Robin Williams made laughter his legacy. Learning that he lived with enough emotional pain to cause him to end his life is extremely sad, and has a lot of us feeling things. Is it the irony, that he brought joy to others, while holding internal hurt himself? Is it the contradiction that he appeared happy, but wasn’t? Is it the clash of celebrity and fragility? Or is it the CRY to be real, with ourselves and with others? I think it’s each of those things, (and more, of course) that has us feeling down about his death, but I’m going to focus on the last one. Being real with ourselves and others, in the face of depression*, melancholy, sadness, grief, sorrow, and other not-happy emotions that our culture loves to hate.
Sadness visits to slow us down.
To catch and keep our healing attention
on a hurt -- our own, or someone else’s.
To mature our palate with the taste of bitter.
To tenderize our toughness, and humble our harshness.
Sometimes, you’d swear the sadness will slay
and obliterate you. Or suck out all your hope-juice
and leave you a dehydrated shell of a person. Sometimes,
it ruthlessly does. But it can also sink you to the bottom
of your own ocean floor… where there are undiscovered
strengths waiting to be found by you. But you gotta dive.
And here’s something else: You can get good at sitting
with sadness, and learn to aim it at something you’d like
to destroy. Then, like salt on ice, that sadness will burrow
its heat into the thing you choose to melt.
Or, you can use it to create something beautiful.
Or delicious. Or useful. Sadness is a NATURAL PART OF LIFE
that, for me, has been easier to manage, than the strong
social pressure to be happy all the flippin’ time.
That nagging pressure just encourages fakery and repression.
But a door is opening for us all to enjoy deeper, more
authentic connection based on what is real.
Sadness doesn’t need to be pepped up with egg-yolk yellow,
and engineered smiles that hide shadows and secrets
that are growing grotesque in the dark. They crave air and light, too.
I’m not romanticizing sadness, but legitimizing it.
I’m asking that we please stop shooing, shunning
and shaming unhappiness. Diagnosed, or not.
Medicated, or not. Long therapeutic history, or not.
Emotions distinguish us from other life forms and, have you noticed?
We’re kind of… emotionally STUNTED. Uncomfortable and awkward
with intimacy. Shielding, blocking, deflecting, avoiding, masking,
hiding, pretending, distancing… all while *hungry* for true connection,
but scared to let our real face and whole heart show, because we know
the rules of domesticated happiness. But when we hear the crackle
from an illusion shattered, it's a good time to press “reset” if we want.
I get bummed too, Robin.
He held both light and shadow.
Like we all do.
May he rest in peace.
* Learn more about depression here.