Happily ever after. Driving off into the sunset, hair streaming in the wind, typically with the love of your life seated next to you. Sound familiar?
I know it’s not true. But at every such cliché ending, I find a smile on my face. I just finished A Cinderella Story, and watched Hillary Duff ride into the sunset with the guy of her dreams, after life magically served karma to the evil stepmother, brought her true love, and she found her secret inheritance!
I wish that was real life. I wish I knew who the love of my life was. I wish I was guaranteed happiness, always. I wish karma bit those who treated me badly, and I certainly wish for a secret giant inheritance! But that’s not real life.
Real life is hard and messy and tiring. And sad.
I recently heard the only constant is change. And I hate that. Change is difficult and typically not fun. But I think how much our world has changed in the last 18 months. I think of the people who are no longer with us.
Grief is constant. Sometimes maybe you get to the point where you don’t actively miss someone every waking moment of your being. But you miss them in the big times. The birthdays, holidays, celebrations, where you look around and realize the family picture is one person short. You miss them in the small times. When you reach to text them, and realize they aren’t here. Or visit a town, see a meme, or hold an object that they would have loved.
Happily ever after isn’t realistic. That’s why we have fairy tales. Because eternal happiness is only a wishful dream.
Real life is filled with pain. Today a friend’s mom’s scans came back with new growth. I know many of us have been there. The heart dropping news, as you wonder if the chemo and radiation and surgery you’ve struggled through were worth it. The anxiety as you wonder how you will get through today, and tomorrow, and the new path of treatment. The pondering if you should even continue treatment.
Real life is filled with love. Not the blonde-haired prince charming type. But the show up and stay friendships. The friend you can call at 11pm, who will sit on your couch with you till 1am. The friend who will swing on the playground with you until 11pm, even though there’s a big test in the morning. The friend who Venmo’s you money for “disappointment dinner”. The friends who aren’t going anywhere.
Real life is filled with joy. Happiness and joy are surprisingly two very different things. Happiness is emotional, fleeting, and often tied to our circumstances. Joy is the opposite. Constant, steadfast, and remains despite our circumstances. Joy remains. Joy can be found in waking up, despite the aching joints. Joy can be found in the fact that I can work, despite my exhaustion. Joy can be found in talking to other AYA cancer people, despite my heartache of those I miss.
So as Maroon 5 said, “If ‘Happy Ever After’ did exist, I would still be holding you like this.”
So hold onto the ones you do have in your life. Blood relations or not. Because we all know life is too short to carry grudges, and hurt, and hatred.
And to wrap up that lovely song, “all those fairy tales are full of shit.”
Here’s to each of our ever afters, and doing our best to make them good.