In light of the most recent news circling social media, I think it’s safe to say the general consensus is that 2016 has been a massive, horrible dumpster fire of a year, as far as celebrity deaths go. At risk of destroying any and all faith you may have in me, I’ll admit, I’ve never been much of a Star Wars fan. I’ve actually never even seen it. (Okay, so I watched Episode III- Revenge of the Sith in theaters on a date that my stepdad tagged along on to “supervise” when I was 13. It’s as cringe-worthy as it sounds.) Naturally I could understand why people were so moved by her passing. She was Princess Leia- a major part of one of the most iconic movies in history.
It wasn’t until I stumbled across this post by The Bloggess that I realized she was so much more than that. It was the photo that initially caught my attention, or rather Carrie’s quote that the photo commemorated.
I would never have guessed that the woman behind that emblematic cinnamon bun hairstyle suffered from depression and bipolar disorder. In fact, it turns out she was a huge advocate for mental health, being honest and open about her struggles with mental illness and drug addiction during a time when it was even more taboo than it is now (which is saying something). “I outlasted my problems,” she said. “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.”
Which brings me to the closing line (and namesake of this week’s post) of Liane Moriarity’s Big Little Lies, a borderline chick-lit book about domestic abuse which I was under the impression was a murder mystery (but loved, regardless).
“This can happen to anyone”.
I must have sat there, slack-jacked and streaming tears, for a solid five minutes. I don’t even think I blinked more than to see clearly enough to read and then re-read (again and again) those five little words. I drew a lot of parallels from the book to my own life, but it went beyond that. I thought of this past weekend, sitting in Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois with a exorbitantly priced can of Dos Equis left forgotten in my hand as I stared in absolute awe at the spectacle before me. Brandon had gotten me tickets to see Trans Siberian Orchestra for my birthday, and I’d almost asked him to return them. I don’t even like Christmas music that much, I’d thought to myself, though it was true that I’d told him I’d always been curious about seeing them (having only ever heard their rendition of Carol of the Bells).
I’m so glad I didn’t.
I don’t have words for the elation that I felt while watching TSO perform. “Am I at a White Snake concert?” I’d joked, watching the guitarists headbanging to popular Christmas tunes. But I was captivated with a sort of dumbstruck, childlike wonder. Here were a group of performers who were doing what a lot of people may view as over the top and silly, but their passion was so undeniable it made my heart ache. “I want that,” I thought to myself. “Gods, do I want that…” To live a life pursuing my biggest and wildest dreams. I mean, who doesn’t? I’d been surprised when, at the beginning of the show, before announcing the amount this concert had raised for local charity, they asked the audience how many of them had seen them before. How about twice, three times, four times, five? The cheers kept coming. Now I see why.
“This can happen to anyone”.
Moriarty’s story about the gorgeous, wealthy, seemingly picture perfect wife who makes excuses for her husband’s abuse is proof of this. Trans Siberian Orchestra with their 80’s hair metal rendition of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite and devoted fans are proof of this. Carrie Fisher, who battled depression and bipolar disorder, an addiction to cocaine and pills, and still managed to live what she considers a “normal” life- to be an icon, not just on-screen, but in the real world, to real people who struggle with very real mental illness and addiction– she is proof of this.
She is proof that is does get better. That we are not alone. That we do recover. Proof that this really, truly, can and does happen to anyone. So get out there and embrace your beautiful, broken, crazy life. Stay afraid if you must, but do it anyway. And do it with everything you have.