“I always wanted a happy ending… Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.”
– Gilda Radner
Many years ago at school I wrote what I believe to be the shortest Fairy Tale in the world, and it was this –
“Once upon a time they all lived happily ever after. The End.”
Those 12 words contained the essence of all Fairy Tales rather neatly, I feel. It also included the biggest, most damaging lie ever, common to all Fairy Tales and common to many people’s expectations in life itself; a lie which has caused and continues to cause too many people too much heartache, missed opportunities and broken dreams. And yet they are all avoidable.
Everyone, at some point in life, wants a Happy Ending, don’t they?
Who could not like the idea that this is it, just successfully complete this challenge, task or quest, and life will be wonderful from then on as you and your loved ones all live happily ever after?
Only, as most people realise sooner or later, there is no such thing as a Happy Ending. Oh yes, there is indeed a Happy Resolution to a particular challenge or task, a Happy Outcome or conclusion to an event or episode in life, but it’s not the End. Life continues afterwards, and all of life’s challenges also continue.
I remember my wedding day; the excitement and sheer overwhelming joy of it all, and feeling that this was a Happily Ever After moment! Of course, it wasn’t, for life and life’s challenges continued from the next day (and why wouldn’t they). Ultimately we ended up divorcing several years later (mercifully it was all amicable), definitely not the Happy Ending I’d envisaged. But the important thing was the fun times we did have together, and the wedding day itself, whilst not a Happy Ending, was absolutely something worthy of celebrating and remembering fondly.
And therein lies the secret.
Think not of the elusive Happy Ending. Instead, see them for what they are, Happy Moments to be savoured and celebrated at the time, and to be remembered fondly throughout the years, along side many other Happy Moments.
Can you imagine for a moment what life would be like if one did achieve The Happy Ending and faced no more challenges? To live the rest of one’s days knowing there will be no more problems? Knowing that there will be nothing more to celebrate, nothing to look forward to, nothing from which to grown and develop? After a while that would seem less and less like living happily ever after, and more and more like being the living dead. Challenges and the successes which they create are what drives us all at the deepest level.
So if there are no Happy Endings, if we are always going to face challenges and problems, is there any point? Why bother trying to improve ourselves if we’re always going to have problems?
Well even though everyone faces problems, the type of problems everyone faces are not all the same – some problems are much nicer to have than others.
Take a moment to consider the sorts of problems which you are facing in your own life, right now. Think about them carefully and perhaps write them down.
And now, once you have done that, think about the sorts of problems which might be faced by Richard Branson or Warren Buffett or Oprah Winfrey or Madonna or anyone you consider to be hugely successful (and the definition of hugely successful is whatever definition feels right for you).
Do you think they have problems? Yes!
Do you think you would prefer to have your problems or their problems?
Nobody knows what is coming round the next corner; nobody knows with certainty what their next problem is going to be. But it is possible to place oneself in a position to be better able to deal with whatever problems do arise, and to help to ensure that one’s problems are more enjoyable problems to face. By developing better strategies for dealing with life and its issues and problems, we are better able to meet them head-on and to overcome them and to build ourselves a better life, for whatever definition of better suits us. By not only accepting that there will always be unexpected challenges but by welcoming them as new opportunities to grow and by celebrating our achievements and Happy Moments, we ourselves continue to grow and place ourselves in an even better position for our next challenges.
As long as we learn from everything we do, learn as much from our failures as our successes, we can and will continue to grow and develop and have many more of those essential Happy Moments in life.
After all, who wants a Happy Ending when one could have a plethora of Happy Moments throughout life?