Hanging Questions

The only experience I had with Anthony Bourdain was through interviews; the only experience of his TV shows was through audio clips. I never read Kitchen Confidential. Through the interviews I glimpsed a strong and articulate personality; he struck me as a rebel who had found a cause. Hearing of his suicide, I wondered if the recipe for a rebel contains a lot of overlapping ingredients with the recipe for depression.  Even so, without more details, my intuitions resisted the report that his death was suicide.  He had sounded so dedicated to his late in life role of Dad. How could he abandon his 11-year-old, I wondered.

I wondered this even though I know from experience how blinding depression is.  In a segment on NPR today with Michel Martin and Roxanne Roberts (who have lost loved-ones to suicide) and Dr. Nadine Kaslow, a comparison was made to the numerous  fatalities of people lost in Minnesota snow storms who stagger around blind until they finally give up, lie down and perish, to be found later only 100 feet from a farmhouse. Depression is like that, how it dulls and smothers the soul in the cold illusion of isolation, hopelessness, and often ill-worth.  In both circumstances, observers wonder why they couldn’t have kept going just a little longer.  Of course, those of us who have navigated that psychological grey-out know we could just as easily wonder they held on as long as they did.

The NPR commentators also discussed how, if their loved ones could have only heard all that was said at their funerals, how many people valued them and wanted them to stay alive, they might have stuck it out.  Yes, maybe.

But I also know that depression creates compelling mirages in perception and personality. Even in enviable life circumstances, a person can succumb to a strange, thick swathing of inconsolability, can slip into the gravity of a black hole from which emanates a prejudicial undertow, a broadcast of “I am not enough.”

I was moved as I listened, as my own loneliness pressed itself to the surface of my heart. I am blessed in many ways, but I have so many isolating factors in my life; and while I need and love solitude, I know great loneliness, as well. This especially as I go through not only the challenges of my physical and fiscal circumstances, but the purgative vicissitudes of a mystic, metabolizing the loneliness of her ancestors.

Our modern life makes this far worse. We often think everybody else thinks they’re okay, and we should look that way, too. But few of us are, no matter how many face-book friends we have, no matter how full our lives are of vapid tweeting. We are alone, even in the crowd, conditioned as we are to tend and protect our gardens of individuality.

However, as long as we are born naked, chances are that we aren’t really designed to thrive without real community, which is the unconditional net we weave together that accommodates everyone’s weaknesses and is in fact fortified by these as much as by our strengths. It is fellowship made resilient by honest vulnerability, lubricated by our humility and tears, and galvanized by laughter.

Perhaps the cumulative impact of all the school shootings, combined with the antics of our uber-narcissistic president, two more high-profile suicides and new sobering suicide statistics out this week will spawn another sort of #MeToo movement, a Me-True movement, in which we make our gloriously imperfect humanity a focus of collaborative compassion and celebration.

Reach across the gap today tell someone you appreciate them; they may need it more than you, or even they, know. It costs you nothing. In a world of “not enough,” Love always increases in the sharing.






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