It’s still a raw, festering hole in my psyche that flares up every time I see a post about him on social media. I can’t bring myself to watch any of his shows yet. Who knows why it’s hit me this hard. I barely understand how to use all the features in my truck properly. Asking me to grasp even the minutest reality of human psychology is just too much.
I think, though… I think it’s because I saw myself in him and that’s terrifying.
Now, before you freak out, it needs to be noted that I am not depressed and I do not suffer from depression. As far as I know, I’m pretty free from any sort of mental illness unless you count a couple of strange phobias. I am, for the most part, a happy person.
So, in many ways and not including his depression, I saw a whole lot of myself in Anthony Bourdain. Naturally, then, his death has led me to ponder my own mortality; it’s led me to consider the fleeting nature of this one and only life we know we have.
One single line has repeated itself, over and over, in my mind since his passing:
There’s not much time left.
There’s not much time left to do the things I want to do. There’s not much time left to be the person I want to be.
One thing you may not know about me is that I am utterly brilliant at procrastination. I am highly skilled in putting things off. Take, for example, swimming. Swimming is not just daily exercise for me. Swimming is not just a way to burn calories or move my body. Rather, swimming is sheer bliss. The natural high from getting your heart rate up coupled with the fact that you’re underwater and can’t clearly hear the outside world at all make swimming like meditation for me. I get all my best thinking done in the lanes and I come out feeling more refreshed than I do after a good night’s sleep. Swimming is everything to me and yet I haven’t been doing regular laps in over a year.
I’ll do it after Christmas. It’s just too hectic with the holidays here.
I’ll do it after spring break. I just have too much to do with the kids home all day.
I’ll do it when the weather gets better.
I’d come up with excuse after excuse to not get into the pool and swim.
But, yesterday morning I just did it. I got in the pool and I swam. 875 metres to be exact. Today, 625 metres. Mostly breaststroke as it takes me some time to ease into freestyle, lest I blow out a neglected rotator cuff, but the point is, I got in the pool and I swam. Finally.
Before I did, though, I was lying in a warm, cozy bed with my puppy, my cat and my husband. I didn’t want to leave. I almost found an excuse to stay there. Instead, I said to myself,
Do it for Tony.
I’m aware of the cheese level here. It’s not lost on me how bloody corny this sounds. The thing is, though, is that it worked because what it meant was that there’s not a whole lot of time left. 60-odd years if I’m lucky, and let’s face it, not all of those years are going to be lucid, hard-working years. Maybe I have 30 or 40 years left to get what I want to accomplish done, providing I don’t meet my untimely end choking on satay or on the windshield of a bus before then. Considering the last 40 years went by in a breeze, I can only conclude that there’s just not a whole lot of time left.
Besides, Tony was a huge fan of cheese. And corn.
With all of that in mind, here are ten changes I’ve decided I’m going to make in the wake of my hero’s demise; ten things I’m going to do… for Tony:
- Be nicer – This is so cliche, but I’m not here to be original. My ultimate goal is to leave the world a better place than I found it and if that means embracing cliches like I embrace a steaming bowl of pho, then that’s what it means. I guess the thought that’s crossed my mind the most since last week is that we never know when someone is hurting. We never know if the person we’re talking to has had the worst day of their lives before they ran into us. I never want to gamble with a person’s happiness again. I never want to dismiss the opportunity to bring even the slightest bit of warmth to someone who may be in the pits of despair. I will smile more. I will make more eye-contact. I will give more hugs. Most importantly, I will make a point of being more kind to those who aren’t so kind to me.
- Give more – We might as well ride the cliche train all the way, right? I love to give. I love to surprise people and put thought into gifts and do favours and offer my help in any way I can, but I just don’t do it enough. The way I see it, you never know when one, single, kind gesture could be all another person needs to get through their day. Even if that gesture doesn’t register on their radar, there’s something so fulfilling about giving that I count it as an effective way to take care of your own mental health.
- Write more – I’ve been talking about writing a book for years. In Scrivener, I have several half-written novels. I’ve got the fictionalized version of the Dyatlov incident which is the reason I know far too much about the Ural region of Russia. I also have a memoir that I’ve been working on since my early twenties. I have a story about a Polish kid who impersonates a missing American; another story set in Russia. I’ve got a book about secular morality and how I came to learn all the great moral lessons life has to offer without any sort of god whatsoever. I even have a book started about building your credit in Canada called the Hoser’s Guide To Better Credit. What I don’t have is a book I’ve actually finished writing. This is #1 on my bucket list. I have vowed to get one done and I’m going to do it. Feel free to tell me which you’d like to see me finish first.
- Do more of the things that make me feel good – There’s no good reason on Ganesh’s green earth why it took me over a year to start swimming again. What logical sense does it make for me to deprive myself of the things that make me feel good? Other things I plan to do along these lines include travel because my wanderlust is utterly insatiable. I want to create more: I’ve wanted a lathe for years so I can turn things and transform them into beautiful objects. I’d love a pottery wheel so I can work with clay again and make my friends and family unique things to fill with peanuts and candy and salad. I want to take more pictures, paint more people, see more places and do more things that I’ve never done before. I want to fill myself with experiences so I can come back here and write up a storm and share it all with you.
- Show that I care more – I haven’t always been good at this because, IRL, GM is pretty shy. I have this tendency to forget to respond to people when they text me or to fail to reply to their emails. I am an introvert at heart and I’m happy to just scrape by with the bare minimum of communication. Now, though, I’m going to put more effort into considering how the other person feels. As long as I know you in real life, I’m going to get back to you when you call me. I’m going to reply to your texts. I promise I will email you back because I care about the people in my life and I’d like for you never to have to doubt that.
- Adventure more – Life slows down when you have kids. You fall into a routine that rarely includes adventures like you used to have. I recall driving up a dirt road, narrowly missing a bear who darted out in front of us, to spend the afternoon sipping ice cold beers while soaking in natural hot springs. I remember following Wilco around Alberta and getting stranded in Northern California on our way to the Winchester Mystery House. I once swam with a purple octopus, rode a horse on an emu farm, rocked my son to sleep in a hammock on the beach on a tiny Island just off the Yucatán Peninsula. One year, I got to ring in the New Year twice as I crossed the International Date Line. In recent years, though, I’ve only watched Bourdain have all the adventures I want to have; I lived vicariously through him and I can’t any longer. I don’t have that excuse any longer. I’ve got to find my own adventures now, so my soul (for lack of a better word) doesn’t grow hungry and wither away in the routine of everyday life.
- Accept less toxicity – Of course, when most people say this, they mean cutting toxic people out of their lives. When I say it, I mean I’m just not going to get down in the mud and roll around with toxic people any more. I’m going to try not to allow myself to be dragged down by snivelling whiny babies who have nothing good to say. If you’re going to ooze bitterness around me, I’m not going to cut you out. Instead, I’m going to smother your miserable ass with kindness, generosity and sweet nothings until you feel obligated to reciprocate. Even if you never come around, I’m always going to be the better person because I can never know what’s truly going on deep inside your psyche, and I’m strong enough to withstand your eternal grouchiness. I will be the wall where the cycle of bitterness is stopped in its tracks.
- Eat wonderful food – I love food. I love cooking and trying new restaurants and discovering new dishes that I can’t live without. I love breaking into a new block of gruyere or digging into a fresh-made bowl of congee. That feeling of a piece of high-quality tuna sashimi sliding down your throat, or tearing a piece of naan in half to dip into your butter chicken or daal. One of the greatest experiences of my life was biting into a piece of fried chicken in Emeril Lagasse’s Nola in the French Quarter of New Orleans. I also want to cook for people more because that sizzle, that umami, that sweet release of oxytocin is such a wonderful gift to give to someone and if I had to choose the most powerful message I ever got from Anthony Bourdain, it’s that food is our path to being better to each other and understanding each other and celebrating each other. Food is life; food is family; food is everything.
- Read more – Few things give me as much joy as the smell of a book. Those stark, black letters on an off-white page are as aesthetically pleasing to me as a shirtless Jason Momoa gif. I haven’t made enough time to read all the books I want to read lately, but that’s going to change because reading is right up there next to good food on the list of things that make life worth living.
- Worry less – I am going to try to give up worrying about the things I can’t change. I worry too much. I lose sleep over it; I can’t write because it’s so intrusive sometimes; I even limit what my son can do because of it. No more. I’m just not going to entertain the what-ifs because crap is going to happen whether I worry about it or not.
Anthony Bourdain had an incredible life and even he succumbed to the power of depression. Imagine how easily it can take you if you’re not living your best life like he was. I may be happy now, but I’ve had some dark days and I’m sure they will come along again. The only way I can give myself the best chance of getting through them is to live life to its fullest now, while I can.
I want to know: what are some of the changes you’d like to make for yourself? Tell me in the comments. Also, I want you to know that if any of you out there are suffering and are in need of an ear, I’m happy to hear from you. I could never replace professional help, but I can be an ear. Reach out if you need it: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am so glad to have you here because, without you, I don’t get to do this. You absolutely matter to me.
Image: Creative Commons/Pixabay