Disney creates an amazing world for any little girl. The dress is blue. The dress is pink. Wings on fairies. Talking to forrest creatures. Endless sleeps. Always a villain. Always a prince. Always a twist and a turn but always, above all the other always’, a happy ending.
I grew up with Disney and so for a season I wanted to grow up to be a cocker spaniel (Lady). Then I wanted to be a mermaid (Ariel). Then I wanted to be a sleeping beauty and in many ways I was. Talk to animals. Dance in the woods. Long naps. A handsome prince. Happily ever after. That’s all I needed.
Then there’s the flip side to all the Disney tales that I believe Disney is starting to pick up on — the world of feminism where true love doesn’t have to involve a prince and a happy ending doesn’t have to involve a wedding and a white dress and a rainbow in the sky. The world changed and so the story changed.
But I wanted my happily ever after. Who doesn’t? It seems so perfect. In every depiction of happily ever after the world is at peace. People only smile. A song is sung. Life carries on under the umbrella of perfection. There is no longer want or desire or a need to overpower one more power factor that pushed back against peace and perfection. The world is there and it is great once upon a dream.
I think everyone has been waiting for me to say something dramatically public or attention-seeking about my divorce or the nature of it — of my husband and where “happily ever after” went awry as if social media were my therapist and I needed to gather unto myself a stealthy group of “followers” who might take my side and offer a shoulder to cry on. I just said the ‘d’ word, yes. I’m getting divorced. However and still, this just isn’t the place and I do, in fact, have a stealthy group of people (not followers) who love and support me and will be my shoulder to cry on. They have been. I know I don’t have to go looking for them. They’re there. For the last 10 months of my life, they’ve been there for me and for Cooper and for Aiden. They are my amazing friends, incredible colleagues, and wonderful family (particularly my father and the presence of my mother in both my heart and who I am). They are the Holy Spirit who’s offered me grace in my own failings, strength when I’ve felt too weak to go forward, and courage to be brave. I have them.
This isn’t happily ever after. It’ll never be happily ever after. It’s failed promises, chapters that are ending abruptly with “sign on the dotted line”, and tugs-of-war in ways I never thought I’d be pulling the rope. It’s not the pink dress or the blue dress, dancing in the woods, singing in harmony as the sun sets and the world is at peace. It’s a death. It’s hospice care. It happens very slowly but still with a lack of ability to mourn as it happens — more like an expectancy that great pain is coming and that it has to come for healing to begin but you never know when it’ll actually get here.
It’s not what I always dreamed, but it is.
Once upon a dream has turned into “we’ll make it………someday………It’ll be ok………..It is what it is.” It is the close of a chapter without a rainbow in the sky and songs of joy or acclaim that the villain has been defeated. It’s not that anymore. And in some ways I wish I could retreat to those days when imagining that I were a cocker spaniel rather than a mermaid was the biggest decision I needed to make, but I can’t because now I’ve been charged with the greatest of all responsibilities (and Disney princesses never really have actual responsibilities): to help develop and keep alive the possibility of a happily ever after for my little princes.
Don’t be a shoulder for me to cry on. There’s no need to take sides. Simply help me write this story and that way, maybe still, it can end with “happily ever after.” That’s my new once upon a dream.