Carrie Fisher wrote these words for Meryl Streep to say as a fictionalized version of herself in the semi-autobiographical film Postcards from the Edge:
I can’t feel my life. I look around and I know so much of it is good…but I just can’t believe it…I don’t want my life to imitate art. I want my life to be art.
Those lines are condensed from a climactic speech where a perennially snide, yet terribly insecure and newly sober actress for the first time admits she realizes how fortunate she is to be alive and to have opportunities in which to thrive.
It was an embarrassingly honest bit of contemporary self-parody 30 years ago.
I mean, who is truly going to feel sorry for a talented young woman born into a wealthy show business family whose real life inspiration played Princess Leia in Star Wars?
But who knew it would have additional resonance all these decades later where so many of us are walking around wringing our hands over what our 2021 lives are, are not, or may never be?
The very same people who could have predicted that both Princess Leia AND the actress who played her would also be gone.
It doesn’t help that the news gives us daily warnings that the Covid Monster we assumed we were beginning to slay is actually still lurking just outside our door and ingeniously getting even closer.
The latest tidbit is that the viral load for those infected with its new and improved Delta variant is ONE THOUSAND TIMES higher than its original and almost TWICE as CONTAGIOUS.
This reminds me of another line from another even more classic film, The Wizard of Oz. After her house accidentally drops on the Wicked Witch of the East and that witch’s evil sister stands before her, an already nervous Dorothy is immediately warned by her friend Glinda that:
This is the Wicked Witch of the West. And SHE’S WORSE THAN THE OTHER ONE!!
Considering film is our best cultural representation of what it’s like to be human, it shouldn’t be at all surprising that so many of us are in our current emotional states.
Well, I for one, had to take at least a partial step back from all of it this week. There is nothing clever nor particularly profound about this decision except, well, I had to do anything but intermittently freak out amid, well, intermittently freaking out.
And as someone once told me, sometimes it’s better to do something, or anything, than nothing.
(Note: I think it was a therapist who gave me that advice but I can’t be entirely sure I actually didn’t once read it in some old Carrie Fisher interview).
In any event, since I wasn’t up for volunteering in a space where I would be around anyone or anything I didn’t know (or anything or anyone who wasn’t vaccine certified), I chose to go back to the one constant in my life that has almost never let me down – friends.
One day I had an outside lunch with a buddy who I’ve known for over FORTY YEARS and haven’t seen in two. Another evening was spent with two guys I haven’t seen in person in three years but have known for THIRTY.
Another close friend I first met in 1982 is here for the summer and we’ve had a bunch of get-togethers. I’ve also had a ton of long conversations with family members and others close to me that I haven’t talked to in a while.
I even – and I know this is shocking – made it a point to actually pay more attention to the person I see every day of my life – my HUSBAND – and actually make it a priority to LISTEN to what he had to say before I SAID anything.
The latter might not seem like a lot but, well… okay… the long married/long term couples will tell you…
I can’t tell you any of these was a panacea aka CURE for what’s been lurking outside my door, or yours, but it did help – A LOT.
At least for a while. Until it didn’t.
It was at that time that I reached out to even more people and began to listen and look around at my surroundings.
That helped too. A bit. At which time, things got somewhat anxious again and I started to write stuff. Not a lot but enough to get me through some rough hours. As it has so many times, through so many decades before.
And when that lost its effect I even went for a run and…worked out?!!?? A bunch of times. That, in turn, bought me a whole bunch of extra, non-worrying hours. Much as it hurt and I didn’t want to do it.
Oh, and it also brought….appreciation.
See, at the end of the day what you realize is that any life at all is art, woefully imperfect and consistently stressful, daunting and even haunting, though it may be.
I wish I could cure Covid but I can’t. I wish I could thoroughly avoid Covid but, practically speaking, it’s impossible and not advisable.
Though what I can do, and all of us can do, is live our lives with some meaning AND with the people that make us laugh and make us happy, and not let it poison so much of what is good about living at all.
It’s not a perfect art but, as Ms. Fisher observed all those decades ago, that’s not what life’s about anyway.
She also once famously said:
Instant gratification takes too long.
Amen to that, also.
Meryl Streep – “I’m Checking Out” from Postcards from the Edge