Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The sky is brighter because it gained a new star . . .

Robin McLaurin Williams


We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark;
the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. ― Plato


I am still processing.  I was sitting on the couch with my daughter when the news popped up on my phone:  “Robin Williams dead at 63.”  


My kids asked me what was wrong, but I couldn’t speak as I furiously went to Google to see if it was really true.  Unfortunately, it was.  Robin Williams, our beloved funny man, was gone, apparently due to suicide after a battle of debilitating depression.

Since we share the same last name, I used to wish that Robin Williams was related to me.  But I believe that Robin touched so many people through his words, his art, his humor, and his generous heart - that many actually feel like they have lost a member of their family.  I go back and forth from being stunned and numb to laughing to crying uncontrollably.  And someone asked me “Why are you upset?  It isn't like you knew him, personally.”  No.  I never met him.  But everything he did - every role he played - every interview he gave - every stand-up he performed - he never held anything back.  He left it all out there. We were all honored and blessed to be able to experience the highs and lows along with him.  He was a phenomenal character actor and from all accounts, a kind and generous human being.  I don’t know how much more personal it can get than someone who gives all of his talent to the world and holds nothing back for himself.


You know what music is? God’s little reminder that there’s something else besides us in this universe; harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even the stars.   - Robin Williams as the Wizard in August Rush

I come from a musical and creative storytelling family.  My great-grandmother was a poet.  My paternal grandmother was an artist.  My maternal grandmother was asked to sing and play piano all over the area and was once offered a recording contract.  Many of my family members are artists, writers, and musicians. And my Dad is a funny man.  I think he could tell one joke a day for the rest of his life and never run out.  And the stories he tells of the pranks he has pulled (some of them on ME) still make me smile no matter how many times I hear them.  Our family listened to the Smothers Brothers on Vinyl, Bill Cosby on cassette tape, and when VCRs first came on the market (yes, I’m telling my age here), we would RENT a VCR and many of the videos we rented were of Dad’s favorite comedians:  Gallagher, George Carlin, and Robin Williams.  Our family has always relied on laughter and music to celebrate the good times and to help us through the rough times.  

There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.
― Erma Bombeck


My brother and I loved Mork & Mindy and watched it religiously.  I believe my brother and I even sat on the couch head first, just to see what the world looked like from Mork’s point of view.  And from that time on, I wanted to watch everything that Robin Williams was in.   His eyes held a spark that drew you in - whether eyes filling with genuine tears or crinkled with mischievous laughter.  And although most will remember him from the hilarious blockbusters like Aladdin and Mrs. Doubtfire (which are most definitely on my list of favorites); I was drawn to the films that made me laugh, cry and literally changed the way I felt about this life and the people who live in it with me.  Here are just a few examples:  

The movie that helped me solidify my love of language
They're not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they're destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? - - Carpe - - hear it? - - Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.   - Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poets Society

Question everything, while still being able to laugh 
at things that scare me . . .
What are you afraid of Dickerson? People might find out there's a war going on?
- Robin Williams as Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning Vietnam

One of the first movies that made me UGLY cry. . .
What we do know is that, as the chemical window closed, another awakening took place; that the human spirit is more powerful than any drug - and THAT is what needs to be nourished: with work, play, friendship, family. THESE are the things that matter. This is what we'd forgotten - the simplest things.  - Robin Williams as Dr. Malcolm Sayer in Awakenings

Love others, no matter what - even when it hurts
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you straightforwardly without complexities or pride. I love you because I know no other way than this. So close that your hand, on my chest, is my hand. So close, that when you close your eyes, I fall asleep.  - Robin Williams as Hunter Patch Adams in Patch Adams

The extremes to go to if it means saving someone you love
That's when I realized I'm part of the problem. Not because I remind you. But because I couldn't join you. So I left you alone. Don't give up, okay?  - Robin Williams as Chris Nielsen in What Dreams May Come

When funny isn’t funny . . .
Toys film Robin Williams.jpg
Oh yeah! I love jokes! I love all kinds of jokes. But you know what I don't like? I don't like people trying to kill me, hurting my family and my friends, and destroying the whole world as I know it. That just doesn't sit well with me.  - Robin Williams as Leslie Zevo in Toys

And of course, I have to mention some of the movie quotes that were used over and over throughout my life because of a Robin Williams movie:

Humans don't have tails. They have big, big bottoms that they wear with bad shorts. They walk around going, "Hi, Helen".  and Price check on prune juice, Bob.  Price check on prune juice. from Fern Gully.

My first day as a woman and I'm getting hot flashes; Carpe dentum. Seize the teeth; and  Oh, sir. I saw it! Some angry member of the kitchen staff, Did you not tip them? Oh, the terrorists! They ran that way. It was a run-by fruiting.  from Mrs. Doubtfire

I can’t even begin to tell you how much mileage we got out of Your line is, I want to set the Genie free . . . anytime . . . during high school drama club productions.

And I won’t even list all of the quotes from one of my all-time favorite movies, Hook except that on the first time it snows every year, either my brother, cousins, or I will call or text someone and say “It’s snowing!” [SLAM].  AND - I cry every time I watch the “Oh there you are, Peter” scene.

I think it is safe to say that Robin Williams and his art have touched my life and the lives of those around me.  From the outpouring of grief on social media - I’m not the only one.  Everyone is reeling at the news of this creative genius who is gone too soon.  But I know so many of us are asking - WHY?

Every one wants to be a Genius. But only the brave choose to go mad to get there...
― Stanley Victor Paskavich

Why was someone so loved, so funny, so full of the spark of life in such a dark place that he couldn’t take it anymore?  Why didn’t he reach out to someone and get help, before it was too late?  It is said that he has struggled with addiction and depression most of his life - so why was this storm so much harder to bear?

I believe in destiny. There must be a reason that I am as I am. There must be. - Robin Williams

For most of my life, I’ve been surrounded by creative people.  And I am no stranger to mental illness - or even the truly personal hell that depression can cause (my own and that of others).  Some of the most well-known and beloved inventions, music, writing, and art have come from the mentally ill - Ludwig van Beethoven and Vincent Van Gogh are said to have been bipolar and Charles Dickens struggled with depression.  Still, there is something so beautiful about that creative genius.  A UK psychologist, Mark Millard, said that "Creativity is uncomfortable. It is their dissatisfaction with the present that drives [creative people] on to make changes . . .” and Friedrich Nietzsche said that “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”  Maybe creative people ARE predisposed to a bit of madness - but it is what they do with it that matters.  I believe that Robin Williams gave us everything that he had.  And unless you have a mind that works like his - you cannot understand how giving of yourself for so long can take so much out of you.

The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create -- so that
without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating. ― Pearl S. Buck

For the creative genius, I think that in those moments of taking a break, of trying to recharge - there is chaos.  They know in their very soul that they were MADE to create, to share, to sing, to love, to laugh, to make others feel emotion - but in the rare moment of peace, of quiet, when burnout happens - they realize they don’t have anything left to give.  And no matter how much they have given in the past - artists are the hardest on themselves.  They know they need to recharge, yet they feel like they cannot breathe if they are not creating.  Robin himself said, “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

I am thankful and blessed for what Robin Williams brought to my life and to the lives of others.  And I hope that his untimely death will help bring to the forefront the importance of art in all its forms and how it is our duty to protect those whom God gave their own “spark of creation.”    I believe we must find ways to help artists continue to do their work, and to recharge without fear of becoming obsolete.  I am also thankful for the creative geniuses in MY life and I hope that each of them know that I am here for them always - and I will support them in whatever way that I can, for as long as I can - because I believe in their purpose in what they have been given and how the world is a better place with them in it.

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world. - Robin Williams

It’s important to note that it isn’t our job to judge, to fix, or even always to understand.  Sometimes - all a person needs is that quiet comfort of knowing someone loves them no matter what.  One of the best things I’ve seen regarding this subject is a comic from robot-hugs.com.


In memory of Robin Williams, I challenge you to support a “starving artist” or build a nest and climb in with that person who just needs someone near.  Offer help to those who have fallen down a dark hole and can’t seem to find their way out.  Share love and you will be amazed at the beautiful things that will happen.


You know, as we come to the end of this phase of our life, we find ourselves trying to remember the good times and trying to forget the bad times, and we find ourselves thinking about the future. We start to worry , thinking, "What am I gonna do? Where am I gonna be in ten years?" But I say to you, "Hey, look at me!" Please, don't worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you're ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day... make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.  
- Robin Williams as Jack in Jack