On the heels of this sad, sad news in the saddest of times I can remember, my dad and I shared uncontrollable tears on the phone, unshakable grief that we laughed and choked through as we listed our favorite Robin Williams roles, scenes, wept in genuine, deep sadness for this deeply saddened man. I cannot blame him for taking his own life; I’ve certainly wanted to end my own, more often than I like to admit. I’m tired of this world, its razor sharp edges, the dull ones, too, cut deeply, scar the heart and mind if you dare stare into the abyss. And while I have no authority to dicker about the difference between sadness and depression, I believe it is far too easy to say, “He was depressed.” Quite frankly, I have come to believe that if you’re not depressed, at least sometimes, then maybe there’s something wrong with YOU.
One of my grandma’s brothers took his own life. It was a long, long time ago, so none of us knew him, and we don't talk about it. But anymore, many people wear their diagnoses on their sleeves, talk about their pills, their addictions, their guilt and shame, their transgressions, their battles. And yes, this is brave. But I’m sick of doctors and drug companies and even the heart-hurt themselves, blaming the chemical imbalances, treating them as causes instead of symptoms. Sick of it. Of course he was depressed; we ALL should be, compounding harm as we do, turning away from anything that does not aid our pursuits of happiness. We can’t even say what happiness is—at least I can’t, not today—and we can’t believe our own memes of what it isn’t. Money can’t buy it. It comes from within. It is love and sharing—such empty clichés; yet, I bet you thought or hoped for a second there that I meant them, didn’t you?
And a part of me wants to, wants to believe that there are mostly-happy people, but even babies cry and they know NOTHING of the atrocities. We would be remiss to be anything but sad for all the starving children, all the wars and their refugees, the twenty-three soldiers who take their own lives each day. Maybe we are even sadder still if we do not support the wars they wage. And then there is the ravaged earth we tread upon.
Undoubtedly Robin Williams was sad about all of this too, so last night I cried for him. I’d like to cry some more because he, too, is a casualty of war, there in his ocean-side mansion with his private pool and pretty wife, children, that sparkle in his blue eyes snuffed out at his own hand. I’m sad because I never met him, and I’m especially sad because now I know for sure I never will. And yet for most of my life he made me feel like I knew him, the slices of him he shared so freely. He made me happy and will continue to, but I’m sad because there are no dads like Mrs. Doubtfire, and there are no teachers like John Keating or psychologists like Sean Maguire, or maybe there are, but I haven’t met them either. Even Oliver Sacks was no Malcolm Sayer. I’m sad because there are no Genies like that nameless magic friend he voiced to life. No matter how hard I rub every lamp in every thrift store, I have no drag-queen friends like the Goldmans. There is no Peter Pan, no alien like Mork from Ork. Fiction. Like the “Pretty good!” I cheerfully offered to a man on the sidewalk this morning when he asked how I was doing. Fiction.
Late last night, I watched his hour-and-a-half stand-up show, Methods of Self Destruction, drank four glasses of wine, laughed out loud and chain smoked, then went for a swim beneath the waning super moon. I blame the moon, too big, too bright, too close, a pull so strong towards madness. I stayed in the pool for another hour and a half, and just like with his movies and his life, the time passed too quickly. I lapped and lapped in limp reaches and kicks. I communed with the dead, left a soft wake that shimmered and slapped the trap. This life is a trap, and I’m sad because he slipped it. He made it more worth living. I’m sad because no has ever or will ever improvise like him, donning faces and voices, lightning quick and smart as the sun, dark as the back of the moon.