Friday, September 21, 2007

How long did did happily-ever-after last for Cinderella?

This week, I’ve been thinking about Cinderella.

I’ve been thinking about her a lot, wondering how long she stayed "happy" after she landed the Prince and the castle? Was it eternal bliss, or did she eventually go back to worrying about more mundane matters, like pesky royal in-laws, or her pecking order at court? In a real-life example, Princess Diana certainly showed us that sometimes there's nada happily ever after.

By way of background, I should say that, of late, things have been going pretty darned well for me. Maybe not fairy-tale well, but definitely “pinch me—is it real?” kind-of-well.

Here’s a partial list of my current blessings:

My family is healthy and happy (this one has to come first on anyone’s list).
I have several great friends.
I have a new mystery series coming out.
I was recently gifted with a second house, a killer sports car, and some enviable bling.

Life, as they say, is good.

So you’d think that I’d be wandering around the house all the time with a big, goofy grin plastered across my face.

Instead, I find myself scrabbling for things to worry about. Like, how do I guarantee that my second book will surpass the first? Is my college-age daughter locking her doors at night? When is the Big One going to strike California (and what’s the deductible on my earthquake insurance?).

When nothing else works, I’ll watch CNN and fret about global warming, wondering if I should have eschewed my nice little Z4 for an earth-friendlier Prius.

I once read about a study that found that people have a default level of happiness—or unhappiness, whichever applies. This study posited that, long term, a change in an individual’s life circumstances is irrelevant to his or her “happiness” level. Oh, their moods will have ups and downs, depending on unknown and unpredictable factors such as a sudden trauma, or winning the Lotto. But according to this study, almost no matter what happens, most people eventually return to their original state of happiness. I recall the researcher saying that even someone hit by a devastating injury, such as Chris Reeve, probably eventually regained a semblance of his original level of happiness.

That must be why my mind is foraging for things to feel down about: life has removed some of its former obstacles, and somewhere in my brain, a gray cell is itching to even up the score. But from now on, whenever it does that, I’m just going to shout it down. Down, avenging brain cell! Down!

One reassuring thing: Cinderella seemed happy as a person, even before she met the Prince (at least, she was in the Disney version of the story). So odds are that this particular couple did live happily, ever after.

Anyway, that’s the fairy tale.

What about you? Do you have a “level set” of happiness (or unhappiness) that you eventually return to, no matter what brickbats or bouquets life throws your way?

Guilty pleasure of the week: The Biggest Loser

As a former fattie (okay, granted—I still have a ways to go—but at least I’m no longer morbidly obese), I experience a vicarious thrill whenever I watch Bravo TV’s The Biggest Loser.

As I watch a three-hundred person lug to the top of a seven-story tower, huffing every step of the way, a part of me cringes inside, thinking, “How can they put themselves out there like that?” But a part of me cheers them on, and gets caught up in the suspense as they step onto that scale at the end of the week to find out which team lost the most weight.

Confession time

Last year, when the producers of The Biggest Loser tempted the show’s dieters with a malevolent tower of cupcakes, I wanted to throw my diet tools in their general direction, to exact some payback.


So here’s the question: why am I so drawn to this show? I think it’s because it amplifies the everyday drama of my bathroom scale—Am I up? Am I down? Am I winning the battle? Losing?—writ large. Writ very large.

Fat people, it turns out, are the stuff of prime-time drama. And if you don’t believe me, I’ll sign off with a quote from no less an authority than The Bard himself:

Let me have men about me that are fat,

Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o’ nights: Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

On the other hand, I suspect that Cassius was a much more dramatic character than the “men…that are fat.”

Food for thought.


Linda O. Johnston said...

Wow, Kathryn, you sound like I feel much more than I'd like to admit! When everything is going well, why is it we figure it all has to dive down in the dumpster soon? On the other hand, we deserve the best, don't we?

Camille Minichino said...

I wonder if this is a female issue. Any men out there have these feelings?
Or maybe it's generational. I don't see much self-doubt or lack of entitlement among young people today.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Hi Linda, Camille! I recall my Irish-heritage grandmother saying something along the lines that celebrating good luck invites the devil to your party, or something like that! Growing up with that kind of advice, it probably comes naturally to me now to be suspicous of good fortune, lol!

Camille Minichino said...

My Italian mother and your Irish grandmother must have been friends, Kathryn!