Losing Tony Bourdain this week was a shock. A visceral punch right into the sternum, knocking the wind out of my day as I just sat and stared into space after I got a text telling me the news. Office life carried on around me for an hour or so in a muffled blur as all I could do was search the news sites in the vain hope it was this elusive ‘fake news’ or a jolly jape by one of those websites that frequently make up celebrity deaths.
It wasn’t. It was as real as anything I could physically rest my hands on.
He’d left us. He’d apparently made that choice that many do, when the Too Muchness of life shouts in your ear that one time too many.
Part of my brain yelled “But how? WHY?!” knowing that we’ll never really be able to know or understand fully. But when you look back at his life, he’d done nothing but fight it. He’d conquered many things, tamed the more destructive forces in his life.
He’d stayed as long as he could. He’d lived his life as fully as anyone could possibly do, crammed in every experience he could, talked and listened to hundreds of other humans, always attentive, always making it about them not him. The life of a young chef is fast, fast, fast. It’s demanding, and draining and exhilarating; dirty, filthy, hot and grindingly relentless. It’s camaraderie, a team, whilst probably also wanting to punch people because you’re stuck in a small sweat box of a place with people yelling at you from all sides, all vying to be the best at their thing but it pumps with adrenaline, whilst existing on hardly any sleep and probably not that much food, either. It’s not an atmosphere that encourages asking for help. You have to hold it together for the team, keep it all business on the line. Yes he survived it all, and loved it all the way, too, but there were near misses. Heroin and cocaine are not forgiving masters, but he broke free of them.
To quote Jeremy McLellan:
“If someone were to die at the age of 61 after a lifelong battle with MS or Sickle Cell, we’d all say they were a “fighter” or an “inspiration.” But when someone dies after a lifelong battle with severe mental illness and drug addiction, we say it was a “tragedy” and tell everyone “don’t be like him, please seek help.”
Sorry, but that’s bullshit. Anthony Bourdain sought help his entire life. He struggled for decades. He saw a therapist. He quit heroin and cocaine. He went to rehab. He did this for decades. That’s HOW he made it to 61. For some people, 61 is a miracle. I know so many people who didn’t make it past 31 and I’d do anything to have 30 more years with them.”
So I say to my friends and family and wider circle of IG pals who also deal with such things, who live day to day, making each of those 12 hours count; Thank you.
Thank you for staying.
Thank you for fighting.
Thank you for being a part of my life and attaining enough value in yourself that you keep on doing that.
Thank you for finding things that give life meaning. For trying therapies, the antidepressants, the hobbies and long walks, the cats and dogs, the gym and the yoga studio. The deep breathing, the Rescue Remedy, that square of dark chocolate every morning just to see if it helps, the salt lamps and the blackout blinds.
Thank you for your fight, and for making it, day after day.
Thank you, and here’s to you, for doing all of that. You are winning, you are being. No matter how much of a failure you feel, you’re a star, as bright as any other star in those velvet black skies.
Here’s to YOU.
Photo credit: Harper’s Bazaar.