Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sixteen years ago this month, everything changed

A few months ago, the father of two of my closest friends passed away after a battle with cancer. 

Numerous times throughout his illness and since his death, they both told me things along the lines as, "I don't know how you got through this when you were a kid" or "I'm sorry if I'm making you relive things."

I had the same two thoughts every time they would say that.

-Of course I got through that when I was a kid! Maybe it's easier when you're a kid and you don't have any adult responsibilities. I didn't have a job or bills. I had a mother to take care of me and (mostly, except for that horrible Chemistry teacher who sent home an interim report that I was doing badly the week after my dad died--will never forget that one!), teachers who understood that, no shock, my grades nosedived because I often went off into my own little world and couldn't focus. 

-What's the point of going through something like that if I'm NOT able to help my friends who are facing the same thing?

But, most of all, you HAVE no other choice but to get through it. 

What exactly is the other option?

Getting through it, however, is HARD. 

I knew how much it changed me and that I could trace most of my issues back to what I went through my junior year of high school. I always feel weird this time of year. Spring is when things come to life, but when I was 16, that spring was about death, and those feelings seem to come back each year.



I have gone to my share of therapy over the years and the loss of my father constantly come up. A therapist I saw on and off for years also lost her dad as a teenager, and I found that made things a perfect match. Once I got upset and asked her, "Why does everything always have to go back to that?" 

The therapist responded with, "Of course it does. I don't think you understand what a traumatic thing you went through."

But I did know, though, I just wanted to heal. I wanted those bruises to go away. 

Maybe, in another universe, there's a version of me who didn't go through this, and maybe that girl is so much more confident, and braver, and maybe she doesn't have crippling abandonment issues. Strangely, I found myself connecting with Khloe Kardashian when I watched the Bruce Jenner interview. It looks like she's having the worst time with things, because she is the one with the really bad abandonment issues, and she freaks out when people leave or change. I definitely freak out (internally and sometimes externally) when people leave or change. And I know why. 

I recently analyzed a certain friendship of mine. I constantly am going to this friend with my problems, and I realized that I often blow these issues completely out of proportion. It's almost like I feel like as long as I am enough of a mess, I'll be able to go to that friend for guidance and he'll always feel needed and won't go away. I know these are my issues and they come from an important man leaving me forever when I was that young and I wish I didn't have them.

My aunt was telling somebody who had never met my father about him--that he was brilliant and hilarious with his own type of humor. This outsider responded with, "Then that's where Diana gets it from." 

The person who said these words has, in the past, criticized me on a number of things, and has come right out and told me that he does not view me as a success in any way because I am yet to make money from writing. Money, he thinks, is what makes you important. This person has been in the audiences of my plays, and has seen firsthand people react really well to them. I can make people laugh. But that doesn't matter, he thinks, because I don't get paid for it. Isn't that a sad way to feel?

It's strange that such a meaningful compliment would come from a person who has, in the past, made me feel like a failure. He compared me to my father in terms of brilliance and my humor and I don't think my father would have ever made me feel like a failure--he would have realized that making an audience laugh was one of the greatest achievements in the world. 

With that unintentional compliment from an unlikely member of the peanut gallery, I realized I'm perhaps more confident than I thought I was, because I CAN acknowledge I'm really clever and funny, and I know a big reason WHY I am--because my father was, and that's the best possible way to remember him every single second.

I think the most painful part of such a traumatic loss is when you realize that the person is no longer a part of your daily life, but a memory--but knowing I have gotten the best parts of my father ensures he will never be just a memory.

My father's grave says "You left us a legacy of laughter." I know he'd want us to be laughing every day, even in April. Especially in April.

Friday, March 13, 2015

On a train home tonight...

...a little girl was standing right next to me. She was with a large group of people (I'm assuming a family of tourists.)

One of the women she was with said, "Maya, when the train stops next, you have to move and sit down and give the people around you more space."

I was pretty much the only person standing near the kid, so I said, "Oh, she's fine!"

The mom looked at Maya and said, "Wow, you just met a really nice person!"

Maya then looked up at me and said, "Someday is TODAY."

That was the most profound thing I had heard all day.

I had just gotten off the phone regarding something I have been waiting for to happen and have been thinking about a lot.

We're always looking ahead at "someday."

But someday has to be a day like any others first, doesn't it?

Maya then said to me, "Your hair looks BEAUTIFUL."

(Maya's awesome.)

I told her that her hair was beautiful, too, and she gave me a full description of how her mom did her complicated wraparound braid.

(She's lucky she can pull that off. I just look like a young girl fleeing war-torn Poland when I try.)

Only in New York.

Monday, February 16, 2015

It's okay if, one day, somebody you love totally crushes you, and you keep on loving them.

Last year, somebody who has always been very important to me and somebody I believed I was also very important to, did something that truly hurt me, and I wondered for a while if I was supposed to cut that person out of my life...for good, forever, never speak again, "you don't deserve me", etc. etc. etc.

I was so crushed by this person's behavior, I couldn't imagine things ever being the same with them, and figured I had to shun them completely.

And I realized I really didn't want to do that.

This wasn't a romantic relationship, and it feels like that would have been easier to do so had it been one. It's easier to accept a hurtful betrayal from a romantic interest instead of a good friend.

Instead, this was somebody I truly always shared a pure, unadulterated friendship with, and that's what made it so painful. This person wasn't supposed to hurt me, and they did, and seemed totally oblivious to the fact that they did. Did the fact that they had no idea that they hurt me so much make it okay, or was it even worse?

I found myself defending this friendship to other people. They found it hard to believe I would even want to be friends with this person. I  kept on repeating the same answer--that I wasn't defending their behavior, but I also wasn't going to defend myself for sticking by them, that this was somebody I had shown love and loyalty to for a very long time, and I wasn't going to take it away now when they likely needed it the most.

A few weeks ago, I found closure in this situation. It wasn't closure that involved detaching from this person, but closure in accepting that it was okay that I didn't want to to detach. I realized that I had to forgive this person, even if they didn't quite know that I had been so angry and hurt, and that there was an unspoken understanding that we'd always in each other's lives and didn't owe anybody else an explanation.

There's a novel called The Object of My Affection by Stephen McCauley. I've seen the movie a million times, partially because of my hero, Wendy Wassertein's, fantastic adaptation of a screenplay.

The novel ends with the pair of friends on a ride at Coney Island.

The ride starts and the narrator says that, "We must have stayed on that thing for twenty minutes, spinning in circles, getting tossed into the air, thrown against each other in the corner of the slick seat by some centrifugal force as inevitable as death and much stronger than love."

I remembered that passage when I was coming to terms with my situation and reread it, and related to it very much. It suddenly made so much sense.

Sometimes there ARE just things that keep us cemented together and nobody else is supposed to understand it, and that's okay.

I realized this person is supposed to be in my life, and will always be in my life, no matter what, because that's how it's supposed to be.

I'm not being a pushover by forgiving this person, and I also am not going to let this person hurt me again, either...but I know they're supposed to be there.