The day the fairy tales took flight, I lay in bed and cried.
Let me back up: first I fumbled around shell-shocked. I don’t remember for certain, but I probably headed to the nearest bookstore and lost myself in the poetry section (which was how I numbed-out back when bookstores weren’t an endangered species). Eventually, though, I landed in bed, curled up, and had a messy, ugly sob.
It’s not that I thought fairy tales were real. I figured maybe they were the Platonic form of reality or like Rorschach’s ink blots, steeped in parallel meanings which, while obscure and abstract, were in their own way predictable.
So while I didn’t expect to actually live a fairy tale (I was never that naïve, not even at twenty-three), I had the not-fully-conscious hope that there was a basic pattern to life. Since I’d suffered through the metaphoric sleeping-in-the-cinders part, it was time for Prince Charming.
And then I met Nan. Short for Nanette.
And Prince Charming went out the window.
So I had a ragged, ugly cry ’cause if boy meets girl—basic not only to fairy tales but to my upbringing—wasn’t one of the building blocks of reality, what else that I’d been taught was blatantly false?
Suddenly nothing was set. Everything was amorphous.
My mom once said to me “honey, if there’s a highway, a country lane, and a goat track, you’re gonna disregard all of them and head straight into a bramble.” Which has been pretty much true of my life. Give me a machete and I’ll hack my own way, thank you very much.
After the Dissolution of the Fairy Tales, reality began to become a lot less sticky. Within a few years I had to re-evaluate what I thought I knew about health and medicine. Then my assumptions about work got crumpled and tossed in the recycling.
In between the times when “the way the world is supposed to be” was going to hell in a handbasket, I would madly try to find a new pattern, shore it up, and codify it.
There’s something in us that seeks stability, rules, and a map to guide us (me and my machete, studying how to build a road).
But possibilities—the ones beyond our wildest imaginings—lie just on the other side of your current conception of reality.
Hold on tight to that small knowing when the dissolution begins.
(Has everything you thought you knew about life ever dissolved out from under you? What did you learn? Share with us below.)