Along with Cybill Shepherd, Whitney Houston was one of my first celebrity crushes. Being that I was around aged eleven when she first captured my heart, it was a pure thing; it was a time of innocence, when all the girls at school were ugly, smelled and had germs, but Whitney shone like an angel of fragrant loveliness, with her soulful vocals and starburst smile. And, my, she looked great in jeans!
“Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you misery in luxury.” – Henry’s Cat
Right now, there can only be speculation as to Whitney’s cause of death, but it seems a fair assumption that it was related, in some way, to her sadness in life – whether it was a direct overdose of drugs or cardiac arrest of a weakened heart, caused by years of substance abuse… perhaps even suicide…
She was an amazing talent, with a voice that seemed like a gift from the heavens. It’s not a euphemism when I say that she had an incredible pair of lungs. She had such power of expression, which so easily captured the hearts of those who listened to her, to the point that people would choose her music for their own funerals. I want to be cremated to the words: “I wanna feel the heat with somebody.”
Global recognition, fame and fortune to a level that only a tiny minority of artists ever experience – the world was her lobster, but it wasn’t enough. All the material things in her life couldn’t fill the void of unhappiness inside her, and rather than being able to appreciate all her blessings, she hid away from the world behind a veil of narcotics.
With eerie echoes of Amy Winehouse, it’s a reminder that money really does not buy us happiness, and if we were to always measure our satisfaction in life by the things we have, rather than what we are, we’ll always be searching and never finding.
If you’re unhappy with yourself when you’re broke, living in dodgy accommodation, scratching a living doing a job you hate and drinking at the end of each day to drown your sorrows, then you’re going to be unhappy with yourself even if you won the lottery and changed your surroundings. You’d be miserable in a more comfortable setting, but there’d still be that internal void.
Perhaps you wouldn’t be worrying about the bills, but wealth almost certainly exacerbates the problem of an addictive personality – when people use substances or situations to avoid and escape their reality. In that a boozer can’t buy booze when they have no money, if you find yourself with a seemingly limitless supply of cash, your choice of life-veiling distractions becomes much more exotic.
I’ve been trying to give up smoking for the past couple of years, to varying degrees of success, though I’ve inevitably failed and tried to justify it to myself in some way, with excuses that it wasn’t the right time or that I was under pressure. It’s a foolish, smelly, unsociable, expensive and ridiculously damaging habit, but I still find myself giving it an alibi and keeping it in my list of undesirable foibles.
When I read about Whitney Houston’s death, my gut instinct was that it was a heart-attack, and whether that is correct or not, I felt sadness that the damage she did to herself in the past had conspired to relieve her of her life at such a tragically early age, and 48 is far too young.
It reinforced the absurdity that I’m making choices, now, by smoking, that will have an impact on my health, in future. There could come a day when the doctor breaks the bad news and says, “Well, if you’d given up when you were 37 instead of 40, maybe this wouldn’t be happening.”
I want to eat good food, drink water, exercise regularly, walk mountains, breathe clean air and be happy, both in myself and in the company of people who choose to be around me.
I’ve fallen in love with a woman who makes me feel blessed, like she’s a gift from the Universe, and although I can’t foretell the future, I know I want to be around her for a long time to come and to squeeze as much from this life as we can, together. I want to be holding her hand in my 70s, reflecting on a life of goodness, kindness, laughter and peace… not buried to the tune of ‘I Will Always Love You’ in my late 40s, with those at my funeral lamenting what I could have done, if only I’d taken care of myself better.
Most importantly, perhaps, I love myself, now. I spent so many years seeing myself from quite the opposite perspective, but now I’m almost always happy and content with my lot in life. I feel I’m a good man with a great deal to give, whereas just two years ago, I felt like I was worthless to the world and best cut away from it.
Although there have been many areas of improvement in my life, smoking isn’t compatible with a total sense of self-love and I need to stop that, today. I’m not going to make any more excuses to myself.
There’s no better place to dwell than in your inner peace. You can carry it everywhere with you, to whatever location or situation, and even when you’re shaken out of that calm centre, at times, you can quickly roll back to it. I want to live there, naturally, rather than feel I have to have something extra to guide me there.
If we take away all the veils – in the sense of narcotics, alcohol, nicotine, obsessive thinking and all the other distractions and addictions we can choose in this western world of relative luxury – we expose ourselves to ourselves… but – and irregardless of wealth or status - can we live with ourselves?
Perhaps that’s one of the greatest challenges we have, as a species… to love completely and without condition; ourselves and others. Imagine the change in this world if we could all achieve that same state of bliss? We could have that today, if we so wished.
Safe journey, Whitney.