The loss of Robin Williams by his own hand has disturbed me all week.
I never met him, but like many of us, his body of work enriched me. In fact, four of his films occupy spots in my Top Ten. Remarkable.
He did not know me and yet he was a welcome guest in our living room ever since the fateful day he dropped in from Ork.
Perhaps then, I should not wonder why thoughts of his death and what must have been going on in his mind in the moments immediately preceding his exit have moved me to the edge of tears more than once this week. It helps explain why I felt led to harvest a photo of him from the web, cut it out and slip it into the pen holder on my desk at work as a silent salute. I looked at him for the better part of the week…wondering…reflecting.
I resent the media frenzy and all the inane shallow commentary masquerading in front of us as news coverage. Why the mad rush of celebrities and wannabees to tweet their two-cents worth? Particularly revolting when many of them did not know the man any more than I did. Opportunistic displays of feigned grief have done nothing but cheapen my opinion of them as they trample each other in a mad rush to hit the SEND button. Let his family be. This is none of our business at this point.
But there was one voice I found to be honestly representative of what so many of us were feeling. It was Billy Crystal, a renowned funny man in his own right, who simply tweeted, “No words.”
Two words. No words.
Suicide has stood in my doorway more than once. It is a skilled and opportunistic hunter. I would even go so far as to suggest that at one time or another, the dark assassin has stood in front of your door or the door of someone you loved deeply.
I would contend that each of us, each in our own way, has lived through the deafening silence in that Moment of Truth just before the next moment of No Return. It cannot be described. There are no words. But for those of us who’ve stepped back from the brink, we all nod in silent understanding and mourn the loss of one who did not.
[Group Leader stands] “For family, friends and those of you in perfect mental health, we appreciate you being here today. But as announced earlier, this is the point in the program when we need to ask you to leave the meeting. Please take a doughnut with you on your way out. Drive safely and we’ll see you back here next week.”
“Good. Now that they’re gone, we can talk about real-deal.
If you plan to hurt other people and then take yourself out with a bullet to the brain as the police come charging through the door, you have settled for being both a bully and a coward. I am not impressed.
If you could honestly be a contender in the hoarding championships on Buried Alive and suddenly find yourself organizing your cupboards and putting your bills into neatly marked file folders, you are in real and present danger. Pick up the phone. Now. Call one of the numbers listed at the end of this week’s post. Some would estimate that if this is you, you have maybe 10-14 days left to live.
If in the last 24-hours, you’ve had the thought, ‘I’ll show them’, your suicide will not have the devastating effect on the person(s) you’re trying to hurt. You’re giving yourself (and them) way too much credit. This is not Pitch Perfect, nor is it the time for a self-indulgent chorus of ‘You’re going to miss me when I’m gone…’ Instead, I would echo Frank Sinatra’s sage wisdom by suggesting if what you really want, is to get back at the people who have hurt you, start by succeeding at staying alive. As the Chairman famously said, ““The best revenge is massive success”. If you’re dead, they can gloat once they’re done with their crocodile tears. Who wants that as the final score?
If you haven’t gotten out of bed in 12-14 hours and you’re not running a fever, you’re going to need to take it slow. Start by washing your face or, better yet, get in the shower. Good. Now, take another step. Eat something – crackers, grapes, a bologna sandwich or a cup of soup – doesn’t really matter. One more little step…wash the dish you just used. Excellent. No big mountains to climb, just one little step at a time. Now go get dressed. You heard me. Put some clothes on and get out. Walk to the end of your sidewalk if that’s all the power you’ve got…or the end of the block. Go to a diner. Find a library or a park bench. Good. It’s good to be moving. Hear the birds? They’re not worried and dead people don’t get to do what you’re doing.
‘How many Tylenol (or those other little colored pills) will it take to stop my heart? Naw, it’s Tylenol…how about bleach? How long will that hurt before I’m done? What if I don’t drink enough and live? Maybe if I put on my heavy clothes and my work boots, I can swim across Lake Michigan. How long would that take? But what if someone sees me. Nope. That’s no good either.’
If you are actively planning, I would suggest you have more Life Force in you than you’re giving yourself credit for. Turn those mental wheels towards what you need to do in order to find a quiet place where you can call your best friend and say ‘help me’. If you don’t, your clock is ticking too. In some cases like this, you might not last the week.
Stack the deck in your favor for a change. Maybe you walk up to a fire station or into an Emergency Room at a hospital in a different town. Go sit on the steps of a church, synagogue or temple and when someone asks, ‘Are you OK?’ Say “No”. Let them take it from there.
Any or all of these approaches make you a winner because what you’ve effectively done is stolen problem-solving power back from the thieving thoughts already hard at work trying to figure out the best way to crash your car into one of the concrete structures conveniently located on your favorite highway and have it look like an accident. In that one moment of redemptive theft, you have taken a little bit of yourself back! That’s a win…a little win perhaps, but it’s a win. And slowly, painfully, you can begin to connect it to another ‘win’ and then, another. No one may know, but you will. You did that!
One of you reading this right now is doing your very best to convince yourself that no one cares. “What would it matter if I disappeared?” or “I’m done. Time to jump”. I get it. I hear you. I see you. I see you because there was a time not all that long ago when it was me, not you.
If the cold inky blackness of depression has whispered in your ear so long you find yourself trying to convince your true self it is the voice of a friend, you are being lied to.
If the pain inside has become so overwhelming you hear no other words but the silent seduction of death, just know I have been there and return this day to tell you my tale. It does get better.
No words. There is a time and a place for them. There is a season.
Three words. “I love you.” It is the strongest sentence ever constructed…especially when said as you look yourself in the eye in the bathroom mirror.
Two words. Carpe Diem. Those two words are the bridge to everything as English professor John Keating tried to explain to his students at Welton Academy. Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Fight. Do not go quietly into the night. Raise the alarm. We will come for you. Do that and there will come a day when it’s you, saving one of us.
That’s how it works.”
“They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”
Suicide Hotlines in the United States
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Robin McLaurin Williams
July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014
Mr. Williams is survived by his spouses: Susan Schneider (m. 2011–2014), Marsha Garces (m. 1989–2010) and Valerie Velardi (m. 1978–1988). His children are three; Zelda Rae Williams, Cody Alan Williams and Zachary Pym Williams.
born Betty Joan Perske;
September 16, 1924 – August 12, 2014)
Actress Lauren Bacall died this past week at the age of 89. Her decades of work on-stage and on- screen won her a loyal following, CBS critic David Edelstein offers this appreciation:
“Actress Lauren Bacall died this past week at the age of 89. Her decades of work on-stage and on- screen won her a loyal following, our critic David Edelstein offers this appreciation: Whenever we lose a link to lustrous, black-and-white Hollywood, the world gets a little less bright, and it dimmed this past week with the loss of Lauren Bacall – actress, glamour icon and, for a time, devoted wife of Humphrey Bogart.
She was a Jewish girl from New York, born Betty Perske in 1924. Six years later, her father abandoned the family. Thirteen years after that, after appearing on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, she and her mother arrived in Hollywood at the behest of director Howard Hawks. Bacall later said Hawks had wanted to find “a girl from nowhere” to mold into the ultimate “Hawks woman.” A female with male assertiveness, who gives as good as she gets. He hit pay dirt in 1944 when he cast Betty, whose name he changed to Lauren, opposite Bogart in “To Have and Have Not.”
She was tall, feline, insolent and that husky purr made her seem the opposite of what she really was: a scared, 19-year-old virgin who inadvertently created “The Look” — head down, chin low, eyes up at Bogart, to keep herself from trembling.
Bogie and Bacall had a teasing intimacy. She was an instant sensation. Playwright Moss Hart told her, half seriously, it would be downhill from there, and he was kind of right. She never burned a hole in the screen like that again, though she came close with Hawks and Bogart as a sultry rich girl in “The Big Sleep,” with dialogue rich in censor-dodging double entendres. Bacall and Bogart fell for each other hard and married when Bogart divorced his third wife, whereupon Hawks, who probably wanted Bacall for himself, stormed out of the picture.
The sad part is no director quite found her sweet spot again. She was happy with Bogart, though. They had two kids, threw great parties, palled around with movie and literary titans. But acting? Not much.
Few female roles in the ’50s could fully tap her wit, though she was cheeky and elegant as the den mother of gold-diggers Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable in “How to Marry A Millionaire,” and there were flashes of her marvelous timing in “Designing Woman,” where she wore clothes like a dream.
Bogart died in 1957 of esophageal cancer, likely from all those unfiltered cigarettes. And Bacall rebounded with an unstable Frank Sinatra, then moved to New York and married another hard-drinking actor, Jason Robards. Robards was as great in his way as Bogart but nowhere near as reliable.
The good parts stopped coming. But the 40-something Bacall stayed in the game by going on stage. As Margo Channing in the musical “Applause,” she won a Tony. She said she hated competing against other actors, but she thirsted for approval. A quarter-century later she finally got an Oscar nomination as Barbra Streisand’s mouthy mom in “The Mirror Has Two Faces.” More than a decade after losing, the Academy gave her an honorary Oscar. Betty Bacall never quite got out from under Bogie’s shadow, but she made her peace with that, and with the image of Lauren Bacall that will live forever, in glorious black and white, that slouching kitty with the sideways glance who matched Bogart quip for quip.
Yes, we lost a link last week to the glamour of old Hollywood, but more important, to its soul.”
Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauren_Bacall; http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/aug/16/hollywood-film-star-glamour-fame-lauren-bacall ; CBS NEWSAugust 17, 2014, 1:03 PM at: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/lauren-bacall-smoky-voiced-actress-and-glamour-icon/
Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
Robin Williams: by dan4kent © dan4kent.wordpress.com (images 1, 2, 3 & 4); GROUP THERAPY CAFE @ KATONG V IS NOW OPEN FOR BUSINESS Visit us at 30 East Coast Road, Katong V, #01-11. OPEN DAILY FROM 9AM – 9PM – http://www.gtcoffee.com/; Robin Williams as Professor John Keating in Dead Poets Society (c) 1989 Buena Vista Pictures
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