The Legend: The sun hung like an ambered jewel betwixt the clouds as Prince Mitch hacked his way into the Dandelion Forest. Legion were those that stood against him, beyond counting the blades he faced. Yet all that affronted him he struck down, his own blade whirling. “Got you! Got you!” he shouted. And in response, the grateful peasants cried, “God bless ye, sir!'”
The Reality: I mowed yesterday. The self-propel function was broken, and the mower resisted my every step. Plus, I’d let the grass grow too long, so my allergies were out of control. I repeatedly sneezed, “Gachoo! Gachoo!” and the neighbors kept shouting, “God bless you!”
There’s some something to be said for mythologizing yourself. “When the legend becomes fact,” a newspaper editor advises in the classic western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “print the legend.” Why?
Because myths bring truth to the surface.
My wife Trudy once worked for a private investigation firm. Because of her research skills, she was put on a case that required a year of mind-numbing data crunching. But in the end, they were able to expose a massive ponzi scheme: a multi-state string of fake dry cleaners run by a twenty-year-old flimflam man. When the story hit the headlines, it read like an edge-of-the-seat thriller. False report? Yes, the work had been ponderously slow. But in the end they’d routed out a sleazy little mole and rescued the life savings of thousands of people. Truth: My wife was a hero. A slow-motion hero, but a hero nevertheless.
My daughters’ childhood bedroom was a magic portal, a place where stories came to life. I can still see their eyes shining like lanterns as I told them improvised “Princess Amanda and Elizabeth” stories at bedtime (which later evolved into a fantasy novel The Wishing Map), and as their mother and I sang them to sleep. And when they played (we listened at the door), their room became a mysterious island, a flying ship, Dickensian London (our daughters were first class ragamuffins).
Was it truly a magical place? Yes and no. There were times my stories fell flat or the girls were cranky, or when they were restless and refused to stay in bed.
And yet today they are both gifted imagineers who share a deep beyond-birth bond founded in countless fanciful adventures. And when they talk about that time, their eyes still shine like lanterns. And so do their mother’s and mine.
Yes, we’ve mythologized it. And I have no shame in confessing this. Because the memory of that room, enlarged by willful mythologizing, has pulled a deeper truth to the surface: it was, in fact, a place where deep bonds of love and courage were forged.
So mythologize yourself. Embrace your personal legends, and you may just discover hope and strength to push on in discouraging times, or to burnish the good times. Yes, live the fact, but celebrate the legend. And when the legend becomes fact,
Print the legend.