As I sat in my local cafe having brunch this morning I watched as a mother walked in with her two young twin boys. The two boys had gorgeous red hair, freckles and a twinkle of curiosity and cheekiness in their eyes. Vital, alive and bubbling with that right mix of gregarious vivacious energy that you just know by being near them that they could be quite mischievous if left with no creative vessel. They all sat down on the table near me and I found my attention being drawn away from my book and towards to their conversation.
The boys pointed to the face of Robin Williams on the front page of newspaper lying on the table and asked their mother “Who is that?”. She answered it was Robin Williams, a man who was an excellent actor who had been in lots of movies. She listed a few that the boys had obviously seen and they nodded their heads. She went on to explain that he had died yesterday and that was why he was on the front of the newspaper. One of the boys asked her “How did he die?”. I listened with curiosity, wondering how this mother would answer. She said simply and gracefully “He died of sadness“. I felt my heart ache and tears fill my eyes. What a beautiful explanation I thought. The boys accepted the answer and then went on to question their mother further. “When will I die?”. The mother said, “I don’t know, no one knows, but hopefully not til you are a very old man”. One boy then asked “Where do we go when we die?”. Again I was really curious as to how the mother would answer and she simply and profoundly answered “We go back to the same place we were before we were born“. Beautiful. I respected and admired the way the mother answered her children. There was no fluff, no sugar coating – it was just honest and profound truth.
I have been amazed at the impact the death of Robin Williams has had on the world. It has clearly hit us all hard. I heard about his passing while reading my facebook feed on the train and was surprised as I found tears streaming down my face and my heart aching with grief. I obviously didn’t know him personally, but grew up loving his movies, humour and crazy antics that would be presented in interviews. He shared and instigated much laughter all around the world, for so many people and shone as a bright light. Over the years whenever I saw his face, or heard his voice and I would instantly smile. So, like so many, upon hearing the tragic circumstances of his passing I felt my heartache for him and his loved ones. It also triggered something deep within me, offering a mirror, reminding me of my own journey with depression and growing up in a family filled with sufferers of mental illness, depression, anxiety and addiction where almost all of us would use humour as a deflection for our pain.
As I sat in meditation with these feelings, I reflected. Often in the worst circumstances, the challenging situation will offer growth and transformation and over time a silver lining will appear. I can’t help but think that the light that Robin Williams shone on the world while alive in igniting laughter and joy he also has given us yet another, perhaps more profound parting gift in his tragic passing. For a long time suicide, depression, addiction and mental illness have been shoved into the underworld. Heavily misunderstood, avoided, repressed and judged. For the sufferers, already often feeling isolated, disconnected and ashamed, when we shove their experiences and challenges into the too hard basket it makes their suffering so much worse.
In order for the planet and humanity to heal and transform and come back into wholeness, we must bring light to our darkness. Collectively we all must start addressing our pain. We all must consciously talk and properly acknowledge the increasing rate of suicide, depression and mental health issues. We are all connected. One. Celebrities and people in the public eye offer a mirror to all of humanity. Their stories, become our stories. Their success, our successes. Their pain, our pain. Because ultimately they are one and the same.
When I was in the darkest hours of my depression I felt alone and isolated. The last thing I felt like doing was reaching out. Everyone around me seemed so happy, so together, I didn’t want to burden them with my problems nor really reveal the depth of my despair because I was ashamed of it. I work a lot with clients who suffer from depression and anxiety, and they speak of the same feelings. People who suffer are often the best at putting on the “everything is fine” mask for the rest of the world. They may appear to be successful and have it all together, but underneath they are slowing dying inside.
The mask wearing isn’t isolated to those in deep despair either. We ALL wear masks don’t we? Think about our social pleasantries of asking “how are you?” and our responses. Many of us will just parrot back without even sensing “fine” or “good thanks”. And how often do we actually even really LISTEN to a person’s reply when we ask them how they are? Imagine a world where when we asked each other how we were if everyone answered truthfully. I wonder what would happen? World chaos as everyone admits, oh hey life is pretty shit right now? Or perhaps in shining light and expressing truth it would bring us closer together? To help us all recognise we are all the same. All one. As human beings we all experience the kaleidoscope of human emotion, pain and suffering, – so why are we so quick to pretend we are not? Being a human some days is really bloody hard work. If only we were all honest and admitted it to each other.
I see it time and time again in my workshops. When one person opens up and expresses their truth, it helps the entire group open up and become vulnerable. Then rather than everyone falling to pieces because of revealing their authenticity, they walk away feeling not so alone, not so isolated, they feel better knowing its not just them. In shining light into their darkness and sharing their darkness with others, what is revealed is all our darkness is the same. Then once brought into the light, it’s not so scary anymore. Heart’s open and love and compassion flow. The healing journey begins.
So I pose a challenge. From now on when you are asked how you are I challenge you not to use the words “good” or “fine”. Instead express how you TRULY feel. Even if you do feel okay, find other words to express it. In you revealing your truth, your kaleidoscope of emotion, you create a safe space for others to do the same. You never know the impact shining your light will have on another’s darkness.
In closing, from the bottom of my heart. Human to Human, I thank you Robin Williams for shining your light on the world. May you now rest in peace. I thank Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Charlotte Dawson, Heath Ledger and countless other beautiful souls who have lived their lives and died in the spotlight to act as a mirror for us all. I thank the mother in the cafe and her gorgeous boys for shining their light. I thank each of you for reading, please know you are never alone and we are always connected by love and our human vulnerabilities.