I flew through Robyn Peterman’s latest Magic and Mayhem novel, A Tale of Two Witches. I was delirious as I turned the pages and sorry to read the final sentence. Robyn Peterman is unique in her ability to write about Marsupial Demon Slayers together with serious themes of despair and redemption and make it work and show us, once again, that there is ground truth in fun, fantasy fiction. This installment tells the story of Sassy, Zelda's slightly dim, but loyal and well-meaning BFF. Sassy is a mass of seething insecurity covered by a thick layer of self-doubt and self-hatred. She's convinced she can't do much of anything right, and sure that the kangaroo shifter of her dreams, Jeeves, will see through her external beauty to the ugliness she's positive it hides. She lives in fear of the other shoe dropping (about which I wrote here) and has accepted that any happiness or goodness in her life must be a mistake. Her parents, needless to say, did a number on her and she's lived with the consequences her whole life. On the plus side, Sassy has a best friend, a romantic partner, adopted children and a Goddess, all of whom are willing to love her into loving herself.
This is a story about redemption—and one to which I could relate. We've talked about it here before: careless, malicious parents make Jack and Jill fucked up for life—or at least until serious therapy and a bit of luck and grace can, sometimes, turn things around. It worked for Sassy and it worked for me. It's a formula for success: find people who love us fiercely and let them love us until we can love ourselves – so simple, yet so true.
In A Tale of Two Witches, Sassy is just staying until she gets the boot, at least in her own mind. She knows that she isn't a good or valuable person, but she's hoping some of her man's good nature will rub off on her via osmosis as she cleaves to him in love until he scrapes her off like a barnacle on the bottom of a boat. He can't convince her he doesn't feel that way, but vows to stay until she believes. She's dubious, but grateful for the reprieve -- while it lasts, of course.
Evidence of Sassy's worth abounds, but she is blind to it. Does any of this sound familiar to anyone but me? For much of my life I felt like a total fraud, convinced that if people knew the real me, no one would ever love me. My heart melted for Sassy as her loved ones tried valiantly to convince her she was lovable, to no avail. Sassy's self- loathing was deep and seemingly wise. Of course, as this is fiction, Sassy finds self-love rather quickly, which results in her HEA. In fact, one of the best things about this book is that the heroine's HEA is all about learning to love herself, rather than finding a man to love her. Sassy starts the book with the love of her mate, but it's only by the end that she believes in it.
Because this blog is called "Truth in Fantasy," we can be sure that Sassy's tale has something to teach the rest of us living in the real world. Sassy finds self-love through paying attention to all that she is and all that she does. She also finally realizes that if so many awesome people love her, there must be more to her than she knows.
I have a friend about whom I've spoken before, who has grown and evolved exponentially in the past few years through a daily practice of listing her gratitudes and successes. Every single day for the past four and a half years, this woman has sat down to take note of what she did well that day and what she's grateful for. I think it takes her about fifteen or so minutes each night and she treats the task like a holy obligation. And, as a result of her acknowledging that she does many things well each and every day, over the years the denigrating voices that have attacked her from childhood have slowly softened to the point where she barely hears them nowadays. And when she does, she's able to banish those voices to the depths of Hell from whence they came. Yes, those voices, the ones that tell us we're not lovable are just plain wrong. The ones that drown out those who give us ‘atta boys’ and backslaps, even when the praise is external to us and the nastiness is self- inflicted. This is because, in the immortal words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, the bad stuff is easier to hear. Why is that? Another question to ask God if I ever get to meet Her. I have no blessed clue. But I know it's true. Which is why I've worked so hard to say positive things to my own children. But they have their insecurities too, and I don't think I put them there, so maybe this shit is hard wired into our cells as part of the human condition. Or at least it is for most of us. It is the rare human who believes in their own goodness and innate worth. I haven't met a lot of these people, but they are wildly attractive to the rest of us because we want what they have. Like Sassy with Jeeves. Those who are truly humble, embracing their own gifts and talents without hubris or any pretenses of perfection, are few and far between. I've always wanted to be like that, and I'm working hard to get there.
Like Sassy, I have a partner who loves me and a BFF who couldn't be more supportive or loving. I have kids who adore me and devoted friends. All of this, plus some heavy-duty therapy and other kinds of help have shifted my self-hate toward something more resembling self-acceptance. I'm working toward self-love and I mean to get there. Maybe by the time I'm a purple and red hat-wearing grandmother, I'll have achieved the holy grail of self-love and feel the sparkly stuff in my insides described by Sassy when she finally loves herself as much as everyone else does.
It's wonderful that someone wrote a paranormal romance about learning to love ourselves and made it hot and sexy, fun and fabulous, while paying homage to the fact that all true romance begins at home in our very own hearts.