There are just too many words to keep sorted out in my head.
I do try never to make a bigger deal of one life than another because I sincerely believe that all of our lives have deep value. The news of Robin Williams, however, has me stopped and staring.
Like many of us, I imagine, I've admired Mr. Williams over the long course of his acting career. But I would not call myself a fan ~ only because I'm not a member of anyone's fan club, really, outside of my family. It's more that I have appreciated Mr. Williams as a fellow citizen, possibly of the same ilk. You know ... smart, funny, humane, "together". Yes, I like to think I'm somehow kin, even if only on paper.
So to see this news is like, "Oh crap, man. If he lost it, then..."
And I'm making this all about me again. Apologies, again. All is vanity, indeed.*
But I'm not the only one, I know.
I'm not the only one trying to come to terms. Or who does, in fact, relate somehow.
By now, many of you know that many years ago, I was engaged to a man who took his own life. I've had a myriad of contemplations and questions I would ask the man, but, because he cannot answer, I've chosen to rest on a certain possibility. I've chosen to believe that he believed he was choosing in favor of those he left behind.
(Very Important Note: I recognize the potential here for pain, anger, and backlash. I've read plenty of commentary on this subject and know too well, too personally, the ways that it affects those left behind. Please understand: I've chosen to believe...)
And that choice is rooted in another way that I relate to the subject. It's not really been a secret, but I've also never said it on paper (or possibly outside my head)... I have - many times, in fact - considered writing my own exit scene. Not so often in recent years (thank the LORD), but there's also a sharp contrast between my youthful and more recent contemplations. When I was a child, it was a fanciful, nearly romantic, and admittedly entirely self-centered thing to consider.
(This is hard. How on earth do you measure every. single. word. in a very best attempt to do no harm?)
(Switching to summary format.)
I'll dare not say that it's ever anything other than self-centered.
But I'll also dare not say that it's not ever anything else.
When I was a very young child ~ as young as seven- or eight-years-old, perhaps ~ a very close family member used to tell me about his passage strategies. And I mean the whys, the hows, the possible very specifics. I've thought about it through the years, but not a lot. I could be (could have been) angry, bitter, or just disturbed that I would be introduced to such a concept at such an age. I used to think this sort of early education set a certain stage for me - one on which I would always only walk in circles but never actually exit. Again, however, I've made a choice and that is to believe I was (strategically) given an early glimpse into the battle that too many of us would fight.
(Whether or not the introduction was some sort of poison dart is something I may or may not think more about later.)
I have a favorite poem** that starts...
Suddenly, I stopped thinking about Love,
after so many years of only that,
after thinking that nothing else mattered.
And what was I thinking of when I stopped
thinking about Love? Death, of course—what else
could take Love’s place? What else could hold such force?
I cannot read this but that it seems the reverse of my experience. I began with so keen an eye turned toward death, but have replaced its force with love. Death is ever-present but I choose love.
Oh, how my heart hurts that Mr. Williams chose to exit.
I'll dare not say, however, that I can't imagine what brought him to it.
Oh, Lord, I pray this post does no harm. I pray I am not writing too soon or too personally or too thoughtlessly. And I pray for all of my fellow citizens, but especially for those who find themselves sometimes in that place.
Please, please, when you feel caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, make a fist*** and push through.
**At The Moment, JOYCE SUTPHEN
***Making A Fist
NAOMI SHIHAB NYE
For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.
“How do you know if you are going to die?”
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
“When you can no longer make a fist.”
Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.