I tried before to do this. To start a project about relationships. A place for talking about them in a way that could help all of us realize that happily ever after is not one-size-fits-all.
I wanted to do this project — in whatever medium it might take — because it seems to me that storytelling is important for helping shape the world around us. And I can’t help but wonder how my own worldview might have been shaped when I was a kid if I didn’t desperately wish on the one fairytale that was crammed into all my books, my favorite Saved By The Bell episodes, and in the families of my more popular friends whose parents were still starry-eyed for each other. THE fairytale. The one that Disney deploys to sell Princess toys: One True Love. Forever. No end in sight.
But of course we know that’s not true. It’s not that the One True Love fairytale doesn’t happen. I’ve seen it. It happens. But it’s the exception, not the rule. And in fact, it’s a cultural quagmire we’ve put ourselves in by assuming that there is in fact a rule at all.
The heart of the project called Honestly Ever After beats with a love for all of the fairytales that have been sneaking off and making out in the shadows, beyond the spotlight that shines so brilliantly on the One True Love story. Those stories in the shadows are not failures because they deviate from Disney. They are explorations. And I suppose I find that significant because if we don’t see our own stories as failures, then we’re less likely to see ourselves as failures, and less likely to impart blame on someone for conspiring failure. Less bitterness. Less heartache. More resiliency. More confidence. More appreciation for the uniqueness of our own stories and the relationships that define them.
I’m sure I’m oversimplifying. But I just wonder, if we celebrate the shifting shapes of relationships instead of shame them, well … maybe living honestly would be the ultimate fairytale.
But the project that was to be Honestly Ever After — was it a website? a podcast? a live on stage performance series? all of the above??? — whatever the hell it was going to be got derailed. I listened heartily and enthusiastically to advice that would lead to me wanting to do all of the things, at one time, by myself with the volunteer support of some savvy creatives. It was to have a production quality that was fully branded, out of the raw and authentic zone where I felt Honestly Ever After could truly breathe. I embarked on the project with the mission to “think expansively” instead of to “share authentically”. I’m much more capable of the latter, but I went with the former, and the whole idea fizzled like a campfire in a hailstorm.
I took early feedback to mean I had already failed. Failed at a project that I didn’t think could fail, because at its heart, failure itself was being re-worked into evolution. I froze in my tracks. And the vultures of distraction and time picked the inspiration right off my bones.
The truth is, I don’t know what Honestly Ever After is except the result of my own impulse to share my own relationship stories and what I’ve gleaned from them, and to share stories from others who have chosen honesty over institution. I’m not so into over-production. I like my sermons served belly up at the dive bar with the locals, not in a mega-church. My favorite channels are Campfire, Watching Stars Without My Glasses, and Did You See That Duck. My favorite podcasts are like conversations at a kitchen table. And my favorite fairytale? Well, it’s called Honestly Ever After. And it’s still being written.