It's Hanukkah, 1992. My Dad goes to his closet and pulls down a beautifully wrapped box from the highest shelf; lord knows I can't freaking wait until sundown to open gifts. I hungrily tear the paper from every side but the scotch taped ones. I know what I'm about to see. The shiny, Star of David print wrapping paper, now a pile of trash on the living room floor and left in my tiny hands is a bulky, heavy, cumbersome box, housing my very own VCR! "Daddy! We have to set it up in my room, now!" And I scamper away like a bunny on methamphetamine, ushering my Dad to my room...as if he doesn't know where he was going. I do some kinda "potty dance" in anticipation of him plugging in the magical machine, and after he "activates" the VCR, he presents me with an accompanying gift...Aladdin. I pull open the thick, Trapper Keeper like box, take the video out and eagerly push the plastic black rectangle into the brand new machine. I can still hear the tiny whines of the paleolithic apparatus, as the movie begins. My Dad insists on fast forwarding the film, to make sure both gifts are up to snuff and working properly. He presses play and up pops our beloved Genie, singing "You Ain't Never Had a Friend Like Me".
So, that's my story of how Robin Williams came into my life, enriching, enlivening and impacting my childhood. I'm not even gonna get in to how after I saw Mrs. Doubtfire I gathered every toothpaste, ointment, paste and shower product in my house and tried to make "plaster" for my very own Mrs. Doubtfire mask. The mask didn't come out quite right and it took forever to get the A&D Ointment out of my hair. We live and learn.
It's truly phenomenal how quickly and with such passion blogs, articles, vlogs, Facebook posts and tributes have been composed in honor of our extremely talented, one of a kind and deeply significant Robin Williams. I say "our" because his work, his words, his presence and his influence has affected and/or inspired us in some way. I can feel it in every tearfully written status update, every television interview and in the eyes of people I see in person, everyday.
Though there are plenty of articles commenting on Bipolar Disorder, and Clinical Depression, as well as attacking the way in which he died and unfortunately bashing his children, there are even more heartfelt, genuine and sorrowful pieces that do honor the notion that this is a great loss for us all. To me, this is what keeps us connected in a culture that continuously finds more ways to disconnect.
I humbly admit Mr. Williams' death has opened my eyes to the seriousness of depression and mental illness as a whole. I've always considered myself to be somewhat worldly, extremely empathetic and attuned to darkness in the human experience. But I didn't know Robin Williams was suffering from mental and emotional illness. I didn't know he'd been battling with deeply rooted feelings of sadness, hopelessness and isolation. I didn't know our Genie's pain would kill him. I didn't know it could kill him, or anyone. Sadly, I don't think the folks passing public judgement on his illness know much about it either. If they did, perhaps they'd understand that a person's emotional, spiritual, physical and intellectual experience on this earth belongs to them and only them. It is not always meant to be understood, analyzed, exploited or judged.
Having said that, I want to acknowledge that no matter how many medicines we manufacture, affirmations we hear, therapy sessions we attend or self help books we read, we human beings are incredibly sensitive and vulnerable creatures. We're the only species aware of our own mortality and collectively, we are exposed to the uncertainties and inconsistencies of life on a minute by minute basis. The outside world, as well as the world we create and call 'home' in our mind, can be a very frightening place. The out pour of support and resources for those suffering through Depression, Bipolar and any other mental illness is so wonderful to see. This is us taking action and responsibility for one another.
So, my friends, I am profoundly sorry for Robin Williams' family's loss. I am deeply sorry for mine, and I'm heartily sorry for yours. Through compassion and giving each other unconditional permission to grieve this loss and validating each other's sadness, we do become closer. It is a good idea to reach out and hug, text, call, message or french kiss (if appropriate) the ones we love and appreciate; not because we don't know how many days we have left, but because we fundamentally, spiritually and radically need it while we're here. Period.
We don't always think happy thoughts, we won't always like our body, we're not 100% satisfied with whom we call our friends every second of the day, but as long as we cultivate and create awareness about each other and go to sleep each night wishing well for others, we're in good shape. Because in this life, on this day, in this moment, we never know What Dreams May Come..