Monday, June 1, 2015

Princes and Dragons

A few years ago, I set out in search of a mythical creature that many call Unconditional Love. I had never seen this creature in my life and was curious if I could tame it and live peacefully among it. I had heard stories of its existence, heard tales of its splendor, but had yet to see proof that any had witnessed its power. Legend, and psychological research, has it that this creature brings beauty and peace and happiness to any who touch it. Mortals become magical. They walk the road of who they were meant to be, their hearts grow to gigantic proportions, they emanate Unconditional Love to those around them. I had to know, Can I find this elusive creature and bring it into my life?

I packed my bag with smiles and hugs and positive words, words like “You’ve totally got this,” “I believe in you,” and “Have a great day.” I took along some optimism, gratitude, and sprinklings of grit. I was educated, armed, and ready for the hunt. I followed the advice of muses, angels, and overzealous motivational speakers. I repeated silently the mantra, “Do everything in love. Do everything in love.” See the good in the evil, the kind in the unkind, the me in the other. Don’t just LOOK for love, BE love.

And this is when I met with the first of my nemeses.

In true fairytales, dragons are big and scary and breathe flames that can destroy even the very best hair day. They live in castles, or visit castles, or, I don’t know, they’ve got something to do with castles. When you flip the page and see the picture, you know that a dragon is on its way. In real life, dragons drink smoothies, wear yoga pants, and constantly check their Facebook. They have pretty hair and smile a lot and confuse you into thinking that maybe they are a princess or a good fairy or at least a really nice narrator. In real life when you flip the page, you never say to yourself, “Whoa, look at that scary yoga pants-wearing dragon.” No. You just continue with the tale completely unaware of the upcoming plot twist.

Once I recognized my good fairies and princesses for the dragons they were, I was too afraid to fight them for fear of looking ungrateful, unloving, or full of disrespect. My dragons, you see, are key players in my life. Main characters. Critical to the story. This “Do everything in love” business was confusing, complicated, and, unexpectedly self-defeating.

Plot twist number two.

I am in the middle of living my story. It is going along just fine. And then in pops a character from another book. I am completely taken off guard. This character causes thought bubbles to appear above my head filled with words such as encouragement, support, joy, and concern. I wasn’t aware these words were missing from my life. I wasn’t aware I cared that they were missing from my life. This character had not read my story and yet he understood, he knew, he felt. I mentally wrote him in as Leading Lady’s BFF. A little presumptuous, I know, but I’m a writer, and I can do that.

Just being honest, if we were reading a different story, he easily could have been the prince. But we weren’t. And he wasn’t.

And then, on page four hundred and twenty-two, he decided he no longer wanted to be in the tale. That was it. The END. He wrote himself out. (He’s a writer. He can do that.) I was a mess. I drank, and I sobbed, and I poured my heart onto page. I drank, and I sobbed, and I poured my heart onto page for a YEAR AND A HALF. Ok, maybe longer. Maybe I stalked his Facebook wall until he blocked me. Maybe I stalked his Twitter and his blog until he deleted or changed them. Maybe I GoogleMapsed him (but I NEVER drove by his house). Maybe I learned that if I ever decide to stop teaching, I would make a damn good detective. I should just inject here that there is nothing more pathetic than a princess who can’t get her shit together. But finally I did. And I did because of those muses and angels and overzealous motivational speakers.

I woke one day, and the spell had been broken. It occurred to me that while I had been approaching my dragons with love and had been handing over my happiness to my self-created BFF-not-a-prince, I had been neglecting the well being of one pretty important chick. I looked in the mirror that day and turned the magical phrase toward myself. “Do everything in love.” In my effort to shower others with smiles and hugs and positive words, with “You’ve totally got this,” “I believe in you,” and “Have a great day,” I had forgotten to do the same with myself. There are those who feel that love of self is selfish, arrogant, the stuff of which narcissists are made. I understand now, though, that love of self is necessary, caring, the ultimate form of respect. I understand that I count as a person, and that I am worthy of receiving love as much as I am of giving it.

So, here I am, waking myself from the sleep induced by the poisoned apple of Self-Love-as-Conceit, riding off into the sunset of Unconditional Love, and looking forward to the many adventures to come.

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