Don't miss the happy ending
I’ve always loved fairy tales. In my pre-literate days, I imagine I was satisfied with fluffy Disney productions like Cinderella, 101 Dalmations and Snow White. But as I started to read, the big animated musical finales didn’t adequately wrap up all the problematic loose ends. Cinderella’s hubby had a shoe fetish, Pongo needed a lesson on birth control, and Snow White’s prince was trying to snog a girl in a coma. I worried about what happened after Happily Ever After. (Note: this was before I’d ever heard about Into the Woods or Politically Correct Bedtime Stories)
Actually, my favorite fairy tale was the Little Mermaid. No, not the corrupted Disney version, but the original version by Hans Christian Anderson. Besides all the dramatic pathos and yearning , I love that it is an open ended story … the little mermaid has the promise of an eternal soul, and the reader is left to imagine all the adventures the little mermaid will have as her ethereal body flies around the world bringing comfort to those in need.
These days my life is pretty predictable. Work. Dance. Meet with friends. The occasional date. One foreign vacation a year. Pretty routine. Nothing very fairy-tail-ish about it. Nothing even exciting enough to write up in an alumnus review. And yet, I think I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. There are no huge happy endings in sight. However, there are myriad little happy endings. And while the drama-seeking part of my soul still longs for that big ending, the secret to my happiness is that I’ve learned to notice and celebrate all the little happy endings. Or, in LDS-speak, “Count my many blessings.”
I’m reminded of something I read earlier this year in The Jane Austen Book Club. It’s not a great book, but an enjoyable read if you’ve got a lot of spare time. However, the great pearl in it was this passage.
“Bernadette,” Prudie said. She’d reached that pensive, sentimental state of drunkenness that everyone watching so enjoys. “You’ve done so many things and read so many books. Do you still believe in happy endings?”
“Oh my Lord, yes.” Bernadette’s hands were pressed against each other like a book, like a prayer. “I guess I would. I’ve had about a hundred of them.”
On the deck behind her was a glass door, and behind the door a dark room. Sylvia was not a happy-ending sort of person herself. In books, yes, they were lovely. But in life everyone has the same ending, and the only question is who will get to it first. She took a drink of peach margarita and looked at Daniel, who was looking back, and didn’t look away.
What if you had a happy ending and didn’t notice? Sylvia made a mental note. Don’t miss the happy ending.
Sometimes happy endings can seem so insignificant that they fly out of my mind by the next day. One of my favorite rituals with my old roommate Perky was to sit and talk in the hall. I’d be just coming home from work, needing to unwind, and she’d be getting ready to leave for work. And we’d just share the high and low points of the day, things we’d learned, and things we had planned. Sharing helped me notice more about myself and her. More than anything, it reminded me of childhood conversations I’d had with my mother, which always started with, “So, what did you learn today?”
So, I hope this doesn’t sound too preachy, but don’t miss the happy endings. Take a sip out of Pollyanna’s cup. Count your many blessings. If you need help finding them, ask someone you can trust to help you. This existence is an open-ended book, write your own happy ending(s).