When I first heard the news that Carrie Fisher died, I began to cry on the spot. It was as if someone had removed the floor beneath me, and I fell into despair in a nanosecond. I was aware of Princess Leia, but I knew her primarily as a writer. In fact, she is the reason I became a writer.
By Chris Vizzini
CARRIE FISHER WROTE BRAVELY and truthfully, despite that others might not see her as a “sound” person. She wasn’t, and she is well documented not having given a shit about sharing it. What mattered to her was the truth. It superseded the fear of speaking aloud of her many demons and joys.
We don’t often see that brand of bravery these days. The fact that she could write to such a degree with unabashed candor gave me the courage to write about my own experiences. She taught me that telling the truth and pulling “learned” shame and fear into the light saved my life and the lives of others.
THE BURNING IN MY HEART intensified over her death when I realized that I’d never hear another comically sardonic quip, read another snapping witticism, or see her on a talk show being herself – no matter what anyone thought.
The cry then became a sob. The news was an emotional jolt to the solar plexus. I felt like someone in my family had died – maybe even worse, because Carrie Fisher had never hurt me like my family did.
She had only been a light in the dark for me. She showed me that artists often process experiences in different ways, and that’s OK. It’s OK to be, think, process and feel differently. That idea liberated me from the shackles of “normalcy,” and made it OK to define that word on my own terms.
WHERE I SPLIT WITH FISHER is that she was bipolar, and I am not. We certainly handled pain in some similar ways when I was younger, but she had manic highs and lows. She said that there were two people within her: the happy-go-luck Rollicking Roy who was always at the ready for fun, and the Sediment Pam, who you might find crying by herself on the beach. Pam bore the brunt of the pain where Roy was the escapist.
We might call them different aspects of a personality but for Carrie, Roy and Pam were two distinct personalities that resided within herself. I can’t imagine what that must have been like to shoulder – largely on her own, as bipolar disorder was not understood, or even called that, during her most manic period from the late ‘70s through the ‘80s. How alone she must have felt.
FISHER’S MOTHER DEBBIE REYNOLDS once said during a joint interview, “All I want for Carrie is for her to be happy.” Fisher, after an oddly introspective pause, replied “Happiness might be one of the many emotions I feel in a day.” Then Debbie began to cry.
I knew Carrie Fisher was a complex woman, but it wasn’t until I saw the interview that it gave me a deeper glimpse at her emotional and psychological make up, as well as the dynamic between mother and daughter. The theme was complex, damaged and heartbreaking. You could see guilt in Reynolds’ eyes and the sadness in Fisher’s.
Fisher had been damaged by her mother’s parenting choices on a profound level, while Reynolds was damaged by Carrie’s drug abuse and manic episodes. Then something miraculous surfaced between them in a flash.
As they looked at each other, you could see the understanding of one another encapsulated within a little grin from each. Amidst all the pain, they found acceptance and love for each other at some point and allowed us to witness. It was something to see.
ASTONISHINGLY, FISHER COULD LAUGH could laugh at the absurdities in her life. It’s a quality I find the most inspiring about her, and it has left an indelible imprint on my soul.
We take the cards we’ve been dealt and do the best we can, but can never forget to laugh at how off-the-charts bizarre and unfair, yet comical that it can all be.
I’ve learned so much from Carrie Fisher, and my hero has fallen. What do you do when one of the few people in the world who made you feel at home disappears from your life forever? For that, I have no answers except to ensure that we not forget everything she gave us. The icon. The writer. The woman. The phoenix that rose from the ashes.
Carrie Fisher is gone, and my heart is broken alongside tens of thousands of others. I will always miss her, but she will reside inside of me forever. For that I’m eternally grateful.