I’ve been thinking about what matters in our culture and what it means to be open to the hard stuff that goes on in this world. I’m taken back to a conversation I had with some clients when Phillip Seymour Hoffman died of an overdose. I was in charge of leading group that week, and the news had hit earlier that month. So, I brought an article, which ended with the statement that addiction is not inherently selfish, that there are a lot of factors at work. I wanted to talk about what they thought about that, given their own experiences.
What comes to mind now is the comment from someone that people die from overdoses every day. That just because Hoffman was famous didn’t make him better than the struggles other people faced. In the moment, it was a sense of “Yes,” but also my own struggle to “stay in control,” to go back to what I had meant to talk about in group (which, as an aside, you learn in Counseling 101 – don’t do that. It’s not helpful.) And yet, that thought keeps coming to mind today – of who is allowed to matter, what is allowed to count, and how we talk about the hard things? Who do we give voice and attention to? And what happens to every day experience, when there are those who struggle with the same thing(s)?
And I’ve been thinking about Robin Williams’ death in similar terms… but there’s more than that. I think one of my friends on Facebook said it eloquently, that part of what resonates is that the story (depression, suicide, hopelessness) is not one unfamiliar to so many people. It’s getting press coverage because of someone famous – but we also want to say, “Me too!” because it’s important stuff and perhaps, this is a time we get the forum.
And when it hits close to the heart (if you’ve read even a few of the posts, he was beloved of many – probably because he DID make us laugh and see the world in new ways), we reach out toward our own experience. It’s our way of understanding… it’s a way to make sense of the fact that someone who was best known for joy and laughter was feeling such pain and struggle. There is no sense in that. We pull in closer to our experience, to share so that others might not feel as lonely. Because depression, thoughts of suicide – all of that is a lonely, hopeless place to be.
And so, we hold on to the things that we can – our experience, our loved ones, the ways that our story does matter. To share our own experiences and bring to light the ways that we have shown up on this planet, whatever that looks like. We tell stories to make sense of a world that is so senseless – with children being taken, unarmed people being shot and killed, with good people dying and taking their own lives. Stories help us feel connected, whether to others that we know or that we don’t. It allows us the opportunity to find even a sliver of hope.
Remember, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.
– Stephen King (Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption)