We had the official opening of Frazzled Cafes last week and there was so much great press about how wonderful it is that Marks and Spencer are supporting the concept and providing safe havens in their cafes. Those who are frazzled, which is all of us, can now meet in small groups on a regular basis - eventually throughout the UK.
A little history behind the idea of the cafes:
For the last 10 years I've been touring my shows and always, in the second half, I ask the audience to do the talking. It feels like I've done a mental striptease in the first half to make them feel safe enough to spill the contents of their minds. I've also written the shows to make them laugh which is the greatest foreplay I know. They open their mouths to laugh and then they'll open their hearts. This isn't a small circle of people suffering from mental illness doing group therapy, this is a theatre, sometimes up to a thousand seats. So after the interval I just sit on stage and, God bless them, their hands go up apprehensively at first, then after a while with more urgency, to talk about their lives. It's equally men and woman. Once a few people speak, you can feel the anxiety drain from everyone else because the rest of the audience identify with every word. And this gathering of people (notwithstanding the fact we're in a theatre - where you usually go to zone out, not, as now, to zone in) are experiencing, maybe for the first time, the ability to speak honestly and aren't shunned but applauded for their bravery. Aside from everyone else, I know that this is the moment, ironically sitting alone on stage, where I am less alone than I ever feel in life. I am never happier or lighter or more heart-filled; I don't even know the words to express the sensation of feeling...I'm with my tribe.
It was this atmosphere of safety and honestly that motivated me to create Frazzled Cafes. At the cafes, every age, every race, gender, gay, straight, other all meet and become human. Most of them are just stressed, anxious, sad, scared to the max from having to create a suit of armour to cover up the fact that they're not as 'fine' as they pretend when you ask them how they are. And then there's the shame that comes with feeling bad when you know you have a roof over your head and enough food so there's a mental whipping that happens when you think what's to feel so 'unfine' about? They're scared that if they say how they feel, they'll be abandoned by friends and family. They keep this all to themselves because they don't want to be a burden or be perceived as weak. So they get more and more frightened and sad about being sad and they shouldn't be sad; no one else is sad and yet in that Frazzled Cafe meeting there they are with people just like them who think how they think.
It's recently occurred to me that when people talk about feeling lonely - unable to tell anyone their fears and how much they hurt - that this is a perfectly normal reaction to the culture we live in. Not only are we stressed to the hilt but ashamed and guilty that we feel it. I imagine it's like you bought a house you thought would be your dream home and now you see it's a torture chamber. It's making you scared and miserable but you know it was you who decorated it, you were the architect so now you berate yourself. Here's the conundrum, how do we acknowledge we created this culture but not continuously whip ourselves for it? A great salvation is to know we're all in the same boat. Maybe we needed to build the house this way to protect ourselves from a dangerous environment at one time but no matter the reason, we now have to stop stoking the self-imposed hostility or no question, we'll seriously damage ourselves physically and mentally.
Find out more and sign up to be the first to know about new Frazzled Cafes in your area at frazzledcafe.org
Ruby is on tour in the UK and Australia throughout 2017 with her #Frazzled Show - tickets on sale now.
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