Friday, August 03, 2007

You're A Wonderful Audience.

A recent book I read recommended the following writing assignment for writer's block: Sit down, and for 20 minutes keep your pen moving no matter what. Make the first sentence something like, "I am thinking about..." or "I am looking at..." and see where your pen takes you. This was mine. And if you send me yours, I'll post it. Anonymously or with full attribution. :)

I'm thinking about my father today. When I have really amazing days with Bambina I find myself thinking about my Dad. Perhaps it's part of the cosmic continuum of the parent-child relationship, ie, being a parent conjures up memories and images of being parented. Maybe it's his way of poking his nose in, just to give an uncharacteristically non-invasive greeting. Or maybe, most likely, it's the quiet part of my subconscious that, all these months of "normalcy" later, keeps daily vigil over all the events and happenings I wish he were here to enjoy.

I was chatting with Sweet D last night about the nature of loss, both of us agreeing that the first year's life cycle events are the hardest: First Birthday Without Him. First Thanksgiving Without Him. First New Year Without Him. Each one brings an unique feeling of pain mixed with relief. Pain, almost physical, from knowing that you will never again hug him on his birthday. Relief at the end of the day that you made it through, that you're still here, that you have managed to affirm his life and memory without curling up and dying yourself. Each event offers more proof that life will go on and that it will get better. No, it will never be the same, but it will go on and you will smile again. Not that smile that you do for the first few months. The one you do much later when you are finally able--and willing--to smile from your heart again.

A year passes and you find yourself able to tell stories about him without tearing up--except for those times that you do. Life finds a new normal and you immerse yourself in it, busy with work and kids and all of the daily pedestrian activities that fill your calendar and your brain. You tell people you are fine now, although you "miss him every day," and you are mostly correct. But I believe that none of us is ever more than one soul-deep memory away from feeling the loss all over again. Not in the sudden, surprising, stomach-churning intensity of the death itself, but in the heart-full-of-joy intensity that you can no longer share with him in this physical world.

In other words, it's the happy days--not the sad ones--that hurt the most.

I didn't think about my Dad during any of the dark days of my transplant even though I assumed I would. But every day I got good news or felt good or could keep food down--however small the victory--I would find myself thinking, "Yo. Check me out Dad! Watch me do this!" I guess the part of me that is 4 years old swinging way up in the air at the park is still yelling, "Daddy! LookLookLookLook at me! Look what I'm doing! Look at me!" The good days (however low my standards for 'good' may be these days) were--and are--when I feel him the most.


I once read that one of the best ways to improve your emotional health was to honestly list on paper all of your "internal audiences." These are the people who reside in your head, sometimes without your knowledge, for whom you "perform" the actions of your life. Some of them deserve to be there, others do not. An easy way to determine who's who is to catalog all the people to whom you sometimes find your mind saying, "If you could see me now" or "Ha! I made it in spite of you!" or "Maybe you will love me now." Those are the ones who need to go. Think of those people who show up on Springer to tell their high school nemeses that they are no longer fat and ugly. These are the victims of the internal audience, as evidenced by the fact that the other person rarely remembers the Springer guest, or wasn't aware of their effect on the guest. They have lived their lives trying to be worthy of some kid from 20 years ago who called them fat; a kid who has gone on and lived his life without a single thought of them. There are obviously much worse cases of abused children and the like, but in the same way, they must find a way to remove the abuser (even if a parent) from their internal audience so they can live their happiest life.

So. I did this exercise a couple of years ago and promptly realized that I had about 6 extra people attending my show who needed to go home already. One was an ex-boyfriend (do you think I'm pretty enough to love now?), one was an old boss (I own my own business, b*tch, and you wouldn't even send me to a small state conference. How do you like me now?), and a couple were friends or family. I was driven to succeed in business for lots of reasons, but succeeding so I can make an old boss eat it is just a waste of mental energy (especially since, potential Springee that I was, the old boss couldn't have given a rat's a** what I was doing with my life). Same with the old boyfriend. He was no doubt in bed with his new girlfriend as I was doing that list, most certainly not thinking about how great I'd be looking in a bikini these days. Again, I was in dangerous Springer territory, so I called security and had him shown the door. It took a couple of tries to not let them all back in, but it finally did work. It was a tremendously valuable exercise.

At the time I agonized over the fact that I didn't feel compelled to evict my parents from the audience. Was I a Mama's Girl? What was my problem? But in the end I decided that there was nothing wrong with caring that my parents' respect for me was an integral part of decisions I made, any more than I now care that my daughter will respect me. I did, however, (as all grown adults should) downgrade my parents' seating from front row, center stage to a far left balcony with complimentary binoculars. Believe me, it's good for everyone.

Well, with that old exercise in mind, I decided in the weeks and months after my Dad died as I spoke to him in my head and missed him, that there was no rule stating audience members had to be alive. They just have to bring out the best in you. So JP got to stay in the show, and now that I think about it, maybe that's why I think of him and look to him when everything's coming up roses: because as much as it hurts to have the conversation in my head and not in person, sharing joy with someone you love always makes it double.

Or in other words, sometimes the loudest clapping you hear can come from even the farthest balcony.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

how to get me have the key! So insightful and thoughtful my friend....