I cried when I learned of Anthony Bourdain’s passing.
He was someone I’d never met and had no expectation to meet.
And yet he was someone I felt like I knew and had traveled with because in some ways I had.
We all had.
I was at my desk working on some project that seemed very important at the time and I could feel the resistance to completing it rising up inside me. The little voice whispered that no one cares what I write about, no one would read it, and no one would take action on it triggered the impulse to go to my favorite hiding place and read the news online.
And there it was – the banner headline screaming out Anthony Bourdain Dead at 61.
For a minute I was speechless.
The little voice inside me shut up and my jaw literally dropped open as I clicked on the Live Now button, sure that this was somehow a mistake and not really understanding why I cared so much about someone who I didn’t really pay a whole lot of attention to.
I posted on Facebook to share the announcement.
And then I heard them give the cause of death: Suicide.
I couldn’t listen anymore.
The reporters talking about him were choking up.
I suddenly felt tears welling up in my eyes and felt myself getting warmer.
DO SOMETHING the voice now decided to scream.
And for some reason I felt I had to go on Facebook and share my own thoughts about depression…to confess I had been suicidal in the past and still deal with depression.
The rest of the day I felt sad and struggled to get any significant work done.
There are lessons here for each of us I think; and because we are sense-making creatures I want to share the lessons I see from my perspective. Feel free to share your thoughts by commenting below or on the video I aired live on Facebook minutes after I heard of his death.
Be you. I know that’s practically a cliché but it’s true. It’s what people genuinely want. We don’t want you to pretend to be something you’re not. We want to know your thoughts and opinions. We want your perspective on the topic at hand. We want you to share your insight so we can think about our own. And you’re only talking to those who genuinely want to hear your message. Those who don’t can just go elsewhere. Don’t “fake it ‘til you make it;” instead, “act as if” what you want is coming true because it is in fact doing just that.
Be courageous. Mr. Bourdain had thought about writing for what must have felt like a long time when he finally wrote his famous piece for The New Yorker as a freelancer. It took nerve to send that in and they could have passed on it. But they didn’t. And he didn’t allow the voices in his head to convince him it wasn’t good. He didn’t listen to it when it demanded “who are you to think you’re good enough to write a piece for The New Yorker?”
Share your story. Mr. Bourdain didn’t hide the dark side of his life. From his professional struggles to his struggle with drugs, his willingness to acknowledge his past and seemingly move beyond it showed us what was possible. No, maybe we wouldn’t be paid millions to travel the world, eat exotic food, and share stories. But our story – and our history – makes us who we are and makes us relatable to those who need to and want to hear it.
And more than anything else, be willing to share your passion and live a life full of love. Share that love and joy with others.
As painful as it is for us, his fans, it must be indescribably painful for his friends and family, especially his daughter.
We want to know why – why didn’t he get help…why did he feel this was the only way out…why did he do this?
And we tell ourselves stories based on our own experience with depression, with losing someone, with sadness.
The real truth is we can never know the answer. We can only try to understand that each person must walk their own path and make the choices that seem best for them at the time and in the moment.
As Anderson Cooper said in his nice tribute to his friend, “it’s impossible to know what goes on in one person’s heart or head.”
In the days that follow, when others may be triggered and tempted to take the same sort of action, let’s be especially kind – to each other and to ourselves. Let’s remember the power of words to wound and to heal. Let’s remember the powerful impact each of us has on others. And let’s recommit ourselves to live each moment being fully present with those in our lives and to letting others know how much we care for and love them so no one ever doubts they matter or that help is just a click , text, or call away.