Whitney Houston had a rare voice. One which, as I listen to "Greatest Love of All" with my Bosu headphones, I remember as flawless.
She added virtuosity to pop confections, "How Will I Know" and "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" being two of my favorites from the earlier stages of her career. I remember seeing her videos (I was about 10) and marveling at how thin and limber she was, at her stunning smile with perfect teeth and that cute, little head flick nod thing she'd do while snapping her fingers. I would dance around the house imagining myself in neon and ruffles, waiting for delightful, cute black men to pop out from various rooms to meet me in my slinky, hot pink dress and big hair (it gets boring on long island sometimes).
Whitney sang about strength, "I decided long ago never to walk in anybody's shadow. If I fail or if I succeed, at least I'll live as I believe" and she sang about sharing while in the flow of giving and receiving, "My love is your love and your love is my love."
And, after a rather public battle with drugs and alcohol, a difficult relationship with singer Bobby Brown, a body which looked at times scarily malnourished, worldwide success followed by public pitfalls and humiliation, and who knows what else in privacy, Whitney Houston, at 48 years young, is dead.
The cause is still undisclosed at this point but reports don't show signs of foul play. The conclusion I was quick to draw is she OD'd or took her own life, at which point I rather hastily posted a few FB updates that are the first of mine to border on something of a Tweetified public service announcement urging people to get help for drug addiction, depression, eating disorders, or anything else life threatening (or even life compromising). That's where this blog post is going. There will be amazing tributes to Whitney and that angelic voice of hers, people will be energized or repulsed by the return of those 80s and 90s songs, and the collective will want to find out exactly what happened to her these last few years.
As I listen to Whitney sing "I will be free" from the song "One Moment in Time, "as I think about the conversation I had with a friend yesterday in which she asked my advice on how to deal w/ a friend of hers she thinks may be alcoholic, as I listen to Whitney sing, "Each day I play the role. Of someone always in control. But at night I turn the key. There's nobody there. No one cares for me" from "I Want to Run to You", I think of that need for escape, escape from the self, life, personal history, shame, and that need, that drive, that URGE to run away from the loneliness.
Oh, it is a powerful drive. Adding poisons, toxins or pleasure seeking behaviors to the body at that point means a whole lotta trouble. It meant trouble for me in the past (I am gratefully in recovery for an eating disorder, depression and anxiety), it meant trouble at one point for a lot of my friends, and I'm sure you either know someone or can identify with this yourself, this certain kind of trouble.
The point now will be to celebrate Whitney's music, honor her memory, and respect her family's privacy (she leaves behind a daughter). The sadness we all feel should be felt and processed. It is terribly sad to lose someone you love, someone you've forgotten about whose beauty and brilliance you recall only now in the wake of a sudden passing. Memory can feel woefully inadequate when trying to mourn someone you let fall of your radar.
It will make us question whether systems fail people. Our paparazzi infused celebrity adoration society, the way we treat addiction, the pressures on women to stay skinny and never get old, spirituality as a means to acquire more stuff as opposed to help others, and other aspects of the collective.
Some people will feel guilt, that they've failed Whitney, others will look at her specifically and think she failed herself.
I will return to what I feel is the most important thing to write about in this moment, which is, every day on this earth in this very moment, thousands of people are suffering and bouncing or doing aerial jumps on a tightrope like that dude during the Madonnna Super Bowl halftime show, one which could lead to a terrible fall. The most significant thing to know is that at the end of the day, THE PERSON FEELS ALONE. They have given up relationships for the addiction, self love for the addiction, self care for the addiction, family for the addiction and love for the addiction.
They feel painfully, awfully, pathetically, and in no uncertain terms ALONE.
As I lay me down
Heaven hear me now
I'm lost without a cause
after giving it my all
winters storms have come
and I can't find sun
after all I've been through
who at all can I turn to you
I look to you
I look to you
after all my strength is gone
in you I can be strong.
-Whitney Houston "I Look to You"
The Source energy that runs through us all gives some people strength to recover but Source sends angels in the form of people to do the work. Are you someone another person can look to for help? Someone someone can look to or turn to in a time of desperation and need?
And, if you are that person who is on the tightrope (again, please look past the PSA nature of this bc I'm just not feeling in the mood right now to be witty) will you look up and ask for help? There is NO SHAME in it at all. The world needs every single person on it to do more good for another. It doesn't matter if you have pissed all over your life, if you have no job or a job you should love but hate, if you're terribly alone or unable to feel the depth and love that IS present in your life, whether you are popular on Facebook or Twitter, none of that matters.
The secret that so many people in recovery understand is the ability to be "happy, joyous and free" is inside us at all times and can be tapped independent of outside circumstances. Also, that service and helping another person can literally save your own life.
I guess the final thought I'm having today is the reminder to live life fully, joyfully, and with love every day, because you just don't know when it's going to end. Also, that no fan adoration, fame, riches, popularity, god given brilliant talent or beauty is enough if you don't love and get right with yourself or are able to find the right kind of help you need to pull out of some kind of life threatening cycle. It's kind of heart breaking, really, but the other side of any heartbreak is, if you allow it, a heart that is open to give and receive even deeper love.
Rest in peace, beautiful Whitney Houston. I am so sorry you are gone.