Hey there… me again.
This is a slightly different kind of Throwback post. This one wasn’t lost, or accidentally deleted. It was written—perhaps with a bit more haste and emotion than many of my posts tend to be, admittedly—and left to sit, despite the relative timeliness of the subject.
I had a number of reasons for not putting it out there when I finished, one of the key ones being my desire not to contribute to the noise that was already booming through the airwaves. It didn’t matter where you were or what you were listening to, there were so many conversations: conflicting opinions on why he did what he did, arguments on whether what he did was right or wrong, debates around the efforts society is putting in to help or acknowledge those that suffer from the various forms and depths of depression… and so on.
I figured I would tuck it away for the time being, and post it when it was ready to hop off the shelf and onto the screen you’re looking at this very minute. And I guess this is that time.
ROBIN – August, 2014.
This, Faceless. I’m not really sure I even want to, but let’s talk about This.
Yes, I know lots of people have been talking about This. And by now, thousands of bloggers have penned mini-novellas on what a loss and tragedy this most-assuredly is; millions of others have expressed their sadness through Twitter, Facebook and countless other social networks; and some unfortunate anchor on CNN has been talking nonstop for the last 24 hours to any close or distant relation to the man, taking the occasional break to talk about some form of fresh Hell brewing in the Middle East. And everyone that has read, watched or listened to any of this has pondered why: why would someone with such life, success and vibrancy, someone with some much to live for and with so much life to give do something so absolute—so final—to extinguish his unique, wonderful flame?
It all seems unfathomable, doesn’t it? So baffling, incomprehensible? Well it is, until you wipe the tear from your eye and take a deep breath, looking past all of the hyperbole and fanfare, the sound bites and condolence tweets or the folktales of some attention-seeking, washed up celebrity that clearly hasn’t spoken to the man in decades (there was a 10 minute ramble on CNN last night by one such “celebrity” that almost made me vomit).
Robin Williams was a man that snuck into the hearts and living rooms of millions by mimicking the looks, sounds and expressions of others. We always saw the brilliantly-crafted image of what he wanted us to see; and in turn, we only saw what we wanted to see, not what we suspected may have been lurking beneath the beaming smiles, the wild eyes and the laughter. We never looked for the demon he struggled with beneath the surface, because that would break the illusion; and even when we did get a glimpse of it, when he pulled the curtain open wide and let you see the wounded man underneath, he was still wearing that lovable, charming costume he always wore, putting us at ease and giving us the freedom to say “Ya, he’ll be alright”, even if we silently feared he wouldn’t be.
If we’re being honest (which as a general rule of thumb, we aren’t; it’s just the way we’re built), we would admit that many of those around us—even some of us, reading this post right this second—struggle with those very same demons every day, the ones hiding just below the stage of whatever play they’re putting on for the world. We’ve talked about it for decades; stories and articles and studies galore have delved into the concept of depression, what it is and why we experience it, even making arguments for the unexpected benefits it can bestow on those so afflicted. But we still as a society don’t understand it, we don’t take it as seriously as we should – and we dismiss it as being moody or dramatic, in need of a good prescription or just “off”, because many seem to be functional and generally on top of things. But all the while, they’re just trying to keep the dark out: they’re trying to steer clear of the undercurrent coursing beneath any and everything they do that threatens to pull them down into the muck, deeper and deeper still until there’s no air, no light… down to a place where everything and nothing simultaneously matters.
They are strong swimmers; despite the incessant pull, they can keep up the breaststroke and hold their heads above water. But even the strongest swimmer gets tired and needs to ease up, leaving them vulnerable to the current and to slipping under…and maybe that’s what happened to poor Robin. After a brutally long swim, maybe he was simply too tired to maintain that stroke as he had all these years…and maybe it’s a beacon to the other weary swimmers out there to speak loudly when the fatigue hits, to find something to hang onto and catch your breath before it’s too late…even if you don’t want to.