"I remember I used to half believe and wholly play with fairies when I was a child. What heaven can be more real than to retain the spirit-world of childhood?"
-- Beatrix Potter
Real life can be bland, boring and sometimes bleak. Our lives are shaped by routine: get up, eat, go to work, get home, do housework, go to bed. We never open our closets to see a little sprinkling of Narnian snow on the shoulders of shirts. We never meet talking rabbits running late or grinning Cheshire cats. We never find fairies dancing at the bottom of our gardens. But still we want to believe in the possibility of magic, or at least, I do.
Do you remember when you were a child who only saw a tiny slice of the world so everything and anything seemed possible. My favorite book as a little girl was The Water Babies, and I held onto my belief that there might, just might, be little beings living in every river and stream long into my teenage years. Of course, I never told my friends, who were by then engaged in the important real-life pursuits of putting on makeup and flirting with boys. Had I been growing up in Victorian Britain though, I would have been in fine company, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (author of Sherlock Holmes) who apparently believed in fairies so firmly that he wrote a book about it, titled The Coming of the Fairies.
Doyle's life was bleak (many of his family members died during WWI) so it's hardly surprising that he'd want to believe in something lovely and light to help lift him up from all that darkness. Beatrix Potter's fiancée died and perhaps that gave impetus to her magical outlook on life. But, even when life isn't bleak, when it's just a little boring or bland, just the very idea of magic is enough to lift our spirits, fill our hearts and bring a secret little smile to our lips.
Miracles happen. Ones that are man-made and ones we can't explain. And when they do, I rejoice. But they don't happen often enough for my liking (at least one miracle in the world every day would be lovely) and so I have to make some up. It's probably why I became a writer, so I could live in magical made-up worlds most of the time. I write to lift my own heart and those of my readers.
Personally, I don't understand why people urge others to be "realistic" -- usually just another word for "pessimistic" -- as if expecting the worst will somehow cushion the blow if the worst actually happens. In my experience it's just the opposite. Optimistic people tend to bounce back from bad things much better than pessimistic ones. I feel they also make friends and find love more easily. And, in my experience, optimistic people lead much happier lives in general while not worrying and anticipating awful events around every corner.
Real life can be difficult enough, being too realistic will only make you depressed. The best way to deal with reality, in my experience, is to bring as much magic to it as possible!
How to Add a Little More Magic to Your Life:
- Go for walks, especially in woods and fields or at the bottom of overgrown gardens.
- Join in the make-believe games of young children.
- Turn off your cell phone/internet/computer for a day -- or even a few hours, if you're really addicted -- and forget about the outside world.
- Spend a week not reading newspapers or watching the news.
- Read Magical Realism novels, or any book that lifts your spirits, fills your heart and brings a smile to your lips. A few favorites of mine include: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and almost everything by Alice Hoffman.
- Watch magical films. My absolute favorite is The Butcher's Wife, with Demi Moore. I defy you to watch that and not -- or at the very least want to -- believe in magic afterward.
For more by Menna van Praag, click here.
For more on the spirit, click here.