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.