Oh, to be blissfully ignorant!
CW: Mentions of depression, suicide, death
Before I say anything more, I want to assure you I’m working a folktale into this. I promise.
Occasionally, I’ll look back on yesteryear and think, “If I’d only known what I know now…” Yet, more and more these days, I envy those times of blissful ignorance. I look at photos from 2019 and that world is so foreign to me. That was before the pandemic, before so many deaths shaped who I am now. Every day since Covid took hold of our country, I’ve learned things about myself and the world. I’ve become more intelligent, but often less happy.
It’s all been a mixed bag.
You never know what you’re capable of until you’re pinned against the wall. I’ve always been good at performing under pressure and dealing with deadlines. What was 2020, if not one giant deadline? As I said in my last blog, that was the year I decided to put my stories out into the world finally—and I didn’t fail.
Another big accomplishment for that year is one I don’t talk about as much, but one of which I’m equally proud. I got serious about my mental health. I don’t want to go too deep into it, but I have C-PTSD and, as it turns out, I have Bipolar 2 as well. I’d been misdiagnosed as having major depression and anxiety for years. I’d tried med after med, but nothing helped with my near-constant suicidal ideation.
I have a lot of people I love and three kids I would do anything for. My wanting to be dead every day was hurting them, and I was determined to fight it. Long story short, I’m on the right meds because I finally have the correct diagnosis. My desire to die went away! It was quickly replaced by an all-consuming fear of death.
When my mom almost died…
When my book featuring a death harbinger published…
When I finally tallied the list of loved ones who departed this world…
When I realized how present death is every day…
I froze. I realized how close my brush with death had been. I was “cursed” with the knowledge of my own mortality.
Okay, ARK. Please get on to the folktale.
Lately, as I’ve struggled to move past my fears and toward my life goals, I’ve been thinking about a folktale that I loved as a kid but didn’t understand at all.
Intelligence and Luck
Once upon a time (I love a classic opening), Intelligence was enjoying a sunny day relaxing on a beautiful garden seat all by its lonesome. Intelligence is an introvert, so it didn’t appreciate it when Luck came by and said, “Make room for me!” (Rude.)
Intelligence wasn’t having any of that. With his elitism on full display, it responded, “Why should I make room for you? I’m better than you.”
Of course, Luck is a gambler, so it made a bet with Intelligence. It chose a peasant’s son ploughing a field, and told Intelligence that if it could make a better life than Luck could for that young man, Luck would concede that Intelligence was better.
At once, Intelligence entered the peasant’s mind, and the young man realized he was leading a nowhere life ploughing that field. He quit, left his home, and got a job as an apprentice to the King’s gardener.
Eventually, the student became the master, and he took over his teacher’s position. His intelligence was so amazing that he made the most splendid garden the King had ever seen. The whole royal family would go for long strolls, gazing at its beauty—including the beautiful Princess.
Unfortunately, the King’s daughter hadn’t spoken since she was 12-years-old. He was so distraught that he announced whoever could make his daughter speak again could marry her.
Being quite intelligent, the peasant-turned-gardener knew this was his chance to become rich and marry a beautiful woman. Instead of talking to the Princess, he spoke to her dog, and gave it a riddle.
A sculptor, a tailor, and I were traveling through a forest. Night came and to be safe from wolves, we took shifts by the fire, watching out for danger. The sculptor stayed up first. He got bored and carved a woman out of wood. The tailor had the next shift and sewed her a pretty dress. I had the last shift, and I taught her to speak. When my companions woke up, they were amazed, and each one claimed her as their own. The sculptor built her. The tailor dressed her. Both thought they deserved her more than me. I ask you, dear puppy, who does the woman belong to?
The dog didn’t talk, of course. It’s a folktale, not a fable. The Princess did. Since she lived in an incredibly oppressive patriarchal society, the woman ignored that she belonged only to herself and answered, “What’s the good of the sculptor’s build, if the woman has no life? What’s the good of the tailor’s dress, if she has no speech? You gave her life and speech, therefore she belongs to you.”
Everyone was amazed this woman was finally talking, and the intelligent riddler decided to claim his prize. He was ready to marry the Princess. He was still a peasant though, and the King wouldn’t make good on his promise. He offered riches instead, but the young man wanted his bride. He argued that the King’s word is law, and if he wanted others to follow it, then he should observe it himself.
That compelling, logical, intelligent argument got the peasant nowhere. The King sentenced the young man to death for insulting him.
As the young man walked to the guillotine, Luck said to Intelligence, “Well, we’ve seen what kind of situation your gift has led him into. Let’s see what I can do.”
The guillotine broke, dropping the blade to the ground, leaving the peasant unharmed. Before the executioner could fix it, a trumpeter on horseback galloped over to the crowd, getting everyone’s attention. Behind him, was the royal carriage. The King stepped out and proclaimed that he had changed his mind. He realized he could simply turn the peasant gardener into a prince and let him marry his daughter.
So the newly proclaimed Prince and the newly vocal Princess got married and lived happily ever after.
And what of Luck and Intelligence? Intelligence admitted defeat, and to this day makes plenty of room for Luck.
Now I get it.
As a kid, I longed to be gifted. I wanted others to respect me. I craved intelligence as much as candy. I didn’t get why Luck had to win that story. I understand better now. Over the past 11 months, I wish I’d had less intelligence and more luck. Yet, looking at where I am now and my full year of travel and book conventions ahead, I know my luck is turning around.
Book Deal Announcement!
We’re wrapping up the month of May, so now is the time to rush over and grab some books from the Mayhem and Magic sale! There are so many amazing fantasy reads there for low, low prices. Check it out!
Upcoming Event Announcement: Comicpalooza!
If you’re a geek like me, you definitely want to be in Houston from May 26th to May 28th. Comicpalooza is going to be HUGE. Amazing guests, such as Emilia Clarke (Daenerys) and Stephen Amell (Green Arrow) will be there! I will be autographing my books there as well. You can find out more here.
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