Friday, December 30, 2011

Role Models and Heroes

I was four-years-old in 1977, but I remember the movie of the year, “Star Wars.”  Sorry, George Lucas, it wasn’t the groundbreaking special effects or your fantastic writing; it was the portrayal of Princess Leia by then 21-year old Carrie Fisher.  I would beg my mom to put my little girl hair into that honey-bun hairdo and would pretend my white fancy dress was Leia’s white gown. 

But it wasn’t the clothes or the hair that had me spellbound, it was Leia’s spunk.  I admired that she was on the side of good, committed to defeating a powerful evil.  I loved how a princess got in there and fought with the boys, but always with wit and sarcasm that set her apart.  I studied her conflicted face when she looked from Luke to Han.  Oh how could she choose?  Sigh. 

Sure, there were the traditional Disney Princesses in my life, but after Leia, they seemed, well, so trite and helpless.  Leia would never wait to be rescued, she would grab a Blaster and find her R2 unit and get a message through to the Rebel Alliance one way or another even at a great sacrifice such as blowing up her home planet of Alderaan.  It probably helped too that I am blessed with a younger brother who liked to play “Star Wars” with me well after 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.”  We would run around the yard shooting things, using sticks as light sabers and swinging across our swing set like Luke and Leia over that cavern inside the Death Star (ok, maybe not so dramatically, but we what did we know, we were like four and six years old).

My son has recently become a huge “Star Wars” fan much to his father and my delight so now I am seeing these movies again as an adult.  That’s why recently I was reminded of how much a young me admired Princess Leia.  I wish I could say that I was as witty as the princess, but, of course, I was scripting my life and it was real, not a Hollywood movie.  Thankfully for me, I had some wonderful real life female role models, namely my mother, grandmothers and aunts, and close family friends.  These women were smart, funny, hard working, serious about their families, and often faced amazing challenges only to overcome; these women loved and sometimes loved and lost and still remained solid.  They may not have worn metal bikinis, but their hearts were pure as gold; for example, my mother showed me how to be both tough and loving, my aunts showed me that it’s ok to fall in love again, my grandmother reminded me that women can be smart in business, other family and friends showed me how resilient women can be when dealing with the loss of or life altering injury to a spouse or child.         

Of course, now as an adult, I realize that Ms. Fisher was dealing with much more than Darth Vader in her life during the filming of these movies.  She was battling addiction and the real life struggles of love and relationships.  Having read her book Wishful Drinking, I can say that her life was really a crazy ordeal and I hope she continues on her road of recovery and discovery.  Does it take the shine off Princess Leia to know Ms. Fisher was using cocaine and drinking to excess in her 20’s?  Actually, no.  It makes me feel like the real actress and the character she was playing have a bond of sorts.  Both fighting for something in their own way—Ms. Fisher for sobriety and balance in her life, Princess Leia for freedom and peace; these aren’t so different, are they?  

I see heroes every day; on my Facebook the young widow struggling to raise her family and run a business, the friend with M.S. dealing with flare ups and job woes, the teachers rushing to their cars to lovingly support their own kids activities such as ballet and football, my friend who gave up a law career to become an environmental advocate, the people who volunteer at our school, the secretary who politely answers the same questions all day long from harried clients, a dear soul who battled depression to the brink and emerged victorious… you get the idea.  Heroes in any form, on the movie screen or in real life, inspire us and help make us who we are.  From them we get the tools we need to face life’s toughest battles.  So, as we cross into this new year, pause and tell the many heroes in your life, “may the Force be with you” or at least thanks for being an inspiration. 

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