Ordinary, Happily Ever After: By Any Other Name
Matt and I had a hard time naming each of our children. But the process was made a little easier by the fact that we both wanted normal names, with normal spellings. When it came to naming my blog, it was a LOT harder.
My first blog name was super original (after my family’s name). Catchy isn’t it? After my sister had a brush with some weirdos, she changed her blog URL to one that didn’t include her family name. I followed suit.
But what on earth would I change it to? I wasn’t creative, I didn’t have a specific niche and I don’t inspire. All I had to offer was daily musings of a mom with the occasional, somewhat profound rambling. At the time my blog was mostly read by family and a couple of neighbors.
At the time, I was going through an awakening of sorts. I was just coming out of a postpartum depression fog and I was re-realizing the beauty of everyday things. So, “Ordinary, Happily Ever After” was born.
My Happily Ever After
I believe that you create your own destiny, and “happily ever after’s” don’t just fall into people’s laps. It takes work and sacrifice!
In April of last year, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a talk in the General Young Women meeting entitled “Your Happily Ever After”. This is such a beautiful talk and was recently published in book form (which Deseret Book was kind enough to send me when I mentioned this post). He says:
…in most languages there exists a phrase as magical and full of promise as perhaps any in the world. That phrase is “Once upon a time.”
Aren’t those wonderful words to begin a story? “Once upon a time” promises something: a story of adventure and romance, a story of princesses and princes. It may include tales of courage, hope, and everlasting love. In many of these stories, nice overcomes mean and good overcomes evil. But perhaps most of all, I love it when we turn to the last page and our eyes reach the final lines and we see the enchanting words “And they lived happily ever after.”
Isn’t that what we all desire: to be the heroes and heroines of our own stories; to triumph over adversity; to experience life in all its beauty; and, in the end, to live happily ever after?
While this talk is directed towards young women, I believe the words he speaks applies to us old ladies as well. I remember being taught that the wedding was just the beginning. That marriage was hard work and it wasn’t always going to be sunshine and roses. Yet even with all of that council and warning, I remember being disappointed and a little surprised that it was true!
I knew how to be young and in love, but I didn’t know how to live with a boy! Heck, I hadn’t even been very successful living with other women where we all had our own lives and went our own ways. Now I shared a house with someone who I knew I wasn’t going to be able to just move away from if he got on my nerves. We were supposed to depend on each other and trust each other. I was supposed to go to HIM with my problems instead of my sisters. A BOY! And what if the boy in question WAS the problem? What then?
Ten years later we are both different people. Yet we even more in love now then we were when we first said: “I do”.
(click here to read all about when we said, “I don’t anymore”)
The Young Women’s Personal Progress handbook says “You are a beloved daughter of Heavenly Father, prepared to come to the earth at this particular time for a sacred and glorious purpose.” And as President Uchtdorf points out:
…those words are true! They are not made up in a fairy tale! Isn’t it remarkable to know that our eternal Heavenly Father knows you, hears you, watches over you, and loves you with an infinite love? In fact, His love for you is so great that He has granted you this earthly life as a precious gift of “once upon a time,” complete with your own true story of adventure, trial, and opportunities for greatness, nobility, courage, and love. And, most glorious of all, He offers you a gift beyond price and comprehension. Heavenly Father offers to you the greatest gift of all—eternal life—and the opportunity and infinite blessing of your own “happily ever after.”
But such a blessing does not come without a price. It is not given simply because you desire it. It comes only through understanding who you are and what you must become in order to be worthy of such a gift.
Lessons From the Movies
My new favorite Disney movie is Tangled. I just LOVE it! She has to be one of the best characters of all time. Here is a girl who was secluded from the rest of the world. She was constantly lied to and abused by her “mother”. Yet through it all, she managed to have a wonderful and positive outlook on life. When she was finally able to experience the world she appreciated every breath of fresh air and every blade of grass she felt under her feet. Eugene is great too! Here we have a criminal who thinks of nothing but himself. After just one day in the company of Rapunzel and her unbridled enthusiasm, he discovers that there are bigger things than himself and flushes his old dream in favor of a better one. One where every moment is a gift.
Every hero’s journey is the same.
Sandwiched between their “once upon a time” and “happily ever after,” they all had to experience great adversity. Why must all experience sadness and tragedy? Why could we not simply live in bliss and peace, each day filled with wonder, joy, and love?
Life is hard folks! It is filled with tragedy, heartbreak, and bitter disappointments. In addition to trials that come at us from the outside like financial trouble or the more tragic death and illness of loved ones, everyone struggles with their own internal adversity. Feelings of inadequacy, addiction, and mental illness are an entirely different type of sorrow that are invisible to the outside world.
I can tell you from experience that if you have never struggled with depression, then you can never understand or empathize. I have family who had problems with depression for years, but I never truly understood until I wrestled with it myself. I’ll be perfectly honest before I experienced postpartum depression for myself, I would have told you it was all a crock. I believe that my struggle with depression is a blessing. I am stronger because of it. I am more compassionate and I am more understanding than I was four years ago. It wasn’t easy, but I came out on the other side a better person.
If we are going to be heroes of our own story we can’t pretend that our story will be happy all of the time. Heroes and heroines don’t become so because their lives are easy.
As I said before, I believe you can make your own happily ever after. I live a highly unglamorous life. I am a stay at home mom. Most of my conversations end with “just DO it!” and “because I said so!” I’m 30 lbs overweight. I can’t play piano for the life of me. My nose is too big and my chin is too small. I’m the “fat girl” that everyone is surprised can run as quickly as I can. I take nearly all of my creative ideas from other people and I am very boring in real life.
Yet I am indisputably the most blessed woman on earth! I’m fairly certain that I am married to the one and only “Prince Charming” and that my children, while they have their moments, are still the best and most beautiful children ever to have lived or ever will live.
I think most of us live unglamorous lives. That’s ok. In fact, I think an ordinary life is far more satisfying than a glamorous one. Unfortunately, I see far too many people focus on the big things that they don’t have and the big experiences they have never had.
People focus too much on the way they think their life should look on the outside to appreciate how wonderful it actually is on the inside!
Who cares if you don’t turn heads when you walk by. As long as your spouse’s head always turns to watch you, you have everything you could want! It’s ok if you can’t carry a tune, your children still love to hear you sing. It’s ok if you aren’t Condon Bleu trained, your family will always appreciate any meal around the dinner table.
I know I started talking about Elder Uchtdorf’s talk to the Young Women, but if I may quote from his latest talk to the Relief Society “forget not to be happy now.”
I hate to break it to you, but if you can’t find anything to be happy about in your life on a daily basis, then I fear you may never be happy. Happiness is not something that happens to people when everything is going right. Happiness is something that you pull out of your gut when everything is ordinary and mundane.
Life happens and life can be heartbreaking and bitter. Ask yourself if your heartbreak and bitterness is the exception rather than the rule. If not, then maybe the problem isn’t that your life isn’t good enough. Maybe it’s that you have chosen not to see the good in it.
The sad truth is that for most unhappy people, their unhappiness is self-inflicted.
Everyone is going to have a chapter or two in the story of their lives when it seems like there is nothing to be happy or grateful for. I have seen friends and family members deal with suicide, the death of children and chronic illnesses of their spouses. It’s heartbreaking. No one is expecting Sally Sunshine all of the time. I cried every day for six months and I can assure you it wasn’t self-inflicted.
I understand that there are circumstances beyond people’s control. I know that there are horrible people and sometimes they do terrible things. I’m not speaking of those who are suffering abuse or living with the echo of past abuse or serious mental illness.
I guess I’m just saddened by the seemingly endless stories of people who leave their spouses than for no other reason than they are “not in love anymore”. In case you haven’t heard “Love don’t come easy, it’s a game of give and take”. Though in my experience it’s a game of give and give.
Happily Ever After is Born of Little Things
Elder Uchtdorf gave the example of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and said “In their anxiousness, people begin to forget the simple joy they used to find in a candy bar. The candy bar itself becomes an utter disappointment if it does not contain a golden ticket.”
Life is sad, but life is also so wonderful. My kids are so loud! But they are loud laughing and singing and playing. I long for moments of silence and an hour to be able to be alone with my thoughts. But I don’t long for those moments at the expense of happy children and playful laughter.
Elder Uchtdorf said it well when he said:
This is not to say that we should abandon hope or temper our goals. Never stop striving for the best that is within you. Never stop hoping for all of the righteous desires of your heart. But don’t close your eyes and hearts to the simple and elegant beauties of each day’s ordinary moments that make up a rich, well-lived life.
The happiest people I know are not those who find their golden ticket; they are those who, while in pursuit of worthy goals, discover and treasure the beauty and sweetness of the everyday moments. They are the ones who, thread by daily thread, weave a tapestry of gratitude and wonder throughout their lives. These are they who are truly happy.
I am going to try and remember my own advice and find more sweetness in everyday moments.
I’m so grateful for Elder Uchtdorf and modern-day prophets. They speak words of comfort to me and inspire me to be better.
There is so much good and wonder in the world if we only look. We can’t expect good things to just fall in our laps, we have to make good things happen and be willing to see the good things when they are right in front of us.