How’s it going for you so far? Roughly three weeks in and I’m desperate to morph into Ripa Van Winkle (Rip’s unmentioned sister), get me a jug of the intoxicating stuff that sent her lazy brother to Nod for twenty years, and sleep till at least 2040! Wouldn’t it be sweet to bypass the current crap? I am so over the idiocy and disease. Problem is, I’m telling a story. An enticing and ever-so-slightly provocative one, but, a story, nonetheless.
Washington Irving did not write in a sister for Rip. I made her up. I didn’t need to. Gender isn’t at the heart of “Rip Van Winkle” unlike the horrifying “Sleeping Beauty”. Irving’s protagonist isn’t amoral like Beauty’s king. He’s just a guy who didn’t want to be an adult. He focussed on escaping his duties as husband, father, and future soldier. Sleeping the years away, leaving the everyday work of survival to his wife and children, seemed okay to Rip.
There’s probably a fragment of Rip Van Winkle in all of us. And sometimes, although rarely, avoidance can be the higher ground. Lately, however, despite a big part of me wanting to run and hide, another part is begging me to wake up – really wake up. What does that rmean?
When I first became aware that I was living in a dream, I was in too deep to stop. What the world saw was an amalgam of fictious characters posing in trendy clothes. Any hint of the real me was distasteful, always had been, so I chose to carefully mould a convincing enough fake me. And it worked for a long time, until it didn’t.
Even the strongest foundation needs shoring up. My pieced together character was built on a fragile base from the get go so it was bound to crumble. And crumble it did, which should have been the end of me. But it wasn’t. Instead, I awakened in the rubble determined to put myself together. Thing was, I couldn’t find anything familiar. All that was left of me was the battered and bruised, long denied, real me. Ugh! Oh well, I’d have to make some changes. Never easy.
Building a better me was bloody work. It was ruthless, time consuming, gruelling. Separating the real me from the made-up me was, and continues to be, the hardest work of my life. I’ve had to teach myself to speak all over again in order to spell out a substantive story. Fluffy, half-hearted descriptors and excuses had to go. I had to get specific, drill for the exact words necessary to clearly define moments in time, actions, or reasons for being. Anything less would have been disrespectful. Anything less could have left a door open for guesswork and there shouldn’t be any guessing when it comes to the truth of who you are.
Occasionally, I still pretend to be someone else. I still dream of living in another time or place. The difference is, I’m not my own worst enemy anymore. Reason and logic aren’t enemies anymore, either. Accountability and responsibility no longer strike fear or resentment in me. They aren’t four-letter words anymore. That’s not to say I like everything about the solid, grounded, girl-turned-woman. I’ll probably spend the rest of my life struggling to accept her, in fact. But I’m doing my best to appreciate her. I’m doing my best to love her.
I understand completely why folks would choose to gulp down the magical elixir Rip found. It’s way easier to be in a world where only your choices are important, where discernment isn’t required, and where reason, logic, and compassion are vilified. It is much more fun to tell someone how to do the work than to actually do it yourself. Or is it?
When Rip Van Winkle woke up after twenty years, a new government was in place. His country had been to war. Blood had been shed. Lives had been lost. Did he care? No. His blood wasn’t shed. His life hadn’t changed much. He went back to being a ne’er do well who let others take care of his needs.
That is not the kind of life I want to live. Not anymore.
My wish for you today is that you can find time to appreciate, be deeply grateful for, your life. If it seems to be mapped out on a roughhewn trail, I hope you can stay awake. Not sleeping means you’ll surely see the pitfalls and craggy places, but you will also see the gorgeous smooth places, too. Relish it all.