back to the frontier

Please note, if you’ve been keeping up with my story, today’s post picks up where “I am a Ball” left off. We took a slight detour with the talismans the other day, and honestly, last week already feels like it happened a month ago, so if you need a refresher, I hope you’ll take a look back. Now, we continue:

After the Pixar ball, things began lightening in California. I was finding the small, beautiful details; living in the once-in-a-lifetime moments; allowing myself to cry happy tears at good things and not feel the bad things quite as strongly.

It sounds crazy, but it was like a switch had been flipped. I was more than fine. I was here. And things were wonderful. LA might have not been my cup of tea, but Disney was. I was surrounded by people who loved me in a magical place where I now had the freedom to let it go and just be happy. And what a wonderful, wild gift that was.

I was struck by the realization that, in many of my more recent trips to the Disney Universe, I hadn’t been “in it” – like, I just couldn’t get the same emotional high that I once had as a child. But this time around, I felt like a kid. I felt like a big, grown up kid. And it felt right. It felt freeing. So I let it go. Or rather, I let myself go.

I knew that I was still me. I was still a writer, still a woman, still a thinker and a lover and a daughter. I was still a wild woman, but I was pursuing this wildness in a new way – in a way that unabashedly allowed me to just be right there in the moment, wherever it was going to take me.

Isn’t it strange when we grant ourselves that kind of permission? I mean – it’s hard! It’s tough letting go of our thoughts and our wants and our aspirations. But sometimes, we need to. Sometimes, we just need to have a little fun.

And that’s what I did. I had the best time wandering around Pixar Pier at California Adventure, spotting all the Toy Story characters and racing around on an Incredibles-themed coaster that made me giggled more than scream. I danced along to the Jackson 5 as the new Guardians of the Galaxy-themed Tower of Terror plunged us through the air. And I laughed to myself all the way through Cars Land, as I picked up on the subtle play of words scattered throughout the park – little jokes that I could only understand because of who I am today.

Nostalgia is so often a faraway gaze that centers on our childhood but rarely allows us to get too close. But one of my favorite things to do as we bounced around the parks was to reflect on the loves I had as a child that have brought me here today.

And the best one of all . . . was Frontierland.

You see, when I first went to Disney World at the ripe old age of 7, Frontierland was my favorite part. I’m pretty sure I made my parents ride Splash Mountain at least 13 times on that trip. But to this day, I still feel a sense of ease in the good ole frontier of Disney. A feeling once fueled by my intense desire to know that stomach-flipping sensation you get when you’re falling down a hill has since been replaced by a sincere yearning for the sights, sounds, and smells of the area.

And it’s no surprise I was craving it so hard on this particular trip, because it had Wild Woman written alllllll over it:

It’s funny to me now because, as a kid – when I first really began feeling an attraction to this place – I was still all about the plush Minnie Mouse character dolls and the princess collector pins. My attraction to Frontierland didn’t really make sense. But I loved it there, so much so that I had a little leather bracelet made at one of the mercantile shops to remember it by. I still have it – and I’ve had new ones made along the way, too.

So why does it matter? Maybe because those mountainous desert facades that encapsulate that area are now the thing I crave most. And the pioneer life is, well, not exactly what I’m living these days – but it’s pretty darn close. I don’t know who or what I wanted to be when I was 7 years old (probably a veterinarian or a princess), but I know I wasn’t dreaming of the life I might find in Frontierland, the life I’ve managed to find today. And yet, here I am: a country music fan, a wanderer in the wilderness, and a “farm girl.” That’s oddly suspicious to me.

In a way, it occurred to me as we passed through the rocky Frontierland tunnel, that my fairy tale came true. There weren’t any ogres to fight (though I’ve managed to meet some pretty not-so-princelike men in my past), I don’t sit in my grassy pastures singing to the goats, and if I had to wear a ballgown right now I wouldn’t even be able to survive. Much as I love my Disney princesses, their stories weren’t mine to have. (Though there’s still a little Wild in them left to be revealed. . .)

Those of us who believe we’ve found our fairy tale in the frontier are dreamers, doers, adventurers and explorers. We’re looking at things a little differently – and our lives will likely never be easy or go as planned. But they’ll definitely be exciting. They’ll open our hearts and our minds. And they’ll give us more to live for than we ever dreamed of before.

Each of our fairy tale endings might look a little different from one another, but ultimately – if we manage to find the one we’re looking for – our happily ever after is right there in sight. And dreams do come true.

So, really, what’s the harm in finding a little love for Disney in our stressed-out, worried, and business-filled lives?

I’d call it the perfect medicine.