This post may not be anywhere near perfect. Typing on my iPad, late at night, listening to the strong breeze rattling the leaves on ancient trees, thr crickets, the sound of my own breathing, of my heart. A heart that is sad, as many are tonight.
And there is is no picture because today, a bright light went out. And bright lights, while prone to burning out, leave a void. An emptiness. A dark place.
Today, an incredibly beloved and dazzling light, Robin Williams, left us. Apparently, he chose to go and the world is openly mourning his loss, his decision, his absence. And many are wondering why he went.
I am not wondering, though I hate to think of this planet without his humor, his twinkling eyes, his spouting of language with such ease. I know why he chose to exit. And so do many who live with a companion commonly referred to as “depression”.
I’m writing this now because in a week or two, some other tragic headline will grab our attention and the shock of Robin’s death will begin to fade, for all but his closest circle. We’ll think of him fondly, shake our heads, say what a pity it is that he’s gone, and go on about our lives. Sad but true. It’s the way of our world.
Unless we choose a different way and make a deliberate decision to honor the man who made us laugh even as he dealt with pain beyond imagination. Honor him and all the other bright lights who have left our world far, far before we were ready to let them go. Unless we decide to get over our fear of the Black Dog and begin to deal with depression from a place of compassion rather than shame and disdain. Unless we choose to face it head on, together.
Because for many of us, it’s woven inexorably into the fabric of our lives. We live with it very day, just as Robin Williams did, until we can no longer bear the pain and the separation it brings. It seems that the brighter the light, the more creative the soul, the longer the shadow and the deeper the pain.
The artists, the actors, the music makers. The ones that make the world a more colorful, enjoyable, fully engaging ride for everyone. Those are the ones we are most likely to lose, as we did today. And the ones we miss most. The geniuses. The guides. The greats.
Vincent Van Gogh’s brother referred to this phenomenon, many decades ago, when he said that “Genius roams along such mysterious paths” and that’s still true today. It’s hard to understand, and yet it happens. All the time.
Sixteen years ago, I made the same choice our beloved Mr. Williams made today. And here’s the difference – someone caught me. And a lot of someones walked the path back with me. While I wouldn’t wish the arduous and stunningly painful journey back from that place on anyone, it has been incredibly worthwhile. Most days. On other days, the darkness prevails and I think about making my own exit. Still.
It’s an enormous dragon, depression, one that requires slaying on a regular basis. And as you might imagine, dragon slaying is a tricky business and not something you want to do alone. I’m so sorry that an extraordinary being like Robin Williams felt all on his own in that battle. That’s the true tragedy.
So. I’ll tell you the secret to the battle with depression. It isn’t helped by shaming or by ostracizing or by calling it laziness or manipulation. All of those serve only to feed the beast.
The way to win this particular fight is to use compassion. Lavishing. Generously. Unceasingly. To listen to the one who battles the demon by themselves, to hear their story and to love them until their armor is fully restored. Until it gleams. Until they know they are never alone.
This doesn’t have to be hard. We can even use a hashtag – #Iamsad – to call each other. We can text – I’m listening. We can send little notes in the mail – I’m so glad you are here. We can remember Ram Dass’ words, “We are all just walking each other home”.
Or perhaps, with a wink at the man himself, remind each other Robin’s words, “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” Because we are all a little mad, we bright lights. That’s how we’ll change the world. One restored heart at a time.
Dragons, beware. Bright lights, shine. The world is about to become a better place.
And gratitude to you, Robin Williams, for teaching us even as you leave us.
We won’t forget you. Travel well.