"You Don't Know The Roof Is Leaking Until You Live On The Inside"
Last week, I was (along with so many of us) shocked and saddened by the deaths of both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain within days of each other.
Two individuals who had it all. Commercial success, professional recognition, total economic independence and all the luxuries that come with it.
In the case of Spade, her name and brand were iconic. A true entrepreneur, she built her company from nothing, leaving an indelible mark on so many. Many of my friends and colleagues still fondly recall their first Kate Spade bag. (Many of them still have it.) There was no question of how much her work was loved, no doubt about her contributions to the world of fashion.
As for Bourdain, well, wasn't he who we all wanted to be? Larger than life, yet unapologetically himself. Willing to say what he thought but without judging you in the process. He lived the life so many want - travel the world over, experience different cultures and their foods, and connect at a human level, regardless of personal politics, religion, or the social and cultural dogma that we succumb to far too often.
These two were success stories in every traditional sense of the word. But clearly, that wasn't enough for them.
And I can't understand why.
I want to make sense of it, because I'd like a simple answer that would explain it all. Something that would give me comfort, something that would explain what, on the surface, werw clearly irrational acts.
But I also get that that's kind of selfish. Of course, I'd love an answer, because it would allow me to put these deaths into some neat, predefined box - one that would make it easy for me to explain it to my kids, to file it away as "that's what happens when you do XYZ". But that's never going to happen.
Because I also get that there's far more complexity to the situation than any of us can know or understand. You know, when I was growing up, my default view of suicide was that it was the coward's way out. That if you had issues or problems, then there was a simple solution: toughen up, find the answer and solve it. Sure, I reasoned, it may not be easy, but, really, you had no choice, right? Because, really, no one wants to be a coward, right? These are the simple luxuries of youth.
As I've grown older, as I've realized that the world isn't black and white, as I've grappled with life, as I've understood more about our human experience, I've come to appreciate that there are more complexities at work here than I can possibly understand.
That there isn't a simple answer, or a straight line path. That simple 'will' cannot always do it.
That an individual's mental make up, their mental health, is a complex cocktail of a host of factors, from childhood experiences to parental actions to societal/cultural/religious influences to personal biological make up (and so much more). And that any decisions they (or we) take cannot be boiled down to simplistic explanations based on our own belief systems, judgements and ideas.
Of course, it goes without saying (though I'll say it anyway) that I, personally, don't accept suicide as ever being the answer. I'm just saying that there are deeper reasons, deeper complexities than what we can understand on the surface, from our vantage point.
But it also goes without saying, that we must keep trying, starting where we can - with those around us.
It's incumbent on all of us, to look out for our loved ones and our friends and our colleagues, paying attention to them as people and not as mere roles or job titles or positions. To recognize them as people first and to not make simplistic judgements. And to not be afraid to put ourselves out there, and ask if they're ok.
Because no matter how perfect we think the house is, we'll never know what's really going on, on the inside until you've lived there.
(H/T to Smerconish for the title quote.)