“Sorry guys, I gotta go and see about a girl.” – – Robin Williams in “Good Will Hunting”
The above quote is from the character Sean Maguire as portrayed by Robin Williams in the aforementioned movie. In the scene, Sean/Robin is explaining to Will Hunting why he doesn’t regret missing the historic game six of the 1975 world series won by the Boston Red Sox. Williams’ character had a ticket to the game, but when he saw the woman who was to become his wife sitting across the bar he was at, he pushed his ticket across the table at his friends and told them he had other plans. As a result, Sean had a marriage of 18 years, including the last two spent taking care of his terminally ill spouse. Still he regretted nothing, and certainly not meeting his wife in lieu of a baseball game, even through the pain he’s feeling two years after her death. I have a similar avenue I hope to never regret. There are a number of people I’d like to tell very simply how I feel about them . . . hopefully shortly after re-enacting yet another scene from this film, the one at the end where Sean tells his young client Will, “it’s not your fault.”
I’ve at times felt an intense sadness over the last few weeks due to the loss of someone I’ve never met. I don’t cry easily, but I have to confess that I felt even more grief when I found out that Robin Williams had completed alcohol treatment right here in Minnesota about a month ago. Then came some tears. I suspect part of my sadness comes from that kinship, one owing to my own bouts with alcoholism and depression. Depression is a topic I intend to write more on at a later date, a topic I think is sadly misunderstood by the masses. Robin knew it all too well, likely along with the loneliness and sense of separation that can accompany one even in a crowd. I’ve seen more references to “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Mork & Mindy” on Facebook in the last few hours than I can count, a movie and tv series that he indeed ought to be remembered fondly for. Mine are more for the many, many poignant moments in “Good Will Hunting,” and for a very beautiful, and simplified rendering of the story of the Fisher King in a movie of the same name. Briefly, the story is of a young king who leaves home in search of the Holy Grail, only to come back a discouraged old man dejectedly accepting that he would never find his treasure. He then sits at his throne and tells a passing fool, “bring me some water .. . I’m thirsty.” As the fool pours water into the king’s goblet, it magically transforms into the Holy Grail. The astonished king asks the fool, “How did you know I’ve been looking for this my entire life?” The fool smiles simply and replies, “I didn’t. I just know you said you were thirsty, you asked me for a drink, and so I gave you one.” How sad that Mr. Williams wasn’t able to get his own cup filled.
I have to say that I have a fantasy of sorts, in hope of averting the possible regret I may be setting myself up for. There are a few people I work with, certainly a few others in my outside life, that I have to fight the compulsion to just walk up to and hug and say “I just wanted to remind you that you make my day so often, and I love you.” I also know a few in both places who are sometimes down, maybe sometimes feeling trapped in their lives, or maybe just a little lost and confused as we all are from time to time. That’s where the very moving “it’s not your fault” scene comes into play for me. Somebody on Facebook posted that scene, and as I watched it, I was moved to tears in seconds. What a different world it would be if even a few of us took the time to express such sentiment to someone we care about, even once. I would like to be one of those few.
The passing of yet another celluloid image usually brings about a notification of mortality in me at best, sometimes more, but not often. Robin Williams death, particularly learning of it being suicide, brought instant grief. I get so irritated when I see those idiotic Facebook posts that say that “depression is a result of staying strong for too long” or that it’s because a person is not choosing to be happy. As a lifelong dysthymic, I can tell you for certain that it’s a tad more complicated than that. The Williams with the constantly running motor that we all saw on various talk shows always struck me as an over reaction to depression. Mr. Williams likely had some very deeply rooted issues that still ruled his life. Most of us do, it’s just to varying degrees. Whatever pushed him over the edge no one may ever truly know, but even with his last breath he gave the world a gift, telling us all basically to cherish life. A life he apparently was no longer willing to try and access. This was his prerogative. While those left behind don’t like it, every person has the right to commit suicide if they so wish. As a writer on A Course In Miracles named Hugh Prather used to say, “all death is suicide.” Some of them are just quite sudden, shocking, and every bit as sad as the slower versions. I wish you the peace you sought on earth, Mr. Williams, I wish all of the joy you gave to millions to be visited on you. And I wish your next incarnation, whatever it may be as, to be one filled with your inner longings much more within your reach than in this past one. Thank you for all that you gave me. I promise to try and pay it forward.
I’m setting myself up for a very politically incorrect task. One I don’t even know if I have the courage for. I often try to talk myself into believing that my desire to grab onto you and hug you and you tell you that I love you is fleeting and happens only when the Robin Williamses of the world die, but it’s just not so. It’s with me constantly, and sometimes not saying it makes me ache. There are at least a dozen of you, and in truth there are many more. Some of you have touched me deeply with a single word that changed my life, some of you I’ve had long, long conversations with and felt refreshed and enlightened as a result. Some of you have afforded me the absolute honor and privilege of being your confidant, and have trusted me with some of your secrets, and most importantly have had the courage to show your vulnerability and cry in front of me. For this you may think you lean on me too much, in truth, you have given me an honor I can’t possibly describe. Still, it’s not my job to save the world. Or is it? It is my job to love, and isn’t that the same thing? As I said earlier, I don’t know if I’ll ever have the courage to make my fantasy a reality, partly out of fear that if you’re a woman you may think I’m hitting on you, partly if you’re man that it may bring to the surface a homophobic fear or two. Mostly I think it’s just my own fear of breaking down a barrier that I’ve wanted to for so long. as if to say good-bye to an old, protective friend. Here’s to my fantasy coming true. I will start right now and if you’re reading this you know who you are. I love you. And whatever your burden may be, it’s not your fault.