Soup, Sunlight, and Lightsabers

“Take your broken heart and make it into art.” — Carrie Fisher (quoted by Meryl Streep in her Golden Globes speech on Sunday).

I was in the store buying lunch when the alert popped up on my phone.
“Carrie Fisher, ‘Star Wars’ actress and best-selling author, dies at 60.”
“NO!” I said loud enough for people to turn around and look at me sideways. Most of the deaths last year hit me fairly hard, but this one felt like I got punched in the stomach.

The sun was out and it felt like spring, New Yorkers walkin around in shorts in December. I walked to the park to jot down a few thoughts, so as to not hastily tweet out the expletives exploding in my head. To cool my jets. To enjoy the sunshine. To eat my soup and of course take a picture of it. (Because if we don’t take a picture then post it to social media, it didn’t really happen).

See. Soup. And that is a sunbeam not a lightsaber, just to be clear.

The Carrie Fisher I “knew” wasn’t Princess Leia (I’m not a Star Wars fan. Chastise me now. Go ahead. But please hear me out). She was an artist who embraced her living with bipolar, fought stigma surrounding mental illness, and advocated for mental health.

10 years ago Stephen Fry did a documentary for the BBC, Stephen Fry: The Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive. In it he spoke with a quite lively Carrie Fisher about her bipolar. “You’re just so enthusiastic about everyone and everyone must be enthusiastic about you…. I am standing on rocks, flaming speeches to the world. You know, I have a lot to say! I have messages from deep space, in fact!” After the interview Stephen noted: “It’s not a rockstar/filmstar accessory. It’s a real mental condition that she has to live with every single day of her life.”

I know the reality of living with this mental condition. A mental condition many of us live with every single day. 2.6% of American’s live with bipolar, and “1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year.” (NAMI)

And what breaks my heart is seeing the way it can defeat a soul and threaten to distort a persons understanding of who they are at their core.
My heart breaks when I see someone overwhelmed by the challenge of living the healthiest mental and physical life possible.
What breaks my heart is seeing how the stigma around mental illness breaks the heart and spirit of a person living with it.
I see the loneliness it causes and my heart shatters.

We all have something that breaks our hearts. And every single one of us is an artist. We don’t have to be Monet, or Mozart, or Bowie, or Maya Angelou, or Meryl Streep, or Carrie Fisher to make art.

: something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.

Every single one of us has something to contribute to the world, to our communities, to our families, to our friends. Medium is just one of my medium’s (thanks for reading btw). But there are so many ways of creating and expressing.

The sun was already low for 2pm, and to round out my melodramatic moment in the park I looked up at the pale blue sky and wondered if there really is a heaven. Are all the brilliant and beautiful people we lost last year there? I don’t know. And I’m not sure it matters. Because I believe the reason hurt runs deep when we lose someone like Carrie Fisher, David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Gwen Ifill (I won’t rehash all of 2016, I promise), a family member, or a friend, is because through their causes, and poetry, and lyrics, and guitar riffs, on-air and off persona’s, they brought a little heaven to earth. They helped us realize things about ourselves. And many times gave us the courage and permission to face our challenges and create heaven on earth.

In a response to a letter asking Carrie Fisher about how she felt at peace with her mental-illness she wrote, “We have been given a challenging illness, and there is no other option than to meet those challenges.”

Not everyone lives with bipolar, but we all have our challenges.

“I have been given ________________, and there is no other option than to meet those challenges.”

________________ breaks my heart, and there is no other option than to create art.

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Peace + Love — Ang