Like many little girls, glossed-over fairy tales were part of my early reading diet. As an adult, Disney movies were my children’s fairy tales. The princesses were stronger and braver, but still the stories often ended with a marriage, and then dreams coming true. Under Disney’s fairy dust, even Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid became a happily-ever-after story.
I loved these fairy tale endings; but thank God, in real life, there is not a single happy ending. Think about it. You date, you find your prince, you marry, and bada-boom, bada-bing, you live happily ever after. How boring would that be!
Instead, life hands us challenges, loss, and heartache that can pull even the most optimistic people among us into the depths. We compromise our dreams, our siblings struggle with finances, we watch our parents die, our children get sick. Our dear friends suffer similar experiences. And if times get particularly difficult, we are stunned, trudging through life as though we are in shock. We feel guilty, because although we are suffering, we feel no right to wallow when there are others living in poverty and starving. Where is the happily-ever-after?
I believe that happily-ever-after is not a moment in the middle of our lives, but rather an ending to a life well-lived. When we look back on our lives, will we see that adversities have driven us into the ground? Or will we have climbed to the top of our adversities, to see beyond them? Adversity is the reality of the human condition. The only difference between woe-is-me and happily-ever-after is our reaction.
My happily-ever-after is built on finding happiness in moments:
- Sitting on the porch with my Dad, watching the sun cast its pink glow through the birch trees onto the daffodils.
- Helping my Mom make baked chicken and trying to capture the recipe on paper for posterity.
“How much celery salt, Mom?”
“I don’t know…about this much,” she says, holding out her hand with the celery salt nestled in her palm.
- Finding joy in the ugly, green, thumb-sized worms that demolished my tomatoes, yet brings a look of radiant wonder to my five-year-old’s face.
- Doing dishes with my daughter and realizing that she initiated the work – – I didn’t need to ask for help.
- Laughing and sharing cares with friends as we play in snow and then warm by the fire.
- Watching an elderly hand gently grab the scruff of my dog’s neck, bringing a smile to the woman’s lovely face.
- Holding my Dad’s hand as he listens to the rosary and breathes his last earthly breath.
Today is a new day.
Today, regardless of difficulties facing me, I will find a way to add at least one moment to my final, spiritual, happily-ever-after.