The most important lesson I learned from the late, great Carrie Fisher is that life unfolds in weird and unimaginable ways. No matter what’s on our plates we have two choices. We can let life lead us into a downward spiral of dysfunction, or we can find humor in the deepest corners of sorrow.
The latter gave birth to a modern O’Henry, a woman who turned the darkness of life into side-splitting tales.
In Carrie’s book and one-woman show “Wishful Drinking,” the audience learns how she frequently walked a tightrope between tragedy and comedy.
I didn’t grow up on Rodeo Drive and my mother wasn’t publicly humiliated after my father abandoned her for his best friend’s widow. I’m not bipolar and I don’t suffer from mental illness. But I identified with Carrie’s wisdom that was born out of adversity.
I wish I was as witty as Carrie, spinning tales to make you laugh at the insanity and absurdities of life.
But 2016 truly sucked. That’s not lovely prose, just my crude opinion of the past twelve months. I’ve felt despair, disillusion and sadness about my illness. The election wasn’t much help for my ailing immune system.
I spent time reading how others also wanted 2016 to be over. Knowing that doesn’t help me feel better. It just makes me realize that shit happens to even the best of people.
Not everyone thought 2016 was a bad year. They found joy among the ruins. A sincere hooray for them. They are the lucky ones. And honestly, I’m green with envy.
When you live with a chronic illness, and a disobedient body, you miss out on a lot of life so you see things through a different lens. The minute your illness flares your life changes on a dime.
The last quarter of 2016 I spent long hours at home. Reading about the wonderful lives of others made my heart happy for them, but not for me.
I became a homebody out of need and that simply isn’t who I am.
After awhile the telephone stopped ringing. People don’t know what to say or they’re frightened by illness. Some are too busy or they believe you must be better by now.
But I’m also blessed with loved ones who support me. It can’t be easy, yet they remain resolute in their caring ways. I am eternally grateful to each of them.
Yet, in the end, illness is a lonely proposition.
When I watched “Wishful Drinking” I had an epiphany. Somehow Carrie saved a part of me that I was slowly losing. She showed me that despite the absurdity of life we must dig deep into our souls to find the inner strength (we all have) to pull ourselves out of the darkness and back into the light.
For self-preservation, we must rely on ourselves.
I won’t allow illness to redefine who I am. That’d be unfair to me and those I love. I won’t give into the madness that’s MS.
At 28 it was easier to shake off my illness. At 57 it takes longer, but it’ll be worth the wait.
One last note: The Women’s March being held around the country, the day after inauguration, will have to go on without me. My feet aren’t physically ready to walk those important steps.
As much as I’m sad about missing the march I learned from Carrie that I can still do my part. I’ll use my voice through my words. My good deeds will speak for themselves.
ACLU. NARAL. Planned Parenthood. Southern Poverty Law Center. NAACP. Lambda Legal. CAIR. RAINN. Al Justice. SRLP.
Along with my beautiful like-minded sisters I’ll continue to make a difference to create good in the world and support those who have been marginalized.
So Princess Leia, wherever you are, mastering new horizons with that unsinkable mother of yours, I thank you for shining a light my way. As your character said, “You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought.”
Thank you. I’m trying.