I know I need to give an update about surgery (short story: all went well, recovery is appropriately challenging, more news to come), but dammit if I am not out of sorts and struggling under the avalanche of just total crap news the past four weeks. Physical therapy is slow and hard and slow, work is being weird, I haven’t seen my boyfriend since July 7th, I miss my dogs, and too many good famous people whose job it was to remind us to lighten up through laughter have died.
I was still home in the hip brace when the news came of Robin Williams’ death. Since I live in Marin County, only one town away from his home in Tiburon, it felt more personal to me, knowing his neighborhood, and having several friends who cycled with him, they all, in terrible shock. I cried, bawling, loud jags for about an hour as the news reports and tweets rolled in, each one echoing the same basic story: Robin was tender and kind, shy and vulnerable, giving and warm, intelligent and well-mannered. Being a comic genius was actually much lower on the list.
Today, Joan Rivers died. She lived to be 81, sucking all the delicious marrow out of a long life while working her ass off every single day. For all their differences, she and Robin shared two things. First, the gift of comedy, which shows me time and time again to be the most potent medicine for the widest range of ailments. Second, they are widely hailed as people of integrity and humanity, always there to support or mentor, and always looking out for those coming up behind them.
It strikes me that the reason it hurts more to lose actors and comedians like Robin and Joan is because of this magical combination of humor and humility and the talent and drive they have to perform it for us, out loud, in public, on a stage. They make us feel as if they live inside our brains, saying all the things we want to say at JUST the perfect time, all the while an entire audience shares this same feeling, and bam, we are all connected. Most of us don’t know them personally, but they express our emotions and validate that we are not alone with all our complicated feelings through their writing, performance, and support of others doing the same work. They relieve us of our anxieties by pointing out how absurd our behavior is. There is real power in this exchange. Much more powerful than, say, creepy extremists carrying out horrific violence on other humans.
I hope we keep our focus on all the joy they brought us, because the world feels really terrible and overwhelming lately. They both made it a little easier for me to get up and face each day. I think I will read all the gushing remembrances over again and watch some good videos of them and others who make me laugh.
And hopefully the next person to go will be Vladimir Putin. And Pussy Riot will dance on his grave. (Joan would like this joke.)