This is a story you may be familiar with. Even though it may not have been one read to you before bed when you were a child perhaps you will still recognize it...perhaps you will know it by heart because it happened to you.
Once there was a girl, an ordinary girl, a girl just like the other girls. One of her favorite things to do was stroll into the woods every evening to her favorite berry bush and feast on the luscious plump berries. She wasn't certain exactly what kind of berries they were but she loved them. They were shiny and juicy and popped in her mouth when she bit into them. They were so sweet only a handful was needed to satisfy her cravings. She just knew they must be magical because every evening after sitting in front of the bush eating to her hearts content she always felt a little more like herself. This was her evening ritual, never fail, and once she felt she'd eaten enough for the day she'd meander back home, her lips and fingers stained purple, her knees streaked with grass stains.
One evening while enjoying the delicious berries the girl noticed that in the very far reaches of the bush there were the plumpest, biggest, fattest, juiciest berries she'd ever seen. She just knew they would be delicious. Her heart wanted them. Her mouth watered for them. All she had to do was stretch her arm as far as she could and take them. But there was a small problem. Although these berries were the best and sweetest in the world the bush also had thorns, thrones that scraped and ripped, thrones whose stick stung like a thousand angry bees. The girl was determined. She was aware of the thorns so she knew if she was careful she could easily pluck the berries from their branch. And so she got on her hands and knees, took one deep breath, and stretched as far as she could. They were a little further than she realized and so she had to scoot a little closer to the bush and stretch a little deeper into the branches. Just when they were so close she could feel their sweetness on her finger tips the girl lost her balance and tumbled into the thorny branches. She could feel the thorns scratching at her face and arm. She could feel her flesh stinging. She was able to wiggle from her stomach to her back and then into a seated position but she couldn't free herself from the grip of the branches. The thorns were latched firmly onto her cotton dress and the red ribbons in her hair. She was pinned into place, unable to set herself free.
When the girl realized she was stuck she panicked. She thrashed about violently trying to break loose but the more she moved the deeper the thorns lodged themselves. Soon she was exhausted from fighting them and all she knew to do was sit in stillness and weep. Once she had a chance to release her scared and frustrated tears she felt a bit more calm and logical. Of course someone would come along and help her. She just had to wait patiently. After all she was raised on stories about knights in shining armor and gallant princes on fiery steeds. She knew the stories by heart. There was alway a hero to come to the rescue of a damsel in distress and she was definitely in distress. It was just a matter of time.
Soon the sun set and no hero had arrived. Still the girl waited. The moon rose, the stars shined, the birds and animals slept and the girl waited. By the time the sun rose the girl was starting to feel anxious. She felt as if her hope was being tested. She wanted to pass the test and so she continued to wait. Through the day she fed herself berries and entertained herself by counting the freckles on her arms and the naming the birds that landed on the branches of the bush to feed themselves. But the further the sun rose into the sky the more her anger grew. Where was her knight? Where was her prince charming? She knew about the kiss that woke a sleeping kingdom. She knew the call of "Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your hair." She knew the poison didn't kill Snow White. She knew miracles happened and everyone lived happily ever after. So why was she still sitting here stuck? As these thoughts spun around in her head her anger turned to rage. The sun burned the sky and the girls rage burned her heart. Even the sun's setting in the west, ushering in the cool night breeze, couldn't quench the fire she felt burning behind her eyes.
By morning her rage had turned to sadness. The truth was finally beginning to set in: No one was coming. Tears began to roll down the girl's cheeks and what was worse, doubt began to enter her heart. She found herself wondering, "What if no one is coming to my rescue because I'm not good enough, not pretty enough? What if no one wants to help me because I'm too broken." A cold depression set in and for the rest of the day the girl sat in the branches, her knees pulled into her chest, her head resting on her knees, tears wetting her dress and dripping onto the cool earth. The birds still came to feed but this time she paid them no mind. The sun still made it's journey from east to west but the girl didn't even notice the time. The only thing she took note of was the pieces of her heart breaking and dropping to her toes. That night the exhaustion from her volleying emotions finally caught up to her and she slept long and hard.
When the girl woke she felt refreshed. The rest had done her good and she sensed a shift in her perspective of her situation. Her muscles ached from sitting in this same position for days and she knew she had to find a way out. Maybe there were knights whose sole purpose in life was to travel the land performing good deeds. Maybe there was a prince or two out there ready to rescue a pretty face. Maybe some of the fairy tales were true but obviously it was time to stop waiting. It was time to find a way to save herself. The girl knew she was going to have to use her own courage, her own ingenuity, her own creativity to find a way out of this mess. And she could. She knew she could. Once she had her berry breakfast to give herself some strength she began to ease the thorns out of her dress one by one. And this time they seemed to comply. It was if they no longer felt her fear and helplessness and instead sensed her wisdom and power. The girl did all she could but it wasn't quite enough. She couldn't reach the back of her dress and there were some thorns tangled in the ribbons in her hair that her fingers just couldn't work out. She was so close to being free and yet she just couldn't quite get there.
After three days of sitting in the bush she knew the birds pretty well. She knew their song. She knew their colors. She had spent a lot of time talking to them, letting them rest on her head and arms as they ate. She had even named most of them. The birds began to arrive for their morning meal and the girl knew this was the help she needed. She gently and kindly enlisted their assistance giving each one instructions on how to loosen her dress and her bows from the clenches of the thorns. Using their delicate beaks the birds plucked the girls dress and bows free. Finally she could crawl out of the branches of the bush. Finally she could stand and walk. Finally she was loose. And that feeling of being loose was more sweet than any berry she'd ever put into her mouth. That afternoon as she walked home, a little bruised, a little bloodied, and a lot wiser, the girl felt a new confidence in herself. And even though every inch of her body ached she walked with her head higher and her shoulders lowered because she knew just what she was capable of. She knew she could be her own hero.