I’ve been ensconced in fiction lately. There is a LOT to be said for getting lost in the pages of a book, stepping vicariously into the realities of others, witnessing their happy endings and imagining them as my own. I often feel a palpable ache when I turn the last page; I’ve become so attached to the characters. It’s like their story is somehow connected to mine.
Which, of course, it is. That is the power of story! When we immerse ourselves in it, we more acutely feel our own desire, disappointment, loss, loves, trials, tribulations, and hope. The very best stories are ultimately less about the characters themselves and far more about us! Even in the most fantastical or tragic of tales, we find ourselves between the lines; we see aspects of ourselves mirrored back in actuality and in aspiration, again and again.
For all that is the same, one thing is vastly different: most of the stories we read or watch have a happy ending. Perhaps not perfect or Disney-esque, but wrapped up nicely with some kind of bow, some kind of resolution, something that makes sense of all that’s gone before. Understandably, we want the same for ourselves! And there is absolutely nothing wrong or wasted with such a wish. The problem occurs when we compare the goodness or worth of our own story, our very life, to that which can (only) be captured so neatly in fiction.
Unlike the books we read or movies we watch, our lives are not neatly packaged. They are messy and unresolved, difficult and confusing. The plot is not clear. The characters are conflicted. Bad things happen. Good does not always triumph. Any sort of ending feels illusive and often far from happy. Ours is a story that is “true.”
In Untamed, Glennon Doyle says this:
“The truest, most beautiful life never promises to be an easy one. We need to let go of the lie that it’s supposed to be.”
She’s right, of course. Not “happily ever after,” but most definitely true (and beautiful).
I would love to tell you – with conviction and personal experience – that “everything works together for good;” that your endurance (and compliance) guarantee success and/or bliss and/or endless love; that if you just persevere, everything will eventually turn rosy and bright – an amazing story with an enviable “happily ever after.” I cannot promise or speak to a bit of this. But if you want to know what is true, I can both promise and speak to that with vast personal experience and lots of conviction.
The hardest realities in your story, the loose ends, the impossible twists and turns, seemingly no fairy godmother (or god) to be found, are exactly what make your story worth being told…and lived.
Little consolation, I know, but no less accurate or important to know and name.
When I look back over my life thus far, I see so much that I would have never predicted or foretold. The most painful seasons have invited profound growth and transformation. My biggest mistakes have been converted into a mostly-unswerving belief in my value and worth. My fear and anxiety, depression and grief, anger and frustration have somehow, miraculously and unwittingly, become the most gracious of teachers, the closest of companions, and my dearest of friends. No pretty bow. No tidy conclusion. Unwieldy and unpredictable. Hardly easy or perfect, but honest and real and “true,” even beautiful.
Pages worth turning. Stories worth telling. A life worth living. And uniquely, surprisingly, amazingly…mine.
“Happily ever after” remains to be seen. It’s all that happens along the way that matters most, that we remember, that makes a story – your story – worth writing, telling, and living.