Disney movies are partly to blame, but they are not the sole culprit.
We croon songs about it, read books about it, doodle images about it. We proudly emblazon it on our wedding invitations, reminding everyone that this, claiming our happily ever after, is what we’ve been waiting for, striving for, living for.
Most people marry in their twenties, which means over half their life remains—forty, fifty, sixty years. So what makes them think that after they whisper “I do,” there will be only happiness? They vow to love each other for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, yet the mantra “happily ever after” implies that only riches and health will abound. Struggles don’t evaporate when you marry; they multiply. You’re bonding yourself to another person, a person with strengths and weaknesses, whose baggage is now yours, too. Add kids to that cocktail and your life is hard-core shaken, not gently stirred.
Happily Ever After doesn’t include mortgages or bounced checks or colicky kids or layoffs or stalled vehicles or combative in-laws or miscommunication or slammed doors or rebellious teenagers or cancer or utter isolation.
Happily Ever After is a myth.
But then your baby smiles. Your husband leaves a note by the coffee pot. Your roses, the ones you thought were dead, bloom again.
Joyfully Ever After exists. Joy remains unaffected by circumstance; joy isn’t killed by early frost or extinguished by harsh winds. Joy can be spotted in every quandary, every hardship—you may have to dig for it, but it’s always, always there.
Orson Welles astutely said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” So seek joy. Joy flutters on every page.