Thursday, May 26, 2011

Love, Happiness and Hollywood

One day when I was young my mother told me that romantic comedies stop filming just in time to skip the heartache that is the real ending.  For a long while, I believed that.  I came to believe that total independence was the key to happiness.  Is it really so hard to doubt happy ever after?  There is plenty misery and sadness in the world to justify cynicism.  But there is also plenty joy, if you know where to look.

Happiness -- both a proper and common noun, adjective and state of being, destination and mindset.  How does one become happy?  How does one keep the happiness they find?  And what role does love play in the equation?  Is it an additive: Love + x = Happiness?  Or perhaps the solution: Happiness + x = Love?

For me, there was no neat and tidy formula for becoming happy, or for finding love, for that matter.  There was only a very messy moment in which I decided I could not wait for happiness to fall in my lap, but had to instead, theoretically, barrel through happiness' front door.  So I did.  I can't claim to know how it happened.  I think parts of it can be attributed to a purging of fear, doubt.  Perhaps a little of it came from superficial things -- a new haircut, a pair of perfect jeans.  What I do know is that it was a conscious effort to chip away at the unhappiness that eventually etched a smile onto my heart. 

But love?  Love is different.  If the brick road to happiness is yellow and clearly marked, the road to love is purple and hidden beneath a layer of grass.  It is both created and discovered (and sometimes it ambushes you).  There are clearly developed loves, like the love for a true friend, pruned and tended for years until its maintenance becomes second nature.  There is the love we have for our family, ever present and deep rooted, granted freely at birth and maintained by equal doses of help and need.  And perhaps most importantly, there is the love we don't see coming, the love we don't always ask for -- passionate love.

In one moment you are you, with goals and plans and interests, excited to watch figure skating in the Olympics and have a bowl of Cheerios.  You know exactly what you believe in and what you want your life to become.  Then suddenly love throws you a wild card and your world is turned upside down and all you can think about is someone else's favorite things, and where they'll be in five years, and if there's even the slightest hope that you'll have time to watch one figure skating routine before you have to meet this person for lunch.  Let's be clear, that lunch hour is now the highlight of your day.  In one instant, occasionally at first sight, but more often on a second or third date, you stop being yourself, and start being someone's love.  It's like a cinder block is dropped onto your playing card castle in the air.  Only you kind of like it.

This is where romantic comedies begin and real life ends.  Enter wild plotlines filled with insane coincidences and bad puns.  Someone cries "action!" and a fight explodes onto the screen.  Things seem hopeless for all of ten, maybe fifteen minutes, and then simultaneously, Leading Man and Size 2 Heroine realize that true love should conquer all.  Queue the misty-eyed reunion, a close up of big smiles...and then the screen fades to black and we are allowed to think that this happy ending was inevitable, that it was fate.

Fate does a lot of things.  It makes apples fall on scientists' heads, drives arrows into warriors' heels, and occasionally, it pushes two people together at the right time in the right place and sprinkles some pixie dust over their heads.  But fate doesn't get you a happy ending.  In this regard, my mother was absolutely right.  Love is no cake walk.  There are times of doubt, regret, name calling, and door slamming, even after the first misty-eyed reunion.  But I am a stubborn, persistent romantic.  I believe that a life without love isn't worth living.  A few slammed doors aren't enough to send me packing, especially not when fate was kind enough to toss pretty incredible pixie dusted boy into my lap.

So if happiness is something you make, and love is something you're given (but have to nourish), what does this mean for Hollywood and the star-crossed mushy gushy script writers?  I'm not entirely sure, but here's my theory:  That shining couple from the movie?  They're in for a rough ride, but I think they can make it through.  No matter what happens after everything fades to black, they were happy together while the cameras were rolling.  Fate tossed an apple at their heads and said, "What are you going to do with it?"  Last we saw, they were fighting desperately to make it to happily ever after.  Why should we doubt that they'll ever stop trying?  Better yet, why should we ever stop trying ourselves?

Make no mistake; I am not naive enough to think that everybody gets their true love on the first try.  I do however believe with all my heart that fate chucks down an apple for all of us, and that with patience and determination everyone is capable of keeping "true love" alive.  Still, the beauty of life isn't in making it to some movie ordained perfect ending, it's in chiseling out a happily every second for yourself, making the choice to do everything you can with what you're given.  Who knows what fate might throw your way next?


  1. "it's in chiseling out a happily every second for yourself, making the choice to do everything you can with what you're given"

    Well said Carrie!

  2. I think you are right. God has prepared a life partner for everybody to share romance with. If hurdles come, we have to clear them.

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  3. Thanks! :) To be honest, I hadn't really intended to pull out the soap box for this one. The post just kind of evolved without my realizing it... I like how it turned out though.

  4. I loved your post. A few years ago, I wrote one on happiness too. Check it out.


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