Thursday, April 13, 2006

Happily Ever After

Happily ever after is not just the stuff of fairy tales. This year’s World Book Day
in the United Kingdom had a survey which concluded that “Happy endings of books make a positive contribution to the nation’s quality of life.”

You’ll be fascinated to know that men and women are different (!) with different opinions on what their favorite happy endings are. Though interestingly both sexes were occasionally in agreement that they were unable to agree on whether some endings were happy or not—the real question seemed to focus on the issue of whether you believe that “settling down” is a happy end for some people!

Why do people like happy endings? They say reading a story with a happy ending puts them in a good mood for the rest of the day and gives them a sense of well-being. They are satisfying—and often satisfying in a way life is not. While it all seems obvious, the older I get, the more profound I am finding the obvious.

As an avid reader, do you find yourself listening to a friend’s story and wanting to re-write the ending? Or do you find yourself hearing the beginning of some true-life saga and mentally seeing the rest of the chapters play out in an inevitable Thomas Hardyesque manner? I do. I’ve learned (mostly) to keep quiet about my opinions.

In fact, I have one of those blank books I have titled The Prediction Book in my home and when anyone gets particularly know-it-all about their ability to predict how something will play out, they are challenged to write down their prediction in The Prediction Book. They cannot crow or claim any prescience if they haven’t put it down beforehand. It has been a very humbling experience for all concerned! I recommend it.

But while the barriers between truth and fiction are blurring in many complex and different ways, that doesn’t take away from the deep sense of rightness a satisfying ending delivers. Or the great sense of happiness a happy ending delivers.

And just to put it out there, I am totally a happy endings devotee. I still read like a twelve-year-old, throwing myself utterly into a story. For me, the characters become real, and if the story is good, they are people I care deeply about. I like spending time with them. Just like my own friends, I want them to be happy. I am distressed if they are sad.

And if the story ends in a bad way, in a bad place, that is where I am. And it can take days, weeks—as long as my own memory lasts to recover from being left in that bad place. I still haven’t forgiven Larry McMurtry for killing Gus in Lonesome Dove—and not just for killing him, but killing him in such a mean way. And I read that book many, many years ago!

Maybe it’s the romance reader in me—that believer in relationships, in partnerships, in thinking we can find a path to get along…OK, an incurable optimist. That believer that love is capable of overcoming enormous obstacles, of performing miracles. That it has. That it can.

And I find it inspiring to be reminded through stories and examples that we humans are capable—occasionally—of putting others needs above our own and of having others put our needs above theirs.

It has happened. It can.

No comments: