DAY 14: ON SUICIDE AND LEARNING A NEW DANCE

Robin Williams, “The Fisher King” TriStar Picturs, Columbia Pictures
Posted on May 24, 2017

”On August 11, 2014, Williams committed suicide at his home in Paradise Cay, California, at the age of 63…. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered in San Francisco Bay on August 12.”

I used to Love watching Robin Williams. He was definately my favorite comedian and absolutely one of my favorite actors. But what I Loved most were the movies he made in which he showed us his “serious side” especially in The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society. I probably saw pretty much everything he ever did, serious or funny.

When he first died, and all of the speculation and the media circus began, I had to mute the television because it was just more than I could handle. And since his death I still haven’t been able to even watch a single tribute to him. And in the almost-three years since he died, I haven’t been able to watch anything he ever made no matter how much I’d enjoyed them.

I think I just saw (and maybe still see) too much of myself in Robin. I’m referring to him by his first name because of the kinship I still feel with him, even though he is gone. He’d spent his life entertaining everyone, acting out the lives of the characters created in someone else’s imagination… putting on a good show for all the world to see. Painting so much more than my own pathetic pretty pictures, Robin was creating a legacy, all the while enduring his own demons just as Parry did in The Fisher King. But unlike Parry, he would never find his Holy Grail. And he would not end up looking up at the stars in Central Park. For Robin, his own Red Knight would ultimately consume him.

I’ve got a few Red Knight’s of my own and the truth of the matter is that I have spent much of my adult life like my friend, Robin, doing my own macabre dance with the idea of taking my own life… thinking way too many times that death had to be an improvement over the existence I was going through that felt nothing akin to a life. It just seemed like I’d earned that ticket out after trying to make sense of all of the shit God just kept throwing at me. It’s a horrible thing to admit, but God really pisses me off sometimes.

I’d make it through one episode… one dance… at a time. But I would never let it go as an option. Another load of shit and I was right back there in that no mans land… a land no woman could survive either. But being the perfectionist and the over achiever that I’ve always been, I never once actually made an “attempt.” When it came to my own self appointed ticket out, I knew that if I ever took that very final step it wouldn’t be any kind of cry for help. I’d never known a cavalry out there that was gonna come for me and I’d cried out enough times for help… help that never came. Hell I even had a soundtrack. “Sailing” by Rod Stewart.

And so I knew, without question, that should I make that final call I would not fail. It would be over. Finally. I would be free.

I know to a lot of you, probably most of you, that sounds incredibly selfish and I accept that. But unless or until you’ve ever found yourself in a place so dark that not a single beam of light can reach you, you’d be surprised to know that, in that moment, it feels SO much more like a courtesy than a burden. It feels like a gift to the people you Love or might Love you… even to anyone who had ever met you.

Notice I didn’t say anyone who’d ever “known you” because I’m not sure anyone ever has, or does, or ever will “know” me…. I don’t even know me so how could anyone else? And in those moments, it felt like a gift for Andy too… in many ways, even more so for Andy than any single individual. Because when I would end up in that nebulous place, I knew without a doubt that he deserved so much better than I was able to provide him.

What I also knew without a doubt… was that I had everything I would need to be successful.

And so, at about this same time last year, I danced that dance for the better part of a week and on into the coming weekend. Day after day I danced, pirouetting my way higher and higher trying to reach that invisible ledge that I’d carried in my mind for all of those years. And day by day, in the midst of so much darkness, I finally began to feel more limber and more graceful and more free than I’d ever felt before. And I pranced my way all the way up to the very pinnacle of my own mental mountain… only to find myself on a razor’s edge.

It was the closest I had ever come to finally giving myself permission to take my final bow. And honestly, I can’t tell you how or why I didn’t end up falling off. Like I said, I knew had everything I needed and I was not only ready to set “Sailing,” I was really ready. And I was happy to be on my way.

Obviously since I am here tonight, writing these words… perhaps writing my confession… I did, somehow, by some miracle, survive that long weekend.

But after that long weekend, come Monday, I would discover that a beautiful, vibrant, 23-year-old daughter of a friend of a friend of mine had not. She and I had been dancing on that same exact razor’s edge at some of the same exact moments during that same exact weekend. But, tragically, she had sailed away to a place that I had only imagined… never to return to the arms of her broken father.

There was something about witnessing the pain in the voice of my friend over the loss of such a beautiful young woman with so much promise… a child who’s youth and innocence he had shared with the family of this friend, his best friend. But even more, I would come to witness at a distance just a small portion of the pain and heartbreak of her father, of her family and of so many friends who had Loved her. And bearing witness to their pain finally shattered my own darkness as nothing else ever had. From her loss, I saw the damage of that final curtain call that was brought about by a pain so deep in a woman so young who’s soul was just too broken to carry the burdens she could not share…

And so, I changed my mind.

I had been just as close as she, but I had somehow survived. And knowing that we had been dancing so closely together, so close to that same razor’s edge, at the some of the same moments… I felt a connection to this young woman, this little girl who’s name I had never even known in life until hearing of her death. It’s a connection that I still can’t explain. In witnessing the pain that was left in the wake of her decision, her final decision, I began to feel as if I owed it to that broken little girl to stop dancing… or to at least try to find some new steps.

To find a barre that would hold me… a barre that was strong enough to hold onto instead of the one in my mind that had encouraged me to just… keep… spinning. To find some way to choreograph some new kind of routine that would allow some tiny ray of light to enter when that endless darkness came calling… asking me to dance just one more time.

And so I’ve had to let my friend Robin go… at least for now anyway. I’m really not angry with him. And I doubt many would agree with me but I’m actually glad that he’s not in pain anymore. Because I understand at least some of the torment that swept him away from us. But I still need that distance because I’m still working on that new routine and I’m still too afraid that his final reel could pull me back in.

And I’ve got a connection to a that little girl I never got to know in life, but who’s impact I came to witness after she was gone. I feel like I owe it to her, and maybe even Andy, to hold on when the seas get so rough that I feel like I’m drowning. I couldn’t save her, but maybe I can try to save me.

It took me a lot of years but I figure it’s really a good thing that I’ve come to understand a Loving and forgiving God. He still pisses me off from time to time… and I’ve been mighty pissed off at God and fentanyl and doctors and their miracle cures… and pretty much everyone and everything lately. I was actually screaming at God in a blind rage last night. And I even let Him have it some more this morning. I said some pretty ugly things and I’m not proud of it.

But, knowing He is a Loving and forgiving God… I think He understands. And I am blessed.

MLMB…

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