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I was reading about the origins of “Goldilocks.”

I’d never thought much about it. The story seems pretty timeless, always having been in my awareness. A precocious little girl who, lost in the woods, happens upon a cozy house in which she finds the perfect temperature of porridge, a right-sized chair, and a comfy place to sleep. It turns out, of course, that the home belongs to a family of Bears, who return home and discover her sleeping in Baby Bear’s bed. I don’t remember what happens next — she runs away, I think.

Researching a bit, I discovered a fair amount of controversy around the fairy tale. I’m not sure how serious the disputes are meant to be, but like a lot of other online forums, it gets pretty heated with differing opinions about who’s the antagonist in this fable, and what’s the intended message.

There are those who argue that Goldilocks is a burglar, a vandal, an entitled narcissist. They read it as a warning against selfishness, trespassing, and disrespect. And indeed, this perspective is somewhat supported by the earliest written versions of the story, which end up with the Bears throwing her into the fire and then impaling her on a spike for her crimes. In these original tellings, the intruder is a greedy old woman rather than a blonde-tressed ingenue. In other versions, she’s not human at all, but a fox. Until fairly recently, it was almost always titled “The Three Bears” — no mention of the invader at all — lending further credence to the idea that the Bears are the heroes, and that it’s very much their tale. The girl is a thieving annoyance who gets what’s coming to her — scared away, or worse.

But then, on the other side, some folks have held little Goldie up as a positive example. She doesn’t settle — she tries different things, different ways, until she finds what’s just right. She practices moderation — not too this, not too that. That’s mostly how I remembered the story. My takeaway was the noble pursuit of “just right” — which, if you can find it and secure it, will spell satisfaction, contentment, comfort, and happiness. Today, in science, if conditions are described as being in “Goldilocks zone,” it means that they are perfect. Things are exactly where and how they need to be for something to happen.

So, I’ve been chewing on all this. Thinking about how sometimes I identify with the Bears, interrupted and offended and outraged by outside variables. And also how I’m like Goldilocks, feeling my way through unfamiliar territory, trying to figure out what works for me and how to make the most of what’s available.

It’s interesting to note that the pursuit of Goldilocks conditions can be a process of careful discernment or of grumbly nit-picking. As we name and claim our good, we can be resourceful or we can be ungrateful. We can take full advantage of what we encounter, or we can trample over it, setting ourselves up for perpetual dissatisfaction. If we’re always after “just right,” that can easily turn our days into long slogs of identifying, rejecting, and suffering through everything that’s “just wrong.” Damned wrong.

Maybe the trick is to try to look for how it’s not so much about the conditions at all. Maybe “just right” isn’t really a matter of circumstances — the temperature of the oatmeal, the size of the chair, the firmness of the mattress, the balance of the bank account, the state of the union… I mean, of course we can care about these things, and some of them even matter.

But “just right” could be less about all that, and more simply a matter of who we are, who we know ourselves to be.

If we practice remembering that we are just right — for this world, these times, this life — then whatever’s going on, wherever we find ourselves, perhaps we can meet it with more grace, gratitude, compassion, and appreciation.

This Sunday, May 5, will be our last service at Maple Street Dance Space. A place that has felt just right for over six years. I hope that you will join us for celebration, ritual, and a blessing for the space and for ourselves on our journey.

We’ll be heading to our new Sunday home — q-Staff Theatre — next week, on May 12. And I know that it, too, will be just right. Because, you know what? We are just right, perfectly suited, poised, and prepared for anywhere and everywhere we find ourselves together. XO, Drew

©2024 Drew Groves

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