Molly Caro May is an author of two books, teacher, and holder of space. For 12+ years, she has facilitated personal story workshops for more than hundreds of people across the globe. She is trained in Somatic Experiencing and focuses on where language/voice and the animal body meet each other. Her mission is to democratize expression and explore, in good company, the healing alchemy between story and nervous system.
THE LONGER STORY
My parents met in a hot tub in Arizona during graduate school. She was the elegant, straight-shooter, loving, 7th generation Chicagoan. He was the visionary, “anything is possible,” internationalist whose ancestors lived abroad and did not stay put. They gave my brothers and me wide berth. We were simply expected to grow into our own distinct self-expression. I grew up in Australia, Dominican Republic, Spain and Mexico until moving to the United States at age 10. Being the “new girl” every two years, surrounded by multiple languages, religions, and ways of living, became my natural ecosystem. It made me a curious and connecting animal. I am the one at the party having an in-depth conversation in the corner with you. Usually about you.
After studying literature at Middlebury College in Vermont, I craved tactile and varied experience and worked as a seasonal cherry and apple picker, nude model for an art class, residential advisor for teen girls at a desert school, copywriter, farmer/teacher of sustainable agriculture, and then explored documentary writing with fieldwork on crab fishermen and families until landing in New York City. I didn’t get an MFA on purpose. Though I hadn’t grown up knowing any writers, I had always scribbled in a notebook and wanted to create a more in-the-world and less expensive way to hone my craft. So, I built a scrappy and dynamic writing education through reading a ton, belonging to a writer’s group, and working as an editorial assistant in a publishing house. One night, lying on the floor of my tiny apartment, I had to decide between Naturopathic medical school, acceptance to a Conflict Resolution Master’s Program, or what felt like the very unlikely career of writer. How could I do them all? I kept hearing myself say, “Well, if I do x for my job, then I’ll squeeze in a way to write somehow.” Though it felt like losing two of my other essential limbs, I took a leap for what every cell of my body couldn’t leave behind.
We don’t know, even though a subterranean part of us does know.
Now (at long last!), I’m living and working at my natural intersection—where language meets soma meets resolution as group and individual.
For over a decade, I have run writing and story-making workshops. At first, these workshops focused on craft and voice. It became immediately clear that something else was happening. People, “writers” and laypeople alike, felt transformed in major ways by sharing, being heard, hearing and re-shaping in a group. Of course! We humans are meant to hold and work story together. It evolved from there. I began to incorporate body-based exercises because that’s how I myself write: out loud riffing in the car, dances in the kitchen, walks in the woods, movement, never staring at a blank screen for longer than 5 minutes. I was a child who lived for climbing trees or running up the stairs while my family took the escalator at the airport. However, becoming an adult (and then a mother) initiated a series of challenging healing crises/awakenings in me and my body. Some slow. Some fast and furious. It has humbled me, and at times, almost broken me.
I have had both spontaneous and effortful recovery and, more recently, a steady and sticking and sustained shift. I knew from my own experience, and from witnessing people in my workshops, that transforming our cognitive story can take us very far, but only so far.
I wanted more body in story and more story in body. They need each other. I sought more training and have completed my three years of trauma resolution (aka resilience building) Somatic Experiencing Training. Nervous system work is now an equal partner in my workshops. I teach online and in-person and work with local non-profits to support postpartum mothers and domestic violence survivors tell their stories on the stage. My continual learning is an excited, high-volume river. For me, it’s a vibrant combination and natural overlap—top-down story + bottom up somatics. We can’t take story out of humans, nor should we. But we can learn to work with story so it helps us.
We are creatures of story; and, we are also creatures. Both/and, as with everything.
Workshops are my heart’s work.
I live my own teaching—messy and real-deal and integrated and honest and mistake-making and growing up/down the spiral. I have deep abiding trust in the groundwater flow, the fallow time, and the “go” moment. Why do I write? I write to communicate, connect with myself and others and because sound and rhythm move my spirit. How words rub shoulders together, well, it’s art. It’s my art. Also, I am botanical. I hear plants and am unapologetically a nature-lover. My home is a small shed house in Montana where my partner Christopher and I make a life together. Our two wild and in-tune daughters keep me going and growing.
And THIS, always this: “We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say and to feel, ‘Yes, that is the way it is, or at least that is the way I feel it.’ You’re not as alone as you thought.” John Steinbeck
have been my sacred place since I was a girl living in Spain.
Approx number of times I threw up in total during my two pregnancies.
Barring alligators, sharks or seas monsters, I can swim across any body of water, even alongside the grit and used condoms of the Hudson River. Though, I do prefer hot springs or freezing high alpine lakes like the one above.
The book by Brian Doyle that opened craft for me and gave me a blessing to always include the mythical and break form by using epic, run-on sentences.
NO Y*^&W IN MY HOUSE
Don't get between me and a puzzle.
I wrote it during 3-hour sessions every day for 1.5 years (pre-children).
Because story is fluid, these are always up for renegotiation in me.
Where I learned to track my menstrual cycle at age 23.
The one way I am not; though we all get to have our own interpretations of words.
One of my favorite words. It calls up the varied geography of my childhood and reminds me to breathe outward into my ribs.
I do not enjoy looking at anything the color of banana peels. Truest story.
I TRUST MY OWN BRILLIANCE
My motto for myself and those who work with me.
Number of wild, full-tilt emotional days it took me to write my second book.
My hidden talent. I even once smelled the spirit of my long-gone grandmother in a 3-foot area in front of our wood stove.
Say what?! Very interesting and has to do with my (and other people’s) MTHFR gene. Might explain a lot. That said, I also have to believe that our genetics don’t trap us. A work in progress.
I’m here to disrupt it and, as my man Christopher says, we are actually living the working-parents-of-littles version of it “to the max.” That said, it’s hard to convince me that more stuff or overwork is better. I’ve always been a minimalist who appreciate high-quality over quantity.
The only rhythm I trust. It creates sustainability of soul. Pro tip: daily writing practices are over-prescribed. There are other more intuitive ways. Nature knows and that knowing applies to all of living.
Percentage of winter days I welcome the cold. This child of the tropics is learning the cozy, sauna, stews, woodstove, internal, hibernation of her now place.
Number of times I’ve let friends, family or my kids give me a big haircut.
Every cousin in my matrilineal family line has a lion ring made from a mold designed by our dentist great-grandfather. For me, it represents a puma because they pass through my backyard and know two important ways 1) fierce and 2) lounge-life.
I CAN'T IMAGINE
Living without dogs. They teach me and invite me closer to the animal-me.
words as medicine, Salt and Vinegar potato chips, the power of 5 minutes, the unsaid being said, baby steps, stone altars as prayers on my kitchen counter, discernment, barefoot strolling for miles over pinecones, self-accountability, bison bone broth, all the chocolate, human needing each other, bold visual art patterns, story as plebeian.
Number of years ago I started to say that cellphones feel strangely hot against my head.
BACKWARD, FORWARD, UPWARD, DOWNWARD, INWARD
How I sign off my emails because it reminds me of my own dimensionality, and yours too. Also, this is how we grow, right? If it were only in one direction, it wouldn’t feel real or complete.