Saturday, February 1, 2014

Soapbox of Perception: Fairy Tales & REAL true love

If you have known love, you have known the pain of loss.  Whether that love is familial or passionate; codependent or independent; for people, places or things; there's always pain when there is separation.

Love is painful because there is a balance.  For all of the height and security and joy in love, there is an equal depth and despair and desolation in love's loss.  Connections and faith aside, the lack of love's physical presence is wrenching.  If our senses are unable to feast upon the object of our love, we are bereft.   As humans we are prone to being, as the song says, "addicted to love", but it is one addiction for which there is no rehabilitation.  When we lose our current drug of choice, we have two options.  We can love again.  Or we can't. 

For me, the choice is pretty clear.  Because I grew up on fairy tales.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding fairy tales.  Disney's light hearted treatment versus the original Grimm horror stories (complete with "adult" subtext).   The daydreaming girl versus the hardworking woman.  The brainwashing moral that all a girl has to do is be kind, virtuous, and a good housewife.  Versus "First he put me on a pedestal, and then he asked me to dust it."

And the common perception is, those sweet little princesses just sat around and sang while they waited for a man to rescue them.

Which is a load of crap.  And I can say that, because I too have spouted the anti-princess line.  I was wrong.

Yes, the princesses sang, at least in Disney's versions.  Yes, there was daydreaming and it usually involved a handsome lad.  They were teenagers.  But none of them just sat around and waited.

Many of the princesses survived tragedy -- often the loss of one or both parents, the loss of a home, and/or the transition of their whole world.  Cinderella, for example, went from pampered and much loved daughter to slave.  Her whole identity was stripped from her and her father never stood up for her.  Snow White lost mother and then father and was ordered killed.  Tiana lost her father.  Rapunzel never even knew her family; her identity hinged on the way she was treated by the witch.  Princess Elsa endured the worst sort of tragedy.  Her parents loved her and  taught her to imprison herself.   Then they died.

For some, the tragedy wasn't as seemingly intense.  Belle's family life seemed pretty decent, with or without siblings.  Aurora had a fine childhood, whether with fairies or with parents.  And it doesn't appear Ariel had to do a lick of housework.  But even Belle, Aurora and Ariel wanted more than the life they had.  They knew they deserved more.  If they were willing to go for it.

Whether the imprisonment was actual or spiritual, each girl had a situation they wanted out of.  Perhaps the dreaming was a form of escapism.  But dreaming doesn't free a person, no matter how many stars you wish upon.  You have to believe.  You have to have the strength of character to grasp the chance when it rolls by.

Cinderella, constantly berated by the female role-models in her life, still made a wish.  When it came true, she believed she had the right to her good fortune.  However unreal it felt, she not only danced with the prince, she presented herself again to get the glass slipper.  She demanded her dream come true, and her dream was love.

When Snow White was offered her life, she ran - not back to the home she knew, but away and to freedom.  And still she dreamed of romance and kindness.  Even after 3 more murder attempts, she was open to love.

Belle imprisoned herself for one love.  And by being open and accepting and expectant, she received another.

Ariel dared a scary bargain because she believed in love and she believed in herself enough to expect love in return.

Aurora trusted that no matter who she was, she could be true to love.

Tiana and Elsa conquered their own fears and allowed themselves to love.

All of those princesses rescued themselves by opening to love - and not just, or not only, the romantic love.  They had to love themselves.  Love their dreams.  Love the life around them, or at least be open to the possibilities.   Even though they had lost love already.  Even though some of them might have been happier, in the short run, to shut down their hearts.  Any one of them could have turned their back on hope, believed they deserved their imprisoned existence, and stayed dreaming forever.  Instead, they chose to be open.  To love.

Who could be better role models?

 When I first met these girls, my tragedies of love lost were limited to pets and boyfriends, outgrown clothes and misplaced books.  Since then, I have loved and lost homes, vehicles, jobs, friends and family.  And while some of these losses were voluntary, and while I do believe in connections, and while I do have faith that nothing is ever truly lost from us, still any loss is painful.  Time heals and still, it is painful.  Memories dim, and still... 

Isolation is so very tempting.  Because the more we are open, the more we expand.  The more we expand,  the more we get to feed our addiction.  And oh, it is true.  The more we love, the more we feel loss when that love is gone.  The more we feel the change of every leaf, the flap of every bird's wing.  The more we mourn the simplest of things.

But a bookworm with an absent minded father can take the reins when the time comes and change her world.  A mermaid can leave her home behind for the chance of something more spectacular.  A weary house-slave and a hard working waitress can both gather the energy to dance at the ball just to keep their dream alive.  They worked.  And they loved.  And they have happily ever after.

Because it isn't about loving a specific item or being.  It is simply about love.

The happily-ever-after isn't in the object of our love.  It is in ourselves.

Therefore.  I can keep my heart open and accept all sorts of love, be it family or friends, eros or agape,  animate or inanimate, seen or unseen.  I can love and lose and love and lose again.  Because I believe in myself.  And I have the strength to keep expanding, to keep believing,  to ask for and work for and accept my dreams, to turn my frogs and my beasts in princes, and to have my happily-ever-after.

I am a princess.   Are you?

- Lila (who wishes you a loving day.)

List of Favorite Fairy Tales versions:

Favorite Tellings 
(traditional tale, mostly)
Favorite Retellings 
(a different spin)
Favorite Others
This is the recordings of the tales, in theatrical format.
Cameron Dokey  - author
(especially Midnight and Golden)
Wyrd Sisters 
(Terry Pratchett)
The Glass Slipper (Charles Perrault)
Spindle's End
(Robin McKinley)
10th Kingdom (mini-series)
Sleeping Beauty (Disney)
Ever After (movie)
Fairy Godmother (Mercedes Lackey)
Tangled (Disney)

Enchanted (movie)
Beauty (Robin McKinley)

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