Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Telling Life: Our own fairy tale

If you've spent more than five minutes with me, you know I love fairy tales. If you've read my writing or been to a performance, it pretty quickly becomes clear that my work is influenced by these magical, whimsical, terrifying stories. Heck, beyond my work, my whole life is influenced by them.

It's easy to think that the appeal lies in the justice for the wicked and the hazy happiness at the end of many fairy tales. The evil are usually punished and the heroic live lives of happiness to the end of their days in some far distant future. When I was little that was certainly part of the appeal, but now I wonder just what happily ever after means.

I thought Kevin and I would live happily ever after, working and loving one another until some time when we might slip away, holding hands, both wrinkled and grey. I was wrong. That wasn't our happily every after. We were living it all along but just didn't know it; ever after was far too soon. There was no just punishment of the wicked; cancer can't be punished. Our story stopped short and I am left with forging ahead, finding a new kind of happiness, a different ever after.

So if it isn't happily ever after that I live in then perhaps it's once upon a time. 

I love the idea of once upon a time, of a time out of time. I like those kinds of liminal spaces, neither here nor there. I sometimes feel as though that's where I live, neither of this world nor removed from it, but somewhere between. Once upon a time captures this rather nicely.

I experience once upon a time when I am in the woods. When I am meditating. When I am particularly engaged and happy with what I'm doing. Maybe for me once upon a time is actually flow state. Maybe it's something else.

Or maybe it's all of it at once. Maybe we are living fairy tale lives even in the midst of traffic lights and collection notices and stomach aches and demanding bosses.

If we remember that we live our lives in a simultaneous state of once upon a time (that place where we are most ourselves, where possibility lingers) and happily ever after (the knowledge that this moment, this life is as glorious and eternal as a breath or as dark and fragmented as a hand gone slack) then maybe we can find that still place where everything is possible. The moment when the hero hasn't yet taken up the quest but knows they will. Where fairies don't need to grant wishes. Where we are the princesses and poor boys, the old women by the side of the road and the magical cat. Where we can lift ourselves up and make our own best story.

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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