Carrie Fisher died, drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra. The media is reporting it as a massive heart attack, but we know better because Carrie told us so.
If I’m going to be perfectly honest, I’m seriously bummed by Carrie’s death, but not desolate or overwhelmed. I liked Carrie Fisher very much. I love that she was wildly herself. I love that she learned to find humor in the madness of life. I love that she was honest about her addictions. I love that she was fierce and free and believed a good story could change the world. I’m also grateful that neither outright addiction nor mental illness took her in the end. That may sound strange or even callous, but those of us with mental illness always wonder whether it will triumph; whether it will be the one holding our hand while we drift away. That she died of
a heart attack drowning in moonlight, strangled by her own bra? I kind of feel like Carrie won. Like she’s gone far too soon AND like she flipped mental illness the bird on her way out. Both/And, friends. Both/And.
I also feel like 2016 can bite me.
I just read an NPR article by Sam Sanders that 2016 maybe wasn’t all that bad. And I get what he’s saying, from an individualist, American-centric, privileged perspective, which he names outright in the article. But from a global perspective? With the largest displaced-people crisis the world has ever known? And war and chaos, unkindess and uncertainty? And even from an American perspective if we care about the marginalized, vulnerable and disenfranchised among us who feel more vulnerable than ever? Nope. All due respect, Mr. Sanders, but 2016 can totally suck it.
We are in collective mourning for the state of our world and for the loss of our storytellers, and our oracles, and our sense-makers, and our truth-sayers. Whether we experienced those losses personally or not, it is right to grieve. The “I” may not be worse off after this year, but the “we” certainly is, and thank God we still know to lament that loss as a community.
I left my computer at work last night and realized it 25 minutes later, when I was almost home, so when I finally walked in the door after an additional round-trip to my office, to piles of mail, and half-eaten bowls of cereal littering the kitchen table, and boys squawking over who was cheating at Exploding Kittens (Hint: everyone. EVERYONE WAS CHEATING), and every surface covered with goo and gunk, I was more than done. I wanted food, a beer, my bathtub, and to be magically thin and fit in my jeans and still eat all the cheese; all of which were equally unrealistic in the moment.
I don’t know, you guys; it’s just, it’s the tail end of 2016 and I falsely thought, “IT’S ALMOST OVER; SURELY THE WORST HAS HAPPENED,” and then Christmas came and George Michael died, and after Christmas Carrie Fisher died. By last night, I was all, “WTF, 2016! BITE ME,” except I whispered that very quietly because I believe 2016 might ACTUALLY materialize in horrific semi-human form to bite me FOR REAL.
I tried to write last night but I gave up because I was too busy pulling the covers over my head and wondering if I could talk my kids into bringing me water and toast (read: beer and cheese) for four more days until the New Year because the only thing that made sense for the remainder of this fully effed up year was HIDING and praying the Lord Jesus comes quickly and TAKES US ALL TO GLORY. COME, LORD JESUS and take us to Glory where we can hang out with Mr. Michael; Ms. Fisher; Alan Rickman who will sit by a roaring fire in a worn, leather, wing-back chair and read the Harry Potter books in all the voices; Richard Adams who will follow Mr. Rickman to read from Watership Down; Leonard Cohen who will remind us there are Hallelujahs, somehow, everywhere; John Glenn who will tell tales of the cosmos; and Gwin Ifill; and David Bowie; and Gene Wilder; and R2-D2; and my friend Krissi’s daddy; and Prince; and Doris Roberts who I suspect would’ve been fun to get a drink with; and Muhammad Ali; and Nancy Reagan who taught me the power of NO, although never to drugs, because, in a grand disappointment, no one ever offered them to me like she practically promised they would; and Patty Duke; and Pat Summitt who was an unapologetic badass; and Harper Lee; and, the ones that most catch me in my throat and heart and soul, the kids like my friend Sue’s sweet boy who left so young and far too soon; and the precious ones we lost who are LGBTQ, like Molly Woolsey, who couldn’t bear to stay in our unkind world filled with people who say they love their neighbors but only do it with words and stipulations.
Yes, I tried to write last night, but ghosts of 2016 surrounded me, and I had to mourn for a little while without words.
And then I checked the mail and found a package. A surprise present from my friend, Matthew, who is beautiful and a Light Bringer and rad.
Which I sort of feel like is a present for all of us because it’s an icon of St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Chaos and Impossible Causes, and I can think of little more important right now, in the waning days of 2016, than the reminder that just because things are impossible is no reason to give up. I mean, yes; we can give up for a little while. I’m a big fan of giving up temporarily. But over the long term, we hope anyway. And we love each other. And we rest as long as we need. And we hold hands in the dark and whisper to each other that dawn is coming eventually. And then we fight like hell and tackle the world and are fierce, unapologetic badasses who, like Leia Organa, lead the resistance. That is how this is going to work. That is how we’re going to make it through 2016. That is how we’re going to approach 2017 and beyond.
- Things are impossible.
- We don’t give up.
- Except for a little while.
- After we’re done giving up, and even though we’re in the middle of unbelievable chaos, we hope anyway.
- We LOVE each other. No stipulations.
- We rest as long as we need, sitting in the muck and the mud and mire, knowing magic is there, too.
- We hold hands in the dark.
- We whisper dawn is coming.
- We fight like hell because we are fully fierce and free.
- We lead the resistance.
And then we do it all again.
My family is celebrating Hanukkah this year. I’m hoping those of you who are Jewish don’t feel I’ve co-opted your religion and culture for my own ends; it’s just that I rather desperately need to celebrate the miracle of Light, which always comes in the darkness and just when we’re sure there’s no fuel to provide it. We have no Hanukkah candles, though my mama bought me a lovely menorah, so we’re using birthday candles which keep falling over, making the Festival of Light a fire hazard which somehow seems fitting for our family, like every Christmas Eve when they give my children candles at church and I spend the whole time singing Silent Night — all the verses — hoping we won’t burn the church down.
It’s just… I need Light this year. 2016 has been a weird one. Politically, yes. Religiously, yes. Deathly, yes. And also personally. Our oldest son melted down over the summer. Fully and completely. Nearly needing institutionalization, though whether the person institutionalized was going to be me or my child was very much up in the air. Chaos and Impossible Causes, both of us; so much potential, so much heart, so much desire for better days and healthier brains, and so little knowledge for how to get there. And here we are at the end of the year with some things better and some things still mired in impossible chaos, because we are human, which is to say, we are divine, made in God’s own image, full of light yet also full of darkness. Both/And all the time. Full of grace, which is a state of being both lost and found at once.
And so I sign off for now.
Fiercely, impossibly, chaotically yours… and still whispering that the dawn is coming,
P.S. TWO MORE THINGS, friends…
- During the chaos of summer, while everything was falling fully apart, I quit my beloved job at Medical Teams International, a humanitarian aid organization that provides medical and dental care, humanitarian aid, and holistic development programs to people in need around the world. Humanitarian aid work is my first love and where I thought I’d spend my life, so quitting the job, even for all the right reasons, including my child’s sanity and my own, as well as the plan to pursue writing “THE BOOK,” was full of grief. The right thing, for sure; also, hard. However, the CEO of Medical Teams, Martha Newsome, invited me to stay on in a temporary capacity focused on communications, and next week I’ll be traveling with her to Uganda where Medical Teams is responding to the overwhelming needs of South Sudanese refugees, mostly women and children, fleeing the war in their home country. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees asked Medical Teams International to provide medicines and doctors for new camps right now so more refugees can survive; MTI, of course, has stepped up to the task. While I typically try to separate my writing here with my work for Medical Teams, entirely because I want to protect Medical Teams’ reputation and I’m not sure my mouthy, progressive, push-the-envelope self is the very best way to deliver their message, I’ll be sharing my trip to Uganda with you because I know so many of you, like me, are eager for stories of hope and ways we can help. As I find out, so shall you; honestly, I can’t imagine going without you.
- If you are in need of respite — a time to relax, or work on a project, or be with friends from this community in a gorgeous environment where my friend Maggie will make your food and serve you wine — we are opening up the additional spots at January’s Magic in the Mess retreat for anyone who would like to come. While this is billed as a writing retreat (and still will be — there are writers and wonderful instructors coming), there are 5 spots available for people who just want to come for respite! The writers will be taking two 3-hour blocks of quiet writing time every day, so there will be times of extended quiet; the rest of the day, while writers have their small group sessions, are free for us to explore, hang out, walk on the beach, hot tub, sit by the fire, etc. The dates are January 19-23, and you can find more information here. Please come; I’d love to hang out with you.