Like the rest of the world, I have been grieving the loss of Robin Williams. I have had a hard time talking about his death. And now that there has been a week to distance ourselves from the news, words are starting to come a bit easier. There has been a lot of talk about his dealing with mental illness, and now the parkinson’s disease revelation, and how that had affected his mental state and general well-being. Everyone I know has had a very definite opinion about this tragic event. Some are understanding, some are still in disbelief, while others are extremely angry. But me, I’ve just felt kind of lost. I wasn’t terribly surprised, and I don’t really know why. I certainly didn’t expect this to happen, but I can’t say that I was shocked to hear about it. But I will say that his suicide has hit me very hard.
I’d like to share my story, not because its special, or magical, or entertaining. I want to share it, because I think it might be common. I think others might feel the same way, and I think it needs to be said.
I believe that I have been so troubled by this news because somewhere along the way I formed a personal relationship to him. I have never met Robin Williams, but I grew up in a dysfunctional household, and he brought giggles and smiles to a kid who desperately needed them. There wasn’t a lot of laughter in my house when I was growing up, but my father found Robin Williams to be hilarious. Life was always better when my father laughed. And so for that alone, Robin Williams was cherished. But there was something more. Something that reached a little farther than making my father happy.
Robin Williams connected to a sad and lonely kid. A kid who really only knew pain. He gave a smile to a girl who didn’t feel like she was allowed to enjoy life. His humour seemed to come from a different place, one not rooted in reality. It seemed to surprise him as much as it did the rest of us. I found it comforting that he was so “out of this world” but when I looked at his eyes, they seemed to understand pain and darkness. This was someone who I felt understood my pain. I know it sounds ridiculous to say all of this, But when he paused to take a breath, when he stopped moving for a moment, I swore that he was like me. Just someone who was better at hiding his pain. And through watching him, he taught me, that I too could put on a brave front and be charming and funny and odd. Not all the time of course, but there would be times that I could be like that. Robin Williams taught me how to pretend. A skill that has been useful in my life.
But its hard to swallow that kind of pain constantly. Its impossible to be brave all the time. Its much easier to be real, and be ourselves although others might not want to see us this way.
Robin Williams will always be important to me, because he was the first celebrity that I was able to sense there was something else going on-besides his manic stage persona. Even though he hid his pain from us for so long, those glimpses of sadness (or whatever else you want to call it), comforted me. Those moments let me know that I was ok and that it was normal to be sad.
Goodnight Mr. Williams. Thank you for all that you have taught me.
**Photo Source – Flickr – Charles Haynes