Short write: Goodbye, Robin

Robin Williams' passing is about the least lighthearted thing I can think about this week. It is weighing very heavily on my mind, actually. So here are my thoughts, or the best I can do to describe them.

1.

First of all, I feel like I shouldn't have any feelings about his passing; I feel like that's not my place or my right. It is his family's right to grieve. But we loved him too, in our own small ways. We saw only glimpses of his whole personality. I only tended to see the sides of him that made complete sense for me in my life at the time. And that kind of relationship, I've come to believe, is still a relationship. TV, movies, and comedy have been formative influences for me, and if that is true, then Robin WIlliams was an active player in my growing up...even if a small one. And I miss him. And I wish this had never happened. I wish he were well.

2.

Aladdin. Robin played the genie with the funny jokes. They were so funny, in fact, that I felt like I was breaking the rules by even getting to watch this movie. Kids didn't "get" jokes like Robin Williams'. But we did get them. And he knew we would. He believed in the intelligence of kids.

3.

Mrs. Doubtfire. The plot of this movie is about as wild as Robin Williams himself. But I didn't realize that at the time. I just knew that A) a funny man in drag equals an EXTREMELY funny man (and fun), and B) this was some kind of committed dad! Dressing as an old lady and being perfect at everything just so you could see your kids every day? And maybe somehow win back your ex-wife in the process?? That's some commitment. And the way that Williams played this dad --much like the way he played the dad from Hook-- was so fraught with flaws and so honest. But the kids in the movie start to see that their dad really did love them and wanted to be a good dad. Even though he wasn't, at times. He still loved them with every fiber of his being.

Now that we know what we know about him, this picture of a father is even more poignant. He seemed to look at his kids as though he was saying, "I hope you know I love you with everything that I am, even though everything I am is not perfect. Far from perfect, in fact." We all worry that we will let our kids down. Robin Williams probably knew this feeling very well. You can't be a famous comedian who is battling addiction and major depression (or bipolar disorder?), and NOT worry that you will probably fail your kids and wife at some point. But I get it. I think. His love for kids was so strong. But his problems were very real. And one of the hardest things to wrap my mind around is this paradox, that you could love the people in your life so much-- your kids, your spouse, friends, and even the rest of us, the audience-- and STILL, still that is not enough to keep you going. Still, the sadness can overwhelm you and destroy you.

3.

Good Will Hunting. This was not Robin Williams' first dramatic role (I don't think), but it was the first one I had seen. And his ability to turn down the dial on comedy and withdraw to this quiet role of a heartbroken but brilliant man, well... I was blown away. That moment on the bench when he is talking to Will and he breaks it all down for him ("You've never looked at a woman, and been completely vulnerable...")...whew. That really hit me at an important time. Will has it all figured out intellectually, but he is sorely lacking in the love department because he won't let people in. And Robin's character lays it out for him. Here is a man who has loved so much and yet he lost his wife and maybe his job too or something else, I forgot. But the point is, it was worth it all. It was worth it to find that person who makes you feel love so intensely that you are terrified of losing it.

Seeing this movie at a time when I was still dating and kind of hating it, it gave me a lot of hope. So the movie was clearly impactful, but so was Robin Williams. Having never seen him play a dramatic role like this, it seemed like he picked it for a reason. It seemed like he was opening up a little part of himself. I don't know if actors really work like that, but Williams was not an actor who was hurting for work. He could have done hilarious roles and stand up forever and made tons of money. So when he stepped off the beaten path to take this role, it seemed very intentional.

4.

Stand up. Holy moly was Robin Williams a force to be reckoned with on stage. To be honest, Robin Williams was SO on fire, I could hardly keep up with him. So while he wasn't my favorite stand-up, I have so much respect for him and how he did comedy. He just never stopped entertaining. He was a giver. Making the audience laugh was just the beginning. He demanded more laughter, harder laughter, the kind of laughter that made you take a knee because you just couldn't catch a breath.

And then he was so honest too. I remember his bits about cocaine and booze were particularly spot-on. It was the perfect mix of brutal honesty and a "it's OK to laugh at my problems" attitude.

Being a functioning alcoholic is kind of like being a paraplegic lap dancer — you can do it, just not as well as the others, really.
— Robin Williams

Was it OK to laugh at these jokes? I don't know. I suppose it was, that was what he wanted. But people who need help have an odd way of showing it. And we didn't all see the cry for help. I mean, obviously he didn't get all the help he needed or else he would still be with us, right?

Last thoughts: I still really admire Robin Williams. I am not going to say that suicide is selfish because it is so much more complicated than that. My heart breaks for his family. And my heart is heavy for us, the audience who loved him in our own limited way. But more than anything I am sad for him.

Robin if you are out there and reading blogs from the great beyond, I am so sorry that you had so much darkness in your life. I am so grateful for all the giving you did in your life and career. You never knew me, but I was watching. I was one of the kids that lit up when I saw the funny blue genie. I was the forlorn young adult who wanted to believe in love and stop being afraid of being vulnerable. And now I am a parent, like you, who wants to be good even though I get sad sometimes too.

Thank you for the hundreds of thousands of laughs. May you find your peace and laughter too.

5 Minute Friday: Write ... about Allergies

This Friday's prompt from the Lisa-Jo blog is just to write.  Which is just perfect because that's what I need to do.  Force myself to write about ... allergies.  [dramatic pause]

My weird arm during the allergy test

My weird arm during the allergy test

It should be shocking to exactly no one that I have allergies. Yesterday I was officially diagnosed, though, after years and years of just kind of dealing with it.  And I have the following things wrong with me:

  • allergic to grasses
  • allergic to weeds (both kinds...whatever that means)
  • allergic to trees
  • allergic to cats (not dogs, thank God!)
  • allergic to dust mites

That last one is the hardest to swallow.  I feared being allergic to dust (it's officially dust mites, which is important, but not for now).  I AM ALLERGIC TO DUST ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

That's like saying that I am allergic to my HOUSE.  To my BED.  To my wall-to-wall carpet.

*Actually the carpet deal isn't too bad. I don't like it and we are systematically ruining it in order to justify our decision to replace it some day. O and Daphne our dog are doing most of the work.

The main thing that kills me about the dust allergy is this: the most annoying person I have ever known was allergic to dust.  He was such a BABY about it, and I don't want to be a huge baby.  I don't want to encase my pillow and encase my mattress and ask Jake if he washed everything in hot water all the time and flipping WASH EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME.

So I am a little angry about this "diagnosis."  But I realize I could not go on the way things were too.  I'd basically wake up sneezing, sneeze when I stepped out the door, vigorously sneeze and cough whenever I encountered a cat or a weed or a slightly dusty sweater, and then finish out my day with a good old sneeze-cough-hack fest when I returned home and went to bed.  (The bed that I've now learned is trying to kill me.  With its mites.  Bazzilions of mites.)

Well, time is up for the writing prompt, but I want to end on a high note.  Apparently 20-27% of the population has dust allergies. That seems high, but the internet said it so you know it's true.  If anyone out there has tips on how to handle allergies, please let me know.  I don't want to change everything and go broke buying encasements for every bed, pillow, couch, and thing in my house.  Help...please??

Light life moments: The Balance Beam

It is Saturday morning and Olivia is crossing over a balance beam, one beam to the other. This is our second round of Bounce Buddies class, and I have to say, she is quickly becoming a pro (no bias). Her little toes reach forward feeling for the next step. Finding her footing, pushing forward. We woke up early this morning. She woke up quiet as a mouse. I, to the tap-tap of a little hand on my shoulder in the total darkness. After the microsecond that it takes me to remember the series of events that led me to this moment (I had a baby--she is two now--she sleeps in the room next to mine--we changed her crib to a toddler bed--she can escape from it--she escaped!), I roll over and say "good morning, honey."

Because Jake wasn't feeling well, I generously* offered to take Olivia to class by myself.  So here we are, just the two of us left to figure this out.

*Generously -slash- begrudgingly.

There are four balance beams in this particular circuit. A low one, a high one, a low one with toy snakes on it, and a medium/high wide one on which the kids will do a somersault (with help). Olivia runs for the high one when we are released to find a place to start. Awesome.

I hoist her up happily and she takes off, holding on to my fingers in a death grip. She drags me along and I barely make it to the end in time for her big "Ta Da!" off the end of the beam. She leaps to the mat, and I have another millisecond-long dialogue in my head.  "Do I catch her? Do I let her crash? She can't stick this landing, I think we learn that in the third round." And then she jumps and I just keep my hands on her. Just tight enough to soften her landing, but she does crash.  And she's fine.

On to the short beam we go. Here she is supposed to balance a bean bag on her head while walking. She drops it constantly.

"Oh darn," she says, "Oh darnit I dropped it again!"

I can't help but smile. "You can do it, honey. Just stare straight ahead. That's it, straight ahead."

In my never-ending effort to be a perfect parent, I recently picked up the book, Bringing Up Bebe. It chronicles the adventures of an American first-time mom living in Paris, and all the French parenting tips she picks up along the way. The fascinating thing is how well the French parenting style seems to work: kids don't throw food and parent's don't yell at them constantly, kids play independently for entire afternoons and they sleep through the night (often starting at 2 months old!), they are allowed to explore freely within reason and they never get fat. No one does. It's France.

I like the advice in this book, but not all of it.  And I'm not ready to jump into the French way of doing ... well, anything just yet. (These are same the people that invented the coffee-and-a-cigarette breakfast, you know?) But I am paying closer attention. I am examining things.

As she moves up to the medium-high beam, I watch carefully. I think she can do this one without me. The teacher takes her hand and I slip into the background. She is listening to the directions. She is bending forward. "Forehead to knees!"  Aaaaand, flip over there you go!

I am unsure now. I reach for her hand, I pull it back. I watch her go down the foam steps and ascend the final beam. The snake-covered one. She steps up. Instead of tip-toeing over, this little Indiana Jones steps directly onto the face of the first snake.  Yeah girl! She does it again. And again. Hmmm...

"Try this, honey." And I step up up up dramatically modeling the way it's done.  (You know, the way professional gymnasts step over snakes.) I feel silly, but she gets it right away. Was that wise to show her how to do it? Should I have let her explore her own way more? Am I stifling her creativity and sense of discovery?!?

These are important questions and they pester me constantly. But this is Saturday morning. And it's Bounce Buddies class. We will sort out perfect parenting another day. It's time for the high beam again...

Ta da!
Ta da!

5 Minute Friday: "Tree"

Five Minute Friday

I am joining the Five Minute Friday community over at Lisa Jo Baker's blog.    The prompt for today is: TREE.

---

I like to say that the magnolia trees only bloom on my birthday.  They do bloom on my birthday (and a couple weeks before and after).  Still, the magnolia's blooming is a reminder every year of the impending anniversary of my birth and the things I have done to commemorate it over the years.

Years 1-19: I have no memories associated with the magnolias from these years.  Too self absorbed perhaps?  Didn't know what magnolias were?  Not sure.

Year 20: Celebrated with my new friends at Willamette U.  We have this picture of us from late that night (why was I blessed with a weekend birthday my first year in college?).  We had trekked from my dorm to our friends' on an alcohol-fueled mission.  Our first plan was to take a series of hilarious (at the time) pictures of ourselves under the magnolias.  One person is bending over to smell them, while someone else is ...waving... behind them, and another is reaching up to grab one of the large flowers, while I am making lion faces at the camera and pawing at my friend.  Hard to picture, but it was pure happiness.  Which often comes in the form of "you had to be there."

Year 25: Sometime around the date of my birth, Jake and I were out in the magnolias on campus taking engagement pictures.  I asked the photographer to back way up.  Make the tree big, and us small.  Those are the kinds of portraits I like to hang in my house.

Year 28 or 29:  Our neighbor across the street from the house we now own has a large magnolia tree.  I told Jake that the magnolia blooms for my birthday.  He looked sideways at me, said nothing.  And smiled without using his lips.

---

Done.

Not sure that was 5 minutes, as I was frequently interrupted by a selfish toddler (the cutest one you'll ever see).  But the point is to write, is it not?  Happy Friday.

What would you say...

What are YOUR two words to yourself?[The graphic consists of a black-and-white photo of a hand writing on a piece of...

Posted by The Body Is Not an Apology on Friday, September 20, 2013

 

Some of mine are borrowed, but all are true:

"Have fun"

"Buy Google!"

"Don't hide"

"Love you"

"Nice bod"

"Be grateful"

"Be careless"

"Be yourself"

"Mom's right"

"Drop him"

"Just wait"

"Love's coming"

"Forgive yourself"

"Sisters Club"

"You're loved"

"You're funny"

"You're enough"