Tuesday, April 26, 2011

#282 Robin Black: Growing Up Unhappy and Becoming Happier in a Way that Makes Unhappy People Feel Like They Can Become Happier Too

Robin Black was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the youngest of three children. Her parents were legal scholars and she grew up in a great big house that was not a bit fancy. The house had lots of illness around it, which made growing up pretty odd. When Robin was 10, her grandmother who was a paraplegic from spinal tumors moved in with the family. Also, her father’s difficult moods dominated the household and his lack of balance kept everybody off-balance. Robin had ADD (still does) and other learning issues, which made her feel like a failure growing up. She was always the kid with unfinished homework and she missed lots of school because of illnesses, which had their basis in her fear of going to school. When Robin was 16, she asked her parents if she could go into therapy and that probably saved her life. She’s thankful for that instinct to get help when life felt so overwhelming. Robin’s memories of childhood are largely unhappy ones, but she always liked reading and writing, and she loved theater. She was in every school play and some community theater too. Playing a character was a great way to not deal with her own stuff. Robin studied voice too and can sing just about every song written between the two world wars. If she wasn’t going to be an actress, she was going to be a nightclub singer. But she didn’t pursue either, in part, because she was afraid of how sophisticated the other theater kids seemed when she got to college. That paralyzed her and she took German instead, which made no sense at all. During college, Robin took time off to return home and be her grandmother’s caregiver. After college, she became severely agoraphobic and couldn’t leave her house without having crippling anxiety attacks. During this time, Robin also had two difficult pregnancy losses, one late along, and those were shattering experiences. Robin met her wonderful husband Richard at a Public Service Fair when she was in law school, which she was doing so she could support herself and her kids. She was 30ish, had ended her first marriage, and was a mother of two children. Richard has been a full-fledged parent to her two older kids and to the daughter they have together. She’s amazed by how much he can give to other people. Around 40, Robin decided agoraphobia wouldn’t get in her way anymore. It took years of intensely difficult work, but she beat the disease. Most of the decisions Robin made the first 40 years of her life were motivated by fear. Robin’s kids are now 23, 19, 15 (girl, boy, girl) each amazing and amazingly kind. Her daughters are gamer girls and her son is a singer, which makes her super happy. Her youngest has significant learning disabilities and works so hard for things that come easily to most. The learning disabilities concern language processing, so Robin and her daughter are always trying to find the right words, though for very different reasons. Along with her family, Robin also loves her dog Watson, who is so loving back. It's important to have a relationship that doesn't involve words. For now, Robin wants to keep writing, to age well, and have friends who think she’s kind and funny, which she does. She wants to write a book about growing up unhappy and becoming happier that makes unhappy people feel like they can become happier. She also wants to sing more, but not in some corny, metaphorical way. She actually wants to sing more.


cynthia said...

I LOVE this postcard of Robin Black's life. It's amazing what depth and breadth you're able to achieve with so few words. I particularly like the last 5 sentences.

This is my first visit to your site, but I'll be back.

Michael Kimball said...

Thanks, Cynthia. Robin is wonderful and the last part is my favorite part too. Best, M