Good morning, Wednesday. I'm loving Scotland but this is not a post about Scotland. I've taken a few days off to travel and enjoy but truly there's something so troubling on my mind. And it's so unfortunate that the post prior to this was also about suicide.
Many of you know how deeply I loved Anthony Bourdain. A photograph of him holding his knife on the streets of New York has lived in all of my kitchens since it was given to me by a now deceased photographer, who took is portrait years ago. I always said he was just an ideal human. I loved his lank, his wickedly funny snark, his rock and roll, poetic brilliance. He showed us the world in ways we had never seen, and I think he's responsible for so much of our love of local and that sentiment that traveling is rarely about being a tourist. It's about embracing the culture and food and life that foreign places bring to us.
My closest friends reached out when they heard the news. It's true- I was in love with Bourdain, and from the looks of all of my social feeds, so was everybody else. This was a hard one. A very, very hard one. And we all want to know why. Who the f knows why? I've seen various dissections of suicide all over the news and some brilliant essays post mortem, but here's my rather simple take.
I grew up as a kid of the 80s, and the 80s had a dark veil encasing pop culture. Sure it was a time of bubblegum pop like Madonna, but there were also bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Gene Loves Jezebel (random but top of mind), and the Smiths to name but a few that explored the darkness. As a teen I read Baudelaire, I read Rimbaud, I read Byron. I know that is now a gross cliche of teenage, new wave angst, but truly- I explored what it meant to be dark. And that's probably because as a teen I was, for all intents and purposes, darker than dark. I wish I could say I was happy go lucky, but I was nowhere near that. I've always loved a dark horse. We enjoyed being dark back then. It was part of the brief. There was a romance to it.
My point is- back then there was an acknowledgement of sadness. That life was messy. That relationships were messy. That our minds were messy. And then of course we got to the 90s which went dark in a real fucked up way- Kurt Cobain. That's all I need to say there. Then the darkness gave way to anger. And we lost a lot of those souls but it was also the era of "Prozac Nation" and Fiona Apple and it became more than ok to talk about depression. In fact, in was pervasive. We all took antidepressants, or at least everyone I know did. They made us fat, they numbed us out, but they made us feel better for a little while. Cut to now.
I'm not sure what happened but happiness has taken over. Fake happiness. Or at least it feels that way right now. For a good minute now, life has been all about sunshine, personal fulfillment, and perfection. It's absolutely ridiculous.
Look at your Instagram feed. It's full of good looking people doing good looking things. It's full of #blessings and #bullshit. Yet every day terrible things are happening all around us but somehow, our happiness is what prevails. Good on you, I guess. But for some, the candy coated world makes the teeth hurt. And it becomes a bit too much. I'm not saying Kate or Tony killed themselves because of Instagram. I'm just saying we've hidden our sadness for far too long. And we've replaced it with unicorn pool floats and rose all day.
I'm not saying I want anyone to be sad. But it's time to get real. The futility of this so called "happy life" has become a bit much. That sometimes even if you "have it all" you might not be able to keep it together. We need to balance all of this saccharine sweetness somehow.
I too am guilty. This blog has become like therapy for me in many ways- but many have asked why I keep things like a light and fluffy omelette when my soul is anything but. I do it because it feels good to shuffle the nasty bits aside. I will continue to do so and thank goodness I'm not suicidal but Lord knows I fight every day to keep from going far too dark. I'm predisposed to it and I've always really frowned upon it. I'm definitely more of a keep calm and carry on type but often I'm anything but. And I trust many of you feel the same way.
I'm friends with one person on Facebook who openly talks about the darkness. And it makes me wince every time because it seems like oversharing and I think about how many colleagues or potential colleagues are reading it and whether it's just plain wrong to share things like that. Now I have to reassess that. Is it really hard to believe anyone is living their less than best life because Instagram tells us otherwise? These here are tough times, kiddos. We need to support each other and talk to each other and admit that life is very, very fucked up. It's beautiful and candid and hilarious too. But it can be very dark. And that has to be ok.
I have no idea why Bourdain killed himself. Maybe he was just ready to peace out. To all of us, he had so much more to live for, to see, to do. But so many suffer in silence because of a commitment to some sort of silent code that tells us we need to present as shiny and happy. Sure he always had an edge, that's why we loved him. He was so very real. And in many ways, so was his death. A very real reaction to a very real world that is often unkind and dark and a bit too much.
As I sit here and write this, I'm staring out my window on the Isle of Skye and it's cloudy and rainy and chilly. And it suits me fine. Because that's just what my soul needs. I'm not always Suzie Sunshine, and I'm feeling like we don't always have to be. Because there's beauty in the dark too. Don't shut out that part of your soul, but please dear Lord, don't let it kill you. Just know that amidst all the bikini pics, sun flares, and Gucci bags, there's life actually being lived. And it's tough. Beyond tough. I've seen so many books and articles on how to achieve true happiness and fulfillment. Maybe that goal's unattainable for some. Maybe just being able to see your way out of the cave is ok, too. I'm not saying depression is in any way a goal. But I'm just saying- the full monty SHINY HAPPY thing may not be your trip. But if you can't shake that darkness, you need to get help. And there is no shame in that. None.
I'm so sad about Bourdain- he was in many ways, my patron saint. But his death and Kate Spade's death has many of us examining our own demons and darkness. And just know- if you ever need me, you can always talk to me about what's eating you. And I'll continue to enjoy Instagram and everything else, but maybe just maybe I'll indulge a bit of the dark to go with all the light. Or be there for anyone who likes to drink their coffee black and not too light or sweet.
Cause that's what's up this drizzly Scottish morning on the Isle of Skye. Yours, in getting real. XO