Why Robin Williams’ Passing is a Lesson for us all

As a new blogger, one of my biggest hurdles to face is my own personal demons as I write each post. I get to touch upon some aspect of what makes me happy, sad, angry, bitter, content, excited, and all sorts of other human emotions. It is an emotional outlet for me.

Some people turn to family, friends, sports… whatever makes them at ease. Sometimes, these vices are overtly self-destructive and hazardous; drug and alcohol abuse is an overt expression of unhealthy ways to deal with emotion. But, strangely enough, these vices are likely less destructive than what, according to a recent Cracked.com article states is behind the death of Robin Williams, and so many others who seem happy-go-lucky: being funny.

It seems really counter-intuitive. Happy, humorous, socially adept people have for time immemorial, suffered from strong, devastating bouts of depression. 

On the surface, we can understand the irony of the situation, and perhaps even be initially confused by the seemingly contradictory emotions being present in one and the same person. After all, if you spent much of your childhood in the late 80s and early 90s, like myself, you can recall movies like Mrs Doubtfire, Hook, and Dead Poets Society, where Robin Williams plays a relatively chipper character. 

His Inside the Actors Studio interview was simultaneously the most entertaining and the most frustrating one I have ever watched. One anticipates James Lipton just about to burst saying “Damn it, man! Why must you torture me thus!” 

And yet, considering what has transpired, it isn’t surprising to see that even on a television show where actors are required to bare themselves he was still “on”.

And this brings us to the issue at hand, which is such a convincing case brought to us by Cracked.com: he used humor, or legalized insanity, as Williams put it, to deflect personal issues from being raised. Comics, alongside many people who have been praised for their strong artistic or academic skills, have used their gift–in this case, humor–to push people away. 

The scariest thing about this article, and what raises alarm bells, is that many of the funniest people in our own lives, past or present, are using these very same techniques to keep us at bay. We may think that some have their life figured out when in fact they are just at the brink of their own breaking point. They hide it because they are afraid of others’ reactions to their condition.

However, if you are one of those people who using humor to deflect, please talk to someone. Do not shrug it off or laugh it off. You, just like any other human being on this crazy planet, are not alone in your anguish; many times we feel like the victims, or make ourselves the martyrs for a greater cause (in Williams’ case, his depression stemming from perhaps the Parkinson’s that was debilitating him… or some other deep-seeded reason). 

Williams was a beloved actor, writer and comedian; but he was human. He was prone to the same shortcomings that we all are. Let’s remember to good he did, but not forget why he passed away, nor lose sight of the lesson his passing can impart on us. 

I am not someone who believe that everything happens for a greater good; but I do feel that we can make good out of a poor situation depending on the narrative we tell ourselves. Make it a point to reach out and talk to someone who keeps themselves guarded: and damn well be prepared for them when they open themselves up! 

When asked about death

Death and other things

Sorry for having been away for so long. Work and other commitments did end up taking some priority for these past months, but I am back and ready to continue posting.

I want to share a video today by the British Humanist Association titled “What should we think about death” narrated by the wonderfully talented Stephen Fry.

Death has been a major part of my thought process this past year; I lost a friend back in December, and another friend this past Tuesday. Both were in their late twenties and both passed suddenly, with no warning. 

I had never been to a funeral till this past December, and the shock of another one was no better. Though I can (for whatever reason) remain uncomfortably stoic, seeing my friends breaking down around me and knowing that my own friend is in a casket being buried before my eyes is a lot to take, still. 

What should we think of death though? In both instances, my friends and I have celebrated the lives of our late friends over laughs, drinks, and heartfelt conversation. Truly, they’re not gone, but survived in the hearts and memories of their friends. 

This post is dedicated to them.

Vignette 3: Regret

There is a really good song out right now that seems to be hitting all sorts of emotional chords with people. The song is called “Let Her Go” by Passenger.

It has been out for a while. I first caught wind of it as a background song for a YouTube video of a girl’s tweets compiled from the moment she arrived in Ottawa to her being diagnosed with cancer, and her final tweet before she passed away. Very powerful stuff.

She expressed the desire to actually live her last three months, travel to South America, reconnect with her mother, and not spend it in a cubical.

The song is very appropriate to the video, and for the this post’s topic of Regret.

The song hauntingly echoes the sentiments of a person who breaks up with their girlfriend. The chorus uses the low burning of a candle, the sun’s heat versus the winter’s chill, distance from home and happiness in contrast to sadness as analogous to being with this person versus losing them.

We often are not grateful for the things and people around us until we lost them.

Regret in all of its various forms can be a weight that some of us carry for a very many number of years; indeed, many spend a lifetime swallowed in its hollow caverns.

How do we tackle regret? I believe there are two way: Growth Mind and Carpe Diem.

First, I have talked a very many number of times about the attitude a growth mindset fosters. Put simply: the Growth Mindset allows us to learn from our past experiences, be they mistakes, failures, or even missed opportunities.

Rather than wallowing in regret, we should channel our focus on these experiences into bettering ourselves the next time we encounter them.

The second method, Carpe Diem, is much more pertinent to the Twitter Compilation video. Carpe Diem, a Latin phrase, means “seize the day”; don’t let any opportunities slip past you. Almost always be prepared to say “yes” when new opportunities present themselves to you.

For the girl in the twitter video, unfortunately it was when she was presented with the reality of a significantly shortened lifespan; she immediately reassessed her priorities and, Carpe Diem, went to South America and Cuba. The rest of us should keep in mind our fortune of health and take full advantage of it. I don’t mean run off to Spain on a whim, but certainly don’t let great opportunities pass you by due to fear or laziness.

Regret is a lot worse than failure. Be a doer more often than not. It will change your life. Think about Jia Jiang and his 100 Days of Rejection, where spent 100 days requesting ridiculous favours from strangers and how he was sometimes pleasantly surprised, such as his wonderful Donut story.

Vignette 2: Pack animals and frat syndrome

I shall begin with an apology. It’s been over two weeks since my last post. Writer’s block and life sort of took a double whack at me.
Now I shall continue with what I have store for this week.
When high levels of testosterone, inferiority complexes and group think are located in one place, there can be an in-group mentality, one with hierarchies where the betas vie for either impressing or usurping the alpha spot. Such a place of insecurity leads to some destructive behaviour.

A preamble: I’m not entirely convinced the human species is organized like other animal groups with alphas and subordinates but this story sure seems to point to some hint of it among some social circles. Having said that, the following story is true, though names and details have been changed.

Michael sat calmly in the coffee shop, typing up his resume. He was there for much of the evening, and his girlfriend was to meet him there soon. A half-drunk now cold cup of coffee was resting on the small 2′ by 2′ wobbly tabletop, empty chair facing his direction in anticipation for his girlfriend.

A gust of wintry wind ushered the arrival of another patron.

“Working away?” lilted Stephanie.

Michael looked up, “Hey sweetheart,” Michael smiled and looked up. He reached out his hand and held her recently ungloved one, warming it.

Three men in their early twenties walked in behind her, and lined up by the cashier, glancing back at Stephanie, and smirking.

Michael was somewhat annoyed , as he noticed this, but kept his focus on Stephanie. “Was the drive okay?”

“Plenty of traffics! Let me get a hot chocolate!”

“Okay,” Michael smiled.

Stephanie got behind the men in the queue, and Michael returned to his laptop.

The words hot and tight business pants floated past Stephanie’s ear, as she quickly turned around away from the snack fridge.

One of the guys made and held eye contact with her. His friends snickered, shoulders hunched behind him. He was darting his eyes back and forth between her and Michael.

Stephanie gave an annoyed countenance and looked over at Michael.

“Can I take your order?” said the barista.

“Ummm yeah…” said the one darting his eyes, still smirking, “I would like a medium cappuccino; yo, what do you guys want?” he asked his friends.

The shortest of the trio requested a small Irish decaf, while the burly looking one asked for a latte. They paid and awaited their beverages to the left of the cashier.

Stephanie paid for her hot chocolate but remained close to the cashier, on the count of the three obnoxious guys.

“Miss, your hot chocolate will be to your left, over there,” said the barista.

“Okay, thank you,” Stephanie said remaining stationary.

“Miss,” spoke up one of the guys looking at Stephanie, “your drink will be here,” he said motioning her to come over.

His caught Michael’s attention and he looked up glaring at the ring leader; the leader didn’t look back. He simply rolled his eyes and his head in a cocky manner, holding back a smirk, while looking back at his friends.

Stephanie shot a look at Michael with her hand by her side, palm facing Michael. Silently she was telling him “let me handle this.”

This calmed Michael down. He took a deep breath and sat back to watch the show. If there was one thing that he was afraid of it was her anger.

She remained where she was, speaking to the group of men in a calm voice, audible for the nearest tables.

“Listen sleaze bags; where do you come off trying to talk to me after staring at my ass and making degrading comments? You’re lucky my foot is not up YOUR ass right now. And how disrespectful are you to my boyfriend when you full well knew I had just come from that table?

The three of them looked looked over at Michael, who had raised his eyebrows smugly, silently saying to the three “leave,” though no sound came from his lips.

“Yo we’re just here for coffee,” said the short one pacing with his back turned to her, looking at the ring leader, and laughing to himself.

The ring leader smirked, though his face turned flush. The burly one rubbed his neck, nervously laughing while looking at his friends.

“Perfect!” said the barista, “you can take your drinks,” she turned to them, “and leave!” She gave them a cold smile.

“What the hell?! You can’t talk to us like that! We’re paying customers!” the short one said, outraged.

“So is she,” replies the barista, “and I will not let that kind of behaviour get a pass in my shop!”

“Can we please speak to your manager?” the ring leader said, dismissing her comment.

“You just did. Now, here are your drinks,” she said, placing the last paper cup in front of them, “and there is the door.”

At this point the entire coffee shop was looking at the exchange.

The three of them grabbed their drinks, annoyed and angry countenances on the ring leader and the short one respectively. The burly one seemed embarrassed looking at the ground, and hurried along to the exit with his friends. .

16. Apps and Infographs

Today I am going to bring you all an interactive resource and some fascinating information on how to raise happier children.

Thankfully, they are both at the same site!

The first is an app, called Happify designed to inspire and persuade you  to make yourself actively happy. I have been trying it, here and there, and am somewhat noncommittal, but the site does have inspiring testimonials which (though not scientific) are motivating enough to at least give it a go.

The second is an infographic presented by Happify for raising happier children. It goes into detail about the importance of parenting, how much does resilience count for despite broken homes, and how to properly praise a child. Enjoy the double-whammy!

Vignette 1: the pseudo-alpha

My friend and I walked to a nearby coffee shop one night. The temperature that day had been pleasant (in Canadian terms, that means it was a warm 2 degrees Celsius during the day but had dropped to around minus 4 degrees in the evening). Upon our return to his condo lobby, we waited for the elevator; when it opened, there were three women, early to mid-twenties, and one man, shout, stout, nose stud (strange detail to notice). In any case, my friend and I casually continued our conversation, as we stepped inside the mobile room.
As the door closed, my friend stepped aside, “Oh! I’m sorry,” he said to the guy behind him, “did I step on you?”
“No, bro,” he rolled his eyes, “you were in my space,” he snipped. His posture became a closed and protective one. He put his hands in his pockets, had a listless stare toward his right (at the elevator wall). His foot silently shuffled backward.
“Oh, yeah, I’m a big guy,” my friend quipped to defuse him.
“Yeah,” I replied, looking away, “elevators are not very spacious, in any case.” He never replied back to us.
I was reminded of a scene in the film Annie Hall, where Woody Allen and Diane Keaton’s characters are standing in line for the movies, and there is a particularly loud-mouthed show off talking about communication theory to his date, but he is loud enough for everyone in the line up to hear. These pseudo-alpha types have a need to prove themselves to complete strangers.

Personal Growth, Inspiration and Affirmation of Life

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