The Story is Pretty Good

If-you-want-a-happyIt’s totally unsurprising that we think in terms of happy endings. Many children’s books start with the words, “Once upon a time…” and end with the line (that screws us all), “And they lived happily ever after.” We’re taught and trained to think this way, and it’s reinforced in every romantic comedy and dumb sitcom, too. But happiness is not a place. You can’t take some “right” train and end up there. Happiness is a process, it stems from work you do within yourself, and most of the time (not all of the time, though), it’s a choice.

We have some crazy idea that at some point we’ll be done. Depending on how old you are, that “done” point will keep shifting to a time out ahead of you. When you’re a kid, you might think you’ll be done at thirty–with that right job and that right partner, in that right house driving that right car, feeling….right. Life will make sense at that point, you’ll know what you’re doing, and everything will fall into place. When you’re thirty, you might think, well…I’ve got some of it figured out, there are just a few pieces of the puzzle I need to figure out. Maybe I’ve got a great person in my life, but professionally there’s a strain. Or vice versa. Once I solve the missing piece, I’ll be done and happy. You can keep having some variation of that conversation with yourself for your entire life. When I retire, I can take trips and relax and life will be good. When this happens or that happens, and before you know it, thirty years have gone by and you haven’t been enjoying the story, you’ve been waiting. As if this isn’t it. Then you can allow yourself to be startled when you catch a glimpse of your seventy-five year old reflection in a mirror, still not “done”. We are always in process, and the story is always unfolding. I think when we look back on our lives, we’ll realize they’ve been shaped by whatever life has put in our paths, and defined by our choices and our actions. That as the story is unfolding, we are also unfolding, shifting, growing, responding and evolving. There’s not going to be an end until we exhale for the final time, and it’s my belief that’s not going to be the end, either. It’s going to be the beginning of something else. Because energy doesn’t die, it just changes form.

The point is, living intentionally is the thing. Being awake and understanding this is the story, this is your life, and where you are right now is just a point in time. If you’re not embracing the journey, you’re missing the plot. When I say we’re all screwed by the line, “And they lived happily ever after”, it’s because the end of one chapter is the beginning of another. If you meet someone and fall in love and one day you decide to get married, for example, the story doesn’t end as you drive off into the sunset with your family and friends waving you off. That’s the beginning of the next phase. Because you’re always changing, and other people are as well, you can never expect to settle in and take for granted that your “happy ending” is a given.

Every story has its sunshine and its storms, its demons, its quests, its confusion, its beauty, its joy. Any good story has all of that. People who are motivated by different feelings and desires, plot twists, bumps and forks in the road. What you do with all that goes a long way toward determining what the experience of it will be for you. If you can open to the ride, to the not knowing of the thing, if you can accept that the ground beneath you will keep shifting, and that you’ll never know exactly what’s around the bend, you’ll probably have a pretty good time. If you keep choosing love, you’ll find it’s there for you when times get tough. And they will. If you take the time to truly know yourself, and know the people closest to you, and if you follow your heart, you’re probably not going to get too lost along the way. When I say happiness is a choice most of the time, I say that because horrendous things happen to extraordinarily beautiful people, and sometimes it’s just not possible to choose happiness. Sometimes you will have to accept that you’re in a chapter of despair, of un-rooting, of pain. But hopefully your foundation of love is strong enough that you’ll pick up the plot again when you’re able. That there will be some hands there to help you up, to hold you, to cry with you. And to remind you that it still is not the end of the story.

Life has everything. It’s a mystery, it has some science fiction, some adventure, some action, some tragedy, some romance, and a lot of comedy. But if you’re looking for a happy ending, think again. That will always be out ahead of you somewhere, because there’s no such thing. Don’t miss the story, I think it’s pretty good. Sending you love. Ally

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