering simply, "Because ... you will die . ”

Why should you hide your words or your music somewhere since everything will be gone at some point? Don't take yourself so seriously. Be here and offer as much of yourself as you can while you can. You will die.

Things got more serious when ...

The show largely took shape when it moved to Viracocha, a ground floor coffin-like venue in the glowing underworld of San Francisco. It was also when my wife's mother died and it became undeniably for me what I needed from the show:

A place where you are vulnerable and where you regularly share the things that are close to my heart, that define me, whether it's the heartbreaking loss of my mother and mother-in-law or the everyday struggle to find inspiration and purpose, and it turns out that many people need it - so we get fellowship by doing it together.

How does YG2D work?

You'll Die: Poetry, Prose & Everything Goes on the first and third Thursday of every month at The Lost Church in San Francisco.

We provide a safe place to immerse yourself in the conversation about mortality, a conversation we may not have often in our daily lives. It is a place where people can be open and vulnerable and deal with each other's heartache.

Every evening is moderated by Scott Ferreter or Chelsea Coleman, musicians who occupy the room with me. Attendees can register on site to share for up to five minutes.

It can be a song, a dance, a poem, a story, a play, anything you really want. If you go over the five minute limit, I'll come on stage and give you a hug.

How do people react when you tell them about the event?

Morbid curiosity, maybe? Fascination? Sometimes people are surprised. And sometimes I think that's the best measure of You're Going to Die's worth - when people are uncomfortable! It took me a while to confidently communicate what the event is about with ease.

Death is a riddle, like a question with no answers, and to accept that is a sacred thing. Sharing it together makes it magical.

When everyone says together that I will die as a community, they pull the veil back together.

Is there wisdom to avoid the speech of death?

Mortality can feel unspoken at times. And when it's unspoken, it's stuck. The potential to develop and change and get bigger is therefore limited. If it is wise not to talk about mortality, it may be our instincts to be careful with it; it is important to us, thoughtfully and with great purpose.

How do you reconcile this dissonance: when it comes to us and close friends, we are scared of death, but we can play a game or watch a movie where crowds of people die?

If death is not a daily experience for your place of residence, as in a country at war, it is often kept in check. It is shoveled quickly.

There is a system in place to get things done quickly.

I remember being in a hospital room with my mother. They couldn't have left me with their body for more than 30 minutes, probably a lot less, and then maybe only five minutes at the funeral home.

I now realize how important it is that we have the time and space to grieve fully.

How can someone begin to change their relationship with death?

I think I'm reading the book Who Dies? ”Is a good start. “Der Trauerwandler” documentary can also be faced and opened. Other possibilities :

1. Make space to talk to or listen to others while they are grieving. I think there is nothing more transformative in life than listening and being open. If someone near you lost someone, just go there and be there.

2. Realize what you are grieving about. It could be way back to your youth, your ancestors, and what they went through and didn't shed enough.

3. Create space and openness for this loss and sadness. Angela Hennessy shared her mourning manifesto on our show during the OpenIDEO Re: Imagine End-of-Life week.

She says, “Mourn every day. Make time each day to grieve. Make mourning out of everyday gestures. As you do whatever you do, say what you are grieving for and be specific. "

4. Remember that often it's not the daily stuff that you encounter on the surface, such as problems with your job. Many of my life experiences that have produced great beauty have arisen from the work of trauma and suffering. It's what's old in you, beneath all of the daily stuff you want to accomplish. It's what comes up for you when your mortality is revealed.

Death offers this exercise, this tidying up. When you sit in this truth, your relationship with life changes. Death throws off all layers and lets you see things the clearest.

If we talk a lot about something, it will happen to us, some people say

If I say, "I'm going to die," did I actually create my death the next day? Well, I think you create your reality all the time. [...] It's a change of perspective.

Are there any plans to expand to other cities?

In any case. I think the growth of the online community from a podcast this year will make a tour more likely. This is one of the next steps. That will start with more regular curated shows. Also in progress.

If you're in the Bay Area, check out the next BIG YG2D show at the Great American Music Hall on August 11th. Click here to find out more about the event or visit www.yg2d.com.


Jessica writes about love, life and what we're afraid to talk about. She has been published in Time, The Huffington Post, Forbes, and others, and is currently working on her first book, Child of the Moon. You can read her work here , ask them something Twitter or pursue them Instagram .