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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Happy Endings

I love a good story. For me, there's almost nothing better than getting lost for a few hours in a great book or a great movie.

I'm not sure how many people will agree with me here, but I don't even need a fairy-tale happy ending. My sister, for example, wants that happy ending every time! She wants to know before she commits to the story that all will be well in the end. As long as the story is engaging and is at least mostly resolved by the end, I'm good with that. Although I always root for the characters and hope that their story will end well, I would much prefer an ending that feels realistic. Now, if there were a happy ending that also felt real, what could be better?

Honestly, I can't remember if I've always felt this way or if I've arrived here as a result of circumstances in life. Oh, it's certainly true that I've always had very realistic expectations. One look at my senior memory book from my last year of high school will tell you that. While most of my peers were recording their hopes and dreams for rich spouses, tropical vacation homes, and fancy cars, I was hoping for a much simpler and far more attainable future. I wanted to go to college (which, in itself, was a pretty lofty goal coming from a poor family), fall in love, get married, have children, and live a happy and peaceful life with my family. I really never hoped for much beyond that, and certainly not for anything fancy.

Some may see this as the difference between an optimist and a pessimist, but I don't. I'm somewhere in the middle. I always hope for the best, but I never celebrate until I have actually reached it. And that way, if I don't get there, maybe I won't have to fall quite so hard.

My favorite kinds of stories are the ones where you get to take a peek into the characters' lives. You get to see how they live and what challenges they face on any given day. There will most likely be some big event or action scene that you definitely want to see resolved. Hopefully by the end of the tale, you've seen them overcome something and come out on the other side better than when you found them. Sometimes this may not mean that the sick person got better, or that the infertile person had babies. I guess what I look for in a good story is more of an internal change, rather than one where a person got everything they ever wanted and now they can live happily ever after.

A few weeks ago I finished a book in which one of the main characters was barren. I didn't know this when I started the book, but it was communicated several times throughout that she could not ever have children. Besides that, this character had a very hard life and many obstacles to overcome. Page after page and chapter after chapter, I pulled for her and hoped to see her find happiness! It was a great story, and by the time I got to the last chapter, I cried tears of joy that she was going to be okay.

Then came the epilogue.

In the three or four extra pages tacked onto the end of the story, the author gave the reader a glimpse into the future. The woman had children. We are never told how or when, or what in the world had transpired. Although I know that this is a work of fiction and I felt some happiness for the character, I couldn't help but think that I would have been just as satisfied with the book had it simply ended, leaving the future to my imagination.

More often than not, I watch movies and read books that have a very nice, fulfilling ending. Then, during the closing credits or the epilogue, we get that look into the future that usually feels too forced for me. It feels unreal, almost too good to be true. We don't know what the characters went through to get those twins that they're holding in their arms. We don't get to see how they got from point A to point B. We must just accept that they did, that all of their dreams were achieved, and that they will be happy forever. I always have a hard time accepting this ending (in a story, I mean). I think it takes away from my own ability to imagine them happy whether they got all they ever wanted or not. Maybe I should start skipping end credits and epilogues!

I'm not saying that "happily ever after" never happens. Deep down inside, I know I hope for that. I want my happy ending to include having children, and I want that particular happy ending for all of my friends who struggle with infertility. But I want to believe that there can be lots of really great stories without reaching the goal, stories of people who find happiness and fulfillment, who show amazing strength and grace in the face of hardship, even if they don't get exactly what they'd hoped for. Can I be happy with that kind of ending in real life, like I am in a story?

How do you feel about happy endings, whether realistic or not?

28 comments:

Chuck said...

How I wish I could peek into the epilogue of your life. All I know is that the story has been amazing. A difficult one to read many times, but wonderful nonetheless. I see a woman that quickly changed from a innocent girl when reality struck with a swift, surprising blow. But I also see a woman who has been transformed by her circumstances into a woman of faith and hope; a woman who has taken tragedy and turned it into an opportunity to bless others. There are many, many tears in this story, but I still hope and pray for a happy ending. And no matter how the story ends, the part about boy and the girl who fell in love and lived happily ever after will always be true.

mandiegirl said...

I personally tend to love happy endings, but not if it's all baloney. For instance, i recently read a book and then saw the movie, and though I hated the ending in the book, it was SO much better than that in the movie because i feel they took the easy way out in the movie. I don't want to give anything away, so I won't say which story I'm talking about, but I guess I'm kindof in the middle too. :)

A said...

I want to know what the book is called! ;-)

I am a true sucker for normal happy endings. Where everything is perfect and all prayers are answered the way whoever wants them to be and everything will be great from then on. But it's not necessarily a prerequisite to whether I will read/watch something!

The other thing is that my IF journey has changed how I interpret "happy" and "ending". I have had to really consider what it truly is for me to be happy, and what "ending" is the one that matters most? There is nothing that I want more right now than to become pregnant and welcome our first child(ren) in May with my hubby. But, in my spiritual journey, I have really had to come to terms with the fact that God just doesn't open everyone's womb, and there IS a possibility that He would call us to be childless, and I need to be able to relinquish my wants and praise Him anyway and be happy with what He has given me. So, through that, I am starting to try to appreciate the blessings I do have instead of only thinking I'll be "happy" if x, y, and z things happen. This viewpoint also comes from my attempt to change my "ending" perspective to a broader one- at the end of my earthly life, how would I feel if I spent 40 years of my life wallowing in self pity because I didn't have a child? I think a true happy ending for me is if I could live to be a happy old lady (with or without kids) with her happy old husband who lived life to its fullest every day and tried their hardest to be the best children of God that the could.

A said...

(PS. It follows that I would consider an ending to be happy even if the character didn't get what they initially wanted, but they made the most out of whatever situation that did present itself.)

Stacey said...

A, I hear you! Your P.S. is exactly what I mean. :)

I won't mention the name of the book here because I don't like spoilers. But if you really want to know, send me an email.

Sunny said...

I am personally a fan of happy endings... but not super cheesy, unreal-feeling ones. I don't think it has to be 100% happy, like the woman in the story you described. I certainly wouldn't need to know that she has children one day, to feel like it was a good ending. I think happiness can be achieved even when the intial goals aren't entirely met... sometimes they get adjusted, or abandoned altogether.

If she were depressed, lonely, and living on the street as the novel closed... well, that would probably be a little too depressing for me. :) But I think there are shades of happy endings, and something real and relatively satisfying is usually good enough in my opinion!

Erin said...

I crave happy endings. Almost like if I can read about them, hear about them, feel them, then maybe they really do exist and can happen to me too. I just have to constantly remind myself that my idea of a happy ending and God's idea might be different. A hard thing to remember sometimes.

This post had really made me pause and think about my own expectations, something I've been struggling with all week. Sometimes you just know what to say to get the gears in my mind turning.

Rebekah said...

We have to believe there's hope...without it, we'd never survive.

Stacey said...

Rebekah,
I definitely agree. Hope keeps me going!

I think that sometimes when dealing with fiction, I'm more satisfied being left to hope and imagine a happy future for the characters without having it handed directly to me in an epilogue. I find it hard when I haven't seen the progression.

But yes, hope is a great thing!

Connie said...

Well, dearest, you know how I feel about it. I MUST have that happy ending....not sure why, but I need it...

Chuck, I LOVE you. I sleep so much more soundly at night knowing that my sister has you and your love. Thank you for taking such good care of her and for your unwavering commitment to her. XOXO

Alicia said...

Ok I really enjoyed reading what Chuck had to say :)

I don't need the happy endings because I'm more of a realist any way......this can be very annoying to happy ending people.....sorry. I'm not opposed to happy endings however.

Great post very thought provoking.

Journeymark Cards & Gifts said...

Stacey, I found your blog by reading Stuff Christians Like. I have to say Thank You - for sharing your heart, your pain, and hope to those who are going through the same issues.

For me, there are days where I believe in the "Happy Ending" of having children (whether biological or adopted), and there are days where I wonder if that type of ending is a part of God's plan for my life.

I believe the Happy Ending is what we decide to make of it, and hold onto the hope God has for us each day. Ps 25.

I completely agree with what A said.

Thanks again for the encouragement and support you bring to others.

Jessica

Mrs Emilee said...

My dreams also revolved around getting married and having a family. I never imagined infertility would crash in the way, but I just have to keep having faith that the Lord will take care of it, as long as we're doing our part.

Love your blog, it's very inspirational. I'm very sorry you've struggled for so long. I thought 2 years was bad enough. You are very strong!

Life In Mazes said...

I really like happy endings to the point that if I don't get it in a movie or book, I stew. Mature, right? Just kidding. I had to get over it this summer when I read a book that had the worst ending, but it was exactly what the character wanted and then the movie turned out to be the opposite. Very strange, I know. Thanks for your recent prayers and support.

Joy said...

I can go either way! I think a happy ending is in the eye of the beholder most of the time, in real life anyway.

Emily said...

Interesting post. I actually prefer a book or movie that doesn't tie up all the loose ends into a nice, neat bow. For example, the last book in the Twilight series made things way too easy for the main characters. Like you said, real life doesn't usually work that way, and I like more realistic books and movies.

On the other hand, I also hate when a writer deliberately makes a book/movie as depressing as possible. Instead, it's nice to see the characters grow through a process, but have at least something good come out of it at the end. (Take, for example, the movie The Soloist - not a feel good story, but a satisfying one for me nonetheless.)

Shaz said...

I believe in Happily Ever After but NOT PERFECTLY ever after. I think I'm a living eg of that, I am living a happily ever after with my husband but its not perfect.
I'm like you Stacey, I don't believe in the perfect ever after and it annoys me when movies/stories try to force you into that it seems unrealistic. Whether that makes me an optimist or a pessimist I don't know, I prefer to think of myself as a realist, hoping for the best but anticipating all the outcomes.

Andi said...

Darn Chuck! Made me cry.

Parenthood For Me said...

I too am a realist. I don't look at it as pessimism. One of my favorite movies is Atonement. And this story most definitely doesn't have a happy ending. It is dramatic but doesn't have the typical Hollywood ending. I like to believe that most things work out some way somehow. But the realism part is that tough times work out to the point where life changes and acceptance happens and hopefully an internal peace takes place. Even if the happy ending is finally having children I see all the challenges that go along with being a parent or a spouse. Life is difficult and the happy ending is finding a way to be happy with your life and yourself.

Jenn said...

I can totally relate with what Alicia said. I am not oppossed to happy endings, by no means, but I like the unexpected at times too. I like a good book or movie that, when you're finished reading or watching, just makes you sit there for a minute and think; makes you have to soak it all in.
And Chuck, wow! That has to be very strength-building to Stacey. What a GREAT couple y'all are!

entrusted said...

Oh my goodness, I just had the exact same experience with a book! Wonder if it was the same one? Email me with the title (I would have posted it here, but I saw your comment about not wanting to spoil the end for others).
You know what I want? More testimonies that don't have textbook happy endings. Everybody loves to celebrate the miracle healing, etc. I want to hear more testimonies that celebrate the miracle of faith in the midst of unending trial.

Andrea said...

I'm with you on the whole happy ending in stories part. It's always a little frustrating when things unnecessarily wrap themselves up at the very end. When the story could actually be MORE inspiring if it didn't have the traditional happy ending. I also felt that way about the movie Baby Mama, it was just a silly movie, but the ending made me dislike the story. I don't think that I feel this way because of my life's circumstances though. I think I've always been this way. I'm realistic and I also appreciate "different" situations and different ways to tell stories. It's funny that realistic endings are so common in real life, but so uncommon in stories.

Sunny said...

Stacey, I had thought long and hard about this very subject not too too long before my current opportunity presented itself. I thought, "God, how will I move on if you don't give me my heart's desire?" He just kept saying to trust Him. I finally came to the place that I thought about God's sovereign plan for my life. That plan that he made for me before I was formed (Ps 139). I thought how to truly trust Him, I had to trust His plan for my life and where that might lead me. It doesn't mean that it would be easy, but I could guarantee in my attitude and trust in Him that I would be happy - simply because I was living in His will. Happy doesn't always equal getting what we want and when we want it or the way we want it, but happy is knowing Who we belong to and that He is trustworthy and knows us by name. Without this, I couldn't imagine a happy ending, you know?

p.s. saw that you have another Sunny here! kewl!

Billy Coffey said...

I like a happy ending, but I also like to believe that happy endings often involve a lot of pain. I'd much rather a movie or a book leave the ending to me.

Give me hope. That's all the ending I need.

LyricallyDiscordant said...

I strongly suspect I know what book you're talking about... but I'll keep it to myself.

Anyhow, I agree with you on this one - a happy ending is rarely satisfying simply for the happy part. I need a natural ending more than I need an "up" ending.

iamstacey said...

I wonder too how I will handle it if the times comes when we can't try anymore, when it's time to accept a child-free life. I just keep praying that if it's not in His plan that He will change my heart so my longing is not for children anymore. It's hard to accept right now, though.

Sunny said...

I was thinking of you and hoping you were having a good week! (((HUGS)))

waiting said...

Through 6 years of unexplained secondary infertility my faith grew exponentially. When 2 miscarriages happened in the span of 18 months, I thought my faith would be shattered! I did not like the time at all, but it was what God intended for whatever reason. It was a time of intense wrestling with God and crying out to Him for answers that were slow to come. I must say that I finally did get to the point where I believed no happy ending would come for me. However, on March 23, 2009 my happy ending was born. I conceived naturally with no aide of any infertility drugs. I strongly felt God's leading in that direction after trying Clomid and Femara on 2 separate occasions. Never give up on the happy ending. And never give up your faith in the only One who can change your story in a moment's notice. "His compassions are NEW EVERY MORNING! Great is HIS Faithfulness!" I would often wake up and wonder if my new morning would ever come. It FINALLY did! I pray yours will as well. I will be praying.