I appreciate Robin Williams’ creative genius.
I am in awe of his ability to riff on seemingly endless topics.
I admire actors who do both comedy and drama—he did both equally well.
So much to admire, so much to mourn with his passing.
But, I have to admit, he often made me uncomfortable.
When he first popped up on Happy Days (which, can we all agree, was an odd twist in the storyline?), then later on Mork & Mindy (which I loved) I laughed at his antics. His comedy and presence were fresh, different and quirky.
But there was also a certain trepidation beneath my laughter.
I never knew what he’d say or do next, even in a supposedly scripted TV show.
Then, as I got older and watched him in interviews that same combination of laughter and trepidation would rise to the surface.
Finally, I had to admit that Robin Williams sometimes made me uncomfortable.
Nothing he said or did would ever directly impact my little life.
Maybe it had something to do with control. Loss of control. His castmates and interviewers had no control over where his mind would take the next scene or conversation.
I like knowing what comes next.
With Robin Williams, you just never knew.
He would spew out whatever his subconscious churned up. I have a hard enough time writing what my own subconscious churns up into the private pages of my notebooks. How was he able to let it loose for the world to see?
We all have those dark, twisty thoughts, but most of us are taught to keep them to ourselves. We all have a file where we store thoughts not fit for public consumption. He opened that file for the world to see.
Most of it, anyway.
He restricted certain parts of his file. Talking about being depressed is different than trying to explain what it is actually like, day after day, to live with it deep inside of you.
None of us really knows what goes on in the deepest parts of another’s psyche.
But Robin Williams came pretty close to laying his psyche bare.
When I first started writing, I learned from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. She preaches the art of writing practice—free-writing without stopping or censoring in order to access those raw first thoughts before our brain has a chance to sanitize them, making them palatable for others.
Robin Williams seemed to live his whole life from that raw, uncensored place.
Writing from that place is hard. It’s what makes writing authentically so damn scary.
Living out loud from that place must be even harder.
But when we do it, when we risk being seen in all of our glorious imperfections—our authentic, uncensored selves— exposing the underbelly of our minds so others can see and maybe not feel so freakish and alone themselves, then we make a difference.
We are of benefit.
“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
~ Robin Williams
Let’s risk being seen.
Let’s risk being uncomfortable when others let us really and truly see them.
And let’s allow that to change the world.
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Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Photo: Calcio Streaming via Flickr