What is Drastic + Dramatic

Monday, May 28, 2012

Finding My Wings

I had a sudden realization that my life has for years been following quite the symbolic parallel path to one of my childhood favorite movies: Thumbelina. As with most animated fairy tale flicks, I mostly love the music. It isn't until I watch them again when I'm older that I actually see grown up themes in movies.

Like Mary Poppins. Who knew the theme was generally "fathers, spend more time with your kids, and don't let your imagination fade, and certainly never forget to laugh"? As kids, we worried about learning how to say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious backwards the way Mary can so easily. (I've actually never tried that, but you know what I mean.)

So up until recently, I've sung and hummed and twirled to the music in Thumbelina, but never really cared to think whether it hid any deeper gems of meaning. But now, every scene, every word has new symbolism to me. First I'll point out the important plot points of Thumbelina, then I'll make 'em shine with romantic symbolism.

Thumbelina, according to Family Feature Films, is a tiny girl, no bigger than a thumb, who grew inside a flower. (I can tell you right now, that's just the introduction—no future symbolism for my life. I went quite the opposite route, reaching a whopping size at least 36-times-cubed bigger than a thumb. But anyway)

When the flower blossoms, she stretches her arms and legs and starts her optimistic journey through life. Always singing and dancing about, she seems not to have a care in the world. However, Thumbelina is troubled: she reads in her fairy tale books about boys and girls falling in love; but she realizes they are usually about the same size. Since she is the only person her size, she feels that finding love will be next to impossible for her.

However, one day she meets her perfect man: he is exactly her size AND he has wings! Doesn't get better than that. Oh, he's a prince, too, so riches, fame, all that. Not only is he attracted to her strange beauty, but he was able to hear the song in her heart (which was conveniently escaping through her mouth) and recognize that she had great depth despite her size. In her own words, the love in her heart shined like "the sun . . . bright and warm and wonderful." Prince Cornelius could see this. 

This is how he made Thumbelina feel:

It's a fun, giggly feeling, as if there were gold-glittering wings in your tummy; I think we've all felt this sensation if we've made it to fifth grade so far.

They spend a magical evening swirling about in the skies, flying into fairy tale love. 

"Every day I'll take you higher, and I'll never let you fall!"
As they serenade the stars with their loving duet, Thumbelina mistakenly gives a certain Spanish toad the impression that she is interested in him. She did not intend to. But toads think what they will. 

He becomes so obsessed with her after one sight that he devises a plan with his bosomy mother to kidnap Thumbelina and bring her home to him to marry her. Creeeeeper.

After a lovely first date, Cornelius's parents (King and Queen of the fairies) call for him to return to their floating, gold-sparkling caravan. Before he leaves, he promises to return for Thumbelina the next day (after asking her to meet his parents, to which she emphatically says "I will! . . . and then, we'll live happily ever after." "oh, much longer," says Cornelius. So, really good first date, I guess).

He does return, laden with excitement, love, and an array of silly gifts only to find Thumbelina missing! Her dog provides Cornelius with the first clue of Thumbelina's whereabouts and the fairy prince speeds off to search for and rescue his true love.

Who, meanwhile, is being forced to dance in the middle of a pond with mamasita toad and her three creepy sons. She is entertained by the thrill of trying something new, for a minute or two, but then she realizes it's just really not what she wants for the rest of her life. 

The crowds cheer and applaud, but the instant the show is over, they all slip beneath the water. Then, like a truly heroic lover, the toad who claims to want to marry Thumbelina leaves with his family to prepare for their wedding, leaving her stranded in the middle of a pond. Their first performance as a couple. Not quite so inspiring as the one the night before.

She cries out for help and her savior comes along in the form of a swallow—a friendly french swallow named Jacquimo. I like Jacquimo.

Jacquimo snips the lily pad loose, and Thumbelina says, "wow, that was easy." She floats along gently, trying to row to shore, but up ahead there's actually a dangerous waterfall and she gets caught in the current, headed straight for it. Jacquimo grabs the lily pad with his wings (which of course we all think he should have used to just fly her out of there, but they only just met, that would be weird to fly around with some stranger, right?..), so then he can't fly and isn't really useful. Mr. Mustached Fish* and his Missus hear their cries for help and come to the rescue. When she's JUST about to go over the falls, Mrs. Fish smacks the entire lily pad into the air. It helps . . . in the sense that the lily pad and Thumbelina don't fall over the edge—but it also knocks her out.

*not actual names of fish
After a few seconds, Thumbelina sits up in a daze and meets the jitterbugs. Rumors boogie quick where Thumbelina comes from and all the jitterbugs know about her date with the fairy prince. They ask if she's really going to marry him. She does this:

"I will if he asks me. He will call for me at my house. Oh, that's why I want to go home."
She adds, "Besides, Mother will be terribly worried. sigh If only I could find my way home."

The jitterbugs instantly volunteer to help her home. She congratulates them on their bravery but admits that she's afraid she'll probably never see her home again. Jacquimo, never to say never, (a true French dreamer . . . or perhaps student to the same master who taught another familiar bird to sing . . .) asks if she loves the prince. She says, "well, yes." "Then follow your heart!" He promises that he will go find the prince and Thumbelina says, "Oh, that's impossible."

Au contraire, mademoiselle. They break it down.

Such a natural thing for birds to sing, and to can-can! As you just heard, they encourage the little, lost Thumbelina that she doesn't need a guiding star or a map, just to trust her internal ticker to make it back home. Home is where her heart was found, where her prince will know where to find her. 

But first, life has a few dangerously thrilling stories for her to gather so she'll have some baggage—er . . . souvenirs to bring home with her. 

Back at the vale of the fairies, Cornelius begs his parents, King and Queen of the change of seasons, to delay the incumbent winter frost as long as they can so he can go rescue his damsel. He races away and then we hear them say they can only hold the frost for at most a day.

Meanwhile, as Thumbelina happily hums her way home, a giantly obnoxious beetle drops from the sky onto her path. He shmoozes her into joining his showgirl lineup at his night club for bugs, because, he says, she's beautiful, delicious, he's crazy about her, he loves the sound of her voice.

Poor naive Thumbelina falls prey to his wiles. He dresses her up to be exactly what he wants, and then puts her on display. During their singing and dancing performance (she does a lot of that, doesn't she), the beetle's nightclub entourage makes fun of her and, because she no longer poses any benefit to his reputation, he kicks her to the curb—but not without first taking back all the nice things he said in order to buy her hopes, and telling her she's ugly. It shocks her.

Me? Ugly?
No one had ever called her ugly before. At least not that she'd ever heard. He was just plain hurtful, that beetle. But Jacquimo comes out of nowhere again to comfort her, reminding her that she doesn't love the beetle, so it doesn't matter what he thinks. She will get home to her prince, who truly loves her—her voice and her—and thinks she's beautiful.

Then, the jitterbugs who were running from the beetle run into the toad and blurt that the beetle took Thumbelina; the toad chases them off and continues his twisted pursuit. Then Jacquimo gets injured, so he's slowed down, and then he gets lost. Then Cornelius finds out about the beetle and the toad, stresses out about the weather (fall and winter arrive in the same day, kinda stressful), doesn't watch where he's flying and falls into a stream and is sealed frozen in the ice. The toad and beetle devise a plan to nab the prince and set a trap for Thumbelina, etc., etc. A bunch of manly drama.

Thumbelina presses forward, but, undernourished and certainly fatigued, she collapses in an abandoned shoe. She is found and dragged, unconscious, underground by Ms. Fieldmouse who has heard all the latest news. She shares what she knows with her new guest: how she knew Thumbelina had been hoping to marry the fairy prince, but how tragic it was now that he had been found stone-cold dead in the ice.

Thumbelina collapses again, this time with sobs, and Ms. Filedmouse apologizes for blurting things out without thinking. She adds, "you're still young, though; you'll find another." Then, of course, Ms. F. breaks into a chipper song about love and marriage, mentioning Romeo and Juliet, how all they ended up getting from their "true" love was death. Without any reason to hope for that love that used to shine in her heart, brightly like the sun, she allows Ms. F to convince her to marry Mr. Mole.

Mr. Mole possesses only one moderately attractive quality: money. Ms. Fieldmouse certainly appreciates that about him. He appreciates music, but he detests the sun, so Thumbelina feels she'll have a hard time communicating with her soon-to-be underground, blind, furry husband. "Winter has killed everything, even the sun," she says as her heart deflates.

Quite honestly, if my hair looks like this on my wedding day I will run away, too.
Wedding plans are put into effect, and as Thumbelina is marching down the aisle, she sees in golden sparkly vision an image of her deepest desires: Cornelius; her hopes for true love will never surrender. And then before I do's can be pronounced, the toad crashes the party, Thumbelina snaps out of it, runs away, finds Jacquimo, they fly together to the vale of the fairies (don't know why they didn't just fly home in the first place, right? We'll discuss this later), no one's there, Thumbelina is kind of sad, but Jacquimo tells her to sing. The song in her heart, of love bright as the sun, causes the ice and snow to start melting and the flowers to bloom. Just when she's feeling like none of her effort is working, that Prince Cornelius is dead and is never coming back, the man himself bursts in behind her, singing where the swelling music is carrying us to the climax of the film:

"And I'll never let you fall!"

Of course Thumbelina is deliriously, disbelievingly happy to see her prince.

They kiss

which is always a bit awkward for animated persons, don't you think?

They get married

Her love and marriage give her wings

And, surrounded by the swelling voices of the ubiquitous choir of animated fairy tale movies singing the moral of the story, "and always follow your heart," the two fairy lovers fly off to live " 'appily ever after" (as narrated by Jacquimo, in his french accent).

Hooray, we're happy, we can't believe she overcame so many seemingly impossible obstacles, we applaud monumental love in tiny people. Then we hit stop/rewind. Or at least we used to. Back when this movie first came out. When I was ten...

Okay, now for [my] life's parallelisms:

Skip all that being born and feeling so small in the world stuff. Happens to everyone. We're going to start at the beginning of romantic love. In the movie, that moment of knowing when Thumbelina meets and falls for Cornelius, I equate this with a sort of in-born hope and desire for our heart's dream to have a warm, wonderful, sun-bright love. The more people we meet, the more experiences we have, the better we come to know what this dream within us looks and feels like. It's going to be unique for each person: some dreamers may have their hearts set on the toads, beetles, and moles of this earth, so let's not judge!

Personally, I don't like forceful creepers (especially those still living with mom), manipulative jerks, or the blind, indifferent, self-satisfied bachelors. Though few men actually fit such cookie cutter stereotypes, I've dated guys with some of the basic characteristics portrayed by these critters, and those dating periods were just . . . not fun.

Anyway, it would seem in life that just as soon as we envision this beautiful dream of what we believe we can't (or would rather not) live without, inevitably something steals us away, breaks us apart, takes us from familiar comfort. And if this has never happened to you, actually you should let it, otherwise you will never appreciate when love is replacing sacrifice in your life.

This doesn't mean you fall for anyone anywhere just to get your heart broken. I mean you can't appreciate love unless you know loss. And so that could be a loss of personal confidence (which usually happens somewhere between ages 10 and 18, repeatedly), a loss of anyone you've ever loved (friend, grandparent, parent, pet, etc.), and these losses just get the heart ready to pump for love, something our hearts hadn't quite understood before loss, and therefore dutifully just pumped our blood.

Personally, I've always wanted to marry in a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because then I have the opportunity to make an eternal covenant and make my marriage last forever. 

Once I love someone completely enough to give him my whole heart, I won't handle it well if I'm forced to give that up just for some pesky interruption called death. No, if God can seal it on earth it will be sealed beyond earth. That's what I want.

I also want a man who will be patient with my foibles as well as my greater short-comings. He'll have to be ready to forgive me 70x7 for leaving cupboard doors open in the kitchen, and he'll have to be patient with my somewhat bossy and stubborn side. He'll also want to like living the gospel of Jesus Christ rather precisely or I'll drive him crazy with my polite suggestions that we try to do better at keeping commandments. (It is the least fun thing to date someone incompatible with the way you live your faith. So tiring, draining; it does not give me wings.) Besides, some commandments are really just so simple to keep.

Commandment example: I personally love me a Sabbath day, and keeping it holy, to me, includes: not doing homework/work/studying/the secular learning I should have scheduled into the first 6 days of the week; avoiding, as much as possible, travel and spending; going to church and other necessary meetings; avoiding T.V. (especially sports. blah. I like watching sports, don't get me wrong. But sports on Sunday is, in my opinion, the lamest possible pastime. It will not happen in my home, the end.) and rather, watching uplifting or wholesome movies—I'm all about movies (for example, Thumbelina would be a great Sunday film); studying scriptures and other manuals; writing letters, blogging, singing, etc.; doing some family history stuff; meeting with friends and family; preparing and eating delicious dinners and desserts; playing board/card/group games; walks; naps. Whatever brings us together as a couple, as roommates, as a family, which is lovely, praiseworthy, uplifting or wholesome—I seek after these things for a Sunday.

Basically I want a man who would love to tag along in a lot of the same things I love doing: do the church things, go to the temple, travel and go camping when time and money permit, learn, read, develop talents, sing, play other musical instruments, write (or at least appreciate that I write), cook, eat, have deep discussions, kiss a lot, and love even more. And then I'm earnestly happy to add his interests to my interests, too. I dream of some basic commonalities, and then to have him add to my life every wonderful thing that he's made of.

Basically, the words of the first duet in the film describe my desires in a relationship: "let me be your wings, let me take you high above . . . anything that you desire, anything at all . . . every day I'll take you higher, and I'll never let you fall . . . heaven isn't too far, heaven is where you are . . ." etc. A mutually lifting and enabling and cherishing relationship.

The first few guys I dated (age 16-21; I dated 4) were guys I could have married in a temple. But, it just didn't work out for other mismatched reasons, and that's A-okay. All of them are married now, to fine wonderful girls well-suited for their own hopes and dreams.

Then I dated one that I couldn't marry in the temple. He was perfect in every way except that I couldn't marry him. So why I chose to decide that he should have my heart, that I was definitely going to marry him (I just knew it would happen, somehow), I don't know. Our heart seldom reasons well with our mind, nor with our dreams sometimes! What I tried to do was force my dream to come true out of a situation where it simply wouldn't happen. Couldn't happen.

When this boy and I broke things off, I thought it would be impossible for me to find my heart again. But a friendly Savior told me, "Nothing is impossible! You're sure to fly on magical wings, if you follow your heart." My heart told me to break it off, I trusted it. It was the hardest, most uncomfortable thing my heart had ever done. But then it got less hard. And then the pain went away. I was comforted. The love in my heart is bright again, warm and wonderful, ready to be found by someone who will never let me fall.

I wasn't immediately flown to safety, returned home to familiarity. Basically, I had changed too much, gone too far from who I'd once known myself to be, so I had to discover my heart anew. If my savior bird had flittered me off to where I'd been before, it would have done more harm than good. I had a few lessons to learn before I would find my heart again.

But, that journey was littered with a lot of poor choices in dating. Not many toads, I suppose. I have given some boys the wrong idea before, but from a very young age I recognized what it felt like to be used by someone I liked, and to get nothing in return. I never wanted to be insincere or abusive with anyone's feelings, so if I don't like a boy, I let it be known. And if he continues to act on his unreciprocated feelings, he's free to do so, but I will not take advantage of that. I will never fear to remind him he won't be getting what he's hopping for—er, HOPE-ing for.

But I have dated quite a few beetles. Way too many. . . . They didn't seem so roach-ish at first) because they're usually good boys who go to the temple), but a selfish, manipulative interior can only hide for so long. I don't know how I found so many . . . At first I really thought it was me: either I was naturally attracted to exactly the wrong guys, or I was a poor, sappy fool who fell for wiles shrouded in charm.

Seriously . . . watch this part. He's unbelievable.

All he wanted was his way, a star for the show that revolved around him, something to make him look good, and he didn't care what he'd have to say to get it. He never wanted Thumbelina for who she was, just for how she could make him feel and look good for a time. She was entirely disposable.

One guy that I went on a lot of dates with, and ended up kissing, totally treated me like this. He broke me. I didn't know I was so breakable, actually. After having had a boyfriend I was sure I'd marry, I had a frustratingly hard time finding a way to fit with other guys; it's a definite challenge. I don't even remember now why I felt like I had anything to prove to this guy, but at the time I did; I felt I needed his approval somehow. He hardly ever said anything nice about/to me, I felt like I had to be someone I naturally wasn't.

At the lousy end of our song and dance performance together, he didn't call me ugly (the only thing he ever did reassure me about was that I was "hot"); no, he called me boring. That's when it was my turn to be shocked. Wha? 

ME? boring?

I definitely knew I'd never been bored being me, so finally I understood that this guy was no good for me, a zero on the marriage meter, even though he was fully capable to go to the temple and, actually, frequently attended for service to others. He has his good qualities, sure, but he and I together had very few loving compatibilities.

There was something about the way he treated me like an instrument solely for his entertainment that totally devalued me, and it hurt me at a time I was already numb from that previous loss of long-time love. Somehow I felt like no one would see the me who had been loved before, and I would only be seen as boring. So I "broke" up with myself, sealed that lovable me away, not to be seen or known by, unfortunately, several more manipulative beetles.

Fortunately, my savior bird was constantly returning to comfort me. My healing would take a lot of patient wisdom on his part, because I wasn't letting myself remember who I was.

"Do you love ze beetle?" "No." "Then never mind ze beetle. Good riddance to ze beetle. And good riddance to ze toad!"
He will find the vale of the fairies [fulfill my dreams] if I do all I can to make my way home [continue my life journey with faith, hope, and trust].

Beetle boys, you know the kind: their outer shell is usually shiny and attractive, but it's easily breakable, and what you find underneath if you press for depth (which you should if you want to get married) is slimy, gross, and often smelly. Most beetles have wings, which, we remember, is what we're looking for, so this gets us excited at first! But usually those are shrouded and encased in their hard outer shell. They don't use them often, and certainly not for the benefit of anyone but themselves. They get all touchy-feely to coax a girl into trusting them, they kiss and hold and compliment so they can satisfy curiosity and selfish, lustful desires. Then, once they realize they aren't getting what they want, they shoo away the girl, most often with no explanation at all. If they do say something, it's very excusatory, vague, untruthful. I don't think they'll ever find what they want because they always just want more. They want to want. Until they figure out how to give of themselves, they'll never be satisfied.

My own lineup of beetle boys was a long, non-nourishing stretch wherein the warmth and light of my heart's desires definitely felt as though they were being dragged, unconscious, underground.

I've never had to surrender to a forced almost-marriage against my will the way Thumbelina did after her heart was numbed and dragged underground by loss. I've never been engaged, never gotten to that point, but still, I have dated some moles. Basically a girl needs to have reached a certain numbness by the time she runs into the moles of life to consider dating one.

Moles are a little older, more established, burrowed deeply in their lives, careers, etc. It's hard for them to see where another will fit in to their life. The longer they stay focused on perfecting their own domain, the harder it becomes to find the perfect girl to fit there. Also, moles don't have a lot of time to waste . . . so you'd think they'd take it slow, get to know a lot of girls before narrowing it down to the one he'll date, kiss, pursue with focus. But they're getting antsy, which is a muted way of saying horny. And, moles just love digging holes. Instead of one tunnel toward one heart, it's a confusing maze of non-committal make out sessions with a variety of girls, because he thinks this will help him figure out whom he loves. And he thinks this because he's blind and has a tiny brain.

Well, the last guy I semi-dated was a mole. He disappeared back into the ground without a word after a couple months of very convincing affection. And you know, if I'm not right for him I'd much rather him scurry away; but really, there's no reason to be so cowardly as to not say a word, right?

Then the last guy I kissed, he was a young beetle. After our first date we kissed . . . for a while. He got his fill and never talked to me again. My numbness allowed for this to not affect the locked-away lovable me. But I was still so tired of being that girl, the one without depth, who would just kiss any old/young beetle/toad/mole.

I decided, made a promise to my savior bird: "the next man I kiss I will actually date and intend to love." I've already been put to the test on that promise, and I've held true. I want to be proven faithful to myself before I add anyone to my life. It's a strengthening, glorious feeling to make and keep a positive promise to yourself.

And then something wonderful happened: finally, something clicked, I snapped out of my gloomy numbness. I ran away from the mole, the toad, the beetle. I let it all go; I trusted my heart again. I climbed above ground and felt the sun shine again on my face. After all this time, effort, a realization here, a good choice there: my heart is healed. Because I was finally ready, my savior bird swooped in and flew me to the vale of the fairies. He is my sure source of wings no matter the loss or findings in my life. My heart could finally sing again, and the warmth and wonder and brightness returned, melted the ice, blossomed open and released the sealed-away lovable me. She didn't escape because I'm married, engaged, or even dating anyone: I'm not. But I don't need those to have love. I just needed time and faith and trust . . . and guts, man. That was a rough trip. But I made it. I'm free from myself because I'm going to trust again. I'm happy.

Happy to be me. Ready for my wedding wings, whenever they come.


erin said...

Emily that was beautiful and poignant. I loved your descriptions and comparisons, and your firmness in being who you are. I also agree with you completely on the sabbath, mostly because to me how people treat that is a demonstration of how they show respect to God in general and in attitude. Thanks for sharing a sensitive part of yourself!

MissMarthaLouise said...

I absolutely love reading your blog- this post in particular. I, too, have always loved the story of Thumbelina. Thank you for using yourself as a real-life example of this story. And thank you for reminding me why none of my 'relationships' have lasted very long- because my heart told me it wasn't right. You are an amazing woman ♥ And we will both find our own princes someday. Thank you♥

emilyf said...

you girls warm my heart. I'm glad the positive spin came off more clearly than I thought it might. Thanks for your comments!!

Jessie said...

I love Thumbelina and I thoroughly enjoyed this post! Thanks Em!

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