Encased in Carbonite
Today’s Words of Wisdom:
“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
The Foda’s take: The only thing I disagree with here is that it sounds like you will only have one moment like this that will stand out from all the rest. But it seems to be part of the human experience to know this moment many, many times. The smart ones use it not as a negative, but as a marker to show how far you’ve come, and how far you’ll go.
Let me paint a picture for you. It’s the end of Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back. Han Solo is led to the isolation chamber, tired and beaten, resigned to his fate. He is slowly lowered into the cavern, white smoke billowing out around him. Leia leans forward and blurts out: I love you! Han gives her a half smile and replies simply: I know. Valves spin, mechanisms whir, and he is frozen, encased in a golden block of carbonite.
Okay, let’s talk about this for a minute. First off, how hard would it have been for him to say three words instead of two? I mean, really- I love you— I know. Seriously???!!!! (Although it did make for a super cute novelty mug I gave my husband Mandalf for Christmas.) But that’s not the point. The point is that just because Han happened to be friends with Luke Skywalker, he was trapped in a metal cube for months. And this led me to reflect on how isolating it can be to feel trapped in a body or a life that just won’t give.
All people feel lonely; that’s nothing new. But isolation is different. Isolation is something that feels like it happens to you- a separation between you and the rest of the world. When you have a chronic illness or personal trauma, it often feels like the world goes on without you, while you’re stuck, much like Han, in a block of cement. It makes us feel ostracized, different, like the wasabi shmushed to the side of every sushi platter, just hoping to be added into the mix. (Mmmm Sushi. Yum.)
It’s no surprise why humans who live with this kind of isolation have such a hard time with it. In prison, solitary confinement is considered cruel and unusual- the worst punishment we can devise for the living- existence without human contact. And yet people with chronic illness spend so much of their time chained to their house this way… and they did nothing wrong. Infuriating, no? We all just want our Princess Leia to come and rescue us; push a few buttons and let the carbonite casing melt away. But often, try as we might, wish as we do, no one is going to save us- and we will reconcile ourselves to finding worth and wisdom in being forced onto the road less traveled.
So where’s my silver lining in all this? I’d like to say that I’ve found a way to make this kind of isolation from the world less painful- that I’m no longer bothered by the fact that the world moves on while I can’t- but that’s not true. I have, however, found ways to feel like I’m contributing to the world, even when I can’t leave my couch. I’ve learned how to create a website. I’ve written, I’ve created, I’ve taught myself calligraphy, I’ve learned how to make jewelry. I’ve named all my plants. (Don’t judge me there. I will sic my snake plant on you. Whose name, by the way, is Daisy.)
But I think the most important thing about being put into proverbial carbonite is that it’s given me the rare opportunity to sit and think and decide what is truly important. I like to think that when this time in my life has passed, I will be strong, and fearless, and wise beyond my young years, because I will have survived true trials and tribulations.
So although I would love for Princess Leia to come and rescue me too… I’m just going to have to do it myself.
Just so long as I’m not actually big eared, wrinkly, and green by then.
In closing, since we started with a F. Scott Fitzgerald quote from Gatsby, I will leave you with the same. As my father Dobiwan is so fond of saying:
“No matter- tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And then one fine morning-— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Here’s to your one fine morning.