It’s a bleak and rainy here in Annapolis, Maryland. The weather reflects my mood of late. Nothing is going very well. Yes, I’m aware that my first-world problems are embarrassingly frivolous, so I try not to complain. Much. But knowing my problems are paltry compared to the genuine suffering of so many others just makes me feel guilty on top of being depressed. Sad sack Sally, that’s me. So imagine my delight, as I sat on my ever-expanding ass, eating chocolate and reading the latest Robyn Peterman book, A Witch in Time, when I laughed out loud at the silly, clever and hilarious hijinks of my favorite witch, Zelda. She is as shallow as the kiddie pool at the local community center, but she makes me guffaw, something I don’t do often. I love her madly (her author is pretty clever too). Just what the doctor ordered—a light and entertaining read to brighten my dreary day.
And then, as so often happens, I found the depth beneath the veneer and I began to appreciate the book, and Zelda, even more. Turns out, I see a lot of myself in Zelda (I see a lot of myself in so many characters in my beloved fantasy books; either these authors are writing about universal truths or I’m a flaming narcissist—your call). Zelda has more issues than National Geographic (an old joke, but it still
makes me laugh). I can relate. And she’s looking for the quick-fix cure—the magic wand she can wave to solve all her problems (she is a witch, after all). I can relate, even though I’m just a bitch, not a witch.
Zelda has commitment issues, abandonment issues, self-esteem issues and a serious case of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Check, check and double check. Could we be twins separated at birth? Zelda is uncomfortable with emotional intimacy, and she tends to run at the first sign that she might be developing feelings—Goddess forbid she should actually give a shit about anyone or anything because that leads to vulnerability and pain. ‘NFW’ is what Zelda has to say about that. Except somehow, she didn’t run fast enough, and her heart seems to be forming attachments, much to her horror. But Zelda is not a quitter, so she does the only logical thing to be done—she decides to subject herself to a marathon therapy session so that she can be cured. She wants the quick fix for all that ails her.
I envy Zelda’s solution. I’m all about short-term pain for long-term gain. I can take it— whatever it is – for a while. I’m willing to go to any length—as long as I can get there by next Thursday. In fact, I’m in the middle of a quick-fix strategy right now that’s working as well as most of the other fix-me-quick schemes I’ve tried in the past. This eight-week class is designed to help me wake the hell up—in fact, the class is called “Awakenings,” and the idea is to energize each of the seven chakras, opening them up and allowing the energy of the subtle body to flow unimpeded. Great concept. And it only takes two months of once-a-week classes. Easy peasy. Except I’m not sure it’s working. For me, anyway. There are others in the class who seem to be having truly transcendent experiences. Sadly, I’m not one of them.
And to be fair, the instructor warned us that unless we practice, practice, practice, we’d be in danger of going back to sleep. She told us we can have transformative experiences that integrate mind, body and spirit and help us heal the fragmentation of our beings, and that we could still go back to sleep. So, despite my best hope for the efficacy of magic wands, apparently magic is not strong enough to affect lasting change. Only persistent practice is. Bummer. I was so hopeful that I could be fixed quickly.
But then I started to think more about the assumptions beneath both my and Zelda’s thought processes. Thinking we need to be fixed presupposes that we each believe that we are somehow broken. One of the most authentic and poignant scenes in A Witch in Time involves Zelda delineating her many, many flaws to her hunky wolf shifter boyfriend, with the thought that she would drive him away with the truth of her underlying defects. He was having none of it, of course. But she was utterly convinced that if he truly knew her, he’d run screaming from the room and out of her life.
I did exactly the same thing to my sainted and beloved husband when we first started dating. I knew I loved him, and I knew he thought he had feelings for me. But I wasn’t in the market for a serious boyfriend at the time, so I figured that I would hit him with both barrels of my eccentricities and character flaws. That way, he could come to his senses and leave sooner rather than later. And, my thinking at the time went, if he stayed, it wouldn’t be because he had stars in his eyes. I wanted him to see me, warts and all. Well, want is a strong word, but, like Zelda, I wanted him to get out of the kitchen toute suite if he couldn’t stand the heat. He’s still hanging out in that kitchen. And I adore him for it.
Wonder of wonders, my husband doesn’t think I’m broken. He doesn’t think I need to be fixed—quickly or otherwise. He’s all for self-improvement and he supports my many efforts to leave my comfort zone, learn new things and evolve as a human. And I love him for that, too. But, if you ask him, there’s nothing broken about me, and it’s clear that Zelda’s mate feels the same way about her. What’s less clear is why she and I are so convinced we need fixing—enhancement, enrichment and evolution, sure, we all need that. But fundamental repair, not so much.
Maybe I can reframe my self-perceptions and see my work toward personal betterment as augmentation, not rehabilitation. That would be a wonderful thing. And on my good days, when life feels easy and I’m engaging more in accomplishment than activity, I can see through that particular lens. On other days, I’m with Zelda, and marathon therapy sessions start to sound like a great idea.