For 15 years I have had that. I am very, very lucky. And I had every expectation that I would be able to continue this version of happily ever after for years to come. After all, in fairy tales happily ever after means at least for a really long time.
On January 18th that changed. My beloved was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. You can read about it here and frankly in just about every post for 2014 to date. If you want to know how he's doing go here. Now, just over a month later, the shock is wearing off and I'm beginning to think about how I manage in this new normal. What does happily ever after look like now?
I don't have a good answer for that yet.
I do have some ideas of what happily ever after is becoming. This is subject to change, of course, but it might be useful (it's at least useful to me) so here they are.
- Ever after means something different now. Each morning I wake up and try to remind myself that I have today. None of us are really guaranteed anything beyond this breath; I am just in a position of being more aware of that than most people. Today can be a kind of happily ever after.
- The happily part is different now. I used to take great joy in the every day pleasures - going grocery shopping together, laughing until we couldn't stand, stuff like that. Those pleasures are changing now. I'm looking for smaller grains of happiness and learning to cherish them. Holding hands. The moments of clarity through medication and pain. Watching him take a small bite of something and remembering, however briefly, that food can be good. Knowing he is finally sleeping well.
- Happily ever after now means a different kind of work together, different problems to solve, different understandings of time. But it still exists in glimpses I will not deny.
There will certainly be times when I can't find light, but to deny what happiness there still is in this stressed, painful, uncertain place is to submit to illness too early. There is still joy. There is still a future, though it may have been redefined. There is still a kind of happily ever after.
I know this may sound like I'm denying what's happening or as if I am a pollyanna. I am not. What I am is one person, standing witness to what has been and what will be, and reminding myself that what happily ever after really means is right now. This moment. I am reminding myself that even in the dark, even when I am at my most scared and desolate, happiness can be found in difficulty and that ever after is all any of us ever have.
(c)2014 Laura S. Packer