Happily Ever After…Or Not?
“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine…”
I’m at a crossroads with this story I’m working on. Been here a while. For the first time, probably ever, I’m contemplating not writing a happy ending. I know. I’m shocked myself. Because I love that ‘ah…’ feeling at the end of a great story. All’s well that ends well. And they all lived happily ever after.
Casablanca did not have a happy ending. Neither does Gone With The Wind. A Walk To Remember. I’m sure you can think of other movies and books you’ve read that don’t provide that “woohoo” feeling once the last line is read or the credits start to roll. I recently read Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes. Not a happy ending. At. All. But I still loved the book. Why? Because I was left aching. Wanting. Desperately sad in wishing there had been another way, a different ending, yet knowing in all likelihood, there could not have been.
Real life. Real pain. Real situations that just can’t be worked out no matter how hard you try or how much you want them to. This is why I write. To somehow make sense of things that don’t make sense. But I’m learning, slowly, that even as an author, able to change the course of any story if I really want to, some stories shouldn’t be changed. Because sometimes, a lot of times, there are no happy endings. And sometimes we need to learn to live with that. Accept it. Because we know we can’t change it.
We make choices. Every day. Every hour. With every interaction we engage in. We say and do things we shouldn’t, want things we can’t have, take for granted the things we do and second guess every single move we make.
So I’m wondering now. Maybe we’re not really meant to be completely happy. If we were, would we not become complacent? Would the fight to live, to endure, to battle through the darkness and come out on the other side…wouldn’t that just leave us? Would we even bother seeking God? I’ve read that more people turn to God through trial and hardship…during war time, illness, flood, fire, famine, death. What would happen to hope if we had no need for it?
Maybe this…longing, this wanting, this seeking after what we think will make us happy…maybe this is how we grow. Maybe we find true peace in accepting the things we can’t have instead of this relentless pursuit after things that were never meant to be ours in the first place.
Star-crossed lovers. A romantic concept, contrived perhaps, yet I’m not sure. Because it’s not just a convenient way to end a book or a movie. It’s…real. The aching, the longing, the wanting and the finality of knowing it can never be. You can’t make that up. People feel it. They live it.
And maybe they never get over it. Maybe they spend the rest of their lives wondering why or what if…or they find some resolute acceptance and a way to move on. And somehow, some way, eventually over time, it makes them stronger.
So I don’t know. Maybe those happy endings I love so much aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Because sometimes life just deals a bad hand. And you take it. Stay in the game as long as you can, until it’s safe to fold. Then you go home, count your losses and get ready to do it all over again. Because next time…next time…you might just win.
“Play it again, Sam.”