I grew up on fairytales. My favorite was, and still is, Beauty and the Beast. I like the Brothers Grimm’s versions now, but when I was little, I love these videos with actors playing them out. I can remember renting Beauty and Beast at least a dozen times. There was something for me about Beauty loving the Beast. I didn’t see myself as Beauty. I saw myself as the Beast. I was an outcast in Catholic school. My parents were getting divorced when no one was getting divorced. I was called a bastard child and pretty much pushed and hit at recess everyday. I felt like an angry beast stuck in a castle with no one to understand or love me. There was a longing inside me to be loved and accepted for me. It was something I had not experienced at school or at home. The only place was during my hour of calm and safety in the school counselor’s office with my best friend, a fellow outcast.
I was schooled to remember that I was born defected. I was told I was defected by the teachers. I wasn’t smart they told my mother. (Joke’s on them. When I finally got out and went to public school, I tested into honor classes. I was smart, really smart.) I was too emotional, or so my mother told me constantly. There was only room for one emotional female in the house, it was my mom. I had to learn a lot of skills to keep out of trouble. Trouble was generally right around the corner though. I spent many hours in my room. It gave me the gift of my love of reading. Otherwise, I was isolated. I felt unworthy, even at a young age.
My mother, who tried her best, had difficulties because she had mental health issues, and my father was an alcoholic. Not a good combination. Think Narcissus and Echo in Greek mythology. That was my parents. I still don’t know who was who, because at times, they were both. He liked to use the walls and my mother as punching targets. There are memories. Few and far between because my mind is gentle with me. The terror is still inside me though. I live with it daily. I learn to notice when it comes and goes.
There was a light though. I believed in God. A firm belief there was something greater than me, who did love me for me. This belief would follow me my whole life. It is my “still waters;” it feeds my soul when I am parched. I can remember too, at a young age, writing poems and books. Yes, books. I was writing self-help books before there were self-help books. I was always writing about going from the darkness of life into the light of joy and happiness. I wanted so much to help others who were suffering like me, who were outcasts. Who were isolated from society because they were different. At a young age, my role model was Jesus. As I grew older, I left the church, I found other role models: Rumi, Hafiz, Gangaji, Adyashanti, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rainer Marie Rilke, John O’Donahue, Pema Chodron, and Daniel Siegel. Jesus will always be special to me. He was my first friend. He was an outcast, he befriended outcasts. I was an outcast, a misfit. I wanted to help others. I wouldn’t see this dream come to fruition for years.
For a long time though, I was sleepwalking through life. I didn’t really notice my feelings. I just knew they were there. I really only dealt with anger and sadness. I was a victim as a child and once I became an adult, being a victim was my speciality. I loved to create drama and chaos. Unconsciously! I promise I was so removed from aspects of myself, I didn’t know why or what I was doing around my life. I just walked around, sleeping. Lashing out, feeling pain, lashing out. It was a cycle. It was a coping skill I learned at a young age, and it served me well when I was young. I wasn’t young anymore, and it wasn’t working. My life was a mess.
There were points in my life where the door was closed and the window was open. I was not listening nor was I open for any experience that would create a feeling that was alien to me. I was determined to continue life on my own terms. As people in 12 step programs say, “I was working my own program.” I fell more times than I could count.
It wasn’t until the birth of my daughter that I began to partially wake up from this dreamy sleep of chaos. I knew I had to be consistent. The long held habits of running away, not dealing with issues, people, and events wouldn’t be healthy for her or me. I had to find a way to ground myself.
This grounding took years, and the journey was long. It is still going on. I changed my career from finance to counseling. I obtained my second master’s degree. I went back into therapy. There was no way I was going to work with people, when I, myself, was a mess. I took my time. I began to see things differently. To see things in reality. It was painful. It is still painful. There is no hiding from it now. But then, there was. It was sleepwalking. I miss it sometimes. I would be a liar if I said differently.
During the last year, I ran across a book by Joseph Goldstein called, Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening. I was in the what I thought was a really stressful time in my personal life. (If I only knew what was to come!) There was a quote in the beginning of the book.
It’s telling that in English, the words disenchanted, disillusioned, and dispassionate often have negative connotations. But looking more closely at their meaning reveals their connection to freedom. Becoming disenchanted means breaking the spell of enchantment, waking up into a fuller and greater reality. It is the happy ending of so many great myths and fairy tales. Disillusioned is not the same as being discouraged or disappointed. It is a reconnection with what is true, free of illusion. And dispassionate does not mean “indifferent” or “apathetic.” Rather, it is the mind of great openness and equanimity, free of grasping. (Joseph Goldstein, Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening, page 31.)
This paragraph sat within me. Stirring. Disenchanted. Disillusioned. Dispassionate. These words kept floating around inside me. Growing from tiny little seeds of wisdom. There came a day, when my partner full blown in his addiction, turned my life completely upside down. I did not know he was acting out. I did not know he was a sex and love addict. I had no idea he was having physical and emotional affairs. I had no idea his wanting to leave me, and break up our family, because he wanted to live in a fantasy. It all came to a head when I found the second phone. The truth came out. The fairy tale life I was living was done. I was awake, not sleepwalking anymore. I had become free from the illusion of what my fairy tale dream was and the passion in which I was trying to keep it alive.
That day I become the Disenchanted Princess.