The Death of Happily Ever After
There is NO happily ever after.
That realization – though it sounds very negative and cynical – will actually be GREAT news if you stick with me for a few minutes here.
We’re taught that there is a happily ever after our whole lives. Directly, indirectly…society, media, religion, etc.
No matter what age or stage, there’s always a future “happily”…
- When you’re a middle schoolers, high school is supposedly the best years of your life
- Then college is supposed to be the best years of your life
- Then your 20’s are the best years of your life
- Then the newlywed stage is the best stage
- Having a baby is the best thing ever
- Having kids during the golden years (6-10) is the best thing ever
- Having your kids grow up and give you grandchildren is the best thing ever
You get my point. A future moment in time is the arrival of the “happily ever after” and we’re striving all the time, to reach this destination.
The problem is…
After you get through like 6 of those things…you start to wonder if maybe this story about happily ever after is really true. Because each of those stages come, and yes, they are happy. And they are also REALLY REALLY hard.
I’m 36 years old and have arrived and surpassed 6 of the 7 stages.
This happily ever after destination has plagued me especially because of the moral attachments to it. Growing up in a conservative Christian environment, there was an additional pressure of “blessings and favor” to those who did things right. The happily ever after got REALLY mixed up with God’s favor and my goodness as a human.
At each stage, yes I had times of feeling gloriously happy. I also felt depressed, anxious, worried, stressed, tired, overwhelmed, teary, and lost.
So when I look back on my life to date, have I arrived at happily ever after? Is it what I expected? Is this what I’ve been waiting for this whole time?
How do I measure this nebulous vague destination that has driven my ENTIRE life?
And furthermore, even though I’ve done 6 of the 7 happily ever afters, I still have one to go. Maybe more. Are all six still supposed to be supplying me with un-ending happiness?
Do you see the problem here?
Thus I now get to my massive AHA! moment that makes the death of happily ever after so glorious.
In order to know happiness (contentment, wellbeing, pleasure), you must ALSO know the flip side.
There can be NO happiness in this life without understanding what the opposite feels like.
I know, you’re like…how is that good news?
Try for a moment to imagine what life would be like…if you ONLY felt happiness every single day – for the rest of your life.
You would feel no anger. No indignation. No sadness. No tears. No anticipation. No exhaustion. No stress. No hate.
- You wouldn’t cry at sad movies.
- You wouldn’t be scared on roller coasters.
- You wouldn’t feel angry at crime and poverty and social injustice.
- You wouldn’t HATE things like rape and assault and racism.
You’d just be happy. Happily ever after.
I realized…we all want this happily ever after…EXCEPT WE DON’T.
None of us want to ACTUALLY live happily ever after.
That’s why all the movies end when the character arrives at the destination of happily ever after.
Because it’s bullshit, and movie producers know that we don’t ACTUALLY want to see what it looks like after…because living out a lifetime of happiness is not possible nor real….and truthfully, it’d be horribly boring.
It’d be like eating cake…everyday.
Without any savory or salty flavors, we would go tired…no…SICK of cake.
You don’t want a happily ever after, and neither do I.
This is glorious. When you finally let go of this weird proverbial wind at your back pushing you to some ideal you can hardly articulate, you can ask yourself, if I don’t want that…what do I want?
Most of us want the same things…
We don’t want to fight every minute for survival. We want people to love us, and for us to love. We want new adventures and challenges that excite our brains and bodies. We want to not ask permission to explore the world and all its beauty. We want to things that have meaning and soul. And we want to leave a legacy so that our contributions live on and so our life isn’t just…well…mortal.
THOSE THINGS…in big and little portions…can happen to us at all times, at any time, barring no particular prelude.
This life is not a journey with a destination somewhere out in the future.
Think of those things we want as buckets. Some of us have our buckets full. Others of us have some near empty.
Depending on the day, we might fill one bucket more than another.
- Every day you get the chance to either fill your buckets or take some of the reserve if the day isn’t being generous.
- Some days will have more parts of love or meaning or safety than others.
- Some days we’ll have to fight really big battles just to hang onto one of those things.
- Other days they’ll all appear in abundance.
The happily ever after is dead to me. It doesn’t denote some sort of moral goodness or mean that I have to stop trying at life once I’ve made money, gotten married, had kids, etc.
I now see that every single day is my opportunity to invest in and enjoy and fight for more safety, love, adventure, freedom, meaning, and legacy.
I fully expect that journey to be REALLY messy.
Gardens when they grow….they need water and soil…which makes mud.
They need bugs and bees…creatures that bite.
They need the baking hot sun…
Why is life any different?
All good things are not without fight. Without some heartache or sweat or frustration.
That just means we’re ALIVE.
I hope you can fully embrace and enjoy and fight for what you want, this day…without putting your future happiness in some ideal that isn’t even real. And if this day is really hard for you, tap into the reserves of the good days, and know that every morning, you get a fresh chance to start again.