1 February 2015

51 – There Is No ‘Happily Ever After’

I have interesting chats with my supervisor every weekday morning before starting the day’s trade. And one of those chats inspired this essay.

I’m the first guy from our department to arrive in the warehouse. The first guy besides DJ Serious, that is. He’s usually been packing and invoicing shipments for almost an hour by the time I arrive. And I show up an hour early.

DJ Serious takes his work seriously. But he takes health, wellness, and enjoying life seriously too. No matter the subject, our morning chats are always a good time. And it only helps that DJ Serious is a seriously funny guy.

One particular morning, we got onto the subject of food documentaries. DJ Serious told me the sequel to one we’d both really enjoyed had become available on Netflix. He’d already watched The Sequel with his wife, and recommended I check it out. So I did.

Joe Cross drank more fruits and veggies. He lost fat and saved himself.

The Sequel was the first thing DJ Serious asked me about the next morning. We had such an exciting discussion that we were tripping over our words. And we’re both pretty quick with the tongue.

We agreed that one of the best things about The Sequel was how it showed the real setbacks some of the main stars (including the host) were struggling with. The Sequel showed these people falling back into poor eating habits, letting their health slide and their weight increase. The Sequel doesn’t pretend there'll be a happy ending free from new problems.

The Sequel demonstrates an absolute truth about life. And it’s a truth that should matter to all of us. 

There is no such thing as ‘Happily Ever After.’ 

‘Happily Ever After’ is a really great way to end a fairy tale. But it doesn’t belong anywhere in the tale of a real life.

We can't lead perfectly happy lives. The World recklessly spews so much hot air, white noise, and bullshit that achieving pure, lifelong bliss is impossible. Not even having the balls to pursue the life you’ve always dreamed of can save you. Bullshit, as brought to you by The World, will smash into your bumper no matter how hard you work to become better and happier. Such are the consequences of getting out of bed every morning to be in life.

Lie down until the feeling passes if you have to. More importantly, if you're feeling shocked and/or appalled by what you've just read, do yourself a favour: pull your head out of your fucking ass. You won't get shit on so much, and it's a good starting point for where we're going next.

We’ll never stop having to deal with bullshit, torment, and grief. The World will never allow us to forget what sadness and anger and pain feel like. But there’s always hope.   

We need to abandon the fantasy of 'Happily Ever After.’ We need to forget about the ‘Ever After' and focus entirely on the ‘Happily. That's what really matters.

I’m 34. Over the course of several years, I’ve gradually reinvented myself. I’m slowly getting better at being in life. It's taken a long, long, long time. And I’m not asking you to believe me. I’m just telling you the truth.

Becoming happier has also taken a lot of work. Happiness requires nothing less than that. As my work buddies, Bob Neil and Initials, told us in House Newf #49: it’s all about making Lifestyle Changes by focussing on the Little Things.

So I’ve been living ‘Happily Ever After,’ right?

Like fuck I have.

This is real life we’re talking about here boys and girls. Shit has still happened even after I consciously started doing things to become happier and better. I’ll take you on a whiplash tour so you can see what I mean.

I was 26 when I first decided I really needed to get serious about my life. I spent almost every waking hour hunched over a computer screen studying to become a professor. One day I looked up long enough to realize that I weighed 238lbs and could barely squeeze into size 38 pants (Context: I’d been operating at about 190-200lbs in size 34 pants until that point). I was becoming a bloated and doughy bag of shit consumed by Career pursuits.

I made some small changes. I started eating more fruits and vegetables, going for long, fast walks, and drinking lots of water. Within a year I’d lost over 40lbs, and felt and looked a lot better.

That motivated me to make more changes. I began doing pushups, crunches, and squats at home several nights a week. I started getting stronger. I was finding things I enjoyed doing that weren’t work. I was becoming happier.   

Shit happened in early 2008. A serious relationship I’d been in for several years unravelled badly and quickly. Instead of pulling together, we pulled apart. What besides love can make you feel complete one second and tear you to shreds the next?

Things felt like this to me.

I picked up the pieces of me, moved out, and moved on. Being healthier and happier certainly helped me get through that. As did some epic friends, of course.

Being single again felt like a breath of fresh air. Sort of like this, but not quite. I started doing more exercises and yoga. I began playing in weekly basketball and floor hockey leagues. I rediscovered my interest in hobby woodworking. I was still becoming happier.

But new shit-storms started crucifying my mind in late 2009. I slowly realized that I hated my Career pursuit to become a professor. I didn’t give a fuck about the things I had to write, read, and talk about. I hated that I kept ignoring what I really wanted to write about. I hated that I wrecked my finances trying to finish the program. I hated that I had to move back in with my parents at age 30. The only things I didn’t hate were exercising, yoga and woodworking. Those activities gave me happiness, kept me sane, and saved me from several nervous breakdowns.

I quit that Career pursuit in late 2010. It was hard and terrifying. But I had to do it. How could I be happy doing something that had led me into a ‘George Costanza’ phase of life?

I started a new job in early 2011. I was excited to leave the university bubble-world behind, and I came storming out of the gates. I performed really well, and was becoming even happier again.

But shit happened again in late 2012. I gradually stopped caring about the job. My performance waned. I started getting severe headaches at work. I struggled to stick with my exercise and yoga routines. But I held on. I had to. They made me happy when I felt I had nothing else to be happy about. But they didn’t save me from striking another dark bottom.

So I took another plunge. I left that job and began devoting more of my time to rediscovering myself through exercise, yoga, and reading. And in doing so, I grew the balls to make three other changes: 1) I admitted being a hopeless prisoner to debt and filed for bankruptcy, 2) I only applied on jobs I really wanted to do, and 3) I started writing again.

And that brings us to right now.

I work in a warehouse. I like it, and I’m good at it. It’s what I want from a job: it allows me to make ends meet, and keeps me physically active and mentally alert. The guys in my department are all into health, wellness and fitness in some form. They all come at it from different angles, so there’s lots of valuable information being shared every single day. I find it a great place to be at this point in life.

This job complements the life I’ve spent several years building for myself. I do more activities that I enjoy in my spare time than ever before. I go for sunrise hikes down by the shore whenever I can and the weather’s agreeable. I tinker with woodworking projects every odd weekend. I exercise and practice yoga 6 days a week. I eat real, good food and enjoy eating more than ever before. And I write about things that matter to me every single day.

Some time ago I stated that Bob@34 is the best vintage to date. That remains true. I owe no money to nobody. I’m healthier and fitter than ever before. As of this writing, I’m a very lean and strong 180lbs, and need a tight belt to keep size 34 pants from dropping to my ankles. I’ve also written more words about things I care about in the past two years than I did during that 10 year Career pursuit to become a professor. 

I’m happier than I’ve ever been. 

I like who I am. I like being in life. I like being here now.

But I’m also the most reasonable and realistic version of me. I know The World is still going to find ways to fuck with me. In fact, I’ll probably bring some of that future shit on myself. I know I’m still going to endure hard times and dark days.   

But light shines brightest through the pure dark. Hard times don’t last. And sometimes it’s while we’re wallowing in dark misery, holding fast to those things that give us joy, that we discover what truly makes us happy. We can’t truly appreciate the ‘Happily’ until we’ve learned there is no ‘Ever After.’

But we can banish a lot of the shit-storms of The World from our lives. I’ll say no more on that subject here. I’ve already covered that ground in House Newf #40, #43, and this essay on Medium. Go read them.

Remember to always keep your head out of your ass. Accept that you can never live ‘Happily Ever After.’ But understanding that can help you to live ‘Happily’ as often as possible.

And there’s no rule preventing you from living a life wonderful like a fairy tale. 

You know it.

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The House Newf is from a rugged and beautiful island on the eastern edge of Canada called Newfoundland. He was first identified by a potter with a naturalist's flair, and he does in fact live in a house under the watchful eye of a cat that seems bewildered by the universe at large. That house is in Halifax, Nova Scotia and that's where the House Newf writes fiction and essays on things that add value to his life that may add some value to yours. You can contact him at bobharding80@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter @theHouseNewf, on Instagram @thehousenewf, and like him on Facebook. The House Newf is a unique specimen. Every home should have one.