Beware of Sugarcoating – That Time Mickey Punched My Dad

Wow – finally – the trip of a lifetime was happening. And also… FLYING!?!? Like in a plane? Boy oh boy. Talk about wishes coming true.

Yes that’s right – after years of watching Disney animated classics with my sibs, laced with overt and covert come-hither invitations to see the actual kingdom in person, we were finally doing it. Yup. Peak life.

Writing this now – I should have known it was too good to be true.

Dad? You OK?

Tough as nails. That was my dad. Bug? Squashed. Dead batteries in remote? Replaced. Lawn? Cut. Thursday night? Garbage cans on curb.

But when my Dad took that sucker punch, a wild upper cut from a white glove the size of a human head – no amount of dadness could save him. He was out. Cold. The only thing blocking his lifeless face from the merciless Florida sun was the monster-sized shadow of Mickey looking down with a devastating Chesire cat grin.

It was a true deer in headlights situation. I mean I was five – how could I have protected him? Then within seconds, Mickey was gone.

No Refund? F’in Seriously?


Shouted mom emotionally to customer service- referring to my dad who was now semi-conscious but still couldn’t remember his own name or how to walk.

“Sorry ma’am. We understand. However – if you review all the disclosures on your ticket, to which you are legally bound, we are not responsible for Mickey’s abrupt outbursts of vile behavior – propensities which all mouse-kind is capable of, propensities which invariably lurk within the shadow-self of ALL mice, as illuminated by Carl Gustav Jung. Much as we try to maintain a best face here at Magic Kingdom, it would would make zero business-sense to hold ourselves responsible for these inevitable eruptions of primal mouse nature.

Once you get a hold of your emotions, ma’am, we are certain you will see the logic here.

Regardless, ma’am, we have complimentary shuttle service to the airport – it’s probably best for you and Mickey to have some space while things are raw.”

The Airport

Ever feel like you are in a movie? Like it’s your life – but you’re just observing like a zombie. I remember watching some guy eat pizza hut – not the legit pizza hut – but the knockoff airport-terminal-pizza-hut which is amazing specifically because you are at the airport – and not feeling anything. ANYTHING. That’s how lifeless I was. Stunned and violated – as was my entire family. Our fantasy of magic kingdom was not just stolen from us – but so was our dignity and hope. Even if we did make it home safely, even if my dad recovered just fine, even once this was all past us… what would we look forward to?

This was obviously too insane of a question to digest in that moment – but I was left to sit with it anyway. Before I knew it, I was home again. It was Thursday night. My mom asked me to take the garbage out because my dad was still out of commission.

The Hard Lesson

It took time. Not months. Years. But finally, I can see this situation with clarity.

It wasn’t the punch that left a supermassive black hole of dread in my life. Nor was it the callous – matter-of-fact reaction of customer service to our circumstances.

Yes – those things were bad. But it turns out that the true fundamental root of my suffering was the belief that happiness exists in some other place than I already am. In some magic kingdom where everything was ok – where everything is perfectly perfect and happily ever after. The expectation that life could only be that way in a special Florida swamp – or any other place – with stars totally aligned.

It seems society sugarcoats the hardest truths about life. And in the long run that sugar really hurts us. It gives us expectations that are unrealistic about “happiness”, and eventually, those expectations come crashing down like a house of cards. And magic kingdom, metaphorically, is the epitome of sugar. It represents many aspects of culture that seed sensations in our minds about dream life. A factory of happy stories belied by harsher reality.

Happiness doesn’t come from fantasy. It comes from acknowledging the beauty in everything as it is – sweetness, ugliness, high and low tides of emotions, and everything in between. A vast continuum of experience and we ought not cling to any of it, nor try to contrive it. Just witness it all like passing clouds in the sky… and observe the awe and relief that stem from that.

Yup. Turns out the real magic kingdom is in us, always, it’s just a matter of perspective, reflection, and knowing how to kill the relentless roar of anticipation.

Given this epiphany, how can I not be grateful? Thank you Mickey. For punching my dad and showing me the truth.

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