Living Happily … In Spite of it All

Those of you who are on Facebook may have noticed a section they have called “On This Day” which shows you what you posted on that date each year since you joined Facebook.  I had a look at mine on the last day of 2017 and saw a progression of end-of-year posts where I cussed out that current year and fervently asked the next year not to be so bad.  It made me stop and think about things for a while.

Perhaps you have read books or seen TV shows/movies where the main characters just never catch a break.  They solve one urgent dilemma, only to be hit with the next one.  One character's life is miraculously saved, only for them to be kidnapped while walking out the hospital doors.  They are rescued, but then an earthquake hits.  They leap over a growing chasm to safety... onto an improbable platform of snakes.  You know.  Like that.  Those stories generally rile me up enormously because I want to shout at the writers, “Would you just let them enjoy things for a second?  Can't they savor their victory for one consarned minute without you throwing another baddie at them?!  Where is that happily-ever-after we're always promised!?”  Of course, eventually, that's exactly how many stories come to a conclusion:  our heroes conquer all and live happily ever after, or so we assume.  We don't really know if the Prince and Princess live in bliss for all time, though.  We've left their story; we just know how it goes up to the point when love wins the day and... end scene.

Pondering on it, I've decided that fairytales and other forms of fiction have a lot to answer for.  I have been conditioned to expect that at some point the main character in my story (me!) will live “happily ever after” or at least have a good, long contented run of good stuff happening in a peaceful life.  Hmm... let's review.

2017.  I can't clearly call it the worst year ever, though it's in the running. If you've followed my column you know about some of the things that have happened; the thousand miles a month of nail-biting, pants-wetting, white-knuckle driving up and down the treacherous A9, my husband's increased health problems, the house-move that happened while he was in the hospital, and all the rest. There's a lot more that I haven't written about here, and I won't bore you with details, but it has been a stressful year like no other in every possible way.  I have 2017-fatigue, and I am sure that some of you do, too.  In fact, Facebook's “On This Day” showed me that I had year-end-exhaustion going back to around 2011!

In thinking over this past, unbelievably difficult year, what I've finally realized is that there IS no happily-ever-after.  I actually don't mean that in a negative way, regardless of how it might sound.  Maybe I should have seen the light sooner but... I need to stop waiting for that gilded fairytale moment when all is well and will always be well.  It doesn't exist.  Our stories are constantly changing and we write new chapters all the time; the story doesn't end until we ourselves end, so while there can be lots of happiness on every page, the “ever after” part is bunk.  I have come to the conclusion that I really have to accept this, and even embrace it.  In this I am inspired by my friend (and yours, if you are fortunate!) Matt Grigsby who wrote, in his own end-of-year Facebook post, “I don't want to chalk up 2017 as a wasted year, with nothing learned. I'd rather look at it as a jumping off point to some better stuff.”

Life: we put out one fire, and while we are wiping our soot-stained brows the embers behind us catch a puff of air and either start to smolder or just outright burst into fresh flame. We turn around once we feel the heat at our backs, and we stomp out that fire... just in time to side-step a charred tree that wants to fall on top of us. (I know that metaphor will hit awfully close to home to some of you; we hear about the wildfires out west even here, across the ocean.)  Over and over, we solve a series of problems only to be faced with a new set of issues, and so on it goes. Stuff keeps happening. We never seem to get to sit back, look around contentedly and think, "Hey, this is nice," and get a breather for a good long while.  Finally I see it... the authors and scriptwriters aren't wrong – though they do tend towards the excessive – they're just mirroring life.  Often, respite is in short supply, so we have to buck up and keep going.

The beauty of a life even as chaotic and interrupted as my life is with Sem is that it's not all bad – far from it – and that's a thing to hold onto tightly.  We laugh nearly every day, my love and I.  Indeed one of the best things in my life is that I can often make him laugh, really laugh. Knowing that I make his life nicer, better, more fun, more filled to the brim with as much love as I have to give (it's a lot), makes my life good, in turn. Knowing that he loves me, never doubting it for a second, is a treasured and precious fact. We are almost always easy with each other. It's not perfect - nothing is perfect - but it is more than I ever expected, in a relationship and in life, in many of the ways that matter the most.  In that respect our life together is an awful lot like a fairytale.  Sem's armor might be rusty and the bloom is certainly off my rose but oh, how we love each other, and will continue to do so – dare I say it – “ever after!”

I have no idea what this year will bring.  Who does?  I've stopped trying to think ahead, and maybe that's the lesson life is trying to batter into me. All I can do is try to react to things more positively and not fall into the everything-is-a-disaster-and- nothing-is-good trap. Because it isn't all a disaster, and much of it really is good. Most of the time I'm afraid to revel in the good things or even acknowledge them because I irrationally fear that allowing myself happiness will bring on something bad.  But the reality is that there's always going to be bad stuff. It's not a flaw in the story, it's just part of the ongoing tale.  The vital thing is that there are always good things, too, both big and small.  To rebuff those good things or to ignore them is to dishonor them.

So I've given up asking the next year, as if it is some kind of conscious entity, to be less rotten than the last. I've finally realized that 2017 doesn't care if I hurl vicious swears at it, no more than 2018 cares if I come to it on my knees, begging for it not to be awful. 2018 will be whatever it will be and it's likely that there will be some baddies in it, but it's also likely that it will contain love and laughter and joy too, just like all of these previous years with Sem.

For me, that's all it boils down to. If I can write, at the close of each year, that I still have my sweetheart here with me, then that's another successful year of living, in my book; one more chapter where we, the main characters in our own story, live happily... in spite of it all.

Deb Segelitz
Deb Segelitz was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and is astounded to find herself living in the Scottish Highlands. Equally surprising to her is that she now has a small business restoring and selling old fountain pens. These two facts have convinced Deb that life is either beautifully random, or filled with destiny created by someone with a sense of humor. She hopes the fine north state residents will accept her as an honorary member, since she has some cousins in California who she visited once, but even more importantly because the north state folks she actually knows are fabulous people, who are also the reason for her presence here on anewscafe.com. An enthusiastic amateur photographer, Deb is grateful that she lives in a place that's about as point-and-shoot as it gets. Her tortoiseshell cat, Smartie, rates her as an average minion, too slow with the door-opening but not too bad on the food-dish-refilling, and her husband hasn't had her deported back to the States yet, so things must be going all right there, as well.
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47 Responses

  1. Matt Grigsby says:

    As always (and how do you do it??), this is perfectly painted with words. I never really thought about the broken promise of happy endings, but having a realistic view of a life lived with hurdles and smooth patches is a healthier approach. I don’t think I know anyone who didn’t pay dearly for 2017, but when I realized I didn’t need to fear 2018 it shifted my attitude.
    Your challenges and terrors are many, but I also love that you’re still able to see the awesome gifts you’ve been given too. You inspire us all, and I truly mean that.

  2. Buffy Tanner says:

    And isn’t it the baddies that make us appreciate those moments of laughter and joy that much more? Thank you for this piece, Deb!

    • Deb says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Buffy! I understand what you’re saying, but I think we’ve just had far too many baddies to appreciate them in any way at all. At this point I could appreciate the laughter and joy a whole lot more *without* the baddies. 😉

  3. Beverly Stafford says:

    What Matt said – as just as eloquently as you did, Deb. My husband has a line that when something good or great happens, “Don’t say it aloud because it will be jinxed.” But you did say it aloud, and it won’t be jinxed because it is what it is. We all need to accept the “this is this” in our lives whether or not we want to. Thank you, Deb, for yet another of your thought-provoking pieces with such beautiful photos.

    • Deb says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Beverly. I don’t know where that feeling of jinxing a good thing comes from, but I sure feel it, too. Tough to overcome, but worth trying!

  4. The nice thing about writing is you can always fake a happy ending.

  5. A beautiful article, Deb. Live for today and love to both of you.

  6. Karen C says:

    Your photos are awsome, and perfectly reflected your mood at the time. Beautifully written Deb and certainly has me thinking.

    2017 was a tough year, and it did not start out any better, but yes, there are smiles and better moments to share too.
    Thank you.

  7. Carol Cowee says:

    Gorgeous photos! I have a Parker fountain pen that was given me on our first Christmas by my husband of 2 days, lo so many years ago! We were married December 23,1956! Can you restore it?

    • Deb says:

      Glad you enjoyed them! I likely could restore your Parker (depending on what it needs) but at the moment my husband is in and out of the hospital and I’m already delinquent on the handful of pens I have in to be restored for folks, so I’m unable to take in any more pens for restoration. Also, if you are in the US it makes more sense to have your Parker restored by someone within the States – secure shipping costs to and from the UK can get pricey!

  8. Charlotte says:

    Laughter is often the best medicine, but tears are healing, too, just in a different way. Thanks for being in my life through your thought-provoking columns.

  9. cheyenne says:

    Beautiful article again Deb. And as I have related to your situation with my wife’s health I do have to say 2018 looks to be better than 2017. 2017 started out with my wife getting sick and being on 24/7 oxygen. Now that we are moving from Cheyenne to Phoenix my wife’s health has improved, she has been in Phoenix for the last couple of months, and she no longer needs oxygen tanks to breathe. I only wish that for you to drop to a lower altitude would improve your 2018.

    • Deb says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Cheyenne! I’m so glad to hear that your wife is doing so well in Phoenix. That is wonderful news!

  10. Common Sense says:

    Very nice writing and thanks for sharing! The gift we give ourselves is the current moment….that’s why we call it the “Present”. Staying in the present moment is a bit of a challenge. Even when we ponder what we did last year….we are doing in the now….the present. When we think of what we want to accomplish, say a goal to reach for next year….its done in the Present.

    When we stop and thing….everyone is going through something….the up’s and the downs…sometimes overwhelming downs it seems….we give thanks….we give thanks for the good times…the laughs….the joys, the Love. As we get older we also learn that there is no “out there”…..we are all one…..and our thoughts daily and consistently determine our outcomes.

    We have the “Choice” each and every day….to have a good day….to Laugh….to Love…..to Share….to Give thanks……its a choice…and it all starts within.

    You can never see in another….that which you can not see or find within yourself first….. you can not give that which you have not…..its only when we Love ourselves…can we see love in another…..I am glad you have your beloved and recognize how special that is….enjoy each moment!

    Life is short……the Gift….is… the Present! The Present Moment….the Present Love…The Present…Joy….

  11. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    This is why, of the worlds great religions, it’s Buddhism that most appeals to me.

    The Buddha’s foundational assumption: Life is suffering.

    But hey! Here’s a chest of tools to help you cope, and even thrive! And not the promise of suffer now and maybe get rewarded for eternity—the “Pascal’s wager” plan. Nope.

    Right here and now: Relax. Be mindful. Be nice. Be truthful. Be generous. Exercise moderation. Stop striving endlessly for satisfaction from material gain. You’ll feel better—seriously.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Incidentally, the Greek philosopher Epicurus, and to me the most beautiful book of the Bible, Ecclesiastes, have similar take-home messages. The Ecclesiast argued at length that you only live once and then you’re dust, so enjoy the ride while it lasts as best you can. Epicureanism gets mis-labeled as hedonism, but it ain’t so. Epicurus viewed life as a balancing act.

  12. The Old Pretender says:

    You’re the best, Deb. Don’t ever think you are boring us with details. It is the details we share that make us know that none of us are alone. Love the pics. Is that a mackerel sky?

    • Deb says:

      Aw thank you! You are very kind.

      I wouldn’t call that a mackerel sky… a mackerel sky is far more fish-scaley in visual texture (if you know how I mean that) and color, at least the ones I’ve seen here which people call by that name.

  13. Oh, Deb, your writing takes me on roller coaster of emotions, and your photos make for beautiful scenery. Thank you for sharing your writing; a wonderful mix of humor, authenticity, pain, joy and insight. I hope you and your Sem have had a day filled with more goodies than baddies.

    xodoni

    • Deb says:

      Thank you so much, Doni!

      It was a mixed day… Sem is back in hospital (filled with baddies) getting IV antibiotics (filled with goodies). Onward… xo

  14. Gerry says:

    Every day is a new start. Plan to enjoy every day regardless of the challenges handed out. It changes your thinking. Good things may be little but happen in every day. Just be aware of them.

    • Deb says:

      It is a difficult thing to do, especially with my somewhat dour Teutonic tendencies, but I continue to strive, as always 🙂

  15. K. Beck says:

    Great article, Deb. I think we all think other people have lives better than our own because we usually do not know the minutiae of other people’s lives. It is way too easy to fall into the “everything sucks” bucket. I know I do that far too often. I find it interesting other people think 2017 was a horrible year. What was wrong with 2017???? For me it was the absolute worst year ever. Not for me personally, but for many of my friends. It really started in late Dec of 2016. I knew as I grow older people will start dying, but 7 in the span of 12 months?! I felt like I was one of the cats in the old carney Tip the Cat game, get knocked down, get back up, over & over again…certainly makes me not take any day for granted. And I try to find something amazingly wonderful every day, even if it is “only” that I and most of my friends are still wondering the earth, no matter what condition we happen to be in.

    • Deb says:

      Sometimes I think I have carved my own groove into the “everything sucks” bucket (a phrase which just made me laugh out loud by the way!), so I try to shake myself out of it as often as I can.

      I’m so sorry you had so many tragic losses over the past year-plus. It’s wonderful that you (a) keep getting back up and (b) find something wonderful about each day. A good way to live!

  16. Sandra says:

    Beautifully said.

  17. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Beautifully written article Deb. I work at being positive about life but realistic about it’s challenges and I know you are selective about the parts of your world that you share with us. There are times when I experience things I’ve never heard or read about. I taken by unaware by events that people have been experiencing for centuries. A friend of mine turned 85 last month and is surprised to be experiencing such a wide variety of, but hidden from literature and movie, signs of aging. She looked at me one day and said “I see the world through these eyes the same way I did when I was 10. About this aging thing….who knew?” I love your writing and your beautiful photographs. As Red Green said on a Canadian program of the same name, “Remember I’m pulling for you. We are all in this together.”

    • Beverly Stafford says:

      I saw a t-shirt in a catalogue that stated: I thought getting old would take longer. Amen to that.

      • Deb says:

        It’s the strangeness of the years going by more quickly all the time – all those years when we were young, hearing our elders say, “Where DID the time go?” and wondering what they meant… the older we get, the more we understand that sentiment!

    • Deb says:

      Thank you, Joanne. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I think I know just what you mean about experiencing things you’ve never heard or read about, even though people have been experiencing for centuries… and I love what your friend said, too. Some days I feel like such a different person than I was even ten years ago, and other times I feel just the same as I always have, as if my inner age does not change in some ways, while in others I’ve managed to at least gain a little bit of insight or wisdom. The aging thing is strange indeed, and often not for the faint-hearted!

      It’s lovely to have so many people pulling for us, thank you very kindly for that.

  18. Ginny says:

    Always beautifully written, with lovely photos to go with, Deb. Thank you.

    Life never seems to go as we plan all the time, but when we make the best of the bad, then the good seems thrice as good. At least, during the last 6 1/2 mos of Chuck’s life, I found that to be true. But, really, the Lord does come to help, even when we don’t realize it. At the same time, He brings other things to help here and there. Life does suck at times, but it is best when it doesn’t. So love the good, and throw away the bad, including hospital times from the lousy memories, but even with them, there is always something that is worthwhile. A smile, a love, a prayer.

    http://www.chuckshatsforchemo.com

    My blessings to you and Sem.

    • Deb says:

      I’m glad that you have a faith that comforts and sustains you, Ginny. It sounds like it has helped you through many very difficult times.

      • Ginny says:

        I believe you have Faith, also! Most of us do, but sometimes it difference sometimes how we look at something. You are making it, Deb with finding the good out of what sucks.

        Always, Blessings………g

        • Deb says:

          You are very kind-hearted, Ginny, but I must ask you not to make assumptions about things like faith, and what my views may or may not be. I find this a very personal line of conversation and so will leave it at that.

          Trying to find humor or something good in sucky situations is something I’ve become quite adept at, or at least I try 🙂

          Wishing you all the best. xo

  19. Eleanor says:

    Dear Deb
    I just read this for the third time. So often, I am so affected by your writing and the picture it paints (and the photos, too) that I cannot find an adequate or worthy response. And I do want to respond! I see that you are well aware of the tremendous value of having someone to love, and being loved. I believe that might be life’s biggest treasure. To love and be loved, this has to be the best life has to offer! I hope Sem is better today, and wish you a happy Valentine’s Day.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you, Eleanor, you are very kind! After two hospital stays in the last few weeks, Sem is finally a little bit better. I am relieved.

      Neither he nor I ever thought we’d have this kind of love; in fact, I think we had both stopped believing in it. Discovering otherwise has been a continual delight.

      Wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day, too.

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