Monday, January 26, 2009

Diabolina Does Deep Thoughts
Seems so many of us have so much swirling inside us right now, no? Some of it sad and tortured and angry; some of it radiant and beautiful and hopeful. All of it real and important and urgent.

It probably has something to do with a new year beginning, a new president in the White House, a new era dawning.

In this moment, I find myself, above all else, tackling fear. Personally and professionally. So many fears they all bleed into each other. Fear of being judged, of failing, of taking risks, of NOT taking risks. But most of all, I think I am feeling the fear of not being myself - my real self - in all its contradictions and complexities.

It's amazing how much this blog - this outlet - has helped me on the journey toward authenticity over the past year. It has taught me so much about myself and other people and what connects us. So now I share something...probably the most personal disclosure I could ever share...because it is time. Time to show a part of myself I often hide. To become more comfortable with beauty and ugliness co-existing. To shine a light in a dark place. To let go of shame and pain and the past. To move on to the next chapter. To be fearless. I am ready so I hope you will indulge me a detour from the fashion and the everyday.

And I also hope you challenge yourself to do the same,
in your own way, about your own fears, about your own truth. With a kiss.
***

I have always been the type of person who pulls a band-aid off slowly. Who eases into a freezing cold pool. That's just me. I am careful and deliberate. In my thoughts and in my actions. In my way. And my being.

But I've decided I want to change. I need to change. I am 31 years old and I think it is time.

I want to be the person that rips off the band-aid. I want to be the one who jumps headfirst into the pool. I don't want to delay the inevitable anymore.

So I am going to do it. Get it out of the way. I am going to write about that day. That day my dad died.

For the first time. I am going to just do it and share it and get on with things. Get on with my life and my greatness. Get on with writing down all the other haunting, inspiring, funny, tragic, beautiful stories dancing around in my head.

I've decided. I need to get this over with. If I want to start the next chapter I have to close this one. So here goes.

It was an August day in 1993. One of those impossibly gorgeous Southern California days. I remember the quality of the light for some reason. The sun felt particularly bright. Blindingly bright. Like a spotlight shining in and illuminating every little thing. Like there was no where to run and escape its invasive glare.

Maybe that's why he did it.

I had just turned sixteen. I was a handful but not nearly as bad as most teenage girls in Los Angeles who grow up how I did. I was hormonal and lovely and painful and pained. All at once.

I was writing a paper for an English class. It was due in week. In a week I would start my junior year of high school and the summer would be over.

I don't remember what the subject of my paper was. Maybe Hardy. Perhaps Bronte. Something classic and deliciously girly to dissect. I remember something about symbolism and archetypes.

I had enjoyed doing the reading but the writing was coming slowly. I don't write and go back and edit. I've never been able to do that. I always tell myself I am going to get it right the first time. Which is a painful way to write. But it is my way. It is the Type-A way to be creative.

So I sat in our kitchen. Typing away on a Brother word processor - it was 1993 after all! - frustrated and starting to feel the pressure of the impending deadline. I kept typing out pages only to crumple them up and start again.

By midday, the trashcan was overflowing with my rejected cast-offs. A crumpled up heap of false starts deemed not good enough. I was starting to get agitated. The words were not coming easily. Something felt off.

At one point my step-dad wandered in to the kitchen. He was making himself a sandwich. Trying not to disturb me. He must have sensed my agitation and wisely chose to steer clear. I was not in a good mood.

Is that why he did it?

He ate his lunch standing up at the counter while I sprawled out all over the kitchen table like I owned the place. Like a teenager with no regard for anyone other than herself. As he ate, he'd fish out some of my balled up attempts at prose. He'd smooth out a page and read it as he ate. Devouring the sandwich and my words. Slowly and deliberately he did this. Over and over.

I was annoyed like a teenage girl is with most things her parents do. I almost barked something about respecting my privacy but didn't. Something told me to refrain. And, well, secretly, I liked it. I liked it when he said how good my writing was. When he said he didn't understand why I had thrown it away.

I liked that he cared. Even in the state he was in...he loved me so much. He was so proud of me. Annoying, wonderful, teenage me. Even though he was suffering, he oozed nothing but love for me. Always. Right until the very end.

When he complimented my writing that day, I resorted to false modesty. Told him he was just supposed to say that because he was my dad. And that my writing was actually terrible and I didn't know how I was ever going to get through this assignment.

He said something comforting but I don't know what exactly. I know I felt better when he left the room. But I don't remember what he said.

That kills me. I don't remember exactly what the words were that came out of his mouth. The last words he would ever say to me. I can't remember them and that kills me.

Within the hour, the phone rang. And I jumped. It pierced the stillness of that blindingly bright day in a strange way. In a strange way that I can conjure so clearly even after 15 years and multiple attempts to forget it. I remember that the ring sounded more urgent than usual.

And then I heard my mother scream from the other room. A scream like I had never heard come out of her and I hope I never do again. It was the sound of pure horror.

And instantly I knew.

You see, we lived in a high rise. On the 31st floor. Floating above the Sunset Strip. We had a front desk receptionist and a doorman. Like a hotel. And well on that summer day in August, they called from downstairs to tell us my dad had jumped from our balcony. He had killed himself. They thought we should know.

It sounds surreal doesn't it? In so many ways it's hard to absorb. That that's how he did it. And that's how we found out. And that it happened when I was sixteen and writing a paper for school.

It was surreal. Even after 3 years of him battling depression. Even after 3 years of attempts... sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes when I was at school... I never really thought he would do it. Never thought he could. But he did.

From the age of 13, I watched this beautiful man, the only father I had ever known, morph into this broken gentle giant who ripped your heart out. This sparkling magnetic distinguished man had shrunk- emotionally and spiritually and physically. He somehow looked tiny and frail... like a gust of wind could blow him over.

This man who was the life of the party, the biggest jokester you can imagine, over time became very quiet and withdrawn. This man with a great booming laugh and charming smile stopped laughing and smiling. He was like the walking dead.

It started when I was 13. He became depressed because his retail business was going under. He had retired and entrusted the business to his son. And his son was losing control...fast. Letting it all slip away. Stores were closing that had been open for decades. My dad was hemorrhaging money to keep what was left alive. The business he had spent his whole life building was falling apart at the hands of his child. It must have been gut-wrenching.

I didn't and don't understand all the details. It feels like a blur. I was a child after all. All I know is that it was a huge blow to his identity, to his mental health. He stopped sleeping altogether. So he was prescribed sleeping pills...the kind that would later be linked to psychotic breaks and suicidal tendencies.

He attempted to kill himself several times over those three years. When I was between 13 and 16. Always by jumping. One time my mom pulled him back over the railing to safety. My little 5'2'' mom pulled this 6'2'' man up and over a railing. She dislocated 3 discs in her back. Saving the man that she loved.

He was in the psych ward at Cedars more than a few times over the years. I hated going there. He seemed so out of place there. He was so dignified and beautiful and mine. He didn't seem to belong there. But I guess he did. On some level he did.

He would have stretches where everything was good. Or at least better. For months on end he would seem normal, even happy. Or maybe they both put on a good show for me. Made me think everything was ok. Maybe I saw what I wanted to see. Maybe I was just a child.

I was so confused. So angry with him at times. Sometimes I would wish he'd just do it. Have the balls to just kill himself. To stop torturing us with the attempts.

But of course I didn't want him to. I never dreamed he would. But he did. On that day in August when I was sixteen, he did.

30 comments:

WeezerMonkey said...

I cry for you. This was not easy to experience. This was not easy to write.

tam pham said...

i'm speechless...which never happens. all i can hope for is that writing this will help you get any closure that your head and heart might still need.

you are a strong, intelligent, and beautiful woman who I'm sure both your dad and mom are very proud of and love very much. it seems like you have an amazing group of friends, a loving mother, and a wonderful significant other that will love and support you whenever you're ready to "rip the band-aid off".

with love and hugs,
K

Fashion_Loving_Stylist said...

Aw honey, thanks so much for sharing. That took real courage. I hope it gets better now that you have let it out. I'm sending mental hugs as I'm sure all your readers are.

WendyB said...

You're very brave to write this. I'm touched by how much he loved you as well as vice versa.

Anonymous said...

Your courage is inspiring.

Amanda said...

Just reading that was tough...I can only imagine going through that experience.

Hopefully this is cathartic for you and it helps you cope in some way.

Anonymous said...

hugs.

MissJordyPants said...

I can't even imagine. I hope that we are able to help you through.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry. Many thoughts and prayers. Thank you for sharing that part of yourself with us.

Tracee said...

what a powerful story. thank you for sharing it.

Jenny Hansen said...

Beautiful words...you are very brave for sharing this with us...

many many hugs!

angel said...

thank you for writing this. it gave me chills & left me breathless. i cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to finally write, and then publish, but i am glad that you did. it struck a particular chord with me as i have had a close family member make a few suicide attempts. i know you will continue to grow and be strengthened as you write such personal pieces. xoxo

ShoeZQ said...

Wow... Thank you for having the strength to share this with us.

Kelley said...

I don't know what to say besides you are a very intelligent, beautiful and smart woman. Thank you for sharing that. I can't image how hard that must have been for you to write. Hugs.

Jadelily said...

So very courageous for you to write this and rip the band-aid off.

Sending you much love.

Lisa said...

You have such a gift with words... Thank you SO much for sharing your story.

Jessebel said...

You are an incredibly strong person for sharing such a crippling event from your life. I'm sure your father is proud of the adult that you have become. My thoughts are with you.

Sable Crow said...

I'm so proud of you. 15 years and four hundred and forty blog posts later, you are a shining tribute to the man who loved you so much.

You have always been my muse, in fashion and in life.

I salute you D, and honor your courage and grace.

Sable Crow

Lynn said...

The strength it took to share that story is astounding. Thank you for sharing a wound so raw, so painful with us.

Bruce said...

Wow, are you brave! Talk about tackling your fears. Thank you for sharing of yourself and letting us into your life though your wonderful writing. Today and every day. I hope this post provides a release for some of that pain you've been carrying around for all these years.

LOVE!

Victoria said...

so glad you were able to share... but am so sorry for this heartbreaking loss... wish people knew more about depression back then.

The Modern Type said...

I know this was probably the most difficult thing you've ever had to write. Thank you for being so real. Your brutal honesty and life truths are what keep me coming back. xoxo

Tiffany said...

my heart goes out to you. I know this must have been so hard to write but you wrote it so beautifully. I admire you and your courage.

Ana said...

You are such a strong and brave person to share this with us. I appreciate your honesty, and continue to think you (and your mother) are very special people.

Jazmin said...

I just wanted to say that you are very courageous and like I've said before very inspiring. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Jean Bean said...

I'm late to this post but I just wanted to pile on some love.

lookrichbitch said...

It was so brave of you to expose yourself to the world like that. I wasn't expecting it at all. Thank you for sharing such a heartbreaking part of your life.

Style Maven said...

once again, you show how strong and courageous you are by exposing a part of you to all of us, all the while writing in the wonderful way you do. thank you for encouraging us all to be brave, too.

Jon said...

Thank You. In so many ways you have helped me to keep perspective.

Brandi said...

My father had a heart attack when I was sixteen (only two weeks into my junior year). Or should I say he died of a broken heart.

I would never wish of loss for anyone, but it is comforting to know that I'm not the only one who lost their loving father so young.

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