Once Upon A Time...

Wednesday September 7, 2016

A friend of mine, we'll call him Richard; lives a fairy tale life.

Yes – his mother died and when his father remarried Richard gained a wicked stepmother. She's trying to steal his inheritance. This happens in real life too.

Richard does not have to wear rags and scrub the kitchen floor; at nineteen he's a bit beyond that now. Besides, he's won a prestigious scholarship to university and is now self-financing. But the prospect of a happy family life is one that is now denied to him unless and until he can form a stable relationship and have children of his own.

We all talked about it. There were five of us in the room, all very close friends; and we had all, at a young age, lost parents. A father dead by suicide; two mothers killed in road accidents, two mothers lost to drugs.

This commonality of experience seems to tie us together somehow, although the scars we bear are different. Two of us suffer deep and recurrent depressions; one is a wild child – constantly rebelling against authority; two seem on the outside, to be unscathed.

But none are unscathed by loss. The scars are there on the inside. They emerge as darkness in us all. "We all have our dark side, to say the least. And dealing with death is the nature of the beast," as Pink Floyd say in the song Dogs of War. It may not always be death, but there is always pain.

Richard recently did some gardening for my mother and, as he would not accept money, she gifted him a quilt she had made. He loves it. Not just for the colours and patterns on it (black and green and purple) but because of the words she stitched onto it: "No Garden is Without Weeds."

Because Richard knows his dark side. He lives with it. He has to manage it, or it will manage him.

The original fairy tales are scary. They are not the sanitised Disney versions. Heroes do not always behave as we would like them to. In one of my favourite stories, The Tinderbox, the hero soldier turns on the witch who gifted him with riches and kills her, because he wants the tinderbox for himself. That action was selfish and cruel, yet because he is the hero he ends eventually with wealth and the princess.

We are all the heroes of our own fairy tale. We all live with tragedy and darkness. We are all surrounded by the archetypes of story: cruel stepmothers, evil magicians, cynical soldiers and wise old women who are really shape shifters. We fight through enchanted forests and battle mythical beasts.

We must acknowledge our dark side and bridle it. Used properly it can aid us to deal with the world. Ignored and unacknowledged, it can gain power over us and destroy us.

I write my demons into words. Richard kicks his into submission with Taekwondo.

How do you deal with yours?

A Moodscope member.

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