12 August 2014

You Are the Pan

One of the most entertaining and awkward experiences of my life is when I've talked with audiences after performances I've given.  I'm always slightly entertained and creeped out by the well meaning and enthusiastic people who have wanted to set me up on dates, for example, and I've had to smile and think "You know that really wasn't me. . .  I mean, it was - but those words and actions weren't mine.  You know that. . . right?"

In some ways it's a compliment to me.  That people who watch me are convinced enough that the person I was portraying had real emotions and motivations.  That's basically the goal of any actor.  But on the other hand, it's a bit awkward and can lead to some confusion when the line between my out of theater reality and in theater performance is misunderstood.

***

It's a strange thing to mourn the death of a celebrity - especially one that seemed to become everyone's favorite uncle, imaginary father, and most beloved teacher.  Like many others have said about the death of Robin Williams - it's like a part of my childhood, a very happy part of my childhood, was just snuffed out, and no amount of clapping can bring it back.

And what makes it so hard is that this time it was snuffed out by Mr. Williams himself.  It's no wonder people are reacting so passionately.  How could someone known for his humor and incredible way of diving all in to everything he did be so desperately depressed and everyone not know it?  What is wrong with this world?!

Suicide is a topic rather close to my heart.  Not all that long ago, I wrote about how there is always a better answer, a better way.  And I still believe that.  I still believe, and always will, that suicide of a loved one is one of the hardest things a person can live through.  I honestly can't think of anything worse than being close to someone who ends their own life.  The grief is unbelievable.

But after reading Matt Walsh's assessment of the situation, I feel the need to elaborate and add to what I originally said.

Do I believe that suicide is a bad solution?  Yes.

Do I believe that suicide is a selfish solution?  Yes - at least from the perspective of those left behind.

But I will never ever feel anything but incredible sorrow for a person who makes that "selfish" decision.

So if you are close to someone (or feel close to someone) who has chosen to take their life, be angry.  Be as angry and as sad and as hurt as you need to feel because that grief is real and justified.  But please don't dismiss or condemn the pain of the person who actually died.  I know there are people out there who have killed themselves for cowardly reasons or as a cry for attention gone wrong, but I also know that there are people out there who are suffering from depression and pain so keen that it absolutely changes perception of reality, and it is not my job to assess the motivations of others.  My heart just aches for people who reach a point of such despair and anguish that the only option that offers any possibility of relief is to just be done.  The mere thought of what it would be to feel that kind of darkness is suffocatingly sad.

Is their choice still selfish?  Perhaps.  But I pray that these poor souls find relief and freedom that they, I'm sure, spent years fighting to find.  I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that there is peace available and healing given to those who have suffered so keenly.

And Mr. Williams?

I didn't know you.  But I knew Mork.  And I knew Mr. Keating.  And I knew Peter Banning and Mrs. Doubtfire and a pretty lovable Genie and so many others - and I am so incredibly grateful for the influence they had (and will continue to have) on me.  It may seem trite to feel so tenderly toward this fictional stock of characters, but I am so touched and impressed and moved by your genius.  I didn't know you, but I know your work, and that work is beautiful.  I am so honored to have been one of millions who have been blessed to witness your incredible talent and I pray that you are aware of the great influence you had, and that you are finding the peace you so deserve, because no one, no one asks for depression - perhaps most especially those that love to laugh as much as you did.  And to me - you will always be the Pan.





Edited to add: I've struggled over the use of the word "selfishness" to describe suicide for a while.  I continue to use it because the word denotes caring for yourself above the caring of others, which is true of suicide, but I would suggest that selfishness as an attitude in this case (and in other cases of extreme depression) should perhaps not be given such a perpetually negative connotation.  I'm struggling with this because I don't want to glorify or justify or promote suicide in any way as a good solution, but I'm not sure what other word is appropriate.  What I'd like to do is to help people take their focus (or their dismissal) off of however much selfishness is or isn't in any given case of suicide, and instead help people to acknowledge and pity those who feel such despair, so that we can learn to help them better long before they even reach that place.  I simply don't understand what good comes from blaming and condemning any soul so deep in despair that they can see no light.

2 comments:

Ramona Samuels said...

Often times I feel the need to share with others the fact that I struggled with depression throughout my life. It's strange, because I consider myself a happy, caring person, and not a depressed basket case....but the truth is I wanted to die many times in my life and made attempts as a teenager to remedy my pain. By the blessed grace of God I never fully had the guts to do anything permanent, although there is a frightening memory of close call. But here's the thing, I didn't want to prove a point, or to be mean, or to be selfish. I just honestly believed something better awaited me on the other side.

Now I look at my life...I ponder through my memories, my scrapbooks, gather with my family and watch in awe as the children I gave birth to become their own adults and I am hit with the honest reality of my past thoughts. It is a perspective problem. You can't make a blind person see something by opening their eyes. Depression becomes the blinders that you can't force someone to see past.

If by some miracle, we come through the storms of depression with our eyes open, we start to see signs of beauty and truth that can chip away at the weight depression becomes. For me, total and complete worship and loyalty to God did what therapy, pills, and personality tests could not.... it healed me. It was a process. It was a long road. It was like running from a demon I didn't know was about to strike...but one day, (after an amazing and personal experience) it was just gone. For that, I am blessed. I hurt when I see signs of depression and have reached out many times in life to people that I felt needed it, but mostly- I keep it to myself. And I thank God that somehow the blinders were lifted and my experience here feels like nothing could ever be more beautiful or worth while. Like you, I hope my amazing Pan the Man is finally able to see without the blinders...not only the beauty around him, but the beauty within himself.

Joni said...

Cheers, Ramona. That was lovely. The analogy of blinders is a potent one to me. It reminds me of the scripture about seeing through the glass darkly, but later face to face. Thank you for sharing.