Friday Fodder – Happiness

Once upon a time…

For the fifth time, Craig attempted to run his hand through his hair but stopped as soon as he touched the crunchy surface. The makeup crew had definitely over-gelled his hair, and what was this ridiculous powder on his face that perpetually flecked onto his vest? He reminded himself that this was the final interview before they just let the books simply sell themselves.

“Coffee, sir?” Shannon, the weirdly attractive woman who had been harassing him all day, appeared at his side, handing him yet another coffee. Craig took it automatically and put the cup to his lips, forcing a smile. Despite talking with her over the phone and spending the majority of the day with her, he still had no idea Shannon’s actual job was. In one of his stories, she would be a deceptive, multi-talented henchwoman. Craig frowned thoughtfully, wondering whether she would be a worthy foe for his equally adaptable dark hero.

It took a few sips of coffee before Craig remembered that he had privately forbidden himself from having any more caffeine. He had to be on stage in less than five minutes, and he didn’t want to be too wired, jiggling his leg around and needing to pee. Craig awkwardly held the cup away from his body, and in a whoosh, a stealthy backstage crew member snatched it out of his hands, no questions asked. As a random person dabbed his shiny forehead, Craig resisted the urge to recoil and melt into nothingness just as his infamously depressed Witch of the North did in the bath.

Before he could inquire about the location of the nearest bathroom, Craig was being herded towards the stage. Someone clipped on a mic and all but shoved him through the curtain. The spotlight seared down on him, and Craig blinked, temporarily blinded. The audience roared and cheered as he made his way towards the grinning hostess.

‘Her teeth are whiter than my vampire version of Snow White.’ Craig noted as they attempted a cringe-worthy fail at a hug-handshake fusion. Craig took a deep breath and gratefully sat down, already wishing himself into next week when the moment would be well and truly over. If only he could summon the confidence he imbued into his cast of loveable characters.

“Tonight’s special guest is Craig Powers, critically acclaimed writer or some would say, rewriter of popular fairytales! Welcome to the show Craig, it’s lovely to have you,” Lauren settled herself at the edge of her desk, crossing one leg elegantly over the other.

Craig smiled back, secretly hoping it didn’t come off as awkward as he felt, or worse – inauthentic. “Thanks, Lauren. It’s a pleasure to be here.”

“So Craig, let’s get right down to it. Why do you edit popular kids’ books? Why not write your own stories?”

Craig bristled. “We all grow up reading these stories and seeing them portrayed as movies. They shape our values and lives. They are a big part of who we are. I used to write stories set in my own universe-“

“But they weren’t as popular?” Lauren interrupted, shooting him a sly side glance through a smirk.

Craig smiled, instantly transforming her into an interrogating sorcerous in his mind’s eye. “Yes, and because fairytales end up molding people’s view of the world, I change the stories to include people who are more like me and you. People of colour, more empowered roles for women and little girls. More interesting stories with a depth of character and moral complexity.” There was a smattering of applause.

“Of course, we can all agree that’s so important, isn’t it everyone?” Lauren asked the audience, inciting more cheers. “Don’t you worry that these books might be…difficult for younger readers?”

“I think people underestimate how smart kids are-“ Somebody yelled appreciatively in the crowd, and Craig chuckled, “-and I write mostly for teens anyway. I just think there is so much untapped potential in many of the stories we know and love. More than the typical damsel in distress, the nameless, faceless Prince Charming and all that rags to riches stuff.”

“That’s a little cynical, isn’t it? What’s wrong with happily ever after?” Lauren challenged, leaning in close. Craig reminded himself that this was her job and she probably didn’t know anything about his actual books.

“I mean, isn’t that what everyone wants? To be happy at the end? To find true love?”

“Happiness at the end of what, Lauren?” Craig retorted. “In real life, there is no happily ever after. There is always the next challenge and the next. I want my stories to show happiness during the challenges, I want to show character strength and growth, and give some of these princes a depth of background. We need better role models for young boys and I loathe the whole damsel in distress thing. When I was a boy I liked and respected girls who had imagination and knew how to have fun. Girls who were smart and interesting on their own. I think people are tired of reading stories where they can’t relate to the characters.”

Craig couldn’t stop himself, he blurted out, “Also, true love? In all of two minutes of meeting someone?”

“I don’t know, it only took two dates for me and my Prince Charming to fall in love.” Lauren giggled, and Craig wondered what on earth they were possibly paying her to remain constantly polite.

Craig forced himself to keep a level, conversational tone. He hated these stupid interviews and wished his overactive publisher would get pricked by an assassin’s needle. “These stories are full of life lessons. In the 21st century, telling little girls that they need to wait for a man to save them, or telling young boys that it’s okay to randomly kiss sleeping girls, or that it’s their job in life to find pretty girls that need saving, is just so boring and completely unrealistic. Lauren, you’re a self-made woman. You didn’t wait for some man’s kiss to turn your life around. Like in my version of Rapunzel – she wasn’t looking for a Prince, she was looking for a sword!”” The crowd cheered, which prompted a genuine smile from Craig.

Finally! The people he actually came to talk to. It was a struggle to remember that Lauren wasn’t the target audience here. It was kids like him – the people like him. People who needed to believe in true happiness again. People who were inspired by princesses on a mission who realised they were falling in love, or a Prince working with the mermaid to explore and clean up the seas.

“I understand that, but how are your stories educational in the real world if they are full of vampires and magical creatures?” Lauren asked her first detailed question, and Craig quickly continued, now fully focussing on the crowd.

“That’s a metaphor for toxic relationships. Snow White literally sucks the life out of people. She’s wicked, narcissistic, and a master of gaslighting. The little mermaid in my story and the Prince represents racial divisions, and how people slowly get to know each other, uncovering little gems about each other as they go. And no, it doesn’t have a fully happy ending because I wanted to show growth, and the hard work it takes to reach mutual understanding. There is actually nothing in this world that is completely original, and fairytales are the source material for so many things written, felt, and thought about today. Those old stories  still exist, but I wanted there to be more diversity, more voice, and more modern-day values. Role models, we can all learn from and aspire to.”

“So inspiring!” Lauren announced, “Everyone, we’ll be back after the break!” Lauren shook his hand and flashed a big bright smile out at the crowd.

Craig looked a little stunned and grinned at the camera. He reached forward and began chugging down his (hopefully unpoisoned) glass of water. He’d forgotten all of the talking points his publisher expressly told him to bring up, and instead decided to expose the depth of his love for characters he had created ever since he was a child. These characters were pieces of him that met everyday challenges head-on, with style and humour.

Craig quickly excused himself to race to the bathroom, feeling somewhat accomplished despite his uncomfortably sticky face, and long-forgotten talking points. ‘This might just be the best interview I have given to date’, he mused. The sorcerous conquered in one happy moment before the next challenge to come. Not a happy ever after, but a slowly growing collection of happy days, happy hours, and happy moments.

“Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance.”

― Osho Rajneesh

Moral of the Story:

‘And they lived happily ever after…’ Has there ever been a phrase that has generated more doubt and cynicism? Part of the human condition means to feel the full range of emotions – not just the ones we deem as ‘good’. Evidence shows that people are happier when they do not let themselves be conditioned by social narratives. Happy people still feel the whole range of human emotions – anger, frustration, boredom, loneliness, and even sadness and negative thinking, from time to time. However, even when faced with discomfort, they have an underlying sense of optimism that things will get better. Happy people may have unhappy thoughts, they just don’t allow those thoughts to control them.

You will never be happy if you expect to find happiness at the end of your journey, rather than all along the way. Achieving goals that you are intrinsically motivated to pursue, particularly ones that are focused on personal growth and community, can help boost happiness. Rather than falling into the trap of mindlessly accumulating stuff to the detriment of your own happiness, focus on practicing gratitude for the things you have and enjoying the process as you go. Be grateful for what you already have while you pursue your goals. If you aren’t grateful for what you already have, what makes you think you would be happy with more. Do not set aside your happiness. Do not wait to be happy in the future. The best time to be happy is always now. Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our hearts, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free. The secret of happiness is freedom, the secret of freedom is courage.

“Stop giving other people the power to control your happiness, your mind, and your life. If you don’t take control of yourself and your own life, someone else is bound to try.”

― Roy T. Bennett

Affirmation: I am happy and I know it so I show it.

Happiness is my moment to moment, day-to-day choice. I am finding that many of life’s simple pleasures bring me great joy. I am so grateful for all the beautiful things in my life. Every day I attract people, places and things that make me happy. I am destined for greatness and I pursue happiness regardless of the circumstances. I am grateful for every opportunity life presents to me. I am free to be me and I choose to be happy. The world deserves nothing less than my authentic happiness. My happiness uplifts everyone I come into contact with and we celebrate the freedom to choose, the freedom to love and the freedom to express our natural happiness. I know that a lifetime of happiness is cultivated in every moment of every day. There’s so much brightness to seek in every moment and I am deserving of discovering all the happiness that comes my way. Laughter and smiles keep me healthy, make me more attractive and extend my lifespan. I care about my happiness and I choose to feel lighter and happier each and every day.

“You’ll learn, as you get older, that rules are made to be broken. Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologise for it. Go against the grain, refuse to conform, take the road less traveled instead of the well-beaten path. Laugh in the face of adversity, and leap before you look. Dance as though everybody is watching. March to the beat of your own drummer and stubbornly refuse to fit in.”

― Mandy Hale

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