The Glass Mountain And The Sensible Child

…and then one day she realized that her life was not wonderful. That she was miserable. That people were being cruel to her, and when she said something, she was told to be grateful that she had friends that cared about her enough to treat her so cruelly for her own good.

It probably won’t surprise you, my dear, to learn that she got angry.

Yes, indeed, she did. And the person that she got angry with was herself—


But this happens a great deal, you know.

Ah. You are a sensible child, I see.  Well, perhaps she was not so sensible. And it is not so unreasonable, you know. If you get angry at other people, there is often a great deal of yelling and fighting. Our heroine hated yelling, and she cried when she was angry.

(Though I do hear that goes away with menopause—


Oh. Ask your mother. I am sure that she will be happy to explain it to such a sensible child.)

At any rate, it is a great deal easier to be angry with yourself. There is less yelling. And you do not have any of the excuses that you can invent for other people—that maybe they didn’t know, or had bad childhoods, or were badly frightened by spiders when they were small.

I am afraid you will simply have to trust me on this one.

Well. I could tell you a great many stories that fit inside this one, but it would take a long time. There are stories we tell ourselves, you know, about how lucky we are and how much worse off other people are. There are people dying right now in camps strung with barbed wire, and how can anyone feel sorry for themselves by comparison? At least you’re not dead and everything mostly works and nobody makes you eat maggots on toast.

Yes, it is a great deal like eating your vegetables because children are starving somewhere. Other people’s misery is supposed to be some kind of garnish to improve the taste, I suppose. I was never entirely clear on how that worked.

Seems a bit ghoulish, doesn’t it?


There were days when our heroine stood on street corners and thought “Someday, I will leave,” and felt nothing at all. And there were days when she curled into a ball on the couch and ached, and there were days she went along with everything because she was so afraid that this was the best it could be and no one else would ever want her again.

Am I talking about her job or her husband?

Well, yes.

When you love something, it has its fingers wrapped around your heart, whatever it may be. You’ll learn that soon, if you haven’t already.

I am afraid that being sensible will not help you much with that.

At any rate. Eventually things move on. All the brave knights ride at the glass mountain until they get to the top or get tired of sliding down the sides and go home to their mothers or lovers or cats.

I would like to tell you that the heroine got fed up and got angry with people who deserved it. It’s a better story that way, certainly. Would you like her to have a silver sword and cut the heads off her enemies?

I would, too. Let’s pretend that’s what happened.

But you cannot cut your own head off with a silver sword—no, you can’t. I see you trying to work out the mechanics. Trust me on this one—oh, fine. But it requires pulleys, all right?

At any rate, you are still left alone, at the end, with the person that you are in the habit of being mad at.

I know, I know.

Perhaps it will please you to know that in time, she got tired of sliding down that glass mountain, too. She stopped thinking of all the times when she should have stood up and said “Enough! No more!” and walked away—from her job, from her lover, from people who claimed to be friends—and getting angry at herself for not standing up.

And she stopped thinking “At least it’s not maggots on toast.”

Instead she thought “That was horrible, and that poor girl didn’t deserve it. Even if it was me.”

And a long time later, when she could hardly see the glass mountain in the distance any more, she thought “Goodness, if I lived through all that, I must be very stubborn and tough as nails to boot.”

And she stopped worrying about all the times she curled up on the couch and cried and started thinking about all the times she got up afterwards and splashed water on her face and went on, because work still had to do be done and art still had to be made and somebody always has to feed the cat and count out the till and turn off the lights at the end of the day.

She thought “At least I always got up again.” And she began to think rather tenderly of her younger self, as someone who was not terribly bright, perhaps, but who kept getting up again, and who had eventually turned her back on glass mountains.

Her silver sword? Well, she hung it up over the doorway. If you’ve got a silver sword, after all, it’s no good if you don’t know where it is so that you can get to it.

She met quite a few people who knew about glass mountains, too. She loved some of them very much, and she was mostly patient with the ones who kept throwing themselves at the sides of their own glass mountains, although not that patient, because some memories still made her tired.

An end? Well, I don’t know the end yet. She hasn’t died, you know. And hardly anyone lives happily ever after, unless they have one of those wires in their brains—on second thought, let’s not talk about that.



I could make one up, I suppose. We don’t really have a convenient villain to dance in red-hot iron boots….

No. We are not taking nominations.

Let’s have pie. I think pie would be a good end to this story, don’t you?

See, I knew you were a sensible child.

16 thoughts on “The Glass Mountain And The Sensible Child

  1. tanita says:

    Thank you for this.
    I’m going to pass it along to some friends who are glaring at their glass mountains and just coming to some conclusions about how often they slide down.

    And yes, I think pie is the right answer here. Thank you. ☺

  2. ??? says:

    I don’t get it. WHO LIVES LIKE THAT? Srsly? That is beyond sad and pathetic. Heh, I guess all the years I spent taking shit for being a non-conformist made me the “winner”. Well no duh. This story made me mad for a few minutes, then sad for a few more, and now I just don’t care. I’m a member of the 1% who has saved themselves from societal bullshit. For the rest of you…yeah, I should care…but I don’t. Grow a pair, stand up, and MAKE A REAL LIFE!

  3. Lizzie Bean says:

    Oh my god, thank you so much for this. After how my life’s gone recently (and I mean more than just the last 4-5 months), this is so unbelievably therapeutic. <3

    I also find it ironic how someone posting anonymously is telling people to "grow a pair", but that is neither here nor there and they're not worth worrying about. 😉

  4. boutet says:

    I can’t believe how well this matches with my own life, and my own experiences with moving on. It is beautiful to read, even if it is also sad and painful. It’s the most lovely and deft description I think I will ever find for the pain of it, and I thank you for writing it.

  5. The Author says:

    *grin* Me, I’m just amazed they got to the 1% thing from there.

    Perhaps they were out of pie.

    Thank you, all, for the words–kind and otherwise!–and repost at will.

  6. The Gecko says:

    Don’t feed the trolls, right? Well, unless they’re the right decent sort of troll – or maybe the very hungry sort of troll. Quite frankly, if the fellow (or lady!) is so far removed from society, I’m not sure their *ahem* “advice” is terribly pertinent to us commoners anyway.

    But enough about that!

    As someone who was consistently picked on and made to feel as though I was somehow always wrong while growing up, it’s nice to be reminded that other people deal with that crap as well. To this day, I’m still pretty insecure and anytime there’s disagreement or criticism, I’ll just jump to assuming I’m wrong until I can convince myself otherwise. While it’s not quite self-loathing, I can sympathise with that. I definitely get the conflict avoidance thing, and understand the desire to avoid rather than confront or stand up for oneself. That probably made me sound like a wreck, which isn’t true – it’s just the struggle of consciously NOT thinking that way that gets to you, especially when you don’t really have many positive people around to lean on every now and then.

    Anyway, like I said, it’s nice to be reminded that other people (GLORIOUS PEOPLE!) understand all that crap every now and then. I’m kind of curious if some of that comes from personal experience, but also don’t want to poke at old wounds if that’s the case.

  7. The Gecko says:

    Wait, that sounded horrible, what with the “it’s nice to be reminded that other people deal with that crap as well” bit.

    What I clearly (I hope!) meant was that it’s nice to be reminded that you’re not the only one, other people understand that stuff, etc.

  8. kettlesmith says:

    This makes me want to punch your ex husband all over again, and I’m not the sort that typically gets mad or physically angry.

    Take care of yourself and stay away from glass mountains.

  9. The Author says:

    *laugh* Don’t worry about it, Gecko! I got the gist. I think you described it well. With me, there was definitely an element of it not being okay to get mad. Being constructively mad is a learned skill, and requires practice, I think…

  10. Tori says:

    I think I only understood about 60% of this and I absolutely love every word of it (anyway? because?). I will definitely be rereading it on crying-on-the-couch days. If only all troubles were as glaringly obvious as a gigantic glass mountain in the backyard.

  11. quartzpebble says:

    Oh. Oh. That… I don’t actually know what I’m feeling right now, but there’s a mess of truth in that story. I think it’s a wonderful example of how to be kind and generous to the self you know is flawed, and I’ve been struggling with that.

    Thank you.

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