Once Upon a Time: How to Write Your Own Happily Ever After
Once upon a time there was a good girl. A brown haired, brown eyed Midwestern girl who loved her family, went to Sunday school, used her manners and ate her broccoli. She spent her free time basking in the the warmth of approval and checking off accomplishments on the path to success. Good grades…check. Good friends….check. College…check. Successful career…check. Marriage…check. Babies…check, check, check, and check. She achieved all of her goals. She had everything she ever wanted. And she lived happily ever after.
Except she didn’t.
Not yet, anyways.
This is not where our story ends. In fact, this is only the beginning for our heroine, who awoke somewhere in her mid 20s and realized, despite having a storybook life, she did not have her happy ending. She was lost. She had followed the path, she had adhered to the rules, and not only had she done everything the right way (and done it well), she had achieved everything she ever wanted. So why did she feel empty, aimless, a persistent restlessness in her bones to run a little wild from this perfect, yet complacent life? She wanted more, so much more. More WHAT she did not know, just more. More meaning. More purpose. More connection. More impact. More life in her life. She wanted to scream from atop the mountains of laundry “I am here!” to a world that didn’t see her as anything more than a wife and devoted mother of four. Why wasn’t she happy? Why wasn’t this great life good enough?
What comes after the happily ever after?
I spent the next ten years searching for answers to questions I couldn’t articulate. Ten years mediating wars between the good girl and the wild within. Ten years wandering aimlessly, always moving yet never getting ahead. Ten years loving my children but not quite loving motherhood, not the way I thought I should anyways.
I had run out of yellow brick road. I was navigating without a map for the first time in my life, and I was lost, disheartened, and wracked with guilt. I was hungry for so much more than my “great on paper” life.
I wish I could go back and tell my younger self I wasn’t crazy. Nor was I selfish, or wrong, or ungrateful. I was waking up to the brutal truth that the fairy tale life I thought I wanted was just that, a tale. A piece of fiction. A one dimensional version of life as flat as the paper it’s written on. I wish I could tell her that the longing for more was life’s invitation to change….that every doubt, every twinge of jealousy, every desire for something bigger was the wiser, exceptional woman within attempting to get her attention. I was tired of being selfless and subsequently having no self. I was tired of being the last priority in my own life. I was bored. I was hungry. I had big work to do in this world and I was tired of pretending motherhood alone was enough.
I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but I didn’t know I wanted so much more.
I wanted success, on my terms. I wanted adventure. I wanted to create, to speak, to inspire. I wanted a passionate life. I wanted delicious experiences. I wanted to incite action. I wanted the world to know I was here. I wanted to scream. I wanted to feel the wind in my hair. I wanted my heart to beat in sync with all the women who came before and after me. I wanted to birth more than babies into the world. I wanted to walk a thousand barefoot miles through the desert of my own desires. I wanted to lick every drop of sweat from a fully exerted life. I wanted to feel my heart race with anticipation. I wanted to leap head first off the cliffs of conformity.
I wanted to be anything but ordinary.
I finally acknowledged what I really wanted. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, I was tired of being good, now I just wanted to be free….free from the world’s expectations, free from the rules, and free from the fears that had kept me from fully embracing this one wild and precious life.
It wasn’t until I walked away from who I thought I should be, that I was able to find who I really was.
I believe there comes a time in all good girls’ lives when the effort of earning, proving, smiling, and pleasing takes its toll. The heavy burden of conformity and perceived responsibility for other people’s feelings weigh our spirits down. We’ve become masters at pleasing everyone but ourselves. We’re depleted. Our light has dimmed. Our dreams have vanished and we are exhausted. We think a nap will solve our problems but it is not sleep our souls craves, but life.
It’s time to rebel against all the rules that presume to know what’s best for us. It’s time to It’s time to reconnect with the wise, fiery woman within that will never lead us astray. It’s time to let our hair down, kick off our shoes, and run away from anything and anyone that dares to try and tame our wild souls. As Glennon Doyle says, “people will come around, or stop coming around. Either way, lovely.”
I believe in empowered, confident, happy, present, whole mothers who lead by example - who show their daughters and sons HOW to love themselves, chase their dreams, and accept nothing less than all they deserve.
You deserve more.
You have an epic, fulfilling, vibrant life waiting for you, but only if you are willing to claim it. There is no Prince Charming coming to rescue you. There is no happily ever after for the woman who looks to the fairy tale to provide it. Slay your own dragons, conquer your own desires, write the rest of the story, and make it a good one.