Lessons from Cinderella

 

I went through a phase, in my Christian walk, of avoiding many secular offerings. These days I still avoid a lot of TV shows and movies (mainly because I find certain genres too triggering). But now my ability to trust God and my desire to understand His heart toward the world, and toward me, is stronger than it was prior. The growth I’ve experienced in my faith has lessened the ‘avoid out of fear’ and turned it more into a ‘everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial’ (1 Corinthians 10:23) standpoint. And so I don’t restrict myself from something that draws me in, yet I will definitely take note of any occult references, secular humanism, and glaringly obviously lack of Jesus in most of what the world puts forth. It is to be expected, so why get upset over it? If I were to do that I’d be upset 24/7 because those things are everywhere.

A few times God has used some bit of dialogue, from a movie or overheard conversation, to hammer home a point that I needed to take to heart. To effectively peel another onion layer in the ongoing recovery from past child abuse. If Elijah could be fed by blackbirds (unclean animals that were to be avoided) then perhaps God’s people of today can also be ‘fed’ life-giving food from an unclean source as well.

And that is good, because one of the side effects of being physically unwell for several years is that I have a lot of what I call ‘couch time’. I prefer reading but there are days when even holding a book in my hands is too much. On those days I watch what I can find on Cable or Netflix. And so: I recently caught an adaptation of Disney’s Cinderella while channel surfing.

I was immediately drawn in.

Cinderella was one of my favorite fairy tales as a young child–one that I pored over again and again. At the time I didn’t realize that my own siblings and extended family members were abusing me, (by preschool age I had already learned to blame myself for that treatment). Which is why the idea of Cinderella being magically rescued out of an abusive home life, in which she was literally trapped, captivated me. It was so close to my own story–though I didn’t fully make that connection until recently.

My own family members gave me several unkind nicknames in my childhood, just like ‘Cinderella’ was the result of a mocking nickname. My bedroom was squalor filled and rodents were very real to me (though I did NOT befriend them). I was put into a caretaker role of the adults around me at a very young age and later when I was nearly an adult, both of my parents ensured their own financial and other securities, at the expense of my own. But just like a fairy tale– just in the nick of time I found a handsome prince and we set out on our own, purposely making our path very different from the lives we knew as children. To quote from another movie (Pretty Woman) — when the prince climbed the tower to rescue the woman, the woman rescued him right back. That’s pretty much the story of my life and marriage. We rescued each other and then wrote our own story with intentionality and love.

Point being: my life path mimics that of a fictional Cinderella. It took some time to break the financial bondages that also ensued; but in time they were broken. And like a fairy tale princess- I’ve always wanted pretty things to wear and to fill up my home…and my husband and I both worked very hard to achieve that.

We now have most of the things we wanted. And that can be fun. But: it’s just mammon. It can’t buy you peace of mind or salvation. It also can’t ensure you have good health (sigh). And I’ve learned that even financial success, a lot like health status, is all ‘relative’. Compared to some we are ‘rich’ and compared to others: we have very little. There will never be ‘enough’ to satisfy even the richest amongst us. I have found that it really is better to have a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred. (Proverbs 15:17). But that doesn’t stop me from wanting the fattened calf with love; regardless. I also would love to see all my health issues reverse…❤️

And so the combination of physical illness and the guilt, unease, and ongoing trauma ramifications from my past sometimes keep me from fully enjoying that fairy tale ‘life’, that fattened calf existence, that one might assume someone like me has — looking in at my current ‘outward appearances’.

Which is why I find it so deliciously ironic that watching a movie about a fairy tale that I really identify with, left me with two very good ‘nuggets’ of wisdom to carry forward. To ease the guilt and the trauma effects. To lighten my load.

(Spoiler alerts follow–stop reading if you want to watch the movie unspoiled!) In the film, when Cinderella first meets the Prince he inquires about her family’s treatment of her. And she responds (paraphrasing and this may be a little bit off!)

“They treat me as well as they are able.”

Woah. What wisdom there. Abusive sorts simply aren’t able to show kindness and love. I know this, but the temptation to blame myself or to make excuses for them remains. In reality, they treated me as well as they were able and for whatever reason — unconditional love was simply not in their ability to give.

I was bracing myself to not like the ending. I was somewhat expecting that the stepsisters and stepmother would be reformed at the end and allowed to live the castle life they so desperately desired–since that has become the expected new ending to old fairy tales–where the bad guys turn out to be good guys, etc.

Instead, the ending was brilliant. And something that I wish the Christian church understood better. Within the church we focus so much on outward appearances and looking the part that we no longer have a clear understanding of the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation. Reconciliation is too often expected as a kind of proof of forgiveness–with the burden of bearing that proof put on the offended, rather than the offender. But while forgiveness is a scriptural command, no where in Scripture are we told to reconcile to unrepentant and unchanged people. In fact, we are warned against that!

In the closing scenes Cinderella verbally expresses her forgiveness to her stepmother and sisters, right before leaving her childhood home a final time. (I almost did an eye-roll as I knew that one was coming.)

But then the narrator added, “Though she forgave her stepmother and stepsisters, they were banished from the kingdom forever.”

I can’t tell you how much my soul needed the affirmation that forgiveness does not have to equal reconciliation.

Particularly with people who have not changed.

“Whoa! That’s a lot of Salt!”

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It’s been a year since I began making regular-ish posts. On the one hand, not much has changed. I still approach this space with a mixture of a strong desire to write and share; combined with a fear of doing just that. On the other hand, there have been many changes.

*Last august I still presumed many of my physical illness symptoms were psychosomatic–as doctors and therapists had been *insisting*. Then I came to believe that there is also a very real physical component at play, to what is thrown around as ‘anxiety’. This belief first began to change for me as I read other blogs. That exposure to other’s vulnerability, combined with things God kept showing me in ‘real’ life, eventually led me to take a look at what was going on physically with me–and realizing it was/is a manifestation of physiological responses which many doctors remain clueless about and which would descend me into a deep rabbit hole; trying to figure out for myself…

SOOO: a huge thank you to those bloggers who have shared their own health journeys! I believe there is POWER in sharing our story!

*I have been sporadic, but kept at it in my own way. I can now say, looking back at my archives: That’s a LOT of salt!! While many blogs have stuck to one day a week to post; or daily posts; or typical word lengths; I took a butterfly approach. I would show up and land on something repeatedly and then not be seen for a while again. A few posts are short; many are so long I don’t ever want to re-read them myself! Definitely too much salt for some. But, one thing has remained: I am still here *mostly* for me and my own healing. Therefore I don’t need (or necessarily *want*) a big readership. Yet I do want to be heard…by someone. There is power in just one set of listening ears or reading eyes. I have felt the healing power of simply being *heard* by several people who have come and gone and a few who stayed–Thank you for hearing me!!

*I began this blog with the idea that Christians are the salt of the earth–and of getting back to the basics/not trying so hard. The reference to salt was mostly figurative. Even though I’ve always loved salting my foods — when I started this blog I also used an abundance of other spices….but, a year later, the ‘just salt’ has become literal! It’s how I ask for my steak at a restaurant… so the ‘just salt’ in my blog title very much relates with the literal healing I am finding in a pared back diet with no black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon….and using even more salt than prior to ward off my frequent electrolyte imbalances.

And that’s a lot of salt as I’ve always heavily salted my food…Perfect strangers have shouted at me from nearby tables in public establishments, “Whoa! That’s a LOT of salt.” One woman, who clearly meant well, even added, “Don’t you know that salt is not good for you!?” And then she turned to her husband and shared with him just how much salt I’d shaken onto my eggs…the funny thing was she was wearing a Jesus t-shirt while eschewing the (dangers?) of too much salt…hmm…I had to giggle at the irony of that one.

I decided to leave Jesus’ insistence that we are to be salt, out of that conversation, sensing she wouldn’t find that humorous! Instead, I shared that I have very low blood pressure and need extra salt. She wasn’t convinced though. She still looked really shook up over my salt consumption throughout the entire breakfast. That was one time where I could have sworn someone else got high blood pressure just from watching me salt my food.

And so I can admit that a lot of salt may not be *good* for everyone. It can even be downright scary to some…But a year into this salt blog of mine and I can say with certainty that too much salt is very good. For me. 

side view of a bottle with salt
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The thing is, as I have changed — the world has also changed, a LOT, in the past year. As has the internet…We had mass shootings a year ago. That isn’t exactly a new thing. What is new, (or what I am now noticing?) is all the stories on my newsfeed of people fleeing the country in fear, to raise their children elsewhere before ‘its too late’, and other stories about how to ‘live through a mass shooting’ that are also now showing up in my news feeds. Meanwhile, my ‘groups’ on FaceBook are being scoured through, getting graded over their ‘fake news’ content. A few friends have already abandoned traditional social media for ‘safer’ avenues with less censorship. Is there even a future in blogging at this point?

Who gets to decide on the difference between true and false? Some dot.com guy in sneakers?

And so the title ‘just salt’ takes on even deeper meaning as the darkness before us continues to unfold and we all face the very real possibility of censorship and being told what we can and can not say or write about.

Will I even be here in a year?

Who knows. It’s in God’s hands. The important thing is that today— I got up and I showed up. (With a shaker of salt). Praise God for that!

I just wanted the summer off…

brown clubmaster sunglasses on blue towel
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…But it isn’t happening. I stepped away from my career and planned a real break for myself to further heal. I envisioned a book in hand, iced lemon water, my behind parked on a partially shaded lounger (I like to sun my legs–for vitamin D purposes). So far I’ve only read two novels in June, (neither one under an umbrella). The amount of novels stacked on my ‘give away’ and the ‘it’s a keeper-find room on the shelf’ pile is a barometer of how much time I took ‘off’. (TWO is incredibly low!).

And now June, that glorious stretch of sunny mornings full of smells of flowering trees and light-sweater-evenings; yes, that June– is on her very last breaths.  As always, she peaked without notice and promptly faded. Like a pink sunset turning purple over rolling green golf course hills; the kind that everyone admires for, oh, about an hour in between ‘other stuff that needed to get done’, like actually finishing hole 17 and 18 before it’s too dark to see the balls.

Sigh.

I’ve got three ‘dates’ today and two other friends in my text messages wondering when I can chat or meet up this week. Coffee with a neighbor in a short bit, a young man coming to weed my garden at lunch time, another young man we ‘sponsored in the game of life’ coming and going from my back door whenever it strikes him (long story–too identifying to share details), and a baseball game later this afternoon. Phew. I don’t know how I let myself get this active again. This social.

I like to hide and write and read and heal and do things that no one but me even knows about. Leave anonymous comments on blogs… The usual introverted socially awkward and anxious-personality things to which the rest of us here in blogville might relate. But most people I know on a face to face level–don’t, it seems. They like to stay busy from sun up (ridiculously early this time of year) to colorful sundown (quite late this time of year). A friend recently sent me a photo of her workout stats. It was seven in the morning. I replied that here I thought I was doing well rolling out of bed at seven. (Being showered and presentable to others before nine is like running a marathon, for me).

But what I really wanted to say, to her and to near-everyone else who flutters around me like stressed out butterflies afraid to land on something and sit still for a minute– is this: why are you insistent on pushing through all that pain and then wearing the results of ignoring said pain like a badge of highest honor? I know your knee hurts you; badly, because you complain about it all the time. Why keep running on bad knees?

It seems a lot of people are hiding from painful things behind a wide smile and an offer for coffee. I know they are actually quite tired, underneath all that caffeine. I know many bodies, including my own, have been running on sheer adrenaline for a long long time. Because we are starting to get deep wrinkles and thinning hair and near every woman I know snaps openly at their husbands. In public. Like it’s normal or something to be that way.

Why is it that our basic human nature likes to pretend we aren’t feeling any pain. Is that pride? or is it just plain dumb? Scripture says ‘all we like sheep have gone astray’. Farmers have told me there is no dumber animal; than a sheep.

For me it was some combination of both pride and stupidity. I kept running and planning and making more ‘dates’ to do more things leading to all sorts of nervous breakdown stressed out moments. Thinking if I just push my way through life, like the strong girl I was, then those yucky feelings, those twinges of physical pain, those bursts of emotions–will go away like a stray cat that you refuse to feed.

Annoying things don’t just go away. Strays eat from your garbage when no one is looking. And stress accumulates everywhere, the more you ignore it, the deeper it accumulates into your very being; changing molecules and cells and personality until you become someone you never set out to be. All I have to do to guarantee I will snap without provocation, at my husband (or grown children), is to let myself get ‘too busy’ for my own tired and worn out britches. Bam. The meltdown happens. Every. Time.

I miss my quiet time, I miss blogging regularly, and reading others’ blogs. Getting into my novels in the partially shaded sunshine. Hanging with God because I have made time for that. Finally. Until June happened and I let myself get caught up in the busyness somehow. And right now I really wish I could sit still for a long while and catch up better here…

But I have a date and I already sent a text saying that I was ‘on my way.’ Perhaps I can achieve some semblance of summer over coffee with a friend. I’ll insist on sitting outside; at the very least.