Like most of us, my childhood was steeped in Disney animation. Maybe it was due to my geographic proximity to the Happiest Place on Earth, perhaps it was my late 70’s date of birth and the explosion of animated Disney movies during the few decades that preceded my arrival. Whatever the reason I watched them all. I loved them all. Especially Alice in Wonderland. The Disney version so colorful and fun; filled with songs and silliness. It’s true meaning far too advanced for my tender age. At the time there was no thought to its origins or its true meaning just joy at its shiny shallow surface. However age and experience has proved to be an excellent instructor in the art of digging deeper.
In the Lewis Carroll version Through the Looking-Glass, Alice finds a mirror world that is both clear and recognizable yet turned on its head. She enters a world that is strange and alien even though at first glance it appears to be the same world in which she has always lived. She finds characters that are both familiar and foreign. As with many other works of literature and film, theories of its meaning abound. From simple personal introspection to advanced comparisons of class systems, division of wealth and failures of government.
The themes and struggles of Alice and her Looking-Glass world were brought home with a never before known clarity when my son, Ethan, was hospitalized. We all slipped through the Looking-Glass that day and for months after we couldn’t find our way back through. The world was turned on its head, unrecognizable. Time moved backward as we mentally retraced every moment of the previous 17 years to locate a reason for his actions.
Looking back I recall those weeks and the overwhelming amount of wistful moments of wondering, if we had only done this instead of that. If he had gone left, not right. Where would we be now? What would our life be like with a different decision at that pivotal moment? The life we coulda, shoulda, woulda had but didnta. The first days were the roughest, not knowing if he would survive or what shape he would be in if he did. Then as the weeks progressed the longing changed. As prayers were answered, others took their place. Please let him live, became please let him talk. Which became please let him see, turned to please let him walk. Which eventually turned to please let him graduate high school, have a “normal” life, be ok.
We are now fast approaching the 3rd anniversary. The wistful moments are not as prolific. The prayers not as urgent. Hindsight has given us all the necessary space and clarity. It’s taken this long for us to say farewell to those other lives. The ones that coulda, shoulda, woulda. They are just that, things that may have happened in that Looking-Glass World but that’s not where we live. We live here, in our current life, with its current joys and fears.
The reason I am writing this now is that I have found that the Looking-Glass has made its way to other portions of my life. There are times I look at my marriage, my job, my self through the Looking-Glass, wishing I could go back, reverse, re-do, reconstruct my past in order to make a better present for today. Those lives are an illusion that distract from the painfully beautiful truth of this current life. I, like Alice, have awoken to the fact that I am exactly where I need to be. Just as we all are. Each twist and turn an inevitable step towards becoming who we were always meant to be. Teaching us, growing us, shaping us often imperceptibly. Those moments may be brutally painful, they may seem unfair, often excruciating but they are all there for our own betterment. I can no longer pretend that all would be better without these events.
Farewell illusionary lives, I am through with the Looking-Glass.