anne lamott on robin williams

This will not be well written or contain any answers or be very charming. I won’t be able to proof read it It is about times like today when the abyss is visible and we cannot buy cute area rugs at IKEA to truck out the abyss. Our brother Robin fell into it yesterday. We are all staring at the abyss today.

I called my Jesuit friend the day after the shootings in Newtown, stunned, flat, fixated, scared to death: “Is there any meaning in the deaths of twenty 5 and 6 year old children?”

Tom said, “Not yet.”

And there is no meaning in Robin’s death, except as it sheds light on our common humanity, as his life did. But I’ve learned that there can be meaning without things making sense.

Here is what is true: a third of the people you adore and admire in the world and in your families have severe mental illness and/or addiction. I sure do. I have both. And you still love me. You help hold me up. I try to help hold you up. Half of the people I love most have both; and so do most of the artists who have changed and redeemed me, given me life. Most of us are still here, healing slowly and imperfectly. Some days are way too long.

And I hate that, I want to say. I would much prefer that God have a magic wand, and not just a raggedy love army of helpers. Mr. Roger’s mother told him when he was a boy, and a tragedy was unfolding that seemed to defy meaning, “Look to the helpers.” That is the secret of life, for Robin’s family, for you and me.

I knew that those children at Sandy Hook were caught in God’s loving maternal arms at the second each crossed over, and the teachers were, too. I believe the shooter was too, another child of God with severe mental illness, because God loves, period. But this is controversial.

I know Robin was caught too, in both the arms of God, and of his mother, Laurie.

I knew them both when I was coming up, in Tiburon. He lived three blocks away on Paradise drive. His family had money; ours didn’t. But we were in the same boat–scared, shy, with terrible self esteem and grandiosity. If you have a genetic predisposition towards mental problems and addiction, as Robin and I did, life here feels like you were just left off here one day, with no instruction manual, and no idea of what you were supposed to do; how to fit in; how to find a day’s relief from the anxiety, how to keep your beloved alive; how to stay one step ahead of abyss.

We all thought after Newtown that gun control legislation would be passed, but no–not one new law. We think in the aftermath of Robin’s death that there will be consciousness raising about mental health, but I doubt it. The shock and awe will pass, like it did after Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death. Unless…unless we take action. But what? I don’t have a clue. Well, here’s Glenn Close’s astonishing organization to raise awareness and diminish the stigma of mental illness, where you can give OR receive help: http://www.bringchange2mind.org/ Go there, OK?

In Newtown, as in all barbarity and suffering, in Robin’s death, on Mount Sinjar, in the Ebola towns, the streets of India’s ghettos, and our own, we see Christ crucified. I don’t mean that in a nice, Christian-y way. I mean that in the most ultimate human and existential way. The temptation is to say, as cute little believers sometimes do, Oh it will all make sense someday. The thing is, it may not. We still sit with scared, dying people; we get the thirsty drinks of water.

This was at theologian Fred Buechner blog today: “It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling.”

Live stories worth telling! Stop hitting the snooze button. Try not to squander your life on meaningless, multi-tasking bullshit. I would shake you and me but Robin is shaking us now.

Get help. I did. Be a resurrection story, in the wild non-denominational sense. I am.

If you need to stop drinking or drugging, I can tell you this: you will be surrounded by arms of love like you have never, not once, imagined. This help will be available twenty/seven. Can you imagine that in this dark scary screwed up world, that I can promise you this? That we will never be closed, if you need us?

Gravity yanks us down, even a man as stunning in every way as Robin. We need a lot of help getting back up. And even with our battered banged up tool boxes and aching backs, we can help others get up, even when for them to do so seems impossible or at least beyond imagining. Or if it can’t be done, we can sit with them on the ground, in the abyss, in solidarity. You know how I always say that laughter is carbonated holiness? Well, Robin was the
ultimate proof of that, and bubbles are spirit made visible.
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11 Responses to 'anne lamott on robin williams'

  1. Rachel says:

    I grow weary of hearing that Robin died from suicide or PSH died of a drug overdose. No! They died from the same thing they lived with. Symptoms of depression! We’ve all been there.. We’re all here now! I guess it seems easier to put a label on death and life. Academy award winning actors.. Comedians etc…We are all people struggling. Some days it’s an accomplishment just to take a fucking shower. There are moments in life sprinkled with happiness. I wish we could be together in our…

  2. Kim says:

    Robin made us laugh and now he made us cry but with all that laughter he brought to us, the only thing people will remember is his death. Its truly sad. R.I.P Robin…..u are now free………

  3. VICKI says:

    “And I hate that, I want to say. I would much prefer that God have a magic wand…” Okay Anne, (1) there is no god; (2) you are IT; (3) let me repeat, You are God. (4) they say “God created light” and you too (as God) can make the choice to create light or darkness, life or death; love or hate. So you too (as God) can be taught to create light if you stop looking outside yourself. No question. You can. Hope you do. Love you lots! Vicki

  4. Alan Jay Kahm says:

    True, mental health needs a healthy government grant to help rid the world of clinical depression and mental illness.

    Anne Lamott, may your compassionate words and depth of your understanding bring comfort for all that mourn and enlighten the people who have the power to change their own lives and the lives of others.

    • VICKI says:

      Anne: here you go again! In reality, you as God don’t need a government because look at the reality of this Obama world we live in. Obama, worse than Bush IMO. But if you think that the government is going to do anything to change the world then YOU as God are not only NOT realizing your God-ness, but you are contributing to the problem by not acting as the God you are. Does that make sense? It is a mirror Anne. The sadness you feel is your lack of God knowledge that you are IT! W/love 2…

  5. We all striatal the abyss when we walk with in mental illness.
    I’m 59 & I’ve lived with this since I was a teenager. My
    daughter suffered from deep depression until she to committed
    suicide at age 19.
    My heart breaks for Robin Williams children and wife. His kids
    will live with for the rest of their lives. This does not go away. And,
    this is very sad, neither does the legacy of suicide.

  6. T/S says:

    It is sad in every way, death. Whether we take our own life or it is taken from us. I think about Jeanne & Dan and my heart aches. I hope that you’re holding firmly to shore Ro. I know this one is going to be very hard & I’m so glad that you have your beautiful wife. In fact, I firmly believe you have each other(and its Heaven sent)to weather what is to come, together. I hope You’ll keep moving & I hope you will not let them take you down with them. They wouldnt want that.Much…

  7. Marie says:

    I’m so aware of the struggle. family members struggle. my 41 yo daughter.we raised her daughter. Robins death gave me the courage to reach out to other family members to help my daughter who is alone. having to go through some surgeries. I’m thousands of miles away yet family lives close. Talking to my 87 yo mother I say ** has what Robin had, she feels isolated, depressed, she needs to recoup around someone she trusts..i heard compassion for the 1st time..she got it family is rallying to…

  8. Karyn says:

    I am both an addict and struggle with severe depression (including suicidal ideation). I am also from Marin. Damn I relate to this

  9. From one clown to another! You will be missed Robin Williams!