Wednesday, November 24, 2004

About fairy tales and reality

Wednesday morning. Today, kids, I'd like to share a little story with you.

Our story starts a few years ago (not that many!), in a land very close to here where a little princess - let's call her Princess Denise, just for laughs - lived with her wonderful parents in a wonderful castle (all 2,800 square feet of it). Princess Denise had just about everything her little avaricious heart desired and was pampered and cherished (rightly so!) by her parents and other, assorted family members. She loved to play with her dollies, especially Barbie and her friends, and make up elaborate stories involving international travel, handsome men, and efficient housekeeping staff. Her dollies had extensive collections of clothing which included one of the largest Barbie shoe and handbag collections in Orange County, California. Life was good for the princess, right up until she entered the dark, scary forest known as High School.

High School was awful for Princess Denise. The commoners were mean and hateful and no one appreciated her special qualities. Everyone was thin and blonde tall and beautiful in that "cover of Seventeen magazine" sort of way, making her feel short, dumpy, and inadequate in comparison. Her mother, the Queen, would console her, saying, "it's OK, Princess, one day you'll find the place that you belong and a prince who will love, cherish, and adore you." The princess held fast to that thought, praying each night for the prince and the special place that would make her feel pretty and wonderful.

Now, if this were a real fairy tale, this is where our princess would fall under the spell of an evil doer, falling asleep for 100 years, only to be awakened by the kiss from her true love, after which the happy couple would live happily ever after. The reality is, as it always is, a little different. Here's what really happened.

The princess met a really wonderful guy in college and, after a few years of friendship and dating, they were married. (It really was a fairy tale wedding - that part of the dream was true!) Unfortunately, this wonderful man wasn't enough to bring the happiness deep down in the princess' soul that she had longed for her entire life. She was still beset with self-doubt and the uncertainty that comes with trying to meet society's expectations when you're 5'3" and hopelessly curvy where you ought to be thin and angular.

Her unhappiness lifted, briefly, when she lost 110 pounds and maintained that loss for a whopping six months before separating from her husband (still a wonderful husband, but not for our Princess) and regaining every pound and adding a couple more, just for good measure. Chalking up another failure on the blackboard of her life, Princess Denise looked outside herself for a source of happiness and found instead too many toads and not a single prince. "What will I do without my handsome prince?," she thought. "Who will save me and make me happy?" And she looked and she looked, but no one - no matter how kind or how handsome or how rich - had the magic kiss to wake her from the spell of unhappiness she had unwittingly cast through her unrealistic expectations of herself.

What I've learned in the last few months, or, honestly, throughout my life's experiences, is that no one and nothing external is ever going to make me happy. Not the deep-down-in-my-soul kind of happiness that I want, need, and deserve. That's the bad news. The good news is that I don't need anyone else to do that because it's within my power to do it all by myself. I'm not there yet, but I'm on the road and I think my compass is (finally) pointing in the right direction.

No "happily ever after", but the story's not over yet.

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