Whitney Houston died today.
In 1985 or 1986 my young women's youth group went to one of her concerts for a youth activity. She was in her prime and performed beautifully. She wasn't who I was "in to" but it was a free concert, and I loved concerts, and she was someone very popular at the time. At this point her star was on the rise and she was vibrant, energetic and electrified with youth, beauty and talent that was spun sugar that rolled out like taffy across the audience. People loved her. Whether she was someone who was my "thing" or not was irrelevant, because I came away thinking the 12-13 yo's I was with were just as annoying as always but that she had some pipes and was amazing.
Whitney Houston was 48. The age difference between us just shy of 6 years. That's not a lot, especially as people in your generation are slowly starting to kick off.
I am not shocked that she died--with the drugs and the abuse, the rough living and the loss of confidence that the loss a beautiful talent can bring, and having your life splayed across tabloids and magazines for years, your life exposed with every move and mistake scrutinized--they haven't announced it yet--but of whatever killed her, truly, a broken heart would have been a part. I think it is so unfortunate that she wasn’t able to get it all under control before it had permanent repercussions: a tainted reputation, a damaged voice, and doubt. She definitely caught the tiger by the tail and, from what can be seen, never found out how to really let it go.
Her death is a marker of passing time. It is a marker of a generation that is aging and beginning to come to death and will come to death more and more frequently as time continues slipping onward.
It's not a "call to arms" to stop doing drugs, or drinking, or eating too much sugar and not enough fiber, not exercising, or whatever other nefarious behaviors people may be engaging in. We already know all of that. If you are doing or not doing then it's your choice to do or not to do.
No--her death is more of the quiet tolling of a somewhat distant bell. Something that you hear that is faint, but should be paid attention to.
The tolling calls out things like "Are you living the life you want?", "Are you utilizing your talents and skills in a way that brings you joy?", "Do you see beauty in your day-to-day living or do you trudge through a grey existence?", "Are you surrounded by people who care for you, love you, support you and encourage you?", even “What do you need to let go of to be happy?”
Sometimes life becomes a drudgery, something dissatisfying, something dismal that we don't want to be a part of. We get into known routines that can turn into ruts. Sometimes you can find yourself in a bucket full of crabs who can't do anything but tear down and hold back, people who don't want to build and move forward, people who would oppress and suppress your talent and your joy. Get out of the bucket. Climb out of the rut.
It doesn't matter so much what has been, or what has not been, what was had or has been lost. There is a great world out there full of joy, delight, experiences both good and bad that can give us richness and texture and growth.
If you are stuttering on the edge of an abyss that you would fall and disappear into, step back just once, and then again, and then again. Change your course. Reset your compass. You are the master of your fate and the captain of your soul.
Invictus by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.