All the Light Beneath Your Skin
We all have days, moments, weeks, seconds, months, hours, years when we simply just can’t.
Such a funny little word, isn’t it?
I can’t try.
I can’t breathe.
I can’t stand it anymore.
I’ve spent a good deal of my life telling myself the reasons why I can’t do some things. Sometimes, it was a good thing.
I can’t do hard drugs. They’re addicting. I don’t want to become a junkie.
That’s not a bad line of logic. Thank you, ‘I can’t’.
But at some point, ‘can’t’ snaked its way into my internal monologue more and more.
I can’t start a new band.
I can’t go back to New Orleans.
I can’t pursue my dreams anymore.
That’s when things get hard, because when you tell yourself all the things you desperately want to do are the things that you can’t do anymore, that’s when the big scary ‘CAN’T’ starts.
I can’t breathe.
I can’t be happy.
I can’t go on living.
Today the world lost a bright light. One of the brightest to me especially because he taught me to stop saying ‘I can’t’ to the good things.
And the fucked up thing is that I didn’t really see that until I woke up this morning and read these words on my phone:
Anthony Bourdain dead at 61 of an apparent suicide.
Anthony Bourdain and his punk rock travel style. His passion for food. He kindness towards strangers. His pure aggressive lust for living. Anthony Bourdain said a great big ‘I can’t’ last night and the world is darker for it.
As I spent the morning processing why I was so gutted by his departure, this man I did not know personally, it dawned on me. The reason I picked back up the first twenty pages of a discarded novel I’d written feverishly in a single afternoon. You see, it was him.
At the time, I was obsessed with cooking and traveling shows. I’d fallen in love with them while recovering from Firstborn’s birth. I’d sit and nurse my son and watch No Reservations, and Top Chef, and Bizarre Foods.
But No Reservations was my favorite. I’d heard about Bourdain’s book, of course. Anyone who’s ever known anyone in the restaurant business has heard about that book. So, I finally picked it up and read it.
Kitchen Confidential is a memoir of straight fucking balls-to-the-wall chutzpah. Written by a man who had failed. Like epically fallen on his ass and did something so ballsy as to write an essay and send it to The motherfucking New Yorker. Who does that?
And somehow reading about his success and the wild and crazy journey that led him to it made me stop telling myself ‘I can’t’.
And so I did.
It is terrifying to do something so outlandish. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done audacious things in my life, but none of it was as scary as writing that first novel.
And maybe I would have picked it up eventually, but I really don’t think that I would have.
There was a magic in that book of Anthony Bourdain’s. A magic that was waiting there, just for me. Good books are like that. You read the right one at just the right moment in your life and it can change the course of your journey forever.
Because, that book that I wrote, led me to others. Those books led me back to myself. And once I remembered who I was, down at my basic level, an entirely new world opened up for me.
I don’t tell myself I can’t anymore. Not about the things I want to do and certainly not about the things I must do.
Life is a struggle. I don’t think I know a single person who has never thought those stark words: “I can’t go on living anymore.”
But we must, you see. I must. You must. And here’s why: somewhere in the world, something you have done or something you’ve yet to do will impact someone you don’t even know in ways that neither of you can predict.
This person will be motivated to kindness, because of you.
This person will be motivated to greatness, because of you.
Or, maybe, this person will simply say, “Today, I can,” just because of you.
In Until the Devil Weeps, Sanger tells Q this story:
Before creation, there was only G-d and His light filled everything so completely, that there wasn’t room to create anything else. So, He decided to bottle up His light inside of jars so He could create our universe.
So, HaShem bottled up all His light and created our universe, and the stars, and the planets, and one particularly beautiful planet where He created us. But while He was admiring His creations, He didn’t notice that the jars were cracking. You see, His light couldn’t be contained and it shattered the jars; and the shards rained down to earth and they became sorrow and suffering. Our job is to pick up all those shards and put them back together. Then there will be no more sorrow.
And the light? It shattered, too, and it fell down to Earth, it became the human soul. So, everyone has a little bit of G-d’s light inside of them. That’s how we see each other. We see G-d in one another. I always figured, though, that the shards weren’t all the same size. When something shatters, some pieces are big, others are so small you can barely see them.
Some people, like Anthony Bourdain, they have a huge piece and it fills them. You can see G-d clearly, in everything that they do.
If you’re struggling right now, please know that the people around you see G-d’s light in you. Don’t make the world a darker place by saying, ‘I can’t.’
Keep fighting. You’re worth it. All that light beneath your skin is making the world brighter just by shining, even if you can't see it right now.
May the memory of the righteous be for a blessing. Farewell, sweet rock-and-roll chef. Thank you.