I just spent the last half hour reading my posts here from 2007.
The year before my dad died and everything changed for me.
In some ways, it feels like that time before birth itself – that mysterious time where we are unformed and just living in potential. I was a longing to be.
And yet, as I read those words, I see some version of myself that has disappeared. Time has changed me. That “me” has been made wary by public attention, made anxious by deep realities and once again, shadowed by my father.
In those long ago postings, I see how I was clearly seeking my “self” and getting to do it in complete anonymity. No one knew who I was except for a few select friends who were walking along my path of self-discovery cheering me on to step out into the public and share my voice. I was free to be me. The “public” me had yet to be born – it was just a mirage on a distant horizon I moved toward, and at the same time felt I never made any progress toward. Always just out of my grasp.
But my dad’s death and the explosion of social media changed all that. Without them, I would still be loitering in the wings of life, watching other players on the stage. I suppose I would have stepped out and into some version of the spotlight eventually, but most likely in the chorus backing up the star, ensuring they were always in the best light. I wouldn’t have had the courage to claim that place for myself. And if I had, it would have been on a different than the star of my life, my father.
Back then, I felt invisible and constrained by things – myself mostly. But now that I look back at those posts, I miss that invisibility. I see now that it was the thing that freed me the most in my life.
I felt free to explore things that might look weird or kooky or off the beaten track to most people. I felt free to express ideas that felt resonant for me, but might seem non-rational to most others – my father’s fans, not my father, specifically. They never entered my mind when I wrote, spoke or showed up in the world.
These last six years, they’ve had a front row seat in my head.
And a front row seat on the internet. Most of them have been lovely, but not all.
Before social media, rarely would I come across another human who would say mean and destructive things so often. They are the worst versions of the worst voices inside my head. Now these voices speak freely and willingly behind the distance and anonymity of the internet.
I’ve always been over-sensitive to conditional love. I spent most of my life twisting into any shape to ensure someone’s love. But at different points in my life, my need to be free to live and express myself out-weighed my fear of rejection or disappointing another, and I would move beyond the boundaries I had set for myself.
When my dad died, I let a lot of these voices, self-generated and internet generated, move into my daily sphere, and censor me. I second-guessed every move I made. I shaped myself into who I think “they” wanted me to be. And even when I went against what I thought they might disapprove of, I did it with a sense of anxious breath-holding. Never jumping with abandon and bliss, but careful watching and waiting.
When I read between the lines of those older blog posts, I also see the version of me that was still filled with rainbow dreams, the thrill of potential to shape my future. I had not yet faced another huge load of personal loss/grief, financial instability and being an orphan.
I trusted my vision for myself, the world and the human soul even while I lived in fear of my dad’s death and what that would bring. Even while tolerating my own choice to ignore my own writing and performing ambitions in respect for his need to be center stage. I took those constraints and pointed my vision toward other things – a chance to evolve the world’s consciousness through questioning the status quo and inspiring others to do the same through coaching and leadership training.
There was a powerful innocence at age 44.
As far as ambition. I clearly had that in 2007. I was hungry. I wrote about it a few times. It is still here. And it is even more real now than ever. But I am learning, that my ambition is part of the very best my father gave to me. He never settled for where he was. He was always setting the bar higher for himself. He liked to feel that he was leading the charge of comedy. The minute he felt someone was catching up, he dug deeper and found un-mined material to unearth, polish and display for all to see.
And maybe I don’t mean ambition at all. Maybe I am associating it with a semi-conscious but mostly organic thing that happened due to my dad’s death. So much of my initial rise into the spotlight these last six years has been associated with my dad. I’ve been his face in public to honor him, keep his legacy alive and to help peddle the few posthumous items we offered to his fans. I’ve been the go-to expert about his work and career. And because my own work is autobiographical in nature, I have been the only voice for his life away from the stage. I have been talking a lot about him on stage and on the page. I didn’t mean to. It has just happened that way. And that maybe is really the point of this post.
There’s been a lot of him in my life. Some of it has been purposeful – I believe in his legacy and work and his fans – and some of it just happened the way it did. My current solo show and forthcoming book would have been a thing of the past, if while my dad was alive, he hadn’t felt so weird about it, and I hadn’t honored his discomfort with shelving that aspect of my word. And although it was painful at times to silence myself in the service of my love for my dad, I have no regrets. We loved each other in our unique way and protected each other dutifully. That’s how we rolled.
But since finishing the writing of my memoir, I feel done. The story that has lived in me for 15 years that I have wanted to share so that I could move on, is finally done.
And although next year, 2015, seven years since my dad’s death, will be filled with me doing my solo show, and then in the fall touring for my memoir, I am done with my dad playing such a prominent role in my life.
Seven years since I was thrown into a new life. Seven years of learning the lay of the land, how to navigate the pitfalls or public attention, deep realities and ambition. Seven years. Just enough time to replace all the cells in my body, find my way back to my soulful self, and sink into who I want to be for the seven years I find in front of me.
I want to get back to evolving consciousness, questioning the status quo and expressing myself freely and without second guessing. But now I am blessed because I no longer have to wonder if I am alone. I have found my people. Some are comedians, most are seekers of inner truth, and all find beauty in this world.
So lets laugh, dance and bask these next seven years. I could really use it.