Reworking Outdated Fairy Tales
Is it me ladies, or do we need to rework some of the popular fairy tales of our childhood? Last week I found myself knee-deep in the Cinderella story. I was the poor, overworked princess locked up in my house unable to attend the ball that everyone else on my Instagram feed seemed to be at. Ever find yourself in that one? It started out with a slightly elevated stress level at breakfast, and before lunch I was having a total internal tantrum. Out of nowhere I was super pissed off that I was slaving away for a bunch of ingrates, suppressing anger at my parents who are forever withholding their approval of me, resentful that I’m invisible to my adult siblings, and furious with my lazy self-centered husband who always gets what he wants without a care in the world that it all falls on me. Everyone I cared about had a role in my story and I was just waiting for a Fairy Godmother to rescue me from my baggy sweats, oversized t-shirt and knotted hair to whisk me off to Barney’s and a day spa.
Granted I could drive myself to Barney's and easily book my own spa appointment, but the truth is, did all that fancy stuff ever really rescue Cinderella from her story? Instead of getting her money ticket out of a destitute life a slavery by marrying the Prince, she could have acknowledged all of her repressed feelings of anger and resentment and then spent some time to discover what does create excitement and power inside of her if it’s not cleaning and cooking for her family. What would Cinderella look like today if the Fairy Godmother bestowed some autonomy on her instead of a fabulous wardrobe?
Don’t get me wrong, the perfect jeans and a beautifully tailored jacket go a long way to make me feel empowered too, but what feels even better is an energizing perspective on an old story. There is something so liberating when I’m able to let go of the sad little princess story and remember that I do have autonomy, I have always had it. So mid-tantrum, I decided to go lay down for some deep breaths and ask myself what it is I really wanted? Would I really be happier not lifting a finger for anyone and having someone else step in so I can spend the day at Burke Williams getting a floating seaweed body treatment with a glass of champagne? Yes, yes I would. But not everyday.
When my mind starts to bully me with “Oh crap, I hate my life, nobody is doing their part, everyone else besides me is out there in the world making powerful changes, I’m going to be arguing with my eight year old for the rest of my life” (and in my story he stays eight years old for like fifteen years out into the future), I feel trapped and stuck.
Here’s what helps me in times like these: I let myself give this frustration a sound and a few gestures to let the feelings of frustration express themselves. Then, I ask what it is I really want. And oddly enough, it’s never about freedom from the kids or my husband or the dirty dishes, well, sometimes it is about my husband, but it’s usually about fear. I’m afraid I’m either missing out on something that everyone else on the planet gets to do, or it’s a fear that I’m not enough, and usually it’s both. My mind shows me images of everyone else being courageous, having a great time, managing their lives easily and free from frustration and doubt and then it attacks my reality as deficient and miserable. The only way out is to acknowledge what my mind is up to and to search inside myself for the truth of who I really am, the core, where everything is already perfect and enough. I remember what I know to be true and positive about me. This is where the power we really seek is. It’s never been outside of ourselves.
When my daughter and nieces were around twelve, they started writing stories together and drawing caricatures of Alice In Wonderland. In their version, Alice had an automatic rifle and went around shooting the other characters in the story that got in her way. They called it Alice Reloaded. I had mixed feelings about it because on one hand, they gave Alice some power to deal with her external obstacles, but it also revealed this perspective that obstacles are to be blown away rather than to be engaged with for personal growth. Back then I didn’t recognize that they might be afraid to actually feel their deep anger and resentment at the way the saw themselves up against the backdrop of their home and school issues, and this was the expression of that need for greater power in their lives.
I can relate to going around throwing angry word bullets at the people I think are the problem, but the truth is it just hurts everyone, me most of all. The only way out of my nightmare that I’m trapped inside of a world that doesn’t acknowledge my frustration is to be the one person who does acknowledge it. Who sees the sad story my mind is feeding me, feels where it lives inside and liberates myself from it. When I pretend that I’m not frustrated and angry and I want to be a “good” parent and a “good” wife who doesn’t get angry, I push my feelings down - that’s when I eventually blow up and lose my temper. But when I recognize those moments of frustration and allow myself the free expression of the emotion (feeling without the story), then allow myself to find the resources inside myself, I become my own fairy godmother.