Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Fisher King Has Left the Building

Like many, I have loved being entertained by Robin Williams.  Whenever The Birdcage comes on, I find myself watching it again and again.  It's the same with interviews he did, such as the one for The Actors Studio where he did some brilliant improvisation.  He was incredibly talented and he made me laugh.

One favorite movie was not a comedy, far from it actually.  It was The Fisher King and it was not an easy movie to watch nor was it necessarily a happy one.  In it, he plays a man whose tragic loss has sent him into homelessness and a deranged fantasy life.  There's much more to it but what drew me in was that it was a story of redemption and that by the end, one of hope as well.  I think that last part was the key.  Yes, I am a hopeless romantic and do like things to turn out well, but really, what's wrong with that? 

When he did these dramatic roles, it felt like he was tapping into some internal knowledge that made the characters more real.  I know actors are acting but there are times when it feels more tangible.  Perhaps he did tap into something, perhaps he was just that good an actor.  I'll never know.

We all have our challenges and I wonder what it is that gets some of us through and others not.  I think of people I knew who have chosen to end their lives instead of live them and I always wonder why.  I also wonder if there was a way to have helped them.  

Depression is one of those things that people don’t like to talk about.  It has a stigma attached that compels most to hide it.  Some are quite good at masking it.  You’ll see them smile and do a little light chitchat but internally, they are actually in the depths of depression and you never knew. 

What brings it on?  Is it the failure of not reaching expectations?  I’m not really sure.  I do know that once there, it’s a feeling of being lost and not knowing where to go or how to get there.  A darkened path with no apparent hope.  

One writer said he was angry that Robin Williams didn’t reach out.  I am too, but I understand a little.  When one is in its depths, it doesn’t seem like you can reach out to anyone.  It’s too far and too dark.  It’s The Stranger within – thank you Billy Joel for understanding that.  

I remember in the early 80s, I had a period of personal challenges.  Nothing in any area of my life was going right.  Some were because of bad choices, others, well, just circumstances.  I coped by numbing the pain with a little pharmaceutical help, which only made it worse.  My family was no comfort, in fact someone close made cruel comments that sent me deeper into despair.

I was fortunate.  A friend, who was off to spend the weekend with some mutual college friends, one of whom was getting married, noticed something was off before she left.  She wasn't sure what, just that things were not quite right.  It was enough that she decided to call and check in on me, a bigger deal when cell phones were not around.  Was it that call or the fact that I felt someone cared enough to check?  Was it me wondering who would take care of my beloved pet?  I'm not really sure, maybe all of it.  What I do know is that at that moment when I looked into the face of darkness, I chose light.  It was housed in a tiny speck of hope but I saw it. 

Sometimes, I still encounter a little bit of the dark.  What helps me, aside from being older, generally happier, and hopefully even somewhat a little wiser, is that I always remember that in that moment so long ago, I was strong enough.  I found my way out and chose life.  It keeps me strong still.  I’m still guilty of keeping the darkest stuff to myself and not reaching out till I’ve made that first step or two outside the shadow, probably because I think I’d scare a few people if they ever knew just how black it really gets. 

These days, I also make better choices and have found healthier ways to cope.  Instead of numbing the pain, I work through it by taking a walk, spending time writing or painting, perusing the beauty of the world I live in, and yes, even volunteering to spend time with the horses and shovel manure. Of course, a call or email from a friend always helps as well.  It all shines the light a little brighter so that I can continue to find the right path.

The Fisher King has left us.  My guess is that he was just unable to find his way out one more time.  It makes me sad that our world is just a little dimmer without him.   RIP Robin.