Tonight, like every night, I read my daughter her bedtime stories. She chose Cinderella – a favourite for every little girly girl. We hadn’t read it in quite a while, and yet this time around with every page I read, floods of emotions filled me. With each page I turned, I found myself getting more and more frustrated. I wanted to slap stupid Cinderella in the face for being so damn naive. How could she possibly know that Prince Charming was the one for her after merely one magical night together.
As I read the last line, ‘And they both lived happily ever after- The End’, I had to hold back my tears.
I kissed my daughter on the forehead, silently praying the story hadn’t sunk deep in to her heart as it did mine many years ago. A little girl dreaming of a magic love that would end happily ever after with such ease.
You see, it just so happens that ten years ago I was in fact a Cinderella of sorts.
I was so young, and a hopeless romantic who fell head over heels for a Prince Charming after one magical night together. It was perfection with a whimsical backdrop. A white sandy beach, a full moon, ocean waves crashing and a sky full of stars.
Fast forward the courtship, him proposing in The City of Love and an enchanting wedding in the very same place we first met.
Then a beautiful child two years later.
Reality kicked in. The pressures of life, parenthood, finances.
The bickering and fighting got worse. We began picking out each other’s flaws. There were less kisses and more eye rolling with many silent ‘fuck you’s’ behind each others backs in between.
Fast forward again, him working long hours, travelling and us barely getting time together. Me a housewife, lonely and then hit with the sudden death of my father.
I spiralled downwards into a deep dark cave where The Dragon lay. A cave which my Prince struggled to lift me out of. So eventually he stopped trying.
Roll in resentment.
There was distance between us, we could be sitting in the same room but it felt as if we were miles apart.
The next part my story is not hard to guess.
Our marriage was broken. We were both two broken people trying to raise a daughter whom we would both walk over hot coals for. But it just wasn’t working.
I ignored the sounds of snarling wolves that lingered within the deep dark forest that had become our marriage.
Every time I saw a sign that things just weren’t right, I was either told I was being crazy or I simply chose not to acknowledge it.
Like an evil magic spell cast upon me, denial had become the easiest way to deal with things.
After doubting my gut instincts many times before, one morning I finally plucked up the courage to face the villain head on.
And there it was staring at me, the Wicked Witch. The cold hard truth that not only was our marriage over but that my fairytale had ended. Just not happily ever after.
The end of this book happened all so quickly, one moment he was there, the next gone.
People often tell me, “it was not your fault, you know that right?”
I usually smile and say, “yes, of course”.
But the truth is, I have to take some responsibility. Actually I have to take a hell of a lot of it.
After months of reflection, heartbreak, sobbing into my wine so lonely on the couch at night I could barely catch my breath. I have come to realise that I was a fool to believe in fairytales.
Life happens, shit happens, it’s not all sunshine and blue skies as far as the eye can see.
But mostly I was a fool to stay with my Prince as long as I did when I knew in my heart he no longer loved me.
I was a fool to instantly regret facing the truth, thinking maybe if I just ignored it I would at least still be married and our daughter would still have two parents at home.
I was a fool to except the bare minimum when it came to needing unconditional support through one of the toughest times in my life with my father passing away.
I was a fool to except being told I was the sole problem in our marriage and then walking on eggshells in fear my Prince would one day leave if I didn’t become anything less than the Perfect Princess.
I was a fool to allow anyone to tell me I was not worth their time, effort, love, support and grace.
So hear I am, starting a new book.
A book that is about a mother and her little girl.
A book that includes the daily struggles, my hopes for her and I, my overwhelming fear of the unknown but a great hope that in the end everything will be ok.
You see, my biggest flaw was believing that I needed a Prince Charming to truly be happy.
And so, this Princess is taking a big breath, pulling up her ‘big girl panties’ and is working on loving herself again.
She is facing the future, all be it with what now seems like treading through dark murky waters, the monsters of fear and uncertainty that lay below the surface.
One slow step at a time, She will walk hand in hand with her daughter to find true happiness somewhere in the distant greener pastures that faintly lie ahead.
Will she ever find another Prince Charming?
But this time, she will know that it takes more than a dance til midnight and a fitting glass slipper to find her true ‘Happily Ever After’.
And her daughter will be watching her along the way, which is the most important part of it all.
If by chance, there is indeed a Prince somewhere out there who can love me for who I truly am. Well. That’s just a bonus.
So I think for now, I’ll skip the fairytales and go with this instead.
‘This above all, to thine own self be true’
– William Shakespeare