So…Carrie Fisher has gone to the great beyond. And I’m sad. But also happy.
Let me explain.
Carrie Fisher wrote honestly about her battles with mental illness and inspired me to do the same. She was strange and funny and kookie and weird and broken and fascinating and I was always following her. Literally and figuratively.
When I’m on book tour I spend a lot of time with drivers who take me from airports to bookstores to hotels to new cities. They usually work for the book companies and they see all sorts of interesting people in their work so I always ask them, “Who is the best person you’ve ever driven?” and “Who is the worst?” I always promise not to share the worst but frankly there should be an entire book written by drivers who have seen entirely too much of the worst of people (because it is fascinating) but my favorite stories are always the ones about the best people. I’ve probably asked over 100 drivers who their favorite person they spent time with was and so far only a single person has been mentioned more than once…Carrie Fisher. She’s a favorite of a lot of them and every time I hear her name I settle back for a wonderful and strange tale. Each driver had a different story. Some were entertained by her wild personality and crazy tales. Some were taken on bewildering and wonderful adventures with her pointing the way to some strange place she wanted them both to go. Some found themselves revealing personal and difficult stories to her because she really wanted to know and didn’t have a filter when it came to asking questions. One driver told me she asked him to bring sacks and sacks of barbecue to her hotel room at midnight and then wouldn’t let him leave until he’d visited with her and the other people she’d picked up along the way…hotel maids, taxi drivers, old friends. Then when she’d had enough she wasn’t afraid to say, “DONE. I need sleep now. Everyone out.”
The Carrie Fisher stories were my favorite. And every time I heard them I’d lean back onto the same seat she’d ridden in and think about how one day I’d tell her what she meant to me. I never did, and now it’s too late. But I know she knew how much she touched others, and maybe she heard stories about me from those same drivers…about the odd girl with the dead animals on the covers of her books who loved hearing the Carrie Fisher stories because Carrie was always blazing a trail that made it so much easier to follow and speak out. She never lost her battle with mental illness. She lived a life. A good one. Flawed and honest and inspiring and filled with mistakes and lessons learned and shared.
That phrase. “Blazing a trail.” In real life it referred to pioneers marking paths with “blazes”, notches and arrows carved on trees to point the way. But in my head it’s different. Carrie Fisher blazed a trail by setting fire to everything blocking her path, to all the debris and overgrowth that stood in her way, leaving open ground behind her that made those of us following behind her so much easier. She blazed and burned and lit the way for others. She lived fully and touched many.
She burned brightly and I’m so happy I was able to see her fire….even if it was from a distance.
Thank you, Carrie. For carrying the torch and for using it so brilliantly.