I have always loved reading. My mother called me a bookworm. I would devour books, rarely putting them down until the last letter of the last word on the last page had been savored. As a little girl I heard, then read by myself, all the childhood favorites.
I learned the nursery rhymes one by one until I new them all by heart. I remember Little Boy Blue, Baa-baa Black Sheep, Mary Mary Quite Contrary, Little Bo-Peep, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Jack Spratt, and so many others. The characters all seemed so real to me and with my vivid imagination I would charm them all to life as I lay in bed.
Then, of course, there was Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. How many nights did I fall asleep with the image of myself in one of my very ordinary little dresses being turned into a shimmering creation of gossamer silver and silk. Or seeing myself with a handsome prince (who looked suspiciously like Johnnie the boy next door!), riding off in a glimmering golden carriage into a rosy pink sunset. And those were the ideals that were cast in stone in my childhood memory banks for the future that could be mine. I would be “rescued” from whatever paltry life I was living and I would be carried off to live “happily ever after”.
The only problem with Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty is that no one wrote the sequel. So here we are left with the never-ending final scene of riding off into that proverbial sunset and being happy. We are never shown what happens when they got back to the palace. I presume that’s where they were eventually headed.
I mean, I realize that if they did live in a palace they would probably have access to a maid or two, and a cook, and a butler, and a gardener. Life wouldn’t be too shabby as they created an edict or two and smiled magnanimously at their subjects. But they’d still have to think about day-to-day living and waking up to each other everyday.
However, I have to admit, that if ever my little girl mind went further than that ride into the sunset, I always imagined Cinderella walking the corridors of her palace in different ball gowns and tiaras, and leaning out of balconies in the palace turrets as little blue birds flew down to her fingers and sang to her. I’ve no idea what the prince was up to as she floated around in her perfectly idyllic life!!
No wonder we are set up for failure in real life relationships! Given the state of today’s society full of drinking and drugs, fast paced living, crime and abuse, there probably isn’t more than a handful of healthy families in each neighborhood. Pessimistic – maybe; realistic – probably.
Let’s just go back to the sixties. Actually we need to back further still, to the time of prohibition. Everything was forbidden, especially alcohol. When that law was revoked there was a wild swing into drinking which eventually ended up in the free love and drug experimentation during the era of the hippy sixties.
Although the sixties ended and the hippies went out of style, drugs had taken a firm hold. The hippy youth of the sixties became the next generation of parents. Many of them continued to use “soft” drugs and some “not-so-soft” drugs also spilled onto the market. You don’t need to be a psychologist to realize that these people were not the best of parents and a whole generation of dysfunctional families was created.
As their children grew up and began to look for mates we had the first layer of inter-dysfunctional marriages. Many people used alcohol to chase away their demons. Others got into heavier drugs which were becoming increasingly more available. Wherever there is a new market entrepreneurial minds will flourish, and many criminal minds were savvy enough to realize that there was much money to be made with drugs.
And let’s not forget the wave of people who began to turn to prescription drugs to treat the depression and other psychological ailments that came from the pain of knowing there was something wrong but not being able to pin point or explain that wrong. Very few people could bear the stigma that was associated with going to see a psychologist or therapeutic counselor, so they used whatever was available.
“Too depressing, way too negative”, I hear you cry. “Depressingly true”, I respond. “But what has this got to do with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty”, I hear you ask. “Everything”, I say. When there is nothing, or at least very little, left but darkness or depression we look for salvation wherever we can find it. When no decent role models are around we turn to fantasy and make believe and the realm of fairy tales and try to turn them into reality.
Is it any wonder that the explosion of New Age religions and spirituality was so enormous? By now we have generation upon generation of dysfunctional people searching for something, searching for salvation, searching for real role models. On a subconscious level people realize that there is more to life than “sex, drugs, and rock and roll”.
Thank God more and more people are reaching out for the help that they need. There is definitely a movement toward the return of old values. Many people are seeking professional help as that stigma drops away. The rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous are growing in number and in size.
Many people see that it takes courage to ask for help and are discovering that courage. Even men, the proverbial “strong, silent, macho one’s” are becoming brave enough (they always thought it was a weakness!), to approach therapists. Couples are recognizing that jumping into divorce does not remove their problems. Divorce may remove the other partner, but each partner is still left with attitudes and behaviors that they will drag into a new relationship.
So perhaps we can lay the fairy tales to rest, or at least in recounting them to our children and our grandchildren we can help them to understand that they are just that – fairy tales. Perhaps some new good authors will emerge who can write a “second level” of classical fairy tales for our children as they reach early teens. Stories that will shine a light of good healthy reality on how life can and should be lived after that ride into the sunset.
Among all the wonderful cartoons that Charles Schultz created with his beloved character Charlie Brown, there is one about searching for the meaning of life. Charlie goes to Lucy and asks how he can discover the meaning of life. After some thought Lucy responds – “Charlie life is like a cruise ship on which some people think that if they reflect on their past they may discover the meaning of life and so they put their deck chairs facing the back of the ship. Others think that if they look forward to their future they will find meaning for their lives, so they place their chairs facing the front of the ship. “
She then posits this question to Charlie: “So Charlie, on this great cruise ship of life which way do you want to place your deck chair?” After a few moments of thought Charlie replies – “Lucy, I can’t even get my deck chair unfolded.” Can you relate? I know that even though I have been on a dedicated spiritual and personal growth path for about 25 years now, there are still days when I struggle to get my deck chair unfolded.
Growing up I had a desperate desire to fit in, to be accepted, to be part of the in crowd, and yet I also found myself longing to be alone, not wanting to be bothered by others. I oscillated between behaviors that either attracted people to me or caused them to leave me in isolation. The relationships in my life were very dysfunctional: either I was very co-dependent or I tried to be the dominant partner. I put a lot of energy into trying to please others or being an absolute obnoxious rebel.
But whichever the way the wind was blowing in that particular department, the base line or predominant desire in my life became a quest for pleasure. And when I found it, in whatever fashion that was, then my main goal was to get more, more, more. And Western culture in general was on a path in the same direction – of more, more, more.
At this time in my life, age fifteen through thirty five, I was not consistently practicing my faith. I had been “force fed” religion from cradle through College. So when I was free from parental guidelines I moved as far away from my faith as I could. I became totally caught up in a way of life that was founded on me, me, me-ism, and neither church, nor religion, nor things spiritual touched me. And yet, every once in a while, when moments of pure bleakness came over me (as they are wont to do in that kind of lifestyle!), I would creep into the back of a church and “fox-hole” pray (you know: God if you get me out of this, I promise I’ll do that), to some God of whom I had no real concept.
I had absolutely no idea at that time that my soul was thirsting for wholeness. I was just aware, barely, that the more I tried to fill the gaping hole inside of me with material things, bad relationships, and other false gods, the more empty and abandoned I felt. By age thirty five I was on the edge of a deep, black hole of despair. Somehow, I had a rare moment of sanity, a God-incidence, and I was able to seek and get help.
I clung on, like a drowning man clings to a life raft, to a group of people who seemed to care unconditionally for me. They encouraged me to find a God of my understanding and in the mean time “loaned me their God”. I was able to clear the wreckage of my past, make some amends, then begin building a firm foundation for my future. Now let me go back to Charlie Brown and Lucy for a moment.
Lucy talks about looking backward or looking forward to find the meaning of life, and to a certain extent I did need to look back. This was so I could learn some lessons from the past and also see to whom I needed to make amends. But having achieved those two objectives I do not dwell too much in the past. Nor do I look too far down the road or allow myself to get worried about “what if”. Personally I’ve learned to put my deck chair mid ship and focus on what I have right In front of me. But that’s just my particular slant on that cartoon story.
Today the state of me, me, me-ism is no longer a part of my life, and I am able to to reach out to others and try to be of help. I focus on taking care of myself and living an honest, God-centered life. With the help of many amazing mentors who have enriched my life immensely, I have created a deep and personal relationship with my God which in turn leads me to desire more relationship with Him. And funny, the more I am in relationship with Him the better my life is.
As some icing on the cake, I have learned to turn to scriptures, to read books written by spiritual authors (Max Lucado is my personal favorite). I give myself the gift of attending retreats and spiritual workshops; sometimes I facilitate them!! I have created a faith based community for myself and I enjoy healthy relationships today. In another posting I mentioned my husband – a wonderful man who brings many blessings to our marriage and who is also my spiritual partner. And despite today’s frenetic and sometimes unbearably sad and cruel world, the empty and falsely satisfying life that I used to live has become a life full of meaning.