What I learned when Robin Williams died …

I remember landing on the runway coming home from vacation in Colorado, clicking on my Facebook account as the wheels hit the pavement and reading Robin Williams had died.

Heartsick in a moment, grief hit me. In my teens and early 20’s I watched Dead Poets Society religiously every year on my birthday. Carpediem became my life’s mantra. I fell in love with the soul whispers of Walt Whitman all thanks to Professor John Keating.

Oh Captain my Captain. What tender message will your passing reveal? In mourning the life of a friend I never really knew, I gently heard the message. You must redefine your definition of success.

Success can be a tricky maze to navigate. Financial stability full speed ahead. Accomplishment is an enslaving drug. Just one more achievement and I’m sure happiness will follow. The old do this and you’ll get that so you can be happy trick. The illusion of success.

I kept wondering the same thing, why had peace evaded this beautiful man? All of the accomplishment, expression, fame and even the more altruistic achievements could not put him back together again. Here’s a master story teller, who brought smiles and compassion to the hearts of millions, perhaps the greatest entertainer the world has ever known. Not even he would get to hold and relish the illusive prize of success? What gives? Really, what the f** gives? Who gets to cross the finish line here? It seems it keeps getting nudged further down the track.

It left me perplexed and heartbroken. I contend the existence of “soul” is never futile. In the words of Professor John Keating, “If you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on lean in. Listen, you can hear it.” I’m listening Robin, what will be revealed in your passing? What great lengths has your soul has gone to, to deliver a message.  Let me try to hear it.

Contemplating the way Robin left us all was a critical part of redefining and reorganizing my life again.

Decisions suddenly became clearer, anxieties no longer tolerated and entertained. I went inside and connected, got still and quiet. It became a little easier to quiet the voices of self-criticism. Honestly they must be insane if they can keep a good man, a genius and a truth teacher down.

Don’t get me wrong, I know Robin Williams put his pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us, but I also know that you can’t deliver the art that he delivered without earning some of it’s wisdom along the way. The sheer tragedy that the heart broken teacher of Dead Poet’s Society followed the lead of his beautiful and heart punctured student was more irony than I could handle.

Success can be an illusion.

A master that is never quite satisfied. Lean in, listen, Carpe Diem – Seize the Day. This moment right here- suck the marrow out of it. The journey continued but the captain’s soul spoke volumes to me as he left.  Lean in and listen.

“Oh me! Oh life! … of the questions of these recurring,

 Of the endless trains of the faithless … of the cities filled with the foolish,

 what good amid these, o me, oh life?

Answer: That you are here – that life exists and identity. That powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will that verse be? – Walt Whitman

Taking the time to examine my life, is what his passing taught. What exactly will my verse be? It’s continually recreated every day. There were a few things that came to me. I became less tolerant of anxieties, and let fatigue give the few gifts it had to offer redirection and rest. A life coach told me once that after every period of exhaustion comes a period of depression.  That one I’m holding close to home, that just maybe I can ward off with simple wisdom, the demon of depression. Listen to what exhausts you and damn it- do something about it. I love and relish hard work. Hard work that feeds your soul, not proves your worth. It may seem like a subtle change in perspective, but the trajectory of the shift is massive.

I began incorporating truth in that deepening way we all visit it, again and again weaving it into the fabric of our being. Seize all that life has to offer, be in love with the sheer magic of just being alive. Realize it’s too short of a time to be too hard on ourselves or anyone else for that matter.

Thanks for coming Robin, I’m the better for your stay.

Nano Nano my friend and God’s speed. Your soul is still at last a teacher.

Much Love,
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