The word Gospel means “Good News” or “Glad Tidings”. Gospel comes to us in many forms and never in ways that we expect.
That’s why I view the life of Carrie Fisher as a sort of Gospel.
Most of the world knew Fisher as Leia Organa, the brilliant, courageous princess with a smart mouth who would one day rise to become General Organa, a leader in the constant battle against the forces of the Dark Side.
Fisher was a mere 19 years old when she originated the role of Leia, creating a hero for girls everywhere. In Leia, young girls were given the chance to see a hero who looked like them. No shrinking violet or damsel in distress. She more than held her own among the men and demonstrated that heroism, bravery, courage, and wit were not defined by or limited to a specific gender. Perhaps just as important, the character of Leia served as a powerful reminder to boys that their female counterparts were every bit as capable when it came to saving the world. If Fisher had done nothing more than act as Leia, the world would owe her a debt of gratitude.
But she didn’t stop there. Fisher had a real life outside of General Leia Organa. It was a brilliant, heartbreaking, hurricane of a life and she was brave enough to share it with the outside world.
She struggled with bipolar disorder, speaking openly about the difficulties of living with mental illness. She worked as a “script doctor” working on iconic films like “Hook”, “Sister Act”, and “The Wedding Singer”. She battled alcohol and drug addiction and wrote about both in her one woman play and memoirs. Her candor served as a lifeline to people struggling with similar issues. She battled the sexism and ageism inherent in her industry and somehow managed to keep a sense of humor throughout it all.
As a man who struggled with alcohol addiction/drug abuse, and continues to battle clinical depression, I look at her life and I see Good News. I draw strength from the fact that, rather than cowering in shame, she confronted her demons head on, battling them with a smile, a sharp remark, clenched fists, and an open heart.
If the Good News means anything, surely it means this. No matter how broken our lives, no matter how hard the struggle, we can overcome. And we can lift up others in the process.
I think Carrie Fisher did just that. She showed us how to live with grit and grace.
On December 27, 2016 Carrie Fisher passed away, but people will continue to be blessed by her story, by the art she created, and the life that she lived.
Rest well Carrie.
May the Force Be With You.
Post Script – Some Excerpts from the Gospel of Carrie Fisher:
“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”
“Youth and beauty are not accomplishments. They’re the temporary happy byproducts of time and/or DNA. Don’t hold your breath for either.”
“One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.
They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.”
“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”
“I have a mess in my head sometimes, and there’s something very satisfying about putting it into words. Certainly it’s not something that you’re in charge of, necessarily, but writing about it, putting it into your words, can be a very powerful experience.”
“But I think if you have the expectation that you’re going to be happy throughout your life—more to the point, if you have a need to be comfortable all the time—well, among other things, you have the makings of a classic drug addict or alcoholic.”
“I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.”
“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to BE art.”