Most fairy tales have a common beginning and a common ending.
The beginning of a fairy tale goes like this: “Once upon a time, in a land far away….” (you know the rest). The story goes on to narrate the adventures and misadventures of some heroic character, that suffers unjust treatment and somehow manages to overcome every adverse situation, ultimately achieving some sort of retribution that rights all wrongs…and in the end, the main character “lived happily ever after”.
As a child, I enjoyed the simplicity of this statement…because it allowed me to let my imagination take over, and envision different happy scenarios. Even if the fairy tale was the same, in my mind, I could insert a different kind of happy-ending every time. Nowadays, I still love happy endings, I love them in fairy tales, books, movies, and also, in real life.
Unexpectedly however, it is my love for happy endings that led me the to gain insight about the topic of sadness and regret during perhaps one of the most crucial times of my life.
My fairy tale: Meeting my husband
If you talk to my husband, he will testify to the fact that I am not the most romantic woman in the world, quite the contrary, I tend to be more practical than anything else. This has been the case for most of my life; when I was in my teens, and early twenties, I never believed in love at first sight, and, as a matter of fact, I understood love at first sight to be some form of youthful infatuation that was unworthy of my time and energy… (yeah, I know).
Anyhow, it was a December evening, and I had been invited to a friend’s birthday dinner. I wasn’t expecting anything uber-exciting; I envisioned a good Italian meal, hanging out with my friend, and nothing more…However, when I arrived at Olive Garden’s, I noticed among the guests a handsome, tall, blond man with a gorgeous smile. Somehow, we had the chance to converse a bit, and it turned out, we had a ridiculous amount of stuff in common. I was so excited to meet him, and I remember thinking at that moment, that perhaps there COULD be such a thing as love at first sight…(NOTICE: I still was a bit skeptical).
Almost exactly a year later, I found myself celebrating my birthday with this handsome, tall, blond man, who was now my boyfriend. We had started dating earlier in that year…and we were crazy about each other. I could see myself spending the rest of my life with him, and I could sense the feeling was mutual. So that day, on my birthday, I remember feeling like everything was falling into place; I had found “the one”, I was about to start my last semester of college, and my life was starting to converge into the point where I could be “happily ever after”.
The weird part of “happily ever after”
Tim (the tall, handsome, blond guy) and I got engaged during a wonderful trip together. It was precisely at this point in my life, that instead of being happily ever after, I found myself struggling with feelings of sadness and regret. I did not understand why I was feeling sad. I felt that I should be happy about my circumstances, and since my circumstances did not match my emotional state, I decided to seek advice from a counselor.
I remember the first appointment with the counselor, I felt really self-conscious, like I was the oddest person in the planet, I was wondering; “why am I sad, when I have the greatest fiancé, and I am about to graduate college”? As I sat with the counselor and talked to her, the reason for my sadness became crystal clear. It was like I was looking into the magic mirror, which allowed me to see beyond my present reflection, and to understand everything in a better way. I realized that the source of my sadness was not my present circumstances, or the wonderful journey that I was about to begin by Tim’s side. The source of my sadness was the loss of something that I thought I would always have….
Four years before I met Tim, my family and I had relocated to the United States. This move was unexpected, and it meant we had to leave important aspects of our lives back in El Salvador, and start our lives over in the U.S. The transition was not hard, however leaving El Salvador was very painful; I gave up the comfort of home, and the plans that I had for my future. Up to the point when we left El Salvador, I had never-ever envisioned myself living abroad, much less settling abroad; I loved El Salvador. However, since life doesn’t always go according to planned, we had to relocate and settle in Texas. This meant that my future would be completely different that what I had envisioned…and it was this loss, that was causing all the sadness and regret that I was feeling. Most importantly, through my conversation with the counselor, I figured out the reason why I was not able to deal properly with the sadness and regret that followed my departure from El Salvador; it was because I felt guilty about being sad…I felt like I should be happy, and I never allowed myself to deal with the sad feelings.
From that experience, I learnt valuable lessons about sadness and regret:
1. Sadness & Regret do not always come as a direct result of something we did or did not do…it is the result of living in a world, where circumstances and people change (which can result in hurt)
2. Sadness & Regret can take place at different points in time in our lives, without circumstances and feelings corresponding one-to-one
3. Sadness & Regret weigh our heart down, and can keep us from experiencing our life to the fullest
4. Sadness & Regret in our lives isn’t always our fault, but we can feel guilty about it, and it is important to learn how to deal with it in a healthy way.
How to deal?
So the question is, how can we then deal with sadness and regret in a healthy way?
2 Corinthians 7:10 says: “Godly sadness causes us to turn away from our sins and be saved. And we are certainly not sorry about that! But worldly sadness brings death.”
Through this verse, we cans see that according to the bible, there are two kinds of sadness; Godly sadness, and worldly sadness. Godly sadness is the one that brings us closer to God, it reconciles us with God and other people, it heals us and it leaves no regret. Worldly sadness on the other hand, isolates us, it is hurtful and fills us with regret, this is the unhealthy sadness that keeps us from living our life to the fullest.
In christian circles -and even in non-christian circles- it is very common for people to feel guilty about being sad, and this creates a cycle of sadness, guilt, and regret that paralyzes people and causes them to isolate themselves from God and others. This is not a healthy way to deal with sadness.
Turning Worldly Sadness into Godly Sadness
It is important that we realize that it is normal to be
sad sometimes. We do not always have to be
happy-go-lucky. Nevertheless, we need to be able
to discern the nature of our sadness; whether it is worldly
sadness or Godly sadness. The good news about
being sad is that, God welcomes us just as we are.
He is not going to turn us away because we have
tears in our eyes…The Bible says:
“a broken and contrite heart,
O God, You will not despise” -Psalm 51:17
King David -who wrote this Psalm – was an expert in sadness and regret. He had a lot of reasons to be sad and regretful in his lifetime…however he always found his way back to God…even in his lowest points, because he knew that in God he could always find comfort. To me, this is a happy ending.
I still love happy endings, and now I can say I believe in love at first sight (thank you Tim)…however, I am a bit more careful when it comes to happily ever after.