Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Reframing Fairy Tales

Fairy tales are so compelling. There are gorgeous gowns, dashing men, evil queens conquered and of course the happily ever after part. I can see how young girls are drawn in. Heck, even at 34 you can still get drawn in which is why Once Upon a Time has my attention this year. It usually doesn't take too much of life to realize real life consists of strategy, work clothes and flawed people. And the happily ever after part is elusive, fluid and short lived. At this point, I have come to except life isn't like the fairy tale, however I do wish I had the sound track. It would be really helpful in determining if the scene I was entering contained an evil person, playful banter or dream coming true.

Recently a friend sent me a text about her divorce being final. While I am happy for her to be moving on from a relationship which wasn't working for her, I was struck by her line "so much for the fairy tale." Despite it being a text, I felt the heaviness of the line. The self judgement and sadness that comes when fairy tale expectations meet real life solutions can be crushing. In my response I tried to convey that she doesn't have to close the book on the fairy tale, just turn to the next chapter. The power of all of it really got me thinking about fairy tales and my view of their message.

I see Prince Charming is a symbol instead of a person. Cinderella didn't need a man, she needed to feel worthy. By claiming her beauty, and believing she belonged at the ball she found her own self worth. It could have also been represented by throwing the scrub brush in the pail, throwing it at the step sisters and saying "I'm outta here." Being able to say those words takes a special type of magic which she got from her fairy god mother. In the world of less fairy dust and a severe lack of fairy god mothers, we have to cultivate our own magic. Be your own fairy godmother. It takes faith and believing in yourself to create the gown, the pumpkin carriage and the glass slippers. While your making all of these things the world and its messages aren't as supportive as the singing mice, and the 1 minute montage isn't an accurate time frame for these transformations.

Each day every human is confronted with their evil queen, demons, evil step sisters, etc. We can choose happily ever after by choosing to grow from them rather than be captivated in their spell. Confronting the demons that hold us back takes courage. Meanwhile your mind can calculate so many reasons not to take the chance. Rapunzel's story resonates with me because she was devoted and obedient to the evilness which kept her locked away from her prince and family. It only seems fitting that the key was her most beautiful asset. My self punishment and negative thoughts have held me captive.The freedom has come in just acknowledging the evil queen who pollutes my thoughts. The Little Mermaid has always been my favorite. Ariel's song "Part of Your World" captures the importance of independence from other expectations and is still one of my favorite shower songs. The ultimate message of that story for me is seeing that you can't leave behind your talents and gifts, and expect to find true happiness.When we attach people to these symbols in our real lives we strip ourselves of our power to make our own happiness.

As an adult I have developed such a fondness for children's stories that I could really go on and on. Don't even get me started on the power of Dr. Seuss. The power of a story and its messages follow children into adulthood. They help shape the world we see. Embracing their possible depth has brought wonder back into my life. I am not ready to ditch the fairy tale even though my story wouldn't make Disney billions of dollars, nor would I make a flattering doll. In real life you don't confront evil or bad things just once, it is a cycle which can make for many fairy tales in one lifetime.