On a scale of 1 (miserable) to 10 (ecstatic), I would say my average happiness level is about a 7. I am optimistic and generally satisfied with my lot in life – I like to laugh and smile and joke around, I like to hug my husband and help others and eat delicious food. When I encounter sad things, or upsetting things, I belong to the Reinhold Neibuhr school of thought:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
I had that quote on a poster in my room as a preteen/teenager, and it really helped me to develop a stable outlook on life. Some things cannot be changed and must be accepted (with serenity if possible) – the death of a pet, a car crash, an illness of a loved one. Some things are in my court and require courage to change – unhappiness at work, dissatisfaction with personal health, poor prioritization of hobbies and responsibilities. Knowing the difference between what is in my court and things I can’t change has helped me to develop my goals in life without getting bogged down in externalities.
So when today’s daily post asked “Are you living happily ever after?”, it took me a while to figure out what that actually meant.
Yes, I am happy. I love my husband, my job, and my hobbies. We are not struggling for money (though we wish our student loans were paid off). Our family members are in generally good health. We ourselves are in generally good health. We have some free time to take walks together when the weather is warm enough, or to snuggle on the couch when it’s cold outside. We spend time with friends and family,
But that seems to miss the point of the question. It didn’t ask “Are you happy”, it asked “Are you living happily ever after“.
That takes my train of thought in a whole different direction. That is the land of storybooks and castles, princes and princesses, dragons and magic.
What will it take to get to “happily ever after”?
I have no idea.
I’m a realist, a practical person, someone who looks at what is and sees what could be, but not someone who dreams what could be without grounding it in reality.
I could say that “happily ever after” would mean unlimited money so we didn’t have to work and we could travel the world, exploring new places and cultures and cuisines. But then we would end up missing our families. We would be so caught up in experiencing new things that we might not have time for being content with the simplicity of what is.
So our happily ever after would have to be a combination of reality and fantasy. We want to be settled in one location, close enough to family to see them every few weeks/months. But we don’t want to be tied down there entirely. We don’t have to see every nook and cranny of the world, if traveling to one or two new places every year is enough to satisfy our wanderlust.
We want to pass on our love of life to productive members of society – which means we want to have kids one day (not yet, not ready, but someday). Our hope is that they grow up to be decent human beings who love and help others and are satisfied with their lives.
When we are old and decrepit (I certainly hope we reach a ripe old age together), “happily ever after” will mean that day to day throughout our lives, we’ve made the best decisions for that moment. Whether it is traveling the world, or staying at home, or supporting family and friends, as long as it was the best decision at the time, we’ll be happy.
I’ve always said that when I get old, I want to have “happy wrinkles” at the corners of my mouth and my eyes, instead of “frowny wrinkles” in my forehead. So if at age 80, I look at myself in the mirror and I see someone who has lived a happy life, and acted in a postitive manner throughout her life, I will have lived “happily ever after”.