It’s my turn to write tonight. Debbie has been too much in the “real world” lately, which tends to stop up creativity and slog down her spirits. (Thank goodness for Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach Cello Suites.)
So here I am, Deb’s Inner Wise Self (IWS, to friends and family), picking up the writing mantle. It’s been a challenging week, hasn’t it? A comedy legend meets the most tragic of ends, the epitome of beauty and half of one of the sexiest celebrity couples of all time passes away, and the a young man is cruelly cut down by police. These events have tapped into a well of anger, sadness, and frustration that have been simmering under the psyche of the American people for a very long time.
It’s hard to be an empath in this day and age. The tidal wave of pain overwhelms, and everywhere you look, there is more coming. There is a strong urge to hide under the covers, shut down, avoid and ignore the real world until the dull cloud of normalcy returns to hide these wounds once again.
But that’s not what being alive and aware is. As much as we may wish to pull into ourselves and away from the pain, our job here is not avoidance. Our job here is transformation. Our job here is to make a difference.
Any scan of social media will confirm that people are angry. They are furious, and rightly so, about the state of affairs.
You will come into contact with that anger.
You will be presented with a choice–how do you respond?
Please remember that every choice is an opportunity. Every choice is a chance.
What choice will you make, when presented with the sadness of the world? Will you add to the pain, or will you be an instrument of healing? Will you confuse and contort, or will you open your mind and heart to new ideas? Will you embrace bigotry and fear, or will you remember that we are all children of Earth?
Debbie couldn’t write this post. She had to rely on me. You can’t write your life either–you must rely on your Inner Wise Self. But don’t worry–the Inner Wise Selves of the World are a pretty smart group, and we love working together.
So be brave, my friends. Be joyful. Be kind to each other. And never forget to listen up–we’re whispering in your ear all the time.
My love to you–Deb’s Inner Wise Self (IWS)
I’ve struggled all day to think of something to write that didn’t focus on sadness, depression, or suicide. So many of us are reeling from the tragic death of an American icon, and this senseless and (presumably avoidable) pain has churned up so many feelings in so many people: anger, confusion, fear, despair, and determination to name a few.
My Facebook feed is cluttered with testimonials to Robin Williams’ genius, generosity, and humanity. Some articles reflect on how he inspired them, while others focus on the world we inhabit and the toxic mark it leaves on some of our most brilliant and creative souls. Others, lacking any ability to decipher this insanity, rage beautifully at the injustice of it all.
Yesterday, I got into a discussion with someone about celebrity deaths being blown out of proportion, while the suffering of “real” people was ignored. While I understood his frustration, I tried to explain the best I could why the death of a Robin Williams or say, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, generate such response among people who didn’t know them.
You see, all of us, I believe, support suicide prevention, help for the mentally ill, etal, in theory. What kind of monster wouldn’t, right? But many of us are lucky enough to have only a peripheral awareness of the specter of intense depression. Many of us have never known anyone who has attempted suicide. Many of us have never had to comfort the family of a person who has taken their own life.
For many of us, suicide and its horrible ramifications are theoretical–something we understand intellectually, but not in our gut.
Celebrities, especially those we grew up with, hold a singular place in our cultural consciousness. Because of the intimacy of art–of acting, writing, music, comedy–these people feel closer to us than they truly are. They become the friend who writes a song that completely expresses our romantic pain. They become the hero or heroine you always dreamed of being. Or, as in the case of Robin Williams, they become that wise, kind uncle who never fails to reduce the room to tears of joyous laughter.
When someone like this dies, suddenly it’s no longer academic. Suddenly, you realize you will never laugh like that again, or hear that song that expresses what you feel in such a profound and beautiful way quite the same again. The hero or heroine you wanted to be was just a person, just like you are me.
And we grieve. Perhaps out of proportion, considering the state of the world. But we grieve nonetheless, and struggle to make sense of things. We tell stories. We look for answers. We look for reasons. Sometimes, we look for scapegoats.
And for a moment, the tragedy is universal and so real you can’t even begin to avoid it. It’s everywhere. People suffer. People are in pain. People are confused.
We know this intensity won’t last forever. The frenetic pace of modern life will bring something else into the news cycle soon enough. But perhaps, the sucker punch of this tragic moment in our cultural history will help us become a little more sensitive to the pain of those around us. Maybe, when someone we know is depressed, instead of telling them to toughen up, we may reach out a hand to them. Help them along.
We live in such a difficult world, made more difficult by closed hearts and closed minds. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t have to.
And if your particular slush of brain chemicals makes that too difficult, please, reach out for help. Let someone in. Don’t suffer alone.
We are the world we live in. If we open to love and light, our world will open as well, and the sweetness of life will shine through.
Much love to you,
Tonight, like much of the world, I am saddened by the loss of Robin Williams. I can’t say anything about Mr. Williams that has not already been said, and by more eloquent voices than mine. I can only share my impressions of this man who has been in my world since I was a young child.
Robin Williams was possessed of a genius that was larger than life, a phenomenally talented individual with a passionate performance style that rarely failed to make an impact. His range as an actor equaled his versatility as a comic, and his worked radiated with intelligence and depth.
Like so many people who bear the gifts of tremendous talent, Mr. Williams was also burdened by the other side–substance abuse, crippling depression, and bipolar disorder. Today, those diseases took their final toll on this remarkable man, and the world is sadder place because of it.
At times like these, I have to guard against my own depression, which was first diagnosed when I quite young. I’ve struggled with the burden of mental illness for most of my life. Every time another soul loses the battle with depression, my heart sinks.
There are some who might say that suicide is a coward’s game, or a selfish act. Yes, suicide leaves a pain behind that no one should ever have to bear. But my heart reaches out to Mr. Williams, and everyone like him, who has daily fought the dragon of depression. Each day, for 63 years, armed only with a sense of humor and ragged determination, the soul of Robin Williams waged war on his demons.
Today, he lay down his armor one last time.
Good night, Mr. Williams. Thank you for everything, and may your soul find peace.
Robin Williams, 1951-2014