Womanhood begins in the innocent heart. As little girls we gaze at the Disney princesses and listen to tales of true love. Hidden in the magic and wonder there is an outline of a happy life plan: Be good. Be beautiful, and if you are among the lucky you will meet the prince of your dreams, have babies and live happily ever after.
Real life teaches us that it is not so simple. Men and women alike are flawed creatures. We bring history, emotional needs and baggage into our relationships. Few of us are physically perfect. Princes have foibles and princesses are not always reasonable. A walk down an aisle in a beautiful ballgown does not necessarily lead to happiness. Poverty or riches do not guarantee success or happiness. Communication and connection skills are more complicated than leaving a glittering shoe behind on a set of castle stairs.
Yet there are those lucky enough, myself among them, to actually find true love. It is not always easy. While there are definitely moments and memories that live up to the fairytale ideal, there are also moments Hans Christian Andersen never dreamt of. And that is okay. That is real life.
I raised four little princes, who are now busy selecting their princesses and preparing to lead their own kingdoms. To all future queens I offer the following advice: If you truly wish to find happiness, keep the romantic alive in your hearts. Revel in the time you share with your king and enjoy every moment of your shared lives. But also remember that life is not a fairytale. Your particular dragons to slay may include very unglamorous tasks. Balancing checkbooks, enduring bouts of colic and chicken pox, dealing with aging parents … myriad day to day heroic challenges exist. If you remember to look, the magic is still there but may need active help to resurface. Extend the effort. Work to keep humor alive. Cultivate patience and nourish understanding. Remember that the love and lives you share are precious. There truly is magic in the mundane. You simply have to be willing to see it.
Remember that your life is your own story and that you are responsible for the ending.
For those of us who have met the traditional expectations of marrying and having children, the authors really didn’t spend much time on later life detail. There is no guide but a blanket “happily ever after”. Women in their later years watch their children fly the nest and face a blank slate, thinking “what is my purpose now? I have gone as far as the stories took us…is this it? Is my life finished?”
Of course not! This time is an opportunity to shed fairytale expectation. We are not archetypes but individual women with personalities, professional and personal lives. Our happily ever after can be whatever we wish. I am glad the authors left room for interpretation. We are essential complex beings. We often put the needs of our families ahead of our own and that is an honorable path. Yet we exist as women outside of our family roles. We have the right to our own goals and personal fulfillment.
I enjoy every aspect of being a wife and mother. I am excited to become a grandmother. I love every moment of family life. That is my emotional base from which I extend my being. I am also really excited for new professional opportunities that have been cropping up. My job satisfies my creative urges. I look forward to travel. I have found time to write, read, think and grow. I have made time for romance.
Fairytale princesses are two dimensional. I am a real woman. I have taken the best from the tales that fit my own dreams, and stepped outside of childhood perception to add layers and meaning to my existence. My sense of self provides a unique roadmap that works in the everyday. It is possible to live a fairytale life in the real world. I know. I am living the happily ever after. It is pure adventure.