Carrie Fisher died today, at age 60. I think that she was probably Dorothy Parker’s reincarnation. Carrie greatly admired Dorothy Parker and, like Dorothy Parker, had an intelligent, sarcastic, hilarious wit. She was also brutally honest about her life. Her candor, however, was a double-edged sword. While Carrie will be remembered as Princess Leia, and as a hugely talented actor and writer, her name will go down in history followed by an asterisk.
The asterisk will remind us of her problems with alcohol and drugs. As the years progress, the asterisk might fade as the stigma associated with addiction diminishes. Carrie has said that she used drugs and alcohol to diminish the agonies of her bipolar disorder. She is far from the first person to self-medicate, and will not be the last. We can only hope that, in the near future, mental illness becomes universally accepted as a medical condition that is on a par with other illnesses that are in our genes and not of our making. She contributed to the unveiling of mental illness, and that is one of the gifts for which she’ll be remembered.
Because she was only four years older than I am, her death was significant for me. I will never be famous, but when I go, will I have left an impression on anyone? And will it be a positive impression?
As trite as it sounds, I’m grateful for my blessings: my husband, my son, my extended family on both sides, our home, the food in our pantry, our jobs, our dog, and many other things. Nonetheless, my immediate family is going through an uncertain time right now. Our faith that God will not abandon us is unshakeable but, still, we are often in states of high anxiety.
I am also very grateful for one more thing: my innate happiness. Even while things crumble around me, I still retain hope for the future. I’m an eternal optimist, which is helpful during difficult times. Only recently have I realized that sharing my happiness might be the most important thing I can do.
No matter how serene others appear on their surfaces, everyone — absolutely everyone — is struggling with something. If I can lift a person’s spirits for even a moment, that’s a gift. And it costs me nothing to compliment someone, lift his or her spirits with a funny story, or listen.
We’ve all been told that the most important thing in this world is love. We’re supposed to love one another. That seemed like an impossible goal until I learned that loving isn’t the same as liking. You don’t have to approve of someone’s behavior or particularly want to spend extended time in a certain person’s company. But you can be nice, compassionate, and kind when your paths cross. Hugs help immeasurably. Human contact can elevate spirits and probably cures many ills, as well.
That’s love. And love multiplies, because someone you’re nice to might feel better about himself or herself, and pass the good feeling on to another person. Plus, you will love yourself for making someone else happier. It’s easier to love yourself when you spread love freely and indiscriminately.