Thoughts on Carrie

kpnaomp

I have a strange relationship with death. We are long-distance enemies. Hateful pen pals. Despite having never been to a funeral, I worry about it more than is rational. Not my own mortality, that is, but that of the people around me.

The unknown of the experience of losing someone has built it up into my greatest fear. It can keep me up at night for no reason at all.

I’m not great at making friends so the ones I do have are obliged to outlive me. I’ve decided that no one’s allowed to die now. Not anyone I love. I’ve had a small taste of that and I didn’t much take to it.

When I say a small taste, I mean someone I love did die, but it was someone I didn’t know personally. Or directly, in person, having met. I missed that opportunity only two weeks ago. Nevertheless, I felt I knew her personally.

It feels personal.

The books she wrote and the words she spoke were so open that it seems impossible that I could know such intimate details of her life and not truly know her. She was so open. Not open in that friendly, arms-outstretched way that some people can be, but open in a way that went deeper, and darker. Carrie didn’t shy away from things that could make you uncomfortable. She didn’t dilute herself to put you at ease. She was just joyfully, heartbreakingly Carrie all the time.

Her final book, for instance, was the publication of a 40-year-old diary. If it’s edited, those edits are limited. It follows the pattern that Wishful Drinking, Shockaholic and Postcards from the Edge have laid out before it: an equation of startling honesty and self-deprecating humour. No one will ever prove so persistently that light can be drawn from even the darkest places.

As the media reported on news of her ill health on the 23rd, the phrasing – “massive heart attack” – felt so coarse. The word “massive” seemed the worst of it. It was as though those news sources sought to minimise hope amongst a group taught to hope against all odds. I couldn’t help myself.

A quote of hers kept in my mind:

 “You know the bad thing about being a survivor… You keep having to get yourself into difficult situations in order to show off your gift.”

Show off that gift just one more time for us, I kept thinking.

If anyone was going to survive 2016, surely it would be Carrie. Indomitable Carrie. She’d bounce back and joke about being described as “stable”, because that’s how she was. She drew light from even the darkest places. She’d probably write a book about it with a Star Wars pun for a title, and spend her recovery on Twitter, liking tweets that feature weird pictures of herself, Mark and Harrison while privately DMing fans words of comfort.

On Christmas Day, I unwrapped The Princess Diarist. I was given cards with Leia’s image emblazoned on them (“Tis the season to be rebels!”), and even a Han and Leia mouse mat that my mum had sweetly made up on Vistaprint. There was a lot of Carrie, in the most bittersweet of ways. She’s all over the gifts my best friends are yet to unwrap. With our shared love for our princess and our general, we’d made it through this shitty year together.

Perhaps it’s weird I got all the way to December before feeling like this.

Death has been everywhere this year, death and bad things. So many famous people died, it’s a small miracle that I, the perpetual fangirl, didn’t already feel buried in this strange and illegitimate grief. I felt sad every time, naturally, but also detached – by necessity. Sad things are happening at an ever more alarming rate but we hide out from those things, we separate ourselves, we try to keep our heads up and push on.

I’ve had my heart broken a few times and a few ways in 2016 but through it all, I took comfort in my newfound world of Star Wars. Now, to end the year on this new heartbreak feels especially cruel given that Carrie and her galaxy far, far away had been a comfort for most of it.

I miss her. I miss her all the time. I miss her in moments that she’d never have been in anyway. Isn’t that bizarre?

How strange an experience it is to lose a personal hero.

Perfect Present Pressure

img_3219

38 tabs open. Wishlists and wishlists and wishlists. Every Black Friday deal scoured and every RRP scorned. ‘Tis the season. Time to find the perfect gift for every man, woman and child in the land. And, blimey, are some of you hard to buy for.

My compulsion to get The Perfect Gift™ for everyone is exhausting. And it’s not your fault. You’re great. I know you’d pretend to like it even if I were to get you a gift voucher for Build-A-Bear.

It’s me. I’m doing this to myself.

Every year, without fail, I’ll waltz into a department store to pick up something specific and I’ll be overwhelmed by a flood of aggressive marketing: was/nows and 3 for 2s and cashbacks and WHAT DID I EVEN COME IN HERE FOR?!

I’ll be suckered into every deal going if I’ve got a person in mind for it. I’m weak. And once I’ve bought one Perfect Gift™, that’s it! That’s the game. Over. Because I couldn’t possibly get something this perfect for Emma and not somehow materialise a gift equally fitting for Hannah and Laura and Claire.

So, the search then begins to match whatever probably-quite-high bar I’ve started with. A combination of rush purchases and over-thought buys will be laid out across my bedroom floor, with an internal monologue debating the virtues of each potential gift matched up with each person. There’ll be switches. There’ll be notes-to-self highlighting notable gift gaps, or perhaps those ideas that are feeling a little below par because, actually, does Laura even like [insert giant generic franchise here] anymore? And, naturally, there’ll also be a formal present pile analysis to manage relative generosity from person to person, because every loved one must feel precisely the same amount of joy this festive season.

This dramatic escalation of retail chaos typically occurs by mid-November, by the way, leading to an overly-prepped and ultimately disappointing Black Friday weekend where I attempt to fill in all of those aforementioned gift gaps – or close the deal on pre-made purchasing decisions. You add 30 items to your wishlist for easy deal-watching and you’d think at least one of them would be reduced at some point, right? Wrong.

By Cyber Monday, reduced or not, the last wave of buying has to begin if I want to be truly assured that all of those internet orders will arrive in time. Accordingly, the biggest annual assault on my bank balance then takes place during those twilight hours of an all too manic Monday.

But that’s okay.

It’s okay because, other than one slightly dubious call for a brother unwilling to drop a single hint, I think – I think – I’ve nailed it.