My head has been swirling for the past couple weeks for many reasons. Two of which are the sudden death of Robin Williams and the ongoing debate over the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. In regards to the ALS debate: I ask you this – When was the last time you heard a conversation or saw a commercial about curing Alzheimer’s, Cancer or Heart Disease? Okay. Then when was the last time you heard a conversation or saw a commercial about curing ALS? Yep. That’s what I thought. Our silence about this insidious disease is allowing it to claim more victims with each passing year.
I’ve been amazed and so disappointed at the rude, ignorant comments that have been left on some ice bucket challenge posts. Ignorance is never bliss people. Knowledge is power. And asking questions is a form of kindness, intelligence and love. So ask away. Learn something new. Next time you watch a silly ALS Ice Bucket Challenge post – Listen to your friend’s gasp as they receive a shock to their body and mind. Think of the ability they have to run away from the shock, as most of them do, to grab a towel as they dry off and warm up…comforting their body. Remember that from that point on, they can get back to life as usual. Then please join the rest of the country and continue to donate millions to find a cure for ALS. And please remember, it’s not about the ice bucket. It never was. It’s about raising awareness and raising money. It’s about ALS.
Through all this (and more) I’ve learned, once again, that life is funny. And people are funnier, still. Even sad people like Robin Williams.
Life is confusing and hard. We set goals. We make plans. We fail and we fall. We get up again and again, feeling a little more bruised for having fallen so much.
WHILE OTHER TIMES
Life is beautiful and grand. We set goals. We make plans. We watch them fall into place, like that last piece of the puzzle as we exuberantly exclaim, “There, I did it!” Almost forgetting the frustration of trying to make the edges fit so you could fill in the center. And we feel grateful for having connected all the peculiar pieces together so well. Remembering that odd piece that didn’t seem to fit at all…until it was so obvious you wonder how you ever missed it.
So where do we start? On the edge? Or in the center?
BOTH ARE IMPORTANT
Feeling, still, mystified by the affect that the death of Robin Williams had on me: as a sadness fell over me, a verbal gasp followed by, “What??” as I heard the news. As if I personally knew him. Obviously I didn’t know him nor have I ever met him. But like many, I felt a connection due to his openness. His humanness. Such an endearing person. A multi-talented individual. A person who by all accounts was giving and loving. Apparently generous to a fault. A larger than life personality. A wonderful father. Husband. A lovely human being.
So why then, couldn’t he…no matter how much his family loved him, live past the dying on the inside? No matter how hard they secured his edges with their loving arms and hearts – his center remained empty. No matter how much or how often they worked together to fill his center – his edges fell away.
DEPRESSION IS THAT DIFFICULT PUZZLE. AN INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL RUBIK’S CUBE.
I don’t claim to personally know anything about depression. But here’s what I do know. Several people who I know and love have shared their struggles with me. And frankly, I’m sick and tired of having “closeted conversations” about mental illness with them. I’m fed up with the fact that they feel they can’t talk about their illness in the bright light of day without fear of judgment!
THIS HAS TO STOP!
Every smile we see has a thousand frowns that came before it. A singular moment that attempted to define a human being. A million teardrops that washed away the hurt. And then back to smiling. And perhaps my sadness lies in the sheer fact that all the while Robin Williams smiled. As he made other people laugh and smile – he wore an internal frown. I’m not saying don’t smile. I’m not saying don’t be positive. What I am saying is that what society tells us is confusing and misleading.
WHAT DOES SOCIETY TELL US?
Society often tells us – Chin up! Cheer up! You can do this! Or better yet – Be Strong! These encouraging words are all fine if you’re not trying to slay an internal monster, invisible and unknown to others.
Strong is one of those undefinable words like normal. Go on. Try. I defy you to define it. What if being strong steers us away from getting to the root of the problem? What if being strong means letting go of all you know and crying until your brokenness begins to heal.
Society doesn’t always tell us to get to the root of the problem. It tells us to dig it up and start over, albeit in the same diseased plot of ground. And to smile. And so we walk around wearing our smile masks proudly. Our humanness hidden.
Living past the dying on the inside is in knowing that no matter how broken you are, there is hope that it will not break you. No matter your brokenness – be it a few scattered pieces or a hundred thousand pieces. This will not break you.
But please – feel free to be broken. To tell your broken story. And to ask for help from another broken human being.
THIS IS CALLED HOPE. THIS IS CALLED LIGHT.
WE DON’T LOSE LOVE.
WE LOSE HOPE.
IT’S TIME TO TAKE THE MASK OFF THE FACE OF ALS AND DEPRESSION. PLEASE.
I suppose that in the end, Robin William’s comedic, genius mind, along with his beautiful heart and soul, couldn’t overpower his tormented mind. The mind devoid of hope, inside the face of a million smiles.
And while we are all saddened by his passing, I know the angels are laughing like they’ve never laughed before.
I now have a renewed hope. To be honest, a hope I’ve never given much thought to: That ALS now has the eyes and ears, the hearts and minds of our country. And that, one day, a mask will be something solely worn for Halloween.
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings a tune without the words and never stops at all.” Emily Dickinson