No, not the news.
I can't watch that because I inevitably end up withdrawing into my shell and hiding out with my emotions for at least hours, sometimes days.
My window into the world is Facebook and I have tailor made my newsfeed to only show me things I am interested in. I think this is fabulous, except for days like today.
Today was very different.
Today I found out that one of my role models and inadvertent mentors left this world for good.
When I powered up my phone, the first thing I saw was a text message from my best friend.
"David bowie died yesterday. :'("
I thought I had misread this.
I didn't even have both eyes open yet and it's my rule that if I still have one eye closed, I can go back to sleep. When the meaning behind the text actually sank in, both eyes popped wide open and disbelief set in.
My Facebook feed confirmed it.
How horribly sad. I lay there just waking up and thought how horrible it must be for his family.
Then the reality began to dawn on me:
DAVID BOWIE was dead.
Ziggy Stardust was dead.
Aladdin Sane was dead.
The Thin White Duke was dead.
Jareth, the Goblin King was dead.
The first and the last one hit me hardest.
I was surprised by my reaction. Anyone who knows me, knows I am not one to have what I would consider to be "role models." I'm very much my own person, so much to the extent that it has caused a fair share of emotional stress in the past. I have people that I respect, but not a lot of people that I like enough to emulate or put on a pedestal. In this way I am very much my Capricorn sun sign, yet today as I'm laying in bed, I felt a giant black hole open up inside my chest and I started to cry.
My first thought was, "alright, buddy, suck it up," but then I remembered sitting in the living room of my childhood home, Labyrinth on the television. The ending credits rolling on the screen and me pushing rewind on the VCR and dancing around the room with excitement while I listened to the loud whirring sound that the tape made as it exchanged spools. And then that defining CLICK that meant it was ready to go again and me exuberantly pushing PLAY so that I could watch the Goblin King dance with all of his minions for the umpteenth time that day.
I was six years old.
So, today, I decided to let myself cry a little for the loss of a big part of my childhood.
I let myself cry for the loss of a man who created a stability for me when I was a kid and even through my teens and early twenties.
The thing is- I didn't even realize any of this until this morning when I got that text message.
I never analyzed my relationship to this man I had never met or the character he played in one of my all time favorite (especially during my childhood) movies. The emotions that welled up in me at the news of his passing were INTENSE so I decided I should look at it a little closer.
What I found was interesting.
David Bowie helped define my identity.
His character in Labyrinth, which I clearly remember once watching 11 times in two days, introduced me not only to the idea of magic (which is pretty much how I make my living as an adult) but to the idea that gender stereotypes could be broken.
You see, I was raised in a very Christian household and was later put into a severely strict private school, but for some reason (thank the gods) my mother didn't mind me watching movies like Labyrinth and the Dark Crystal. This means that when I was six years old, I met Jareth the Goblin King and became just as lost in his maze as Jennifer Connellys character ever was.
With his severe eye makeup, tight pants, punk rock hair, high heels and fabulous black gothic cape, David Bowie, a.k.a. Jareth, opened my very young eyes to what my world could be if I wanted it to be. He instilled in me a sense of experimentation that has stuck with me all my life.
He made me feel like I was OK when everything else in my life- on purpose or inadvertently- told me I was not.
He was an idea that stuck with me all through my childhood and into my teens when I discovered his music. Space Oddity BLEW MY MIND and is probably one of the main reasons that I love science fiction so much.
David Bowie was a huge influence on me through all of my work in art school and he was instrumental in me having the courage to come out to my parents. He is the reason I had the guts to be myself at such a young age and is one of my heroes ( not just for one day, but for life) because he did things HIS way and was not afraid to stand up and say exactly what he thought.
All these things, I learned from watching him, reading about him and listening to his outrageous music.
I learned from him that I could be whatever I wanted to be as long as I had the strength and the will and the courage to make it happen.
David Bowie was fearless.
So I became fearless.
Watching all the videos of the memorial services all over the world tonight- fans singing and crying and celebrating his life- I realize I'm not alone in these feelings. This man, over the forty years of his incredible career, changed the face of music, fashion and gender stereotyping. And I think the icing on the cake is that he described himself as a "closeted heterosexual."
I think that Mister Bowie was fabulous in everything he did and the world is a much better, stranger and more odd place for having known him.
He will continue to fascinate people for many many years to come, I am sure, but tonight.....
Tonight he is sorely missed. The thought of all the people that have the courage to be themselves because of Jareth and Ziggy- those thoughts are beginning to fill in that giant black hole that opened up in my chest when I read that text message this morning.
Thank you for being brave enough to live YOUR life, David, instead of someone else's.