By Dixie Andelin Forsyth, 7/12/20
I know your life is hard. Seems like you rarely get a break, and you’re discouraged. Maybe you’ve wondered why you should keep trying. In your weakest moments (we all have them), perhaps you’ve even felt angry and told yourself you deserve better, that your stepmother and stepsisters should treat you better, or that your prince should ride to your home on his horse and bust you out of your prison.
Because I love you, I want to warn you about those tricky words “deserve” and “should”; two of my most hated excuses for entitled behavior.
Would you believe the first word was created by an evil ogre who tried to mend his ways to win the heart of a fair princess? When she didn’t return his love, he flew into a rage, saying he “deserved” to have her as his wife (because of his recent good deeds), and that she should have been served to him on a golden platter. Unfortunately, the ogre had no servants to fulfill his desire, so he ended up killing the poor girl. If you believe you “deserve” better than to be locked up in a dusty attic with only rags to wear, well that’s true. But whose duty is it to fix everything for you? If you say “The duty is mine,” you’re on the right track. You are the custodian not only of a large mansion you must clean, but also of your life decisions. Even then, some things are not within the control of a custodian, or a queen for that matter. Death, the weather, and love requited (to name a few) are outside your circle of influence.
As for the word “should”, I don’t know who invented it, but she probably had a pumpkin for a head. Should is a wishing word that carries no magic whatsoever, unless you have the power to control the minds and actions of others. If you think your life “should” be better, that people “should” be kinder or that events “should” go your way more often, you get into the habit of dissatisfaction, and will hardly see what’s good in your life. Not only that, you begin to assume it’s some poor fool’s job to scatter blessings your way like pixie dust.
You’re not the only girl who’s had a rough go in life. Some have had it slightly worse than you, believe it or not. I know a child whose stepmother abandoned her (and her brother) in the woods, assuming they’d die of starvation or exposure, and another girl whose stepmother tried to have her heart cut out. Your own stepmother is no picnic, I realize. The things she says to you and puts you through are wicked and vile. My heart aches for you, for your lonely situation and bitter circumstances. But I know you, my sweet child, and you are capable of finding the best parts of your situation, mulling them over in your mind, and coming to much happier conclusions than those of, say, your ungrateful stepsisters. Of course if things become too painful, I wouldn’t blame you in the least if you ran away; just be careful not to run straight into the Forest of No Return.
Life is a precious thing, as you know. Think of it as a large birthday gift, something you didn’t design yourself or choose, but that nonetheless is wrapped up beautifully in shining paper, meant only for you. It has the potential to be the greatest burden or the greatest delight you could ever imagine, depending on your outlook. How can your horrible surrogate family and your position as their slave be delightful, you ask? Simple, my child. The magic lies within your ability to find the hidden value in every day, in every person, and every mouse you make friends with. Look for the perks, the unexpected strokes of luck however small, and the loopholes in dire situations. No calamity is so abysmal that you can’t find good fortune concealed within. To be clear, learning a valuable life lesson is good fortune. So is survival or finding a friend amidst the falling rubble. When you are grateful for these things, your heart will soar.
You have already made me proud, my dear. All your struggles, the times you wiped your tears and clenched your jaw and moved forward, have had me cheering for your success. No one can steal your happiness; it’s always within your reach when you recall what I’ve told you. Remember you are valuable, even when others whisper contradictions in your ears. Block out all the dark fairies and send the goblins packing. I’m telling you now that you are unique and irreplaceable, and don’t you ever forget it. Make friends where you can, sing while you work, and don’t be surprised if something wonderful comes your way when you least expect it.