I’m sitting at the bedside of my four-year-old daughter as she slips off to sleep. The monotonous clicks of my keyboard hypnotize her, and she stares at my screen as I type, unable to read the words, yet fixed on the glow as it slowly lulls her eyes closed in her toddler exhaustion. Bedtime stories have been read, Barbie shoes are aligned neatly on her nightstand, and she’s fighting the last daily battle with wakefulness. It has been a busy day for her, a Thursday, just like the other days before this one and the ones to follow. She’s got things to do and see, and once her feet hit the ground, she’s on a mission of discovery and wonder. I can’t help but think of how lost I will feel on the day when she no longer reaches over and strokes my hair with her tiny hands; when she’s too grown up to play mommy to this mommy, when she’s learned to braid hair for real after experimenting endlessly on mine, and when she understands that the grey hairs that are beginning to show themselves in my mane were not my choice or creation. If only we could always protect them, allow them to hold on to that innocence forever, keep those wolves always on the other side of the door.
“IF”. A two-letter word that spawns so much emotion and creativity. “If this…, then that…”. “If only I had…, then I could…”. If I can…, then I would…”. It is life’s endless mad lib!
The lump in my throat that formed three nights ago is beginning to subside. I found it forming there after I learned the news this week of the tragic death of Robin Williams. I don’t know why the news has had such a profound affect on me and millions of others around the world. After all, celebrities do pass away, just like so many have done and all of us will do one day. They even do so at their own hand, as he did, and as many others have sadly done and will do one day. Why this man? Why did his dying hurt us so much? Why am I suddenly and acutely aware of my mortality, and the crescendo-ing breathing pattern of my four-year-old in the bunk bed behind me, her little hands falling away from my hair as she is overtaken with sleep in a sea of stuffed animals and dollies?
I don’t know the answer to these questions. But I do know that life is short. Too short. I know that we spend a lot of time worrying about the past and the future, and not nearly enough time in the now. I know that we need to stop and observe the simple gifts we’ve been given. We need to stop allowing ourselves to think that we know everything because we have walked in our shoes down our own paths. After all, there are a multitude of paths, not just ours. To think that we have a grasp on our life is one thing. To think we have a right to criticize anyone else who has chosen a different path than ours is another. No one walks in our shoes, and we can’t walk in anyone else’s.
We live our lives stamped with self-adhered labels. We are Christians or Muslims. We are Conservatives or Liberals. We are gay or straight. We are amateurs or professionals. We are funny or serious. We are successes or failures. It goes on and on and on…Why do we do this? Why can’t we just be the one thing that we all share: being human? I will never understand this pressure we put on ourselves as a race. No one can be any thing perfectly. And why would you strive for perfection? There’s only one place to go from there…Think about it!
We all thought we knew exactly who Robin Williams was: an incredibly talented, quick-witted and genius comedian. He could make us laugh at the most terrible things in life. And he could turn around in the next second and remind us that life was filled with terror. In his art, he didn’t teach us to laugh in the many faces of challenge. Rather, he taught us to laugh in spite of them. And he humbled us by reminding us that we were still human, and all of us could still feel pain, even him. Tremendous pain.
When I watched his films, I was mesmerized by the way he allowed himself to be vulnerable in front of the camera. But there was something about him that always haunted me, and I didn’t know what it was until he took his life. Now I think I know. He wasn’t just acting. This man was tearing himself open for us, exposing his most human side for all of us to see, time after time on the screen. Yet, so many labeled him as a comedian, an actor, a celebrity…The truth is he was human, just like us. He wasn’t immune to enormous amounts of pain, and he showed his to us. He gave us everything he had on stage, both to make us laugh and to make us cry. We adored him because he was genuine, not just a celebrity up there for a paycheck. He was believable because he wasn’t pretending. He was a rare and real man, and I doubt I will ever see another one like him in my lifetime. That makes me selfishly sad…
Now, he is gone. I feel crushed, but I hope he is at peace. I hope somewhere, he is laughing. Because I wonder who it was that made Robin Williams laugh when he wanted to cry…like he did for so many of us. I hope he had someone who gave that special gift to him while he was with us in his short time. I really, with all of my heart, hope that…
Now, I find myself listening to the crickets droning behind my daughter’s subtle snoring. I hear my son rustling in the kitchen below, and I have simple wishes for them both: to laugh, cry, and love; to never forget that they, too, are gifts to the world, meant to touch others and be happy as they walk their own separate paths; to always stop to pick someone up; to ask others for help; to enjoy the sound of laughter within and around them. Because life is too short to live without these things. All we have is right now…and every single life matters…even the ones we don’t understand. Because judgement is not in our job description. However, being human is…
another great entry!!!!!
see ya in Naples!