Yesterday I read an interpretation of the Cinderella story that intrigued me. It went like this: Cinderella is in denial. She is treated poorly by everyone in her family, wears dresses the birds made for her out of scraps, and has to work day and night. Yet she sings, “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream you wish will come true.” The author went on to say that Cinderella was an extreme idealist, and that she needed to face her pain and losses. That if she didn’t, she would continue to be swept away by the “Prince Charmings” of the world and would be further wounded because they would never meet up to her idealist notions.
At my core, I am a hopeful, hope full, person. I do my best writing, and living, when I own this. When I forget this – when I stop dreaming – bad things happen. I let myself be corrected, chastised. I let other people’s experiences carry more weight than my own, and I spiral downward. I am smothered, extinguished. I become passive.
Sometimes, out in the world, my hopefulness gets sideways glances. If I am not on guard, I find myself feeling small, like a child who doesn’t really get it. Give her a few more experiences, I imagine people thinking, and she won’t feel like that. But I have had my share of experiences.
In my writing life, the same kind of thing happens. This time, though, the correction, the chastisement comes from myself. You don’t know this story well enough, I tell myself, becoming my own antagonist. You need to plot more, think more, be more. But the story is in me, and this kind of thinking locks me right up.
For me, hope is active. It has goals, it has a direction. Hope is both necessary and valuable. It is not naïve, because it is not waiting. It is seeking.
And so, when I start hearing those chastising, correcting voices, I put up a sign to remind myself of my hopeful core. In my life, the sign says, “Your experiences are just as valuable as those of others,” and right now in my writing life, the sign says, “You can trust yourself to get Norah out of there.” This keeps me going.
I know that in my heart I sing Cinderella’s song. But unlike her, I am not waiting, I am seeking. It is only when I lose my hope that I will be swept away.