Several of my friends know that I used to dabble in comedy writing and most people who know me could easily surmise that I’m a huge fan of comedic movies and personalities. So recently, more than one person has asked why I haven’t blogged about Robin Williams’ death.
The truth is, I don’t want to seem as if I am mining a tragedy for a post. The second is I’m embarrassed I haven’t been around these parts lately. I’ve been submerged in my own darkness lately and while it’s not the complete despair of a depression that causes someone to take their own life, I’ve been stuck trying to make my way through the mire and things, like this blog, fell to the wayside while I’ve been working to find my way back to the daylight.
Robin Williams’ death hit me like a ton of bricks. When I saw the first mention of it on Facebook I immediately clicked the window closed as if that would make it actually go away. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. Then, I went looking for other sources to confirm or deny what I had seen, praying that it was an Internet hoax gone viral. When website after website produced similar stories, the sadness washed over me as if I had lost someone I actually knew. And I’ve been sad ever since. So I’ve been thinking about why the death of this particular person who I didn’t know at all affected me so strongly.
Robin Williams wasn’t perfect. He didn’t have leading man movie star good looks. He sometimes stuck his foot in his mouth or talked to long or offended someone. He tried things and they didn’t work. His life was messy and imperfect. He did some things that were bad for him, got clean and then worked hard to focus on the things that were good for him – exercise, family, friends, work. He seemed, by all accounts to be a genuinely kind person. He went out of his way to make people smile, and found joy in making a difference in people’s lives. In other words he was just like me, like you, like most of us.
And the world is a pretty tough place to be right now, even as an observer. Even when the true tragedies aren’t happening to me or the people I love the most. Lots of terrible things are going on in so many places that rip my heart out on a daily basis, stomping it into tiny broken shards so small that I think I may never be able to pick them up and put them back together again. And here was a man who by all accounts, seemed to embody pure joy. He savored those moments of losing himself so completely to happiness and laughter and making people feel good around him so he, in turn, could feel good. And if the dark consumed him, then, my God, what is stopping it from consuming the rest of us?
His death was a stark reminder to me that we are all vulnerable to the darkness. Even those of us who, in this lottery called life, have by all measures, won the jackpot. His death reminded me how precarious we can all be at one time or another to just letting go of the rope we’re barely holding onto in the first place.
I have to admit that at moments, Robin Williams’ death is one more thing lately that has made me feel small and vulnerable and raw and hopeless. And in these moments, I’ve been grateful for the knots I’ve tied in my own rope– Family and friends who love me so deeply and fiercely I can scarcely imagine what I’ve ever done to deserve such a gift; music which fills my soul so completely; gratitude for small moments of beauty in the world and laughter and joy in so many forms that makes me feel lighter and my arms less weary as I hang on to my own rope above the darkness.
I’m sad and angry and hurt that the darkness of this life has consumed someone who spent his time bringing so much light to others. And I think it’s a good reminder that we all need to be bearers of the light- that responsibility is just too heavy for a select few. Love and laughter and joy and kindness in all forms are what we have to beat back the darkness. Robin Williams is a fallen comrade in the battle. The best way we can honor him is to keep at it. We need to hold each other up, keep laughing and loving, choosing joy and engaging in acts of kindness small and large. We owe it to him and we owe it to ourselves.