Cinderella and Other Fairy Tales Almost Ruined Me
One day in my early twenties I was driving in Kingston, Jamaica with my father. I was feeling particularly overwhelmed that day; life was not going the way I thought it should and I was morose. I turned to my somewhat cynical father and asked, “Does it ever get better? Life, I mean. It doesn’t get better does, it?”
“Nope,” he said without a glance in my direction.
I was of the idea that the older I got, life would magically get easier. I don’t know where I got this idea. I thought that by the time I hit 20, everything would fall into place. All the struggles that I’d previously dealt with, all the failures, the break-ups, the disappointments, would all fall by the wayside and the rest of my life would be perfect, exactly how I wanted it to be. I can’t imagine where this came from, but since I read so much, I think I absorbed this message, at least partly, from reading fairy tales where many a time the story ended with “and they all lived happily ever after.”
I truly had no idea that it is 100% normal to feel happy 50% of the time. The other 50% is whatever crap you are feeling that is unique to your situation. Why else would we get the saying “to wake up on the wrong side of the bed.” I thought I was never supposed to wake up on the wrong side of the bed, never supposed to feel anxiety or fear or the strong desire to avoid the hard things that need to be done (including sticking to an exercise and writing routine). I actually thought something was wrong with me.
(Caveat: This only applies to normal life situations. This does not apply to relationships, people and jobs that are toxic, draining and no longer work for you. In those cases, get out. Run like the devil is after you and never look back.)
Many years later, I realize that life does get better with age but I’ve had to do the self growth work to get there. It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel those negative feelings, but I’m learning how to manage them. Sometimes I wake up and before I get out of bed, I start worrying about my to-do list. I’m learning how to stop this barrage of anxious thoughts, slow down my breathing and say a prayer of gratitude. But never mind all this. This blog is not about my personal growth. It’s about saving future generations from the erroneous message at the end of those beloved fairy tales. I’ve come up with some proposed amendments to Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty that I think will be really helpful for future generations. Feel free to add your own in the comments.
“…and they lived happily ever after half of the time. But it was still a great life because everyone knows that no-one is happy all the time.”
“…and they lived happily together (but this doesn’t mean they didn’t have challenges that they had to work on, especially after the children came, and believe me, running a castle and managing staff is no fairy tale).
“And so Cinderella and the Prince were married, and they lived happily ever after. But sometimes Cinderella got moody because she wanted purpose in life. She devoted her time to helping out in the community and giving back to the townspeople. She discovered that this really added to her happiness.”
“…and they lived happily ever after. But some days were just blah, like when it rained for days, and the time when the castle needed renovating and the workmen never showed up on time.”
“…and they lived happily ever after. But they still realized they needed to set goals with deadlines, and follow through, even on days where they wanted to do nothing. Luckily, they never had to cook, do laundry or housework, but they had other stuff to do and sometimes it was hard.”
I’ll stop here because I could fill pages with this. I’m off to live happily ever after, and do hard things that I really don’t want to do like exercise for thirty minutes but I’m going to do it because that’s the pathway to the happily ever after.