Happiness + Gratitude.

The four of us sat at a small, round table waiting for our wine filled glasses to be delivered. Glasses we would soon clink together, cheersing to friendship and the craziness that is life...silently taking comfort in knowing that although our roads have slightly diverged, these three girls will always be my home base- my lifeboats.

I don’t recall exactly what we were discussing, but I remember making a comment on the sudden death of Kate Spade, mentioning that for some reason,

I can’t stop thinking about it.

Maybe it’s because the bright, happy-go-lucky designs of Kate Spade have decorated my life for years, always reminding me to “leave a little sparkle where ever I go.” Whether it’s my bright pink wallet I carry around everyday, my colorful planner populating the corner of my desk, or the polka dotted dress I long for each time I visit the store, Kate Spade helped in forming and portraying the type of person and woman I have always yearned to be.

Or, maybe it’s because just recently I have come face to face with the anxiety and an occasional sadness that I have dealt with for years. Sometimes manifesting itself into something so strong that I find it hard to catch my breath- a physical symptom of anxiety that I have misinterpreted for as long as I can remember. An invisible and heavy feeling that I deal with often- my short fingernails and busy thoughts making it sometimes hard to hide.

It would be the next morning after sitting around that small table of friends, that I would learn about yet another tragic death—Anthony Bourdain.

The epitome of cool. Someone who made the world seem magical-the people in it seem warm and inviting. I would watch him as he traveled the globe, living a life so many of us dream of and reminding us that sometimes it takes going beyond our comfort zone to see how connected the world can be. Anthony Bourdain was the embodiment of success and fulfillment, an aspiration proving that there is always more to life, always more to learn, you just have uncross your arms and stay open.

Both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, although drastically different, were both trailblazers in creating a life of full of passion- something I work towards every day. After reading article after article and learning more about the silent suffering these two endured, I found myself wondering…

If these people could inhabit my dreams and live these unreal lives, yet still succumb to depression, what does that say about my dreams?

Nothing, of course. Because depression has nothing to do with external forces. It’s a delusion of hopelessness in a world that is overflowing in opportunity. It’s a delusion of loneliness in a world full of friendly and loving hearts looking to connect. A delusion of sadness in a world full of never-ending beauty that we so often overlook.

Like most mental illnesses, it’s a feeling that just won’t go away. A quiet, yet constant, uphill battle that so many people deal with, yet are hesitant to talk about. But what I’ve come to learn is that everyone deals with it from time to time and the only way to really hoist up the anchor of anxiety and depression is to stare it down, talk about it and realize, you-are-not-alone (why I am sharing this). To make an effort to put yourself in the way of beauty and practice gratitude as a daily regimen.

So I say small prayers of thanks, often. I sit with my family and friends and laugh loudly without hesitation. I love deeply and without fear. I stay true to myself and indulge in small, simple joys. I acknowledge the good days and go to bed with the bad, knowing that the sun will always rise again.

I am learning to feel gratitude even in the choppy waters that so many of us silently trudge through. Because my version of this life is so, so lucky. And when I think about that, even as I occasionally struggle to stay afloat, gratitude erupts before me. Even as fear and discomfort and confusion sometimes reign, so does a deep, genuine happiness. The landscape isn’t flat and life isn’t still. And if I waited for those things I’d never know what it is to be thankful.

But I’d also never know what it is to be human, to struggle, and to keep going. We're all in this together.