The last month has been one of those mile markers in life that kind of sneak up on you. Obviously, I had known my daughter’s college graduation was coming this past May for the last 4 years (Thank you, child, for gettin’ ‘er done in four!) and the kids’ birthday always come one after another in a dizzying six weeks’ time, but I was still surprised to find myself with an adulty adult, a nineteen year-old who already has a year of college under her belt, a seventeen year-old who has to start seriously looking at colleges, and a fifteen year-old who can get her driving permit in six months. After years devoted to helping (pushing, prodding, nagging) the kids meet concrete goals: learning to walk, talk, read, tie their shoes, put laundry in the hamper (I’m still working on that one),drive a car, fill out a college application, how do I help them learn to live?
The shocking suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain as bookends of a terrible week made me think about what is a good life? Is there anything I could do, say, or show my kids that could possibly light their way back if they ever find themselves in a dark place? And I have no answers.
Spade and Bourdain were both wildly successful by every yardstick imaginable. I had a Kate Spade diaper bag and those kids grew up to have Kate Spade handbags. The persona of insouciant New Yorker translated into fashion, a desirable home décor line as well as well as books. Anthony Bourdain was famously cool and hip with TV shows and got to live a life traveling and eating that seems like a dream— a job where I get paid to travel and chow down? Undeniably, their success came from deep reserves of talent and hard work. So when I tell my kids to persevere through school and work and good things will come to them, while not a lie, it is no guarantee that it will be enough. With success came fame and money. I never think of fame as a prerequisite to a good life, and I can easily see that as a stressor. But money, that is supposed to be the elixir that cures all. Once basic needs are met—food and housing—money can be transformative–education, philanthropy, travel, Frette sheets, Romane´-Conti, and someone to clean your toilets. Still not enough. And medical care. In a time of uninsured and under-insured, money gives you access to the best doctors and facilities. Didn’t matter.
Please believe me, I’m not criticizing Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain for not being happy or thinking them selfish for not appreciating the lives they led. My heart breaks to think of the pain they suffered to make the choice they did, but that pain terrifies me because they left behind people they LOVED. So they had love, in addition to the success, but the torment blinded them and I want to know, could anything have made them grope back to the light?
I don’t know. And, I think every parent agrees, that is the scariest part of the journey.
If you or anyone you know needs help, reach out.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
You’re not alone. Confidential help is available for free.