I had carved out some time today to take my friend, Patricia, to lunch and a movie, in honor of her birthday. The movie previews I’d seen had really piqued my interest, not necessarily because of the name actors, but more so because of the stunning visuals. I’d planned to experience the movie with Patricia, but I didn’t expect to be moved quite so deeply…
I’d never heard of the book “A Wrinkle in Time,” so I had no preconceived notions about the characters, or the story line. And as the story unfolded, playing out in vivid colors across the screen, I was transported across the universe.
The central character, Meg, reminds me so much of my friend Jade, a strong young woman who is remarkably mature for her age, wiser than her years, and who has helped restore my faith in young people. And the character of Meg’s little brother represents all the children I’ve known, who if not loved enough, could easily fall prey to evil, and end up on the dark side.
I won’t spoil it for any of you who may not have seen the movie yet, but this is another story about good and evil. And in today’s climate, we need constant reminders that good can win.
And if you believe that love and light can send ripples across time and space, this is a movie you’ll want to see.
Along with “Somewhere in Time” and “What Dreams May Come,” “A Wrinkle in Time” has now landed on my top 5 favorite movies of all time.
In “Boulevard,” the last movie Robin Williams appeared in before his death, his character was sad and lonely, even around the people who loved him. Nolan, portrayed by Robin, had lived his whole life as a lie. And in a split second, to satisfy his thirst for something tangible, something to make him feel alive again, he reached out, not to those close to him, but to a total stranger. It was a moment that he couldn’t take back. And he didn’t want to.
I won’t go into detail, for those who haven’t seen the movie yet. But as I sat in the movie theater on a Sunday afternoon, right here in Nashville where the movie was filmed, I actually found myself holding my breath several times, feeling Nolan’s pain and sadness. Or was it Robin’s?
In the end, Nolan had the chance to start over, to finally be true to himself. Though as the movie ended, we don’t know if he ended up being happy with his new life, or if he ended up lonely again, in a new city, still pretending to be someone he’s not…
I can’t help but wonder how making this movie may have impacted Robin’s life, and whether the story line may have left him more depressed… enough to take his own life.
The many personas of Robin Williams were so much a part of the fabric of my life, making me laugh in my formative years with the sheer genius of “Mork and Mindy” and all his other antics on Saturday Night Live and late night talk shows, and making me think and feel deeply in later years with “Dead Poets Society,” “Awakenings,” “Good Will Hunting,” and “What Dreams May Come.”
If you haven’t seen the latter, I highly recommend it. It totally changed the way I think about life, and death, and everything in between. It was, in my opinion, his greatest work. And coincidentally, the story line is about a man whose wife died by suicide. He loved his wife so deeply that when he later died in an accident, he went to hell, literally, to bring her back into the light.
It somehow brings me comfort to imagine someone on the other side, who loved Robin deeply, making that same journey to bring him back into the light…
No matter our beliefs, we have to hold on to something. And I’m holding on to that image of Robin smiling again. It’s the only thing that keeps me from grieving over losing him, all over again.
Life and living. Death and dying.
It goes on, down the Boulevard.
And we just do the best we can, trying to stay between the lines…
“Sober, tender and reassuringly unsentimental…As Robin Williams’ final film, it tolls a wonderful bell for the legacy of a distinguished career.” – Rex Reed, New York Observer
“Uncommonly compassionate, candid and courageous.” – Prairie Miller, WBAI Radio
“…one of the best performances of his career.” – Alfonso Espina, ScreenPicks.com
“…this is one of the kindest characters Williams has ever played, which makes his self-imposed turmoil — the consequence of not wanting to hurt anyone, least of all his wife — all the more tragic. Tapping into that same loneliness felt in “One Hour Photo” and “Good Will Hunting,” the actor projects a regret so deep and identifiable, viewers should have no trouble connecting it to whatever is missing in their own lives — whether those regrets are romantic, sexual, professional or spiritual.” – Peter Debruge, Variety
Yesterday, as I watched online as a friend performed on WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, I also had the TV on. It was muted, but when the news came across the screen that Robin Williams had died, I was dumbfounded. Then the news that it may have been suicide took my breath away…
No stranger to the mental health field, I’ve seen my share of the devastation that suicide inflicts on the loved ones left behind. For nearly ten years as the office manager in a counseling center, I saw the hollowed eyes of the depressed, the super-excitement of the manic, and the humble gratitude of those who survived a suicide attempt. Every day when the phone rang, or the door to our office opened, I never knew who would be crossing our path, and what baggage they may be carrying.
We all have baggage. But some of us stumble under the weight. And we get tired from struggling to carry it…
My first encounter with suicide was when a friend in high school told me that her mother had recently died by her own hand. I was 15 or 16 years old. I couldn’t fathom how anyone could feel so bad that they would hurt themselves, and leave their loved ones to question, and to grieve in a way I had never known.
And yet only a few years later, I found myself in a place where I was tired of the struggle, tired of the fighting, tired of being on this planet and trying to live up to other people’s expectations of what my life should be like. I was ready to check out, but a friend intervened. She was so kind and compassionate. She talked to me, but more importantly, she listened, without judging. To this day, nearly forty years later, we are still dear friends, with a spiritual connection across the miles that is beyond explanation…
The second time that death by suicide altered my life was about three years later. The husband of a colleague shot himself in the chest, on their bed. He had done it early in the day, so when the wife and young daughter got home and saw his car in the driveway, knowing he was home, the child ran around the house trying to find him to greet him. Her exuberance ended abruptly when she found him drenched in blood, not moving, not responding to her screaming out “Daddy! Daddy!”
For decades the image of that child finding her daddy like that has haunted me. Ironically, at that same time, one of the songs that was played in regular rotation on country radio was “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” by George Jones. To this day, every time I hear that song I go right back to that moment in her living room, and that look on her face when Pam told me what had happened…
I have watched through the years as people I knew, young and old alike, have either threatened suicide, or actually took their own lives, by various means – driving a car into a lake, drinking themselves to death, sitting in a running car in the garage, gunshots, and by playing “the choking game.” And there are countless others whose death by their own hand has shaken me to my core.
It’s all around us, all the time. And it doesn’t matter how a person takes their own life, we may never fully understand why.
Later in life, during a wildly spiritual phase, once again I found myself exhausted, and tired of fighting. I remember calling a friend, and simply saying “I’m so tired….” Thankfully that she heard the meaning between the lines, and came over to help.
Looking back, I know that I wasn’t really ready to check out that night. I simply needed life to change, to slow down, dramatically. And needless to say, after that experience, it did. I’m grateful for the exhausting and trying times, the low points, the days and nights of struggling. They remind me of how utterly fabulous the good times are, and if I had no way to compare them, I probably wouldn’t appreciate the good days quite as much.
Ironically, years later I would find myself working in a Suicide Prevention Training office. We served all of Tennessee, and reached hundreds of “gatekeepers” – the adults who regularly work with at-risk youth. It was very rewarding to work for such a wonderful cause, and to this day their training continues…
The most important thing that this training revealed was that if someone does hint at any suicidal thoughts, the best thing a friend or family member can do is to ask the question – “Are you thinking of hurting yourself?” Like CPR, the process is called “QPR – Question, Persuade, Refer.”
I’m not a therapist, and don’t claim to be, but here’s a good video that explains the basic fundamentals of QPR. And ANYone can do it, to help save a life.
There will be many stories about Robin’s passing on the news for days, weeks, and months to come. There will be calls to action, and people will be encouraged to reach out and help those suffering from depression and addiction. But simply put, we can’t help those who don’t want help. No matter the issue – addictions, suicidal tendencies, even homicidal tendencies – if the person suffering doesn’t want help, it’s likely not going to happen. While it’s true that Robin recently went into treatment again, as we all have seen, nothing is guaranteed.
Inevitably, Robin’s story will start to fade, and it will no longer be the top news item…
Then when the next big name dies at their own hand everyone will be in an uproar again. Or when there’s another mass shooting, by someone who is mentally ill, there will be more talk and anger and questions and meetings and quotes from the media….
And then what?
The sad reality is that, even though there ARE resources available, and 24-hour hotlines, and hospitals, and medically trained people who can help, too often the suicidal person either can’t or won’t reach out for help. Until we find a way to eliminate the stigma of mental illness, and accept it as simply another medical condition that needs to be addressed, we will continue to see suicides and homicides in unimaginable numbers.
It’s been said time and time again, but I’ll write it again here. A brain illness is no different from a broken bone, a bad heart, a tumor, or diabetes. It’s an ILLNESS, and should be treated as that, with NO judgment. Most of us know someone who suffers from mental illness, whether it’s clearly visible or not.
The question is – What can we do to help? How can we break down the barriers and make them feel less like an outsider than they already do? Where do we start? How can we make a difference?
Glenn Close seems to be finding her way with getting the message out. Her organization is trying to get the conversation started, and I truly hope they succeed. Here’s a very powerful video that she and her sister made.
In the movie “What Dreams May Come,” Robin’s character dies in an accident. And yet his love for his wife, who died by suicide, knew no boundaries. He literally went to hell and back to find her. How ironic that his life was ended by suicide. How sad, and how unexplainable…
As we all say goodbye to Robin Williams, the actor, the comedian, the brilliant human being that he was, let’s all remember that…
Sometimes the one who laughs the loudest is the one who hurts the most… ..
I decided to launch this blog, today, on February 17, 2014.
Why this? Why now? And why me?
The better question is – Why not?
As long as I can remember, I’ve written poetry. My first toy must have been an ink pen, because I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write.
Through the years I’ve even dabbled in songwriting, and had several of my songs recorded by several different artists.
I’ve spent my life behind the scenes, supporting others in various capacities, in the music business, in the corporate world as office manager, as virtual assistant for some in myriad businesses, and as hospice caregiver. I have enjoyed helping others, and still do.
My personal goal for 2014 was to get my thoughts out there to the universe, for the world to see. And with a little gentle prodding from a longtime friend and colleague, I picked a date, and I started gathering my thoughts for this blog.
Ironically, I had already been writing for weeks before that. This year I had also promised myself more time for me, especially in the mornings. I’ve always loved the game of solitaire, and with a warm cup of coffee in hand, I try to start every day with several games. It clears my head, and frees up the thoughts and ideas to come floating out. And those are what will be posted in this blog.
Join me on this journey, as I contemplate life’s questions, musings, and wonders…
Today I slept late, allowing myself the rest I needed. We often don’t think WE deserve to take life a little slower, to catch our breath. But sometimes we just need to push the “reset” button. With a smooth cup of coffee in hand, I started to play…
Sitting in the quiet, behind closed blinds, the first game of solitaire was uneventful, with only an average score. Sometimes the score isn’t as important as playing the game, and today’s no different.
As I play, I can think of something, or nothing at all, and ideas, solutions, and new perspectives come to me. Today I’m thinking of how many times I opened the solitaire app in the morning, and seeing that I had left off in the middle of a game, somehow my first reaction is to clear that game and start a new one.
Giving up on a game isn’t failure, Sometimes it’s more important to make the best use of our time, and to move forward instead of getting stuck in the past. Maybe we don’t need to get caught up in the rhythm of the last game, but we need to start fresh and set a new pace. We can start anew every day…
I play in the dark, before I open the blinds to let the world in. The world waits as I do something for me, as I take care of myself. And there’s nothing selfish about that.
No matter our place in life, we can’t take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves first. We need rest, and nourishment for our bodies, but we also need to feed our souls, so that we can go out and fulfill our purpose on this planet.