I was so not ready for this that I don’t even know how to talk about it. I am currently reading The Princess Diarist. I follow Carrie Fisher on Twitter, and look forward to her “tweets,” even ‘though she writes almost exclusively in emoji, and I can barely decipher them, because, a) I’m not as hip as she, and b) I need new glasses. Once, I posted to Twitter that I had just read all of her book Wishful Drinking in one sitting, and had expected to look up and find her standing there next to me. She liked that. I swooned a little. I thought, maybe, someday, I would meet her. I mean, not that we’d hang out and be friends or anything, you know, but maybe I could have run in to her somewhere. Maybe she’d do a book signing, or I’d just happen to run in to her somewhere. I mean, I live in L.A., it could happen. Only, now, it can’t. And I know that I am not the only one feeling this way. I am one of thousands ~ no, millions. There have to be millions of us. Because I was that 19-year-old girl, too. And everything was so intense…
That’s how I began my first comment on Carrie Fisher’s death, on a post I made on Facebook, immediately after I heard the news. Now, several days later, I thought I would revisit it here, and see if I can write a little bit more ~ if I can make a little more sense of how I am feeling, of why this one has hit me so very hard. I mean, there’s the obvious fact that I grew up watching her. I was a big Star Wars fan, from the time that I was a little kid. Leia was the first “princess” character that challenged the Princess norms for me, I guess…except that I was never a princessy girl. I was a tree-climbing, bicycle-ramp-jumping, mud-stomping, creek-wading, tagging along with her big brother and sister and all of the neighbourhood kids kind of girl. Is that a thing? Well, it is now; because I made it one. Actually, I wasn’t the only one. There was a whole pack of us. Jumping down the slide, yelling, “Into the garbage shoot, flyboy!” at each other and fighting off the bad guys with the best of them (although, to be fair, I played Han Solo as often as I played Princess Leia…and probably Chewbacca, too…I had really long hair). But…well, that wasn’t it. I mean, that wasn’t all of it. There was more. Because there was so much more to Carrie Fisher than just Princess Leia.
She was a writer. I’ve read most of her books, and I am kicking myself for not having read all of them yet, but I guess that just gives me something to do with all of my free time. (Free time. Ha. What in the hell is that?) I never felt like I had to listen to her read her books on tape. I heard that was a thing I could do, but, Honest-to-God, when I read anything she has written, I hear her voice in my head, just as though she is reading it to me. Is that too weird? I think it’s kind of great. Especially now; but I suspect, when I pick up that book I am currently reading, the Princess Diarist, it will probably make me cry, no matter what she is saying.
She was an advocate for mental health. She was, I think, a bold example to women everywhere to not be afraid to age, to say what we want, to be loud, outspoken, and fabulous. To say things that may take people aback. To speak up for ourselves and for others. To not just roll over and take it. To hold people accountable. She wasn’t afraid to tell people how she felt, even when how she felt was, frankly, pretty crappy; and I think that’s bold. I think a lot of people ~ even people who do not spend their lives under the watchful eye of public scrutiny ~ worry about what image they are projecting to the world. In response to critics of her appearance in the Force Awakens, she said, “Please stop debating about whether or not I aged well. Unfortunately it hurts all three of my feelings.” She didn’t get angry. She didn’t make excuses. She didn’t tell them they were assholes ~ which, by the way, they were, and I probably told some of them that ~ she told them the truth: they hurt her feelings. That’s a lot harder to say than, “You’re an asshole!” Raw. That’s how she was. She aged the way people age, for god’s sake. For the record, I thought she was beautiful, in every sense of the word.
Photograph: Robert Deutsch, USA Today, December 2015
She had overcome addiction. She was living with bipolar disorder. She was immensely talented, witty, intelligent, insightful, and incredibly strong. She was so strong, in fact, that, when I heard what had happened on that flight from London to Los Angeles on December 23rd, I thought, “She’ll be okay.” I mean, she had to be okay, right? I thought she was titanium. I thought nothing could beat her. Like so many of the rest of us, I sent well-wishes, thoughts and prayers, and I waited for news.
And people who knew me wondered why it mattered so much to me, I’m sure. So, maybe that’s part of the reason I am writing this. I have seen a few of my friends trying to explain this to other people. No, she wasn’t just “Princess Leia.” For some of us, she was more. Some of us connected with her on a different level than that. If you haven’t read any of her books, I recommend you give them a shot. Wishful Drinking is my favourite, so far, but maybe it depends where you, personally, are…or where you are coming from… I don’t know. Is it bad or weird that I could relate? I don’t know. There are ways in which we are similar, and ways in which we are not. I am, in some ways, a very private person. I don’t tell all of my business, and I probably won’t ever do that, because I guess my attitude is that some of my business is other people’s business, too, so that’s not really my decision to make for the whole world. Maybe she was like that, too, to a degree. I mean, it took her 40 years to reveal that she’d had a 3-month on-set fling with a co-star. That’s hardly what I would call running around telling everyone all your business. But, in other ways, I am right out here in the open, all of the time. I do kind of talk a lot (sometimes, even before I realize what I have said); and I definitely wear my heart on my sleeve. There is seldom any mistaking how I feel. I have always been that way. And, yes, when I was 19, everything was so intense. Ha. Well. Some things more than others. Some of you were there. You know that of which I speak (or you think you do, and so, for you, those were the intense things ~ see? we all did it). I joke (but only really half-joke) that I have spent most of my life thinking of myself as perpetually 19. So, when Carrie (can I call her “Carrie,” as if I know her?) made that statement about everything being so intense when you’re 19, it was like, “Well…so much of my life makes so much more sense now…” You know…except that I am actually 46… But, well, that’s a story for another time, and who knows if I will ever actually tell it.
I didn’t know Carrie Fisher. But, well… maybe I did, in a sense, because, we all did. Those of us who read her, followed her on Twitter (oh, that sounds silly, to those who don’t, I know, but those who do…well…we know), to anyone who ever listened to her. We knew her, because she let us. Mark Hamill, in his incredibly moving and heartfelt tribute to her, called her “OUR princess, damn it,” saying she “belonged to us all – whether she liked it not.” I think, at least, she tolerated it very well. She was kind to her fans, from what I saw, and supportive to those reached out to her for support. She was so much more than I have touched upon here. She was inspiring. She was genuine, brazen, unguarded. She was, unabashedly herself; and, I think, on some level, we all wanted to be her, at least just a little bit.
Since her death, Harrison Ford has said, “Carrie was one-of-a-kind… brilliant, original. Funny and emotionally fearless. She lived her life, bravely…” ~ did he say those thing to her while she was alive? I hope he did. I mean, man, I hope someone did. Everyone deserves to know, in life, what the people who care for them think of them.
Maybe there’s something we can all take away from this. Maybe we can all walk away a little bit emboldened, a little bit stronger and little more willing to put ourselves ~ and I mean our true selves, the ones that might get hurt and look foolish ~ on the line. Maybe we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable, and we can start to recognize that there is strength in that. Maybe we can be more real, more genuine. Maybe we can take the risk of actually telling people how we feel, even if it’s not always pretty or easy, or socially acceptable. Maybe we can be strong enough to admit that we are who we are, and that, sometimes, even though we aren’t 19 anymore, everything is so intense; and maybe, just maybe, we can have the courage to be as fabulously fierce as only we can be.
Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher. I feel, selfishly, like the world didn’t get to bask in your glow nearly long enough. I hope you know how very honoured we all are to have had you, even for just a short while.