I picked up my phone for the first time in days today to check on things back home. I was shocked to learn that in one week, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain had both committed suicide. I was shaken.
Kate, at 55, seemed to have it all. She had built one of the world’s most recognizable fashion brands which she sold in the late 90s. She had a foundation and in the last year was launching a new brand. She had a husband (although separated) and a 13 year old daughter. On the outside, it even appeared that she was adored by her brother-in-law. She’s been described as funny, whip smart, kind, pretty and - no doubt - a creative. All the things we girls want to be, no? How was it possible that she had nothing left to live for? How was it possible that her pain had exceeded her ability to endure it?
Anthony Bourdain, at 61, seemed to share in her success. He appeared to be in love, also left behind a young daughter and an amazing career. His life was all about ubuntu and sharing that humanity with the world via his show. I must admit that I had a bit of a secret crush on this bad boy of the foodie world, especially when he took such a strong stance in support of his girlfriend and women as part of the #metoo movement. There was something about him that just made you want to hang out with him and be part of his circle. That said, it isn’t hard to believe that he may have struggled with depression. He had been open about his challenges and vices; but it was shocking, nontheless, that he would take his own life in a hotel room.
I can’t help but think of the Golden Mean Principle when it comes to Kate and Anthony. Do the higher you go, the harder you fall? In my own life, I’ve reached heights that I hadn’t even imagined for myself. However, this year has also brought its share of lows to put things into balance. Taking time off and finding my place in our family has had its moments. Establishing my identity outside of work has been tough. The job search is a roller coaster. I miss work. I miss having a team. I miss having a vision and seeing it come to ground with the help of amazing people. I would be lying if I didn’t have days where I didn’t feel lonely or even a bit lost.
Appropriately so, I’m half way through Brene Brown’s, Braving the Wilderness. An intuitive friend gifted it to me soon after I quit my job and I’ve just now mustered the presence to crack it open. In the book, she writes about how we are increasingly becoming a lonelier society. She calls the place that I have visited frequently this year, “The Lonely Place”. The interesting thing is that you can experience this while being surrounded with people you love - a sentiment not unfamiliar to leaders.
All this being said, I did take (what is quickly becoming) a year off with intent. As someone who always operated from a strong sense of gut and mind, I had lost total connection to my heart. Re-connecting to it is real work. However, I am making progress.
My hope is that at the end of all of this, that I will be a better wife, mom, sister, daughter and, ultimately, leader. And, I will see Kate and Anthony as reminders that every day, good or bad, is precious and every morning is a fresh start.
*If you or someone you know is in need of support: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org