“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often though, they hurt.” – Anthony Bourdain
Aw. What did you have to go and do that for? You inspired me by bringing the world together through travel and the enjoyment of food. You showed me that we are all more alike than we are different. You had friends all over this planet, and you were a friend to this planet. And then you hanged yourself in a hotel room in France. The world misses you, Anthony Bourdain. I miss you.
Listen to me read this post:
Once you’ve made that decision, there’s no going back. Suicide is final. Even if you are very certain that’s what you want to do, please wait a bit. Even the most solid feelings shift and change. So do circumstances. Please wait. There are a billion things you’ve put off. Put this off, too. Don’t sharpen your follow-through skills here.
People want a reason, but I don’t think there’s ever one event that brings someone to the point of suicide. Humans are complicated, and the reasons we kill ourselves are equally complicated.
The cause of suicide can’t be reduced to a relationship ending or to a night of binge drinking. Suicide is the result of a complex stew of anguish and of complete hopelessness. It’s hard to understand, but I think most of us have been down that low. I think most of us have tasted the poison of that deepest despair.
I was really sad, but I wasn’t terribly surprised when I heard how Mr. Bourdain died. Many of his actions were self-destructive.
I witnessed Anthony Bourdain put himself in harm’s way over and over again on his CNN series Parts Unknown. He engaged in mixed martial arts battles; he drank to excess out on the town; he drove an all-terrain vehicle recklessly on a beach and ended up flipping it. All of these things he did on camera.
Yes, Anthony Bourdain was successful and famous, but neither of these guarantees happiness and peace. I’ve seen strong evidence that fame can lead in the opposite direction, down the road to disquiet and restlessness. Striving for success can be a distraction from constant, gnawing emotional pain.
It’s been a long time since I thought all on my own that I’d rather be dead. 25 years or so ago my choices led me down what I perceived to be a dead end street. As it turned out, it wasn’t. I was able to slam my life into reverse and ungracefully drive out of that predicament.
The trip out of there wasn’t smooth and it wasn’t without difficult life-changing consequences. It took a long time to get my bearings and to finally enjoy the journey. Those days are behind me now and here I am, somehow still wonderfully alive. Looking back, I’m sure glad I lived to see this part of life.
I’m a bit reluctant to share this next story with you, trusted readers, because I don’t know what to make of it. I can’t explain what happened here. I guess the why doesn’t matter. Whatever it was, this unpleasant experience gave me a close-up view of what it’s like to decide with certainty to end your own life.
Last June, we were on vacation in Mexico. A couple of days into our stay, I woke up in the middle of the night and thought clearly, “I know. I’ll kill myself. That will solve everything.”
I felt extremely peaceful and very sure. I felt I’d found the perfect solution (to what problem, I didn’t know) and I was ready to proceed. I was fearless and certain.
The thing is I was pretty happy. Mexico is one of my favourite places, and I was so grateful to have another chance to visit there. Life was good. I was attending university, something very meaningful to me. My courses at the time were demanding, and I had to work doubly hard prior to leaving for Mexico to ensure that I wouldn’t fall behind. But this is average stress for a student, nothing unusual at all.
For two long days that dark feeling stayed with me, hovering low and casting grey shadows over the palm trees and the pools. I’m lucky because I’ve trained in meditation for a few years now. This has taught me how to observe my thoughts and feelings as distinct and separate from “me.”
So, for two whole days, I watched that feeling. I let it sit there and brood, and as if the feeling was a bad-tempered relative who had overstayed its welcome. I knew it would leave, but I didn’t know when.
Then, one afternoon we walked into the village. In a rooftop bar, we ordered Pacifico Clara, and as I looked out over the ocean and at the endless blue sky, the feeling went away.
“Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” I told it.
The day we left the resort, we found out that the night I woke up clearly and resolutely wanting to kill myself, a woman on the hotel floor directly beneath our room had done just that.
Because of this relatively-recent experience of apparently second-hand suicidal thoughts, I have a better understanding of how that dear man would’ve thought it was a good option to hang himself.
I wish Anthony Bourdain would’ve waited for the feeling to pass because it does, but it’s too late now.
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