I can’t stop thinking about L’Wren Scott.
I didn’t exactly run in her social circle. I never met her, wore her fashion designs or even followed her career, other than to take note of her name in fashion magazines. I didn’t even know that she was Mick Jagger’s partner.
What haunts me is that at 49, for reasons unclear to those closest to her, she chose to end her life, and, according to news reports, she did it in a way that reflected her well-mannered reputation – by asking her assistant to drop by in the morning rather than “bothering” or “inconveniencing” anyone.
By all accounts, Ms. Scott had a happy relationship with Mr. Jagger, and her business, though going through the normal ups and downs of all burgeoning businesses, seemed to be heading for success with the signing of a $250,000 contract to collaborate with Banana Republic. This week her friend, reporter Cathryn Horyn, wrote in a New York Times tribute entitled “Memories of a Friend, a Teacher, and a Fighter” that Scott was under a great deal of pressure to make her clothing line successful, and that in a tense conversation Horyn told Scott she needed to “give herself a time limit to resolve matters or get out. Putting her health in jeopardy because of stress was not worth it…” Scott did not like – or heed – the advice, and continued to strive for success.
It’s this – and more – that makes me grieve for a woman I don’t know.
There’s no way of knowing what was going through her mind at the moment she decided to end her life, but I understand why she might have felt like it was the only solution, and that deeply disturbs me.
It’s scary to be a strong, intelligent, ambitious, aging woman in this society. So many people depend on you, and if you are successful, it’s usually because your over-achieving perfectionist tendencies have pushed you past your fears to the point where you jump in and make it work – at all costs. Whether it’s being successful in your education, your career, your health, your marriage, your child rearing, your athletic achievements, or your hobbies and interests, the drive toward excellence can leave even the strongest of women questioning their abilities.
Age makes it even more difficult because at a certain point you start to question all of your choices – past and present.
I say this because at 47, I find myself very far away from what I was educated to do and facing a number of health issues that never even crossed my mind at 27 or even 37. My salary is far below the level of what I should be making, given my education level (and student loan debt) and abilities, and I’m paying off debts that I accrued for living expenses and health insurance in my past life. I’ve managed to put my massive student loans in forbearance as I have tried to land jobs with pay that would allow me to afford to pay the $958.00 a month that the loan company is asking for, but those days are soon coming to an end – even if I haven’t landed a job with an adequate salary. These new health challenges add a whole new level of stress to the money mix, but there’s no way to avoid them because right now they’re not terribly serious but if I ignore them, they’ll cost me much more in the long run, both financially and physically.
And it all reminds me that I’m not getting any younger
Only my family and a few close friends know what’s weighing on me – until now.
I say this, not because I am looking for sympathy or a handout or an excuse, I say this because even though her life is none of my business, I think I understand what might have been going through L’Wren Scott’s mind that night, and I have to wonder if maybe we should be making these thoughts other people’s business.
I understand how wonderful and scary it feels to be someone who other people look to for support and stability. It’s a lot of responsibility. I understand the weight of trying to be a cheerful role model and avoid showing how scared and alone you feel because other people are relying on you to be the strong one. I understand how humiliating and shameful it feels to wonder how your finances, health, [or fill in the blank] have gotten so out of your control, and to be afraid to ask for help because then everyone will definitely know what a failure you really are. They’ll know you’re a fraud and that everything you’ve accomplished has been nothing but accidental luck. And I know many, many other women feel like this, as well.
But here’s where Ms. Scott and I differ.
I hear this message, but I don’t buy into it because I’m fortunate that I have people in my life who I can let down my guard with and show all the ugly unlovable parts of myself to. I’m fortunate that they love me and offer help even when I’m at my absolute most stubborn (because I’m positive that I am a total failure, that everyone else is doing it “right,” and that if I would stop being so damn lazy and just work a little harder I could overcome all the obstacles and manage everything my own big self), and I’m so very, very fortunate that they step forward and offer it despite my incredibly high walls and fierce defenses.
It makes me deeply sad and unbelievably angry that the world lost yet another generous, loving, kind, intelligent, creative woman this week because in that one brief moment, she didn’t believe she could ask for help, and because no one was able to reach out and offer in time.
In their recent Top 40 pop hit, Pompeii, the British group Bastille asks, “How am I gonna be an optimist about this?”
I’m going to use this as an opportunity to reach out to others and let them know I’m available. I’m going to pay attention to the people close to me, and I’m going to let them know how much they mean to me on a more regular basis. I’m going to smile at strangers and offer to help when I can. In other words, I’m going to try harder to be the change I want to see in the world.
And maybe by helping others, I’ll remind myself that I’m worthy of being helped, too.