The Fairytale Is A Lie

Not so long ago I was having a conversation with someone who has known me quite a while, and she was asking me about my growing up years, what my childhood was like, what my relationship with my parents was like.  The memories that came up warmed my heart as I answered her questions. I didn’t even think about it while we were talking, but I shared with her honestly, both the good and the challenging times, and I noticed the look on her face change as I spoke of the challenging times. I don’t think of the challenging times as bad memories, but I realized that she did.  She said that she had no idea that I’d gone through so much. I feel like my life has had its ups and downs, but overall, I’ve always felt blessed, and still do. So I dug in with her a little and found out that she feels like her life has had more challenging times than most, and she thinks of herself as less fortunate than most of her friends because of that.  So I started to chat with her about perspective...the ability to choose to look at things positively or negatively, and the effect said perspective can have on our lives.

I can remember being asked as a kid what I wanted to be when I grew up, and my answer was always, “Happy.”  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do as a career, but I was committed to being happy by a young age. I don’t know what sparked that in me.  I think that part of it is just who I am, and that another part of it has been choice based on experiencing my mom as sad while growing up.  I don’t think she felt less fortunate than others, maybe because she compared her life to the lives of her parents who grew up during the depression era.  My mom always said that life wasn’t meant to be fair, so my expectations weren’t to have a fairytale life. I did, however, want to experience life differently than Mom did….and I have.  I believe I’ve achieved that through focusing more of my energy on gratitude than sadness.

Life has brought me some super tough, crazy times, but really, my story IS NOT that special.  Everyone’s life contains ups and downs. That’s exactly what life IS….a series of ups and downs.  No one is saved from that experience. Everyone experiences death, grief, loss, challenges, pain of some kind all throughout their lives.  It’s impossible to feel the highs if we don’t feel the lows. And there’s no competition out there for whose life is “worse”. It’s all relative, and everyone’s life is challenging in it’s own way, in it’s own time.

Something I’ve always found interesting is the notion of looking for happiness.  Of course we all go through periods of difficulty in our lives when we would like certain things to end and just have to wait it out.  Or we might go through something organic that affects our mood in a way we can’t control...grief, clinical depression, illness, etc. But generally speaking, happiness is a state of mind, a perspective, that we can choose at any point and while going through any circumstance.  There are people in the world who never truly seem to be happy, who feel like a victim often, and who talk about how difficult their life is all the time. There are others who are happy and grateful regardless of what happens in their lives. As I sit back and listen to people talk and observe the world, it strikes me that many unhappy people are searching for the period of their life when things finally go smoothly and there are no challenges to face.  Well….I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a bold statement that some people might not like...but I’m going to say it anyway. That romantic comedy/fairytale version of life doesn’t exist. That notion is a complete lie. Real life has ups and downs and challenges to face. Life can be very, very tumultuous and difficult, sometimes because of our own choices, sometimes because of circumstances which are out of our control. I believe the path to happiness in life is all about making the best out of whatever you have and wherever you are in the cycle of life.  Feeling gratitude and seeing the beauty in everyday things. Focusing on the good in the world, because what you focus on grows...and we can choose to focus on the positive instead of the negative. THAT is something we have control over. We have the ability to choose our perspective in all situations, and we don’t have to let our challenges define us.

I’m going to say something else that not everyone may agree with.  I think that trying to shield our children from all the “bad” and only sharing the “good” does them a disservice.  I think many people do that as a means of protecting children’s innocence, and I get it. But that just feeds into generations of kids growing up expecting a Disney-fied version of life, and not only being sorely disappointed, but feeling like victims who got the short end of the stick.  It doesn’t teach them resilience or how to approach the world with a positive attitude, which are important life skills. I have corrected people who’ve said “poor baby” in regards to my kids’ experiencing their parents splitting up. And have corrected people who have approached my kids as victims (of loss, financial hardship, etc….).  I have apologized to my kids and empathised with them on several occasions in regards to some of our challenges as a family, but I’ve also normalized the fact that we have challenges. I want my kids to focus on what they’ve learned from their experiences and how they can use what they’ve learned going forward in a positive way. And I want them to see the blessings that are right in front of them every single day, and to teach them a path to happiness and joy that doesn’t rely on life being predictable and easy….just in case they don’t find a secret magical path that leads to the fairytale happy ending….

I’m not saying there is a right perspective or a wrong perspective.  I’m not saying it’s better to live one way over another way. I’m saying the beauty in life is that we get to choose our perspective and how we approach life.  I always said that I wanted to be happy, and luckily my way has worked for me. If it hadn’t, I would have had the freedom to choose another way. If you aren’t happy, please keep in mind that you have that very same freedom.