There is a quiet place, a secret place, that is yours for restoration. There is a realness in the stillness. Go there, when you can; when you need to. It's safe. For me, it is the Other Side of the Trees.
Dog, we get along fairly well. I feed her; I give her water; I rub behind her ears and her back. I allow her to come to town with us. She deeply appreciates getting away. Really, I don’t think I ask for too much. I’ve told her: “Stay off the couch.” Sometimes, she pretends to be asleep; pretends not to hear.
So, I remind her: “Stay off the couch.”
Again: STAY … OFF … THE … Couch. This time, she hears me.
So much written about R.W. Thus, Solomon’s piece, at the core of my writing: “It’s all been said before.”
Here some thoughts of a disc-jockey in “Good Morning, Vietnam”, a professor in “Dead Poets Society”, Mrs.Doubtfire, Teddy Roosevelt in “Night at the Museum”, Ramon the penguin in “Happy Feet”, Maxwell “Wizard” Wallace in “August Rush” … Those are a few parts of Robin Williams.
And here are a few parts of who I was, and how I was blessed, and impacted, by Robin Williams, and his art. I was the class comedian, high school; a joke for anyone and everyone. The rush of making people laugh was amazing. I studied the great comedians: Robin Williams, Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Jerry Seinfield, Steve Martin. Out of these mentioned, and those I have not mentioned, Robin Williams was … at times … present: where I was, what I was doing. I read a magazine interview with Robin Williams, and among the many things I read I remember something that wasn’t so cool. I paraphrase: Williams said that at times, when he was not doing well, he had to go somewhere by himself.
I was blown away by his prolific spontaneity linked up with priceless humor. I also couldn’t shake the idea that there was a dichotomy happening: humor / laughter with melancholy / depression. The mixture of these two forces haunted me a bit … and it was because I wanted my depression that I had struggled with since I was a child to be separate from everyone. I wanted to go to Robin Williams for robust laughter, and I did not want to know that the man who made me laugh struggled with depression like I did. Incidentally, I didn’t know, when I was a child, that it was depression. I didn’t learn that it was depression until I was in graduate school (my late thirties) … Sounds crazy. Robin Williams, to a large degree helped me to release some of my “crazy”, and to be able to sit with all of this, and to laugh through this.
If I could have a discussion with R.W., it might include some of these comments …
“Bro, just to make this clear, suicide, yes, I agree, is wrong.
Just as important, please know that there is no is condemnation coming from me, nor from my God. And, I’ve got no judgment for you.
My heart goes out to your family. I can only imagine that their pain is immeasurable. And its been said that there is no pain up in Heaven. But, I know your heart is good, Bro; and surely you feel some of their pain … But, I don’t know, because I don’t know much about Heaven. And by the way, I hope there are people making you laugh … I’m sure there was pressure, through most of your days, to make people laugh. I know that there are no excuses for ending your life; but there are definitely factors that contributed to your decisions. Our pain, our struggles, our failures, our shame, we are driven passionately away from all of that … toward something that relieves our suffering. And the relief is always temporary. When the performance is over, the Black Dog, depression, remains.”
Robin Williams messed up when he took his own life. I should have permission to tell my close friends when / if they messed up. And my closest friends have permission to tell me when / if I messed up. We can do that without condemnation. Do I condemn Robin Williams for taking his life? NO. Am I angry with Williams? NO, not so much angry, but sad. So, maybe the takeaway is this. We all need to “do” self-care. We need to take care of ourselves; and in turn, we can bless our families. If we are wounded, and we are not doing our own work, then how can we be our best with those we love?
“Holiday, coming. Are you heading southward, to see your folks? You have some older brothers, there as well, eh? And your parents?”
“Parents and my two brothers (a nod), down there, east of Dallas.”
Both men sat in the logged house, a small place, in chairs made of gnarled pine posts, smoothed from years of use and exposure to the wood stove heat. Words were suspended in the air, transformed into vapor and memory.
“I am not going back . . . “
“It is a drive, isn’t it …. What, about 1200 miles? Twenty-two hours?”
“If I drive straight through, its only about eighteen hours. And, around 120o.”
“Boy, that is a bear of a trip. So you’re not going to make it this year.”
“Naw. I’m not going back. Its one thing to pack up, load up, head out on a 1200 mile trip… (pause) But, the trip … or the thought of the trip … is a metaphor for the struggle I’ve had for years: ‘going back’ to the lies I bought into, the l mistakes I’ve made in my life. In that sense, I’m not going back, or backwards. ”
“So, why is it that we want to … ‘go back’?”
“For me, I think I go back to my past because it is easy, a path of processing that has very little resistance. I know those apparitions. I know my past. I think that I can change it by going there. As for what is ahead, I don’t know it because I’ve never been there. But I plan on going there, soon.”
“Yeah. Me, too. There is good stuff happening there.”
No, no. No-no-no-no-no-no. You are where you are at, and I am where I am at. And believe me: I wouldn’t want to be where you are at.
How’s the view up there? Up above guys like me who don’t have it together like you?
(Pause) What are you were asking me? And, I’m kind of in a hurry, okay? So, tell me what you need, and I will try to help.
I was asking you … how we … “I” … arrived here, at this place.
Our relationship? Fading. I have become isolated. My addictions, like work; like books; like fast food. And, life – – – I do not enjoy life as much. That’s a picture of what I am talking about.
Okay. (Pause) I have to get going, need to be somewhere. Take care of yourself.
You asked me about “this place” I am in, I told you, and I thought we were going to talk about it. But, you … are just leaving, now.
(Pause) I am sorry about your confusion. I can’t help you. I don’t do well with others’ shame. I don’t do well with addictions. Your isolation is something you have chosen; your relationships evaporating didn’t suddenly happen. It’s been in the works for a while. And your enjoyment of life? Not happening? I don’t want to have anything to do … with that. (Pause) On top of all that, you wouldn’t even hear what I have to say.
Why would I not want to hear what you have to say?
Because you are right where you want to be. And if you are right were you want to be, why talk about how you arrived at this place? If you wanted to change all that, you would. But, there is no change.
(Pause with some hesitation) Uhhhh, maybe.
You’ve got me all wrong.
‘Doesn’t matter. This is your party, not mine.
The dialog, above, is like a metaphor, representing some of the relational pain / disappointment that happens … on some level … in the human soul. Our hearts, our minds … bring about different dynamics of expectations (realistic and / or unrealistic), an arcane blend of intimacy (healthy and / or unhealthy, whether it be physical or emotional or both). The relationship and dialog happening up above is somewhat of a composite derived from my years working as a psychotherapist with married folks. Lastly, the nuances / verbal clues accentuate the factors / themes we deal with in our society, and our relationships:
“I don’t have the time to have this conversation …”
“Don’t blame me for you problems …”
“I don’t have any compassion for you, now …”
True, this is a rather cold exchange happening between two people. My hope is that one can see their thankfulness for being able to transcend such unhappiness, such insensitivity. We all need help, at different times, and in different ways. Here is a truth that is disruptive to many, and this truth applies to the “composite” dialog at the beginning of this post:
“Someone’s knockin’ at the door /Somebody’s ringin’ the bell / Someone’s knockin’ at the door / Somebody’s ringin’ the bell / Do me a favor / Open the door and let’em in, ooh yeah … “ (Paul McCartney, “Let’em In”)
Thinking about doors, and don’t know why … Stranger things have happened, and I don’t know why. Stranger things are not always a loss, not always a bummer, not always a washout. And doors get opened, and doors get closed, and I really, seriously, don’t know why.
“When people keep repeating / That you’ll never fall in love /When everybody keeps retreating / But you can’t seem to get enough / Let my love open the door / Let my love open the door / Let my love open the door … To your heart.”(Pete Townsend, “Let My Love Open The Door”)
Someone told me doors are to keep people out, and to keep people in. Some sojourners are looking for a safe place, a place of rest. Others may be looking for a non-safe place, where the crazy-talk is, where emotions are hellish. I like safe places, and doors play a part in all that. Closed doors can really get to me. Times like that, I ask “What am I supposed to do? Where am I supposed to go?” So, if you come by, find the door locked, leave me a voicemail, an EMAIL, a text, a scribbled note with some tape on the door, or a carrier pidgeon.
What do I know to be true? Know yourself, and I will know myself, and if I come up short in that area, then … then … What? Then what? Oh, my! Maybe the earth will rip off its axis and hurl into the sun!!!!
No, I doubt that will happen. Here’s one truth about me: I am able. I am able to do both good, and not-so-good. I am able to empower (good). I am able to enable (bummer, not-so-good). I’ve walked with many folks over the last 20 years in the counseling context. And in the realm of addictions, I have encountered the “enabling” dynamic a great deal. And, if an individual is an “enabler”, that does not mean … that their heart is not good. In fact, with every enabler I have sat with, there has always been a good heart. We, with our good hearts, are able to miss the bigger picture, to mess up the smaller picture. And we, with our good hearts, are able to walk with a soul and inspire, without many words. We, with our good hearts, are able to run races with specific individuals who have come into our world who want to run well, with love in their hearts … a healthy love, an empowering love, a fragrant love, a tough love, a tough love not without honor, a tough love not without integrity, a tough love not without gentleness.
I am able. I am able to go after myself with rocks and razored insults; rage and disgust. There is a fancy word for it, I think: “self-contempt”. Truly, I am not exempt from self-contempt. And, truly, there is no exemption from redemption.
And, to use the title of one of my favorite films, “When a Man Loves a Woman”, there is an indescribably intense piece of fighting with honor and love and fairness and staying in the place of a safe place. Not fighting with physical warfare. Not fighting with psychological abuse; or verbal abuse; or emotional abuse. No … this is a fighting where, at the core, is a deep authentic love for the other; caring for the other; and choosing to not let the other “off the hook” … because that is the last thing we need, to escape the responsibility of loving well and “doing relationship” well.
And that is all I’m going to say about that, for now.
That woman, there … with the long white dress, the cross sewn into the train … she has my heart, and it will always be that way. Those on both sides of the aisle show a glow, reflecting the beauty of this bride, an elegant one. Her countenance has a fragrance that reminds me of the Don Juan Rose.
She and I both remember, and reflect on from time to time, the trip to the airport, a few days before Christmas of 1994. I had met her in October. We went out a few times in November. And in December, we both needed to fly out of Denver … and somehow our flights went out on the same day (different planes, different destinations). So I had a good friend drive us both to DIA. We followed the creed of Christmas travelers: arrive early; thus, the pre-flight java before one of us flew south, and the other flew north. Less than six months later, we had a wedding.
A safe place. A commitment to live well with each other, and to love well with each other, and to look ahead, for the big things, with each other. Life is harsh, and we fight for each other. And we when we don’t see eye to eye, we fight with honor, with respect. We parent together. We rest from the storms, and we heal from the wounds, our stories have redemption. For my amazing wife, Happy Valentines Day, my love. I have had a place in my heart for folks who are in marriages that aren’t working. So difficult, as they don’t always know whether to stay or to go. A million dollar question for some is “Can this marriage be healed?” And in some cases, the only right answer is get out of the marriage. All of this is so difficult. I hope the best for all. We all need peace; we all need hope; we all need to be safe; and we all need to be loved well.