In May 1977, my parents decided to go to the movies to see what was playing. They didn’t have a babysitter, so they decided to bite the bullet and take their adorable nine-month old baby with them (that’s me). They arrived at a theater with no lines and checked what was playing. My dad, being a sci-fi nerd, decided on some new movie called Star Wars, which I am sure elicited an eye roll from my mother. I was there on opening day. Of course, I don’t remember any of it, because baby, but it became a huge part of my life.
Throughout my young life, I watched Star Wars over and over again. Everyone was obsessed with young Luke coming into his own as a budding Jedi, or Han Solo being a space-pirate badass. Not me. I was obsessed with Princess Leia. Growing up in the world of Disney princesses who had to be rescued by some bumbling prince (and yes, they did pull her out of the Death Star before blowing it up), it was amazing to see that THIS princess was beautiful and brave and could take charge and kick some serious ass. She went up against the bad guys as an equal, not a damsel. If you read everything Star Wars, like this giant nerd, you will also know that long before her introduction in cell 2187, Princess Leia Organa was also a member of the Galactic Senate, next to her adopted father, Bail Organa. She fought for justice from a young age because it was the right thing to do. She was a hero, even without a blaster or a lightsaber.
As life moved on, Leia got stronger and learned more about herself, the galaxy, and even the Force. She was someone little girls could look up to and emulate. As Star Wars luster faded slightly, Carrie Fisher carried on. She started writing and acting in other things and was amazing beyond that one role.
Her public struggles with bipolar disorder and substance abuse taught us many things. One of those things is to keep going. Shit gets bad for all of us, and not everyone copes well. But she stayed open about those struggles, and in doing so, opened the doors to a lot of people to discuss their own personal demons and to de-stigmatize mental illness. Her books and comedy shows are raw, open, and honest. There is a line from “Wishful Drinking” that says, “If my life wasn’t funny, it would just be true. And THAT is unacceptable.” I have used this as my personal mantra for years because if you only focus on the bad part, you can never move on. It inspired me to write about my own battles with health issues, depression and anxiety, and an incredibly destructive marriage that could have completely destroyed me. But time passes and you go to the funny side. Once you do that, it no longer has the power to hurt you.
A few days ago, it came across my Facebook feed that Carrie Fisher had suffered a major heart attack on an airplane. She was in critical condition with her daughter and her dog Gary by her side. I was strickened by this, but also laughed that Gary Fisher was allowed to be with his mommy. I also got a little pissed that my dogs were not allowed to stand vigil over me when I had my own heart attack back in 2011. Celebrity, I guess? I had hope, though. Hope that 2016 would stop its nasty ways and leave our favorite princess alone. I don’t know who appointed the Grim Reaper the boss of 2016, but that motherfucker has been cleaning some serious house this year. We have already lost so many! How could we possibly lose this precious light in a galaxy of darkness.
Yesterday, I spent some time creating. I have had a really rough holiday season and even missed all of Christmas Eve and most of Christmas Day in the hospital. I needed a day to myself to relax and do something that I enjoy. I picked up my Star Wars cross-stitch project that I started months ago, but haven’t had the time or energy to work on since. I was laughing at the figures as they appeared on my fabric, even making a fairly entertaining incest joke on my Instagram and our podcast Twitter. I went to bed feeling satisfied at the work I had accomplished (even after taking my last hoarded sleeping pill to FINALLY get to bed).
Then came the nudge. As my eyes slowly opened and I blinked the coma out of my brain, I saw the face of my husband. It was grim. “Carrie Fisher died,” he said to me. “I didn’t want you to see it on Facebook first.” At first, I just sat there, staring at him. Surely, it couldn’t be! Then, as the words registered, the tears started to flow. Honest truth – I have had family members die and I didn’t cry (full disclosure – I didn’t really like some of them). It usually takes me a few minutes to really process and get upset. But these tear fell like rain. My chest felt ripped apart and I felt a piece of my soul cry out. Then, I thought about Gary. Not about Billie, or Debbie… but for poor Gary Fisher. That dog will never understand why his mommy is gone. There is no explaining death to a dog. And I cried and cried.
I started this Self Saving Princess blog years ago with it being an outlet for me and others to realize that they COULD save themselves. They didn’t have to wait for someone else to decide their fate for them. It wasn’t Princess Peach or Rapunzel that gave me the idea. It was Leia. Princess Leia Organa. Senator Leia Organa. GENERAL LEIA FUCKING ORGANA. She started it all. She is now one with the Force.
For those of you thinking I cry over every celebrity passing, I will tell you know that THREE have hit me so hard that I was nearly inconsolable:
- Sally Ride, whom I actually met as a child and had a conversation with. She taught me that girls could do ANYTHING and to never let anyone tell you otherwise. She also got a huge kick out of a six year old telling her that her uncle named his dog after her.
- Robin Williams, who I never met, but loved in literally everything and every way. He was the brightest light in our universe and shit has gone downhill ever since.
- Carrie Fisher, actress, princess, writer, comedian, and one real woman who changed the world.
Rest in Peace, Carrie. It’s been a bumpy ride and I am soothed to know that you will have some peace at last. I will never forget you. And someone please take care of Gary.
Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is.” – Yoda