Happily Ever After?

jae scribbles happily

I decided to go with a prompt from the DailyPost today. The prompt:

“And they lived happily ever after.” Think about this line for a few minutes. Are you living happily ever after? If not, what will it take for you to get there?

Something my mom always used to say to me that annoyed me to no end as a teenager was that happiness was a choice. My teenager self couldn’t believe that despite all the craziness going on in my life that somehow I could still choose to be happy. Didn’t she know what I was going through? What so-and-so said? What so-and-so did? That I wasn’t this, or I wasn’t that? And so on, and so on.

I think I interpreted happiness as meaning “never feel sadness.” Or “bad things won’t happen to me.” It took me a long time to understand what she actually meant, and even longer to agree with it.

PERSPECTIVE

Something that helped open my eyes was perspective. That is what makes choosing to be happy, despite our circumstances, possible. Sometimes I wish I could give my teenage self the perspective of where I was at that point. That high school ends. That there were so many awesome adventures ahead. That I’m strong enough to overcome any challenge. That’s why they say hindsight is 20/20.

One thing that helps me keep things in perspective is my belief in God. I realize there may be some of you out there who don’t believe in God, and that’s all right. I’m very a much a live-and-let-live person. But my belief helps me and gives me the perspective that hurts are temporary and shows me how to choose happiness rather than let life’s difficulties drag me down to misery.

viktor frankl

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Try the words of Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

I can’t imagine being locked in a concentration camp, wondering when it might be my turn for extermination. Yet Viktor still had this perspective. Can one really choose happiness in such terrible circumstances?

dalai lamaListen to what the Dalai Lama has to say about happiness.

The basic thing is that everyone wants happiness, no one wants suffering. And happiness mainly comes from our own attitude, rather than from external factors. If your own mental attitude is correct, even if you remain in a hostile atmosphere, you feel happy.

Attitude. Perspective. Choice. Perhaps why so many people find themselves unhappy, and why I found myself unhappy in the past, was helen kellerbecause I wasn’t choosing to be happy. But how do we get this correct attitude? Let’s go with another quote, this time from Helen Keller.

A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.

CHALLENGES & VICTORIES

If we try to look at life’s hardships as more of a challenge rather than only more adding to our misery, we can come out victorious. And there’s nothing, at least for me, more fulfilling than overcoming a challenge. Be it finally writing that difficult scene, resolving a hard relationship with a loved one, climbing a mountain—whatever it is, it’s the mastery of those things that can bring us joy. And it’s gaining confidence that we can take whatever life throws at us wherein we can find happiness.

My life isn’t exactly the way I’d like for it to be right now. I’d like to be published. I’d like to make enough money to buy a home. I’d like to have time to pursue all my interests, even reasonably. But despite all I’m lacking (and the hardships that get flung my way), I still find that I’m happy. I count the many things I do have in my life. I look at what I have been able to accomplish and where I am today. I try and focus more on the journey rather than the destination.

That doesn’t mean I ignore a destination, or go about life purposeless. It just means that much like reading a good book, I enjoy the moments I’m reading rather than worrying about when I’ll get to the end.

One last quote from Helen Keller.

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.

We may lose contests or get rejection letters or lose loved ones or even lose our health. But that doesn’t mean we must therefore resign ourselves to misery. We look for that other door. We enjoy those blessings we do have. And we rise victor against life’s hardships.

Am I living happily ever after? Yes, because I choose to every day. My life isn’t perfect, but that’s okay, because I can be happy about it anyway.

How about you? Are you living “happily ever after?” What do you see as living “happily ever after?” Do you believe in the power of positive thinking? What do you do to choose happiness in your own life? Let me know below.

everest

Everest (Wikimedia Commons)

33 thoughts on “Happily Ever After?

  1. My happily ever after is still in progress, but I’m getting closer every day. It really is nothing more complicated than being able to write my books and make enough money to keep writing without worrying about bills. I’m not really sure about positive thinking because I can never tell if I’m doing it. I grew up to be rather cynical and pessimistic, but it’s only recently that I began trying to shed these mental habits. So, maybe I’ll become a positive thinker at some point. That’s the plan anyway.

      • I’m definitely proud, but I think not sleeping last night while bouncing around thinking about getting published is replacing it with exhaustion. I have to time a coffee perfectly or my toddler is going to own me when he gets home from school. :)

  2. This is something I’ve just realized this year and am very much trying to turn my life around. Although you covered this I would just like to reiterate that although happiness is a choice it takes work. The hardships and challenges that bring us down, we need to look at as opportunities for personal growth. I always try (don’t always succeed) to say this is something to work on when I blog about my problems and think of it as FUN! Challenges are FUN! I am probably the most unsuccessful person I know but I no longer dwell on that. Life to me now is about overcoming my stupid choices and rising to the challenge. I would say I am happy now with my new attitude change but I can’t let myself be lazy either. Hmm reading back on what I wrote it’s a lot me, me, me, for a simple I agree, lol. Anyway, I agree! Excellent post!

    • I think you’ve summed it up wonderfully, and I appreciate that you shared your own perspective of it. It is a lot of hard work and it sounds like you’re doing just fine in your own path to happiness. :)

  3. This post made me think of the movie Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, have you ever seen it? There is one character in that movie that no matter what happens to him, he always seems to be happy.

    One of the ways I’ve learned to be happy is by celebrating my little successes. It makes all my life journeys feel more like a hiking camping trip, and less like ultr marathon with a time cut off.

    • Hmmm… I haven’t, I should check that movie out. I really like your analogy of a hiking-camping trip vs. a marathon. I would fail miserably at a marathon. Miserably! But a hiking trip, I might be slow, but since it’s only me I’m impressing, I can enjoy the journey. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Great post! My expectations have become more reasonable as I’ve gotten older. I better understand my talents and limitations and I’ve adjusted my dreams accordingly (knowing that many limitations are only temporary). My goals aren’t necessarily smaller in scope–just more realistic and better suited to the person I grew up to be. This approach has made me a happier person.

    • Thanks! I really like your perspective. Understand yourself better to set realistic goals and find happiness. It’s like those people who think they can pop out a novel during NaNo, upload it to Amazon and suddenly become J.K. Rowling or something. It’s not unrealistic that they can be published someday, just that it’s likely not in many’s ability to get something worth publishing the first draft—nor at a caliber of a well-established author. Good food for thought. Thanks!

  5. A beautiful post. I couldn’t have put it better myself, though the prompt could have led off in any direction. I especially liked “there’s more fulfilling than overcoming a challenge.” It’s true: as much as I sit and growl about editing, I feel so good for every chapter I go through with a red pen (been doing that this week).

    By the way, just a WP formatting question: how do you get your quotes to be in shaded boxes with giant speech marks next to them?

      • I just use the “block quote” option, but it may be that my theme works differently than yours. Oooh, red penning a book does sound fun. (I’m serious). Of course I’d rather be doing anything than writing the query letter right now. I told someone last night I’d rather rewrite the whole book than work on the one-page query letter, lol. Well, this is a challenge I very much look forward to overcoming.

        • Hmm, perhaps it is the theme, then (another reason for me to get to changing mine).
          I’m surprised how well (?) my editing is going at the moment, seeing as I’m not usual a good editor. I think it was your post convincing me to word economise ;)
          Good luck with your query letter. I need to work on mine, actually, since I’ve mislaid the most recent draft. That’s annoying.

  6. I must say, this has to be one of the most inspiring posts I’ve read in a long time. I enjoyed the quotes. More importantly, your message of taking whatever comes our way as a challenge rather than a misery is the crux of a positive attitude. If anything I’ve learned in life: No matter how bad things get, they always get better. I’ve lived by that rule all my life and it has served me well.

    Thanks for this, Jae!

    • Thank you for commenting! I like to hear that positive thinking has served you well. I’m still a bit newish to positive thinking. It’s only been my attitude for the last 5 years or so, but it’s made a significant impact on my life, so I can’t help but encourage others to embrace it. Glad you enjoyed it!

  7. my husband says something similar to my daughter all the time: “you can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.” as for when bad things happen to me, now that i’m a writer i try to take a moment and realize that if nothing else, this is an experience that i might be able to use in my writing some day. after all, it’s our life experiences that influence who we are and the stories we tell.

  8. If we wait for the next “thing” around the corner, we’ll never catch it. I turned a different corner this past year in my life. I’m happy and living “happily ever after.” I finished my sixth novel and for the first time, I didn’t need anyone on the outside to say it was this or that. I felt it, and I was satisfied. Same thing in my personal life. Would I like my books to sell more? Absolutely. Do I want a new car? Sure. Would I like my husband to pick up towels and hang them up? Who wouldn’t? But those are superficial things to make life a little easier. Has nothing to do with happiness that emanates from within. And guess what? Others respond in like. Nice post, Jae. Thanks.

  9. I absolutely believe in the power of positive thinking. It’s not always easy to do, but I think it’s healthier if you can think that way. Otherwise, it can become like some self-fulfilling curse. Something bad happens, you focus on that until you can’t see any good, more bad happens, you tally it up with the rest, and it just goes on and on if you don’t find a way to claw your way out of it. When you lose the ability to see good, suddenly everything, even the small stuff, seems like the end of the world. And it can make you physically ill – ulcers, shingles, panic attacks, and some studies are starting to link fibromyalgia to emotional stressors. Honestly, learning to just let go, especially to forgive (lol, I don’t intend on forgetting though – otherwise I wouldn’t have learned from it) and let go, has been such a relief. I can’t do anything about what others do or think. But I can do something about how I react to it, and how I choose to live my life in general. The more I let go, and tally my blessings rather than my pains, the better off I am. And I’m much, much happier. :)

    • I don’t think you have to forget. People say forgive and forget, but even if you go by the Bible I don’t think it says to forget either. But I agree with you, the more I’ve let go, the happier I’ve been too. Thanks for sharing. :)

  10. I’m working on it! I don’t think you can ever say “I’m happily ever after” because that takes work every day, and there are no guarantees. That said, I’m trying, and I think that counts.

    I learned a few techniques relating to this when I was first suffering from Depression (still am; it’s under control right now, but definitely isn’t something one can “perspective” away). Identifying the thoughts that bring us down and hold us back is very important, as is reframing situations to look for opportunities… as I’m doing right now as I consider (gulp!) rewriting my book. Like, not fixing what’s there, but starting from ground zero, making the most phenomenal thing I can, and THEN seeing what from the old version works. It hurts to think about, but what an opportunity! To make something that’s not just good enough or even “really entertaining,” but the best I can do…

    Yep, I’m terrified. But I think it’s part of my own happily ever after. :)

    • Trying definitely counts! Yeah, I’ve been through the major rewrite a time or two. It is terrifying, but it’s also thrilling because your story will change and you’ll be amazed at how much better it can get. I’m sorry you suffer from depression. That’s rough. I’ve had a lot of friends who deal with that. But perspective does help them, at least in the knowing sometimes when they’re feeling depressed it isn’t because they’re doing anything wrong necessarily, but because they have to deal with depression. Seems to be liberating for them. Sounds like you’ve got things pretty well figured out for yourself though. :)

    • I swear, if I could beat this computer, I would. Stupid ‘enter’ key is WAY too touchy… but anyway…

      I love this post! And, of course, the quotes. :) I love the way you explained and summed everything up.

      • Thanks! And I’m so pleased to hear that you’re able to be happy in a bad situation—not even just happy but ‘happiest you’ve ever been.’ I keep thinking back on your two wolves post. I think you could be miserable, if you chose to, but you’re not going to let the bad wolf win. You’ve got the right perspective, girl, and I’m impressed. I don’t know if I could have been like that back in the day. I didn’t understand anything about perspective. You’re awesome! :D

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