Disclaimer: I know that my experience with life issues and family acceptance maybe a bit different from most people. I think that my story will help those who are in my place.
Grief. A feeling that I would not wish on a soul; however, everyone experiences it at any given time. It does not have to be a loss of a person. It could be the loss of anything: relationships, pets, jobs. Grieving is a process and must be confronted and I have learned that the hard way. It is the lessons that I took from this recent bout of grieving that I realized that is important that you learn how to cope with the grief. What do I mean by that? Well, I will say this, it was my love of all things nerdy, anime, and pop culture related that helped with my grieving process. Plus, I also gained something valuable: acceptance.
A year ago, just a few months after I decided that I was going to try my hand at cosplaying, I lost my mother. She was my world and losing her took the life out of me. However, I did not cry that much. I was just in a constant state of sadness that I could not shake (and still having issues with shaking). As I think about her, one of the last things, the last words of confirmation, that I received from her was that I was: “the weird child” and that she was “ok that [I am] her weird child”; and other words that equated to “I’m proud of the woman who you have become”. I know that A LOT of people may feel that she did not understand and that calling me weird is not a great thing, but that is how she described things. She knew that I enjoyed “cartoons” such as Sailor Moon and DragonBall Z when I was growing up. I explained what the difference was a few times but that was her way of classifying things. Call it understanding without understanding. So, when she passed, I did the only thing that I could do: watch anime and create cosplay.
In my moments of grief, I became extremely self-aware of my mental health and things that I take in, which made me very particular on what I watch/read during my “down days”, as I like to call them. My memories of me and my mom having a good laugh is one of the things that keeps me from not crying my eyes out in the middle of the day. For balance sake, I have to watch something that will make me crack a smile or help bring a good memory to my mind. Hour after hour, when it hurt the most, I was binge watching shows like Konosuba, Nichijou, Azumanga Daioh, and Lucky Star, because I personally love slice of life comedies about nothing. I have to watch shows like these during times that I am experiencing the full brunt of my grief because I can’t empathize with things the way that I should and can. Shows like Your Lie in April, Violet Evergarden, and B: the Beginning would just have a vice grip on my feelings. So, for example, instead of me easing back into the swing of things in a few hours, it would take days. It would make me think too hard on the unpleasantries of death and loss. I rather not think too hard during those times because nothing would make sense.
For instance, I can relate to one of the characters in Lucky Star. Konata Izumi, who is my favorite character, is girl who loves herself a good video game and who is very book-smart but does not really apply herself. Konata was high-school me. Back when jeans, t-shirt and a baseball hat was my uniform, I did not apply myself in my studies, and would rather read manga than a history book. I was full of random knowledge and that is why I could relate to her so hard and that’s how I made a lot of my friends. She is a part of me that I know that I can’t shake and won’t but have developed more over the years. Plus she was a daddy’s girl; a fact about me that still holds true. Even after watching all of the comedy in the world, it could not stop the fact that I needed a way to spend all of the energy that I was building up by being numb. So I sewed and became creative.
In the middle of my bout with grief, embracing my creative side brought me solace. My mom was a seamstress and a housewife. I grew up being her extra eyes when it came to designs for her clients or to assist her in threading her sewing machines when her vision began to deteriorate. So, when her health began to deteriorate at a rapid pace, she lend me her eyes and her thoughts on projects that I was working on. She gave me tips and tricks to make my cosplay stand out a little bit more. Throwing myself into cosplay further kept her in my memories. It helped me to deal with the pain. The whole time I could hear her say that “it has to get done”. Just like everything else that was going on in my life at that moment. Cosplay, through all the numbness, when the laughter did not help any more, was the only thing that I could focus on in my own way and at my own pace. It reminds me of a quote I heard from a show called Project Runway years ago:
“I don’t care if you cry and cut, but you’re going to cry and cut. You’re going to cut at that rate. Do whatever you need to do. You need to work”.
It was through the tears that I completed my first cosplay after her passing: Anthy from Revolutionary Girl Utena. It was a proud moment for me. I could hear her clearly saying “you did good, Cake”. At that moment, I knew that this life that I’m in and have met great people from, saved me. They saved me from myself. I was able to move forward and walk into this life that I call my own. You would be amazed at how important confirmation and a strong inner circle will help building a better sense of self.
In the midst of all of this, I learned to embrace those facets of me and who I am. It was my fandom that comforted me in my darkest hours. It was because of anime, cosplaying, and being around friends and family, that I was able to survive and learned to embrace my grief. At the end of the day, I had to learned to accept that part of me. I had to accept the fact that I can enjoy what I enjoy and forget about the looks that I would get and the questions that people would have. However, that is another story for another time. I could honestly say this with the biggest smile on my face: Hi, I’m Cake of House O. Lover of anime. Creator of costumes. Breaker of cat chains.