Welcome to another meeting of the Super Opinionated Power Club!
This week's Power Club is going to be organized around the serenity prayer because I need it to be.
- Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Robin Williams committed suicide this week and there's not a damn thing anybody reading this could have done to prevent it.
Robin Williams grew up an only child with a fair amount of privilege and abuse throughout his childhood by his own account, and he sought a solution to his problems in drugs and alcohol. He eventually got clean, sober, and into recovery, publicly speaking of his membership in Alcoholics Anonymous (a thing it's worth noting AA itself discourages members from doing, for a variety of reasons).
A little after 7:15 in this video, Robin turns to the audience he's standing in the middle of and asks, "does anyone have drugs to ease my pain?" No zany accent, no spin on it. It's a statement that other people laugh at, but it's not a joke. (I know of what I speak.)
It's suggested in the AA literature to try and identify, not compare, when hearing another alcoholic's story - no matter the differences of situation or circumstance, there is almost always something there to relate to. I never heard him qualify, but it would have been no effort at all for me, an only child of upper middle class abusive parents with a suicide attempt in her past, to find something that spoke to my experience. It's not hard to see myself in his path, what could happen if I'm not careful. I'm sorry for his family and friends, and I hope they're able to grieve for him in peace.
I have no advice for anyone else about how to manage their own mental health, on an average week or one with a celebrity suicide framing it. Overwhelmingly, I've found the public response to be useless to me and distasteful at best; the outpouring of dismayed appreciation feels belated and self-centered. The only words of wisdom and comfort for me right now come from the same place I was when I got the news: in a meeting.
- The courage to change the things I can
The desperate, out of control feeling about the actions of others will pass when you acknowledge just how little power you actually have, then start to use it where it can actually work. I don't know what's possible for you. Can you get involved in Wikipedia editing so that the same tiny group of people aren't mostly determining what goes into Wikipedia? (I kind of want to, but have less than zero idea where to begin, and I hate feeling stupid, so...bad combination.) Is there a cause that's dear to you that has a local organization that could use a volunteer? (I've been volunteering as a medical advocate for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center since June, and 1) we need more, also 2) it's been one of the most profoundly positive, life-changing experiences I've ever done. I feel like every shitty thing I've lived through is worth something, because that gives me the ability to understand someone in crisis better and help them more.)
I can tell you that nobody has power over Fish Plays Pokemon, but we do have power over how gross the chat room gets. (I like to write flashfiction about what the fish's character must be getting out of its actions, eg staring at a fence for so long. Also, I never ever yell at the fish, obvi.)
Whenever I feel like I have no other options, I know that there is something about or within myself I can begin with, if nowhere else.
- And the wisdom to know the difference
"I've told the kids in the ghettos that violence won’t solve their problems, but then they ask me, and rightly so; “Why does the government use massive doses of violence to bring about the change it wants in the world?” After this I knew that I could no longer speak against the violence in the ghettos without also speaking against the violence of my government." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Before we even ask why the police have been militarized by the government (we know why) and deployed against these specific American citizens (we know why) we can demand that this stops in our local community, wherever that happens to be. We can change the system without understanding the system (and we already know why). It will take effort, and it will not be the work of one person, or even a small group of people. But I believe that this enormous, monstrous thing is a thing I can help change. If I have the courage.
I leave you with this, from my favorite teacher when I was twelve: