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Several factors went into the creation of this post and not the least of which is my having recently seen the cheesy tearjerker of a movie that inspired this title. Sandra Bullock also happens to star in this film and—purely as an aside—Sandy’s a public figure with whom I have lots in common.
The basics: Sandra’s fabulous, loaded, and funny. Plus she’s in great shape, she’s classy, and she’s a Hollywood darling. Then there’s the fact that I saw this movie (again) while taking a break from writing a lecture I’m giving that’s related to the very same topic of magic. I’d been spinning my wheels on it and was eager to kick my feet up with a bit of cinematic drivel when I realized the great connections between the film and real life—and not just because of my mystical kinship to Sandy.
The talk I’m giving is based on the premise that, instead of being some kind of otherworldly phenomena experienced by a select few, magic probably functions a lot more like luck. Meaning, it shows up once we’ve done our part in terms of putting in our hours, remaining vigilant, and paying dues. There was an ancient Roman philosopher named Seneca who once said, Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Replace luck with magic and I’m still down with what he’s saying. Almost entirely.
Here’s where the practical part enters in. Again, any results worth realizing will insist that we do what we must to help things along. And wouldn’t you know it, shortly after I started working in earnest on my lecture, here comes Practical Magic to help me illustrate my main points, of which there are about three.
The Beginning: Old Lines Sally Owens—insert your own name here if this feels familiar—comes from a long line of powerful women. For many generations these women have lived under a so-called curse cast by a disgruntled matriarch from way back. She was heartbroken and abandoned by a no-’count man. In her despair, she vowed that none of the women who came after her would ever know true love and any men they had would die horrible premature deaths. Generations later, Sally finds herself in love with a wonderful guy who dies a horribly premature death and, believing the curse, she falls prey to it, suffers miserably, and goes back to bed for months.
In the real world, this is a great parallel for showing us how we shut down our own magic, luck and opportunities by buying into The Story. We’ve never been lucky in love, you know. Nobody’s ever done that before. What makes you think you’re so smart? and Dreams? They’re not for us! If you’ve ever believed what I call the ‘lie of inheritance’ that says you must never be happier, more fulfilled, adventurous or actualized than anyone who ever lived in your immediate, extended, real or imaginary family, then, well, you’ve just shut down your own magic. And that’s simply not a practical thing to do if you want to embark on a new life path, now is it?
The Middle: Breaking Points Sally Owens—insert your own name here if this feels familiar—has now given up on love, she’s closed off a natural, magical part of herself just to fit in, and it’s all backfiring big time. She’s feeling alienated and trapped, and oh how she suffers! Then, as life would have it, she is forced into a situation that forces her to drum up her magic to save her sister’s life and, ultimately, her own. It doesn’t stop there. She also has to ‘come out’ to her community and let them see her as the wildly gifted woman she is.
Have you ever had an experience where you’ve whittled and wedged yourself down into an unwelcoming environment that you hoped would embrace you but didn’t? Well, you don’t have to be David Blaine to know that even though stuffing yourself into somebody else’s box is a pretty good trick, it’s hardly an act of magic.
The End: Last Words So Sally Owens—insert your own name here if this feels familiar—has survived the massive challenge of accepting herself and has finally come to appreciate who she is, along with her magic. Once she does she breaks the curse, which in turn, releases its hold on everyone up and down the family line. We know it’s Hollywood, and they’ve only got about 85 minutes to make for a tidy ending while our own stories tend to drag out a whole lot longer. But, here’s my point: clinging to the old narratives of being born under a bad sign only have as much power as you give them.
When you consider your own experience, look at the ways you might be unwittingly cutting yourself off from your own magic. Look at your family story, the story of your environment, and your own personal bio, too. Do you ever catch yourself telling yourself things like this: Oh, I’m not really creative. I couldn’t possibly write anything people would read, or No way could I ever get up in front of a big crowd and talk about spiritual things. Magic? Really? Who does that. Or what about this one: I’ve never had (fill in the blank), and neither has anybody in my family. I can’t see it, so I guess it’s out of the question, thank you not so much.
Sally’s last lines send me into histrionics every time. She asks, Can love really travel back in time to heal a broken heart? Was it our joined hands that finally lifted Maria’s curse? I’d like to think so. She says other stuff too, but I’m usually wailing too loud by that point and blubbering back to the screen, Yes, Sally, ye-heh-hesss! Not to give the ending away or anything, but love turns out to be the practical magic that breaks the curse and mends the family after all. Like I said, it’s Hollywood. I’m sure you saw that one coming.
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