Deep Peace: A Series
When I saw the notification on my phone I knew I would be writing about it tonight. I just didn't know what I was going to say or how.
This morning I was working on trying to figure out the HTML code for an email campaign my company was ready to send out that afternoon. I had been looking at it for awhile and still had not been able to totally perfect it. Basically, I was flummoxed.
and then, Ping!
I picked up my phone, eager for a distraction to take my mind off of the bamboozling code problem that had been plaguing me for the better part of three days.
Imagine my dismay when I discovered that the ping was not the jubilant invite of a friend's text or good news about potential freelance work to hit my email inbox, but a news alert that Kate Spade had hung herself just hours ago. In her beautiful New York City apartment. With her husband in the other room, for the moment unaware as to what horror was going on elsewhere in their very house.
Of course the news chilled me. It seemed so macabre, so dark. And of course it is just truly, deeply sad. I took a deep breath, said, "holy fuck," and then offered a prayer out to her family, her daughter, and even to Kate herself. For the darkness she had been facing inside, and for the hopelessness that must have enveloped her for so long, I offer my deepest, truest condolences.
I am writing this post -actually this series of posts - because reading the comments online, the chatter on social media, and the general commentary, I felt like there was something missing from the conversation. And I knew that I had something to add, something from me and my voice, and something that, perhaps narcissistically, I believe to be wholly necessary
You see, it bothered me that many people online, were using the phrase that Kate had "passed." As if hanging yourself in your own bedroom is some peaceful act. Even her own company had come out with a post on social media and then a memorial on their website hours after the news alert was brought to the public, using this same flaccid, unfeeling language. And while I understand why they did it this way, it seemed like less could have been said, and it still would have been more true. They didn't need to be as cold and fact-based as the news, but they didn't have to make it sound like some peaceful, natural death either. How about leave out the part about her "passing," and instead lead with the last part, the truest part: "we honor all the beauty she brought to the world." I would have asked that the Kate Spade social team take it a step further. How about: "we honor the beauty she brought to the world, a beauty she struggled with finding within herself during the last years of her incredibly impressive life. If you have ever shopped with us, thought of shopping with us, or even just dreamed of shopping with us, we ask that today you honor Kate's journey and legacy through a donation to American Suicide Foundation. Be well; go in peace (and great style,) Mrs. Kate Valentine. This is our love letter to you." Then, for a full day, a week, hell, a month or a year -- have a huge link to the ASPF site and make it a one-click donation experience. If all the money being spent on Kate Spade products right now could be funneled in to mental health initiatives across the United States, we could really make progress on some shit.
Look, I know it seems weird to be talking about how we perceive and honor death on social media, but the reason why I am talking about it is because how we behave and talk about things online is similar to how we talk and behave about things off of it. When we are so uncomfortable with mental illness as a society that we cannot even talk about it, recognize it, or respond to it appropriately, how can we truly be in alignment with truth, wisdom, and the things that do have the power to change this pandemic of suffering?
Another thing that bothered me about the chatter I heard online after the news of Kate Spade's suicide, is that many people took it as a time to talk about how surprising it was, how they couldn't believe that "someone like Kate Spade", who from the outside would seem to "have it all," could have been empty enough inside to see no hope, and no way out. Here's the thing: it can happen to anyone. Happiness is not about everything outside of us going right. It's about being able to access true inner happiness through a connection to something bigger than ourselves. It's about hope, forgiveness, right-thinking, right-living, and choosing to have a better narrative, and a better thought pattern for ourselves than what our negative stories would have us believe - even in our darkest moments. In addition to doing the inner work to feel good, happiness is also about chemicals and hormones in the brain, a system so complex and so mysterious that to this day we still struggle deeply with understanding the true causes, complexities, and outcomes of a mental illness diagnosis. For some people, just like those who are born with abnormally shaped blood cells, a terminal condition, a faulty lung, or a bum heart, you can be born with a natural propensity towards an in-balance in the chemicals, hormones, and immunological responses that regulate your mood, clarify your cognition, and keep you mentally healthy.
Look, happiness is an inside job, and it's fucking hard work. And that's for those who are not plagued by an on-going struggle with mental illness, which is just that: a true illness that can make you very sick from the inside out. So I knew I needed to write a multi-part post about happiness and how we can access it at any time if we choose to. I knew I needed to write about some of the common negative thoughts that can keep us from accessing our happiness. And I knew I needed to talk about how to recognize when you need help from a trained professional, and about how you can support someone who you think might be in need of trained support and medication.
This is going to be part of an on-going series. There is more to come here. This is in part due to the fact that I have a manuscript I am working on that I am working on self-publishing. Many of the topics intersect, and I thought it would be a great chance to start giving the world a taste of what I am working on.
Let us go in peace now. We have work to do. For ourselves, and for our world. Be the light. And may no one feel alone today.