Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Carrie Fisher passed this week at the age of 60. The best tribute I saw talked about how her character in the Star Wars franchise evolved from a princess who lost her family and her entire planet into a general who lost her brother who disappeared, her son to the dark side and her husband to patricide, yet she still did what was right in every situation. In her real life, she was no less of a warrior. She stepped out of the shadow of her very famous mother and risked offending everyone in Hollywood by showing the darker side of her life growing up. In essence, she unmasked one of the darlings of Hollywood as a less than perfect mother and human being. As if that wasn’t enough, she admitted and talked candidly about her mental illness when it was hugely unpopular to do so and still kept her razor sharp wit and sense of humor through all of it. In every sense of the word, Carrie Fisher was a badass woman who lived life on her own terms, and it wasn’t until she died that I knew she did most of it scared.
I’ve told several people, and I’ve written on occasion about how magical it was for me turning 50. I know people have read the quotes about not caring what others think of them, and those quotes often come off as nasty or bitter, but at 50 I began to understand them on a different level. It wasn’t that I cared less about anyone when I turned 50. I honestly began to care more about people. Somehow, though, I began to care less about what people thought of me and how they perceived me, and I began to care more about how I felt about the way I lived. I still wanted to be a great mom and wife, but the desire to be a better citizen of the world took hold too. I had volunteered most of my adult life in my children’s schools and while it was fulfilling, there seemed to be something more calling to me. I knew I couldn’t end homelessness, but because I was driving by homeless people regularly, I began to carry bags of supplies that could provide a bit of comfort. I cannot stop child abuse, child hunger or childhood disease, but I can treat every child as if they matter, because they do. My greatest thrill on Christmas Eve this year was when one of my great nieces who had never even given me a hug climbed in my lap because I told her she could take pictures with my camera, my rather expensive camera. She and her sister spent the next ten minutes taking silly pictures, some of which I’m sharing here. They didn’t want to leave when their mom said it was time to go and only agreed when I promised I would see them soon, and I would bring my camera with me.
Most of the people who read my blog know I’ve published a few books. I am proud of each of them in a different way; the first because I actually wrote it, the second because motherhood has been my passion and the third because it has set me on a journey I love living nearly every day. I am learning and growing as much now as I have at any time in my life, and I’ve learned to do it scared. I was out of the workforce for over two decades and others know so much more about technology than I do. I’ve written all my life but never knew if I was any good because no one in my family thought writing was much of a career so I mostly kept it to myself. I’m overweight. I have paralysis on my face from Bell’s palsy. One of these things is enough to scare me. All of them can be downright terrifying, but there is so much fuel for my fire as well. You see, my father died at age 54, and three of my grandparents died at age 65 or younger. I live a much healthier life than any of them, but it’s a reminder that time may be short, so why waste it? I have friends and family who have life threatening medical conditions who could be fine one day and gone the next, kind of like Carrie Fisher, so I do my best to spend as little time complaining as possible. Instead I do what I can to make the planet a better place through the words I put on a page and actions I put into the world.
I think one of the greatest gifts a person can receive is the understanding of how incredibly important and unimportant each of us is. As a parent to a small child, you are someone’s world. That child could not survive without you or someone like you to raise it. If you’re a nursing mother, your body is so incredible that your breastmilk changes as the needs of your baby changes. In your little part of the world, you are nearly indispensable, but go on a cruise or fly over the ocean and you realize an hour or two after you lose sight of land how small and insignificant you are in the giant tapestry of life. It doesn’t mean you’re unimportant, not at all. The Mona Lisa would not be the same painting if even one brush stroke was different, but one brush stroke does not make the Mona Lisa. It’s a conundrum for sure, but here’s something that isn’t a conundrum for me – our time on this Earth is limited. None of us knows the day or time we will be leaving this life, and I want to be one who lives fully.
So as this year of 2016, the one many never want to speak of again, winds down, I do not mourn the passing of Carrie Fisher. I celebrate the kickass life that she led. I intend to carry her spirit forward and be as brave and determined as I can be and honor her in every way that I can. I’ll do it scared. I’ll do it to the best of my ability. I’ll do it without excuse because if a mentally ill, abused child can grow up to be the icon for a generation of women, what is my excuse? Sail upon the stars Princess Leia. Lead on General Organa. Come along dear reader and do the thing that you desire most. Take the leap to the better life you secretly want to live. Write the book. Take the trip. Go for the new job, or just love everybody the best you can. Start little if you must, but start and then keep going. Let’s do this thing we call 2017 and may the force be with us all. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.