On Sadness…

It is the damnedest thing… Sometimes it just hits me, seemingly out of nowhere. Real, palpable sadness.

I have never dealt with true depression in the clinical sense. The kind that you can’t wiggle and twist your way out of no matter what you do. That brand of deep, lasting, and relentless sadness that just clings to your mind like unkind, cold, rain-soaked clothing to your crying skin when you’re stuck outside in a storm, locked out of your own house, banging on the front door to be let in, with no one inside to hear your desperate plea.

I have a few good friends that struggle with that kind of depression. I am very sorry that they do and very thankful that I don’t.

But sadness, we all deal with that to a greater or lesser extent.

I am quite a happy guy in general. Optimistic too, but not to the point of self-delusion.

Yet, even with my normal, sunny disposition, sadness can creep into me at times. It is usually unexpected and visits at its own leisure, no appointment having been made ahead of time.

That was the case late tonight, or rather, this very early morning, only a bit after midnight. Nothing has the ability to stir my deepest parts like music. As I was doing a bit of ebay listing after the kids went to bed, I popped my earbuds in to listen to some tunes without keeping anyone awake. I listened to a bit of this and that on YouTube: Flatbush Zombies, Yelawolf, Kid Astro, etc, etc. I list fastest when banging hip-hop and rap in my ear holes.

Then, as I was finishing up, I randomly clicked over on, “Brick,” by Ben Folds Five. That was all it took. By the time I got to Regina Spektor, not with any intention of bringing on a cathartic experience, the sadness came to visit. It really didn’t have anything to do with the songs specifically. Just a flurry of micro-memories, flickers of past moments, thoughts, anticipations, and the utter and unavoidable gravity of just existing hit me all at once. Not only that, but the fact that it all goes away some day. Much like the arrival of sadness, mortality doesn’t tend to make appointments either.

As I have been editing the second draft of my new book, “Love is the Middle,” about my relationship with my deceased father, memories of him are frequent. Tonight, the reality of my current life, part of which includes the void his death created, came to mind. The overwhelming joy of being a father to my five kids crashed right into my lament over being a fatherless son like dissonant chords. I also considered the fact that one day, my wife and the love of my life, will either leave me behind on this side of death’s veil or I will leave her. (A desirable and tidy Notebook movie ending aside). Altogether, three things hit me at once: sadness over lost people that I love, knowing what I love now will not always be, and as Christopher Hitchens once eloquently said about death,

“It will happen to all of us, that at some point you get tapped on the shoulder and told, not just that the party’s over, but slightly worse: the party’s going on — but you have to leave. And it’s going on without you.”

So, what can we do when those truths about our mortality, our love, our loss, and more losses to come show up front and center? How do we handle the times when our feelings of joy, happiness, and contentment are interrupted and invaded by sadness?

I will give you the best advice I have, right from “behind the lines” of some present sadness in real time… Embrace it. Don’t shuck it off in a premature fashion. Let it burn a while and do its work. Sadness, even the deepest sadness, is a necessary part of life. In a strange, ironic way, it is a good part of life. Not the best part by far, but a good part. Sadness is an honest friend, reminding you and I not to take time, things, and most importantly, people, for granted. Sadness says to us, “Friend- you will not have all of this forever. It is only for a while at best. So, wring your life out for every last drop, bitter or sweet. Many billions have come and gone and do not have the present privilege of treading on the lively side of the green grass on this earth. You do. Don’t waste this moment. Don’t waste this day. Love someone. And, by the way… don’t forget to start with yourself.”

Thank you, sadness, for stopping by. I didn’t expect to see you today, but it has been real.

– Luke

I’ll leave you good people with a song. Before I decided to share all of this with you kind friends and strangers, “How,” hit me right in the feels.

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Why I’m More Happy Than Sad Thinking About Robin Williams Today

robin williams (My favorite picture of Mr. Williams)

In complete transparency, I must admit, I had not specifically thought of Robin Williams in some time prior to last night. I came home after taking my teenage sons out to a late dinner and jumped on Facebook to see all the posts about Mr. Williams’ death and suspected suicide. There are so many fake celebrity death stories that I do not believe them at first anymore as a general rule. I wait until I see the story on several credible news outlets before accepting any celebrity’s death as having actually happened. Morgan Freeman has died too many times for me to do otherwise.

So, when I saw that Robin had really died and apparently committed suicide, I was very saddened about the news and remain so at this moment. I then started considering when the last time I had thought about him was. I concluded that it was a little over a month ago when I watched, “The Final Cut,” with my family. That is one of my favorites out of his many films. I suppose if I had to pic a “Top 5” in order, they would be: 1. Dead Poets Society 2. One Hour Photo 3. The Final Cut 4. World’s Greatest Dad 5. (Damn, this is a hard one because there are twenty movies that rival for this spot as I force myself to choose) Awakenings.

When I consider Robin’s death today, I take no thought for being perceived as on any bandwagon for talking about him just because he died. It is only human for us to consider the lives of people after they have died more than when they were alive. The sudden punctuation at the end of their life’s sentence provokes us to thoughts of the brevity of life and the utter value of what we leave behind as our legacy. We then reflect on the now deceased person’s legacy as well and their impact on us.

I will only speak of his death in brief. The word at the moment is that he committed suicide due to a life-long battle with alcoholism and depression. Whether he took his own life is his business. Since I have not suffered the grip of depression in my own life personally, I cannot speak on depression with any authority and would only be talking out of my ass. I have no personal experience to offer. I am grateful for that and say it with humility. I have deep empathy for my friends who deal with depression and hope to be of some service to them. Had I dealt with the difficulties Robin had, I would likely not have dealt with them as well as he did nor for as long. I may well have given into the despair and killed myself way before the age of 63 for all I know. If he did in fact take his life, I regret that being the case and wish it would not have been. Though, my wishes do no actual good in retrograde. For any readers dealing with depression presently, I can only say that you are inherently valuable and please seek help from those who love you or capable professionals who care. If you need to talk to someone and are in the U.S., PLEASE call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

That said, my present sadness over Robin’s death is overshadowed by an overwhelming joy and personal thankfulness when contemplating his life. Not only was he an amazing, rare, capable, insightful, and staggeringly talented actor, a man who gave his whole self to his art, a man who cheered up our service men and women abroad, a husband to several women, and father to several children; he had a specific and direct impact on me personally.

I am a poet and a writer. From the time I was a child, I wrote. When I was in high school, I had one teacher who I felt “got me.” He was my literature teacher, Mr. Wilson. As part of our literature class one semester, Mr. Wilson had us all watch, “Dead Poets Society,” over several class periods. I was hypnotized by the story and the characters. Robin Williams’ character as the amazing teacher spoke right to me as though he was in the room before my own school desk. The challenges, insights, and inspiration of Robin’s character in that movie, an extension of his own self, impacted me in an irreversible way as a teenager and young writer. The ripples of that impact are still rolling through me in untold ways. They are part of who I am as a writer and a human today and cannot be understated.

Robin Williams made more people laugh, cry, and think deeply than I can ever hope to in my lifetime I believe. Yet, his path was his and mine is mine. I can only stand in awe of who he was and the incredibly vast and deep body of work he left behind. That is why I am infinitely more happy than sad today when contemplating him. Whether he died yesterday or twenty years from now, like every other human being, death was imminent for him. But, what he did with his life across the years was not destiny. Robin lived in an effectual way and left it all on the table. He chose to open a vain and bleed for us via the amazing characters he played over the decades. He left us in tears of laughter through his unique stand-up comedy. He did not just write a verse with his life, he wrote volumes. I happily behold them, thank Robin for his impact on me and this world, while admiring him as much as I could any actor, comedian, or artist. If he did take his life, I do not condemn him for it. He dealt with struggles that I have not. I cherish him for how he lived his life up to that point. I hope myself to write a verse worth reading with my own life and will take the weighty question of teacher, John Keating, in, “Dead Poets Society,” to heart… “What will your verse be?”