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A whole year has gone by since I last wrote about seeing The Nutcracker with my son. And, magically, it's completely different this year. Last year it was about the transformative power of love. This year....

I've spent a year sinking deeper into the subconscious, body-level of awareness and intelligence. I've spent a year learning to live in my unrational, uncontrollable side, and be with others from that place. I've spent a year learning to take off my Nutcracker head.

And, just like last year, I burst into tears when the Nutcracker turns into a prince. “Aaahh! That feels better!” he says, and he moves freely. This is what happens when you live in the world of the subconscious. Of dreams, of animal bodies, of hearts that know nothing of wit and self-defence. When you stop dancing from your feet and start dancing from your heart, everything changes.

But something had changed between then and now. This year, the idea of love is incidental to the larger story of our heroine: the story of Clara, her process, her journey, her self-discovery. After all, The Nutcracker is a dream, and there's those who say that everyone in our dreams is a manifestation of ourselves. So when we meet her, Clara is just a little girl in an ordinary prosperous household. But as she journeys farther and farther into her subconscious, away from her feet and into her heart, many vivid and evocative archetypes unfold within her, that are brighter and more intense than the everyday outside world she lives in. Conflict, love, transformation, beauty, and random shit that nobody can figure out but is clearly important. Presumably she ate too many sugar-plums before going to bed.

Last year I thought that the Nutcracker turned Clara into a princess. But this year I think that she turns into a princess all by herself, by dint of experiencing life. Eventually she's seen and felt enough, she just tootles into her magic mirror and comes out a princess. The Nutcracker Prince needed her to save him, and that's how he loses his wooden exterior and can breathe freely. But she doesn't need anybody but herself. She just does what she has to do, saves a Prince, vanquishes a Mouse King, sees a lot of beautiful dancing, lets time go by, and...bam. Princess. Or, you could see it as, she dreams and dreams and as she dreams she travels farther and farther away from her external self and more and more into her internal princessy self, by resolving internal conflicts and growing progressively more away of the beauty inside her. Potato, potahto.

Now about the tragic side of that story. Which is real? The dream or the bourgeois house with the Christmas tree? Are they both real? Is one realer than another? Do they coexist? Is one only a fantasy? For if we take The Nutcracker as a love story, this year it tells me that as we grow to love people more and more, we leave behind the wooden toy and the child in the nightgown, and travel progressively more into one another's subconscious, where we meet as princes and princesses, our inside most beautiful selves. This is a happy story. But just when we believe that the beautiful inside self is the only truth, and that we are princesses dancing forever with princes in the land of lush music and nice costumes...the little girl wakes up.

And there are no more princes. There are only awkward wooden kitchen implements, broken the night before by our little brothers. And it does no good to say, “but I saw that you were a prince! I know you are a prince inside! I can still see the prince if I close my eyes hard enough!”

The prince is still there. But so is the nutcracker. And the nutcracker is, sadly, the reality with which we must contend on a daily basis.

We can go on loving the toys, remembering when they set aside their wooden outsides and let their princely hearts dance. You never know. Maybe some day we will dream again.

And what about them? They dreamed they were dancing with beautiful princesses, and then they wake up, and we are still just little girls in nightgowns, who had moments of glory. We, however, are at least human. And little girls, unlike wooden toys, have the potential to grow up into great ladies.

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