There’s more to a fairytale life than meets the eye.
I’m re-reading my novel The Souls of Her Feet (because there’s a new edition coming out soon) and I came across this passage:
I cried that night, realizing I would probably never get what I really wanted, ever again. I strengthened myself, thinking of all the people in the world who would never get what they wanted. I wondered how they coped-people who were poor, people who were at war, people who were in natural disasters or other sucky situations-and then I realized I actually did have some control. If I didn’t want anything, then whatever I got would be a nice surprise.
The Stoic philosophers made a huge impression on me when I read them in college, specifically Epictetus, who lived his life as a slave. Slavery (and philosophy) taught him how powerful he was—yes, really! Because he discovered that the only things he could control are the things that we think we can’t control: his opinions, his impulses, his desires, and his aversions. I seem to put this theme into everything I write… it has served me again and again on my personal journey through life. The Buddha pretty much said the same thing.
People say, “that’s just who I am.” But bumper stickers say, “Don’t believe everything you think.” Hmmm. Which statement leads to a happier existence?
When writing the book I imagined that my protagonist, Ashley St. Helens, who was living a Cinderella-like life, would have plenty of time on her hands to think her own thoughts while doing grunge work for the step-snots. Especially an educated girl who would rather be reading. Naturally, Stoic philosophy found its way into Ashley’s thoughts. But with that beautiful dress taunting her, she sure struggled with her desire to wear it, her desire to live her dreams.
And therein lies the challenge to Stoicism. If we control all of our desires, we can Buddha our way out of all attachments. And then where do we end up? Watching all the other teens have fun at the ball? What if we really do want to make something happen with ourselves, make our own lives a little more beautiful? This is where Stoic philosophy rises up to embrace New Age thinking: if we desire things right… then happiness comes to us, it flies to us willingly, in little ways, and sometimes in big destiny ways.
I don’t want to give anything away, but you know how Cinderella ends. All the good things come to her, because she puts her heart—and her mind—in the right place. With a little help from a certain fairy godwhatever….
Originally published at http://kristencaven.com on November 6, 2014.