Note to readers: I just ran across this post in a folder of rough drafts for blog posts. I don’t know if I ever posted it, but it’s just what I needed today, so I thought I’d share.
I’m reading a romantic suspense novel today. I spend more time writing than reading, so letting somebody else tell the story is a treat, but as I neared the last quarter of the book, I wasn’t necessarily enjoying myself. There was a serial killer lurking in the background, and of course the author was eventually going to put the heroine in danger. I could practically hear the Jaws music in the background, and my heart was pounding.
I had to remind myself to calm down. This wasn’t just a suspense novel; it was a romantic suspense novel, and that meant all the characters I cared about would survive and thrive, while the bad guy would get what was coming to him. Every romance has a happily-ever-after. That’s how they work, and you’d think I’d read (and written) enough of them to know it.
As I closed in on the ending of my book, I reminded myself there was a happy resolution coming. Of course there was a tense, suspenseful scene or two where the heroine was in danger, but it would all blow over, so I willed myself to relax and enjoy myself. And I did. Of course, there was a happy ending, and I closed it with a sigh of relief. I’d learned my lesson all over again: everything will be all right.
That’s why romance novels are more than just entertainment. If you read enough of them, you start to have faith everything will come out right in the end, and that feeling carries over into your life. You learn to wade through tough times and never give up, because after absorbing all these stories, you’re wired to believe there’s a happy ending waiting on the other side.
If you’re cynical, you might see that as unrealistic. Life isn’t fair, after all, and we don’t always get what we’ve worked so hard to earn. We all start our lives with hopes and dreams, but invariably life gets in the way. Maybe a partner dies, or maybe our work is unfulfilling. Maybe we have money problems through no fault of their own, and worry about paying the bills.
I recently lost my mother, and I’ve spent a lot of time in nursing homes and assisted living facilities over the past few years. I’ve found that despite the challenges of growing old, most elderly men and women, including my mother, face life with a remarkably positive attitude. I came to believe wisdom gathered over time, makes us better able to understand the world, put events in perspective, and accept whatever life dishes out.
While we rarely get what we want, we learn to value what we have, and as long as someone loves us—a child, a friend, a pet, a partner—we can find a sort of peace. What matters in the end isn’t superficial accomplishments like money or status, so we have to let those youthful hopes and dreams go. That sounds sad, but in a way, accepting life as it is can be a happily ever after, too.
Life’s not a romance novel. Not everyone gets a white wedding with bluebirds and confetti in the end. But people do, more often than not, find a kind of peace and satisfaction in their later years.
That’s why I intend to keep on reading romance novels, practicing my endurance as I make my way through all the turning points, black moments, and scary denouements to find the good things that wait for me at the end. I intend to live my life that way, too, with hope, optimism, and faith in a happy ending.