I can’t really say I was a fan, per say. I’ve never bought one of her albums or really gotten into her songs, though I know many of them. In fact, “I Have Nothing” has been an earworm in my head since I heard of her death. I did appreciate, however, the beauty and strength of her voice, and know that many people in her life loved her very much and are devastated by the loss.
That being said, troubled people die prematurely all the time, most of them without the talent, success, and money that celebrities enjoy. I know, I’ve said before that what is viewed from the outside is merely superficial, and we can’t really know what’s going on in someone’s life to understand their suffering. I only refer to these things because the average citizen doesn’t always have the means to seek treatment for their ailments. And non-celebrities don’t get eulogized on national television when they succumb to their demons.
It can be argued that Whitney Houston’s death affects a larger group of people because her music affected a larger group of people. But, come on, folks, she wasn’t working on the cure for cancer or anything. The truth is, in our celebrity-obsessed culture, we weep at the premature death of a singer, but don’t even notice when hard-working, well-meaning doctors, scientists, nurses, engineers, teachers, etc. pass away.
Sadly, what needs to happen will never happen. As a society, we need to ask ourselves why there are SO MANY people who are so unhappy they seek chemical relief. Not just singers and actors, but cops and garbage men, crossing guards and dentists. Only about 5% of alcoholics and drug addicts live on skid row. 95% have homes, careers, families. I know when *I* quit drinking, I found it cathartic to tell people I was an alcoholic, for I had lived with a great deal of shame at the double life I was living. I was living a lie, so telling people the truth about me was therapeutic, yet I’d often be told by the person I confided in, “Alcoholic? You? You’re not an alcoholic!” I didn’t fit the image of a homeless drunk drinking whiskey out of a paper bag, so I couldn’t possibly have a problem.
Too many people are expending too much energy trying to convince everyone they are okay. The pressure gets to you. And we as a society, though we can be sympathetic, love to see people fail, especially those as public as Whitney Houston. We LOVE to feed on the corpse of a dying person/career, then we LOVE to “forgive” the person who claws their way back. Everyone watched Robert Downey Jr. torpedo his career, go in and out of rehab, and jail, and we ate it up. As an addict myself, I know the fact that he’s been sober for something like 10 years, well, I cheer that, certainly, and it makes me appreciate his talent all the more. I’m rooting for him. When Charlie Sheen went off the rails, people couldn’t turn away from the car crash. People made jokes about it, yet what we were watching was a mental breakdown. The man was showing signs of being very, very sick.
We don’t connect with each other. We don’t show love for each other. We instead compete with each other, try to best each other. We like to watch other people fail or act crazy, because it makes us feel better about ourselves. How else does one explain the success of reality television? Think anyone would watch any of the Housewives, or Jersey Shore, or The Bad Girls’ Club if healthy, loving, supportive people were on them? If there were no back-stabbing, narcissistic, addictive behavior to feel superior to?
So I’ll take a cue from Ghandi. I’ll try to be the change I want to see in the world. To those who have commented on my posts, either in person or on this blog, I thank you for finding my words valuable enough to reach out to me. I thank you for listening when I needed to give voice to my pain. It’s truly been helpful to me to be able to share these thoughts and feelings with an ever-widening audience. I still have to work on being open and loving *in person*, but, baby steps.
Whitney Houston died far too young. I feel such pity for her daughter, and hope she makes it through this difficult time. But there are so many people who struggle with many of the same issues. We rely on chemicals to make us feel good about ourselves and try to convince others we’re okay when we could expend that energy making ourselves stronger.
We don’t love each other enough, and we don’t truly love ourselves enough. And that’s the biggest tragedy.