Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's the journey, not the destination



I love Once upon a time ... It is such a great way to get immersed in a story. It takes the reader (or listener, if someone is telling the story out loud) far away from the right here and the right now. Once upon a time ... oh yeah. When I read or hear those words my consciousness shifts, I become curious and open. I'm ready to dive in to the plot head first.

What I don't get, never have, is ... and they lived happily ever after. What does that mean? That from then on, ever after, none of life's conflicts, challenges and problems will ever rear their ugly heads again? Does it mean that, from then on, life will be a series of smooth transitions, that the protagonists, who have faced hell and high water, will suddenly settle down into a life of contentment and ease? Are all adventures over and done? No more pain, no more tears, no more friction? Huh??

Why not just say, "And that is the end of the story"? One of the things I love about the Icelandic sagas is that no one lives happily ever after. When a character dies or moves away, that transition is described very plainly: ... now Snorri is out of the saga. 'Nuff said.

I think ... they lived happily ever after is kind of a set-up. It plants a seed in the mind of the listener, an idea that gets translated into thought forms like: if you marry and have children or lose 20 pounds or get a promotion or whatever, you will ... yep ... live happily ever after.

When I was in my 20's, I imagined that by age 40 I'd be set. I thought by then I would be wise enough and successful enough that I might be able to avoid the vicissitudes of life from then on, that I could live happily ever after. Ha ha. When I was 40, I thought maybe by 50.

It's beginning to dawn on me that there is no such thing as happily ever after. There's "happy," oh yeah, "happy" has been a big part of my life's story, always interwoven with sad, confused, conflicted, fearful, hopeful and all the other situations that are a part of the complex tapestry of life as a human.

Are you waiting for some big development to occur that will finally make you live happily ever after? My advice: be happy now, don't wait. We - all of us, you and me - will soon enough be out of the saga. Carpe diem, y'all!

22 comments:

NanU said...

wonderful picture from under the roses!
I always did find 'happily ever after' to be a cop-out. There's no such thing. Plus, as a story-ender, it precludes any sequels, since we are told right now that nothing interesting ever happens to the characters ever again. How terribly sad!

willow said...

There's a beautiful scene in The Hours, where Meryl Streep tells her daughter about a moment in time when she thought happiness had begun, that things would only get better. Looking back she realized what she felt was happiness. You've gotta seize that moment and savor it.

John Hayes said...

So true, Reya! Wonderful post.

ellen abbott said...

I realized there was no happy ever after the day I woke up and discovered my life had become a bad made-for-TV movie. And this was AFTER my prince had come!

You are so right. Grab the little things that make you happy on a daily basis.

Joanna said...

Oh yes, I agree. It seems to me that happily ever after might really be quite boring. Happiness is in the moments that we open to in our process of change and growth.

Barbara said...

For some reason I only want "happily ever after" in movies, having long ago realized that it's not reality. I can count many happy moments in my life, but I'm convinced that old age will be a mixed bag. That's OK. This way I will appreciate the happy times more.

Reya Mellicker said...

Ellen, lol!

Happily ever after is a fantasy. Sweet one, that.

Mrsupole said...

There is no truth to the ending in those stories and so that is why I think the stories that use the ending "happily ever after" are called Fairy Tales, and are just fiction.

True life just ends one day. And what happens inbetween is a mixture of crap, happy moments, more crap, nice moments, then comes lots of crap, and if one is lucky, somewhere in all of that is some love. Maybe that is what they mean, that they loved each other until the end of their days. Love can bring a lot of happiness, but then so can a lot of other things.

I guess all we can do is live each day to the best of our abilities and pray that all ends well that day. Then the next day it begins all over again. And one day it stops, and maybe that is when the beginning of "happily ever after" truly begins. When we see the creator, the total of all that there is, and begin anew.

God bless.

Ronda Laveen said...

Loved the "out of the saga" way of dealing with plot lines. I've never read Icelandic tales but my well borrow the technique in the future.

I'm off to lunch with a friend, out of the saga, and living happily ever after...until the next problem crops up.

Butternut Squash said...

Serenity Now!

I think that I have the happy ever after that I was looking for.

I was raised by a pack of ultra realistic feminists that taught me how to sniff out the crap.

The hardest part to live with is...
'You are responsible for creating your own hapiness.'

It makes for a frightening fairy tale, but it's true!

Like my story, 'The Chair.'

Linda Sue said...

Instead of "happily ever after" is should be "and so the story begins" and that would be the final sentence.

Meri said...

The first time I went to a charity auction after my husband left to pursue his fantasy life with the "other woman," the only thing I bought was a 6 foot long sign on a board reading, "And they all lived happily ever after." I guess I just wanted a little hope personally (though I have to admit, I don't think I intended it to apply to them. . . . no, I'm sure I didn't intend it to apply to them.) I'm still creating my own happy ending, day by day.

Angella Lister said...

love this post.

Reya Mellicker said...

And so the story begins. I love that.

Mrsupole, human life is stranger than fiction, but we do look to fiction as a blueprint. Should speak for myself - I look to fiction as a blueprint. Of course I blur the line between "reality" and "fiction" quite often.

steven said...

reya i wish it said "and they lived happily in the ever after". i have no real idea what the "ever after" is like and so it could be a very messy, cool, franxious, mellow whatever you make of it place. sort of like this one. steven

Bee said...

That pat ending actually makes happiness sound like a shut door, rather than the ongoing (and fleetingly magical) sometimes state-of-mind that I find it to be.

Mary Ellen said...

Good reminder, that "carpe diem." Especially when there's so much beauty and intriguing life all around, which your photos make clear.

Rinkly Rimes said...

I was encouraged to view your blog when a friend described both photography and prose as exceptional. I agree.

Pauline said...

My new favorite line - "now Snorri is out of the saga."

I so agree - no such thing as happily ever after, nor should we be feeding that fantasy to our young.

That bottom photo would nicely illustrate a fairytale - it looks like a portal...

Paul C said...

I am reminded of the quote something like, 'Happiness is like seeing a deer in the forest; if you seek to get closer it will run away.' Just stand there and be open, breath in, breath out; it's wonderful to be alive.

You are a wonderful writer.

かわやま said...
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faerose_ said...

One of the fantasy books i read recently had the character saying that the phrase got garbled and that it should read and "they lived happily IN the ever after"
Whilst they were referring to a different magical dimension, i prefer to think of it as; they lived happily having grown a little more from their trials. Yet still remained positive and good people which is the miracle of the heart.
So i guess i'm saying that I do get it. I think its only recently that i've truly come to understand that the emotions we have are ours to control. You can live happily ever after if you practice heart coherence. http://www.heartmath.org/