You Decide How the Story Ends

Once upon a time a girl grew up with narcissistic parents who didn’t meet her needs because they were too busy trying to fill their own. She survived hard times, but she had no clue what she was missing or how other people lived. Through the struggles of a messy childhood and lonely adulthood, she journeyed until one day she saw some light. She moved toward it until she found herself outside of the cave she had been raised in. For the first time in her life she saw what she had been missing and she was both elated at the discovery and saddened by the life she had been living. Thus she began to search for happiness.

Despite her relief at finding light, the world outside the cave was almost too bright, for one thing it seemed unpredictable and scary at times. In such moments, she found herself longing to go back into the darkness where life seemed safe and predictable. Yet she knew such safety also stole her freedom for she was basically used as a slave by her family. Now that her eyes had become accustomed to the light, she could’t see very well in the cave.

Other times she wished she’d been born a princess and had never known the darkness of the cave because those memories seemed to follow her everywhere and often darkened her path and gave her anxiety. Even the smell of leather brought on a panic attack because it reminded her of the many times she had been beaten with a strap to appease someone else’s anger. When the darkness followed her, she often heard the contempt of her abusers and accusers she often wondered if she could ever find a good life.

On her journey she came around the bend and met an elderly woman who pulled back her shawl and offered her a leather book. The girl plugged her nose at the smell of the leather. The old sage was bent over and her hands were gnarled. For a second, she held her crooked finger to her lips before speaking,“Here is a gift. It holds the secret to a happy life.”

The young girl was curious why the old woman would offer it to her, but she accepted the book out of kindness. The woman continued in the opposite direction, while the young girl opened the book in her impatience only to discover it full of blank pages. She turned and called out to the woman. “You have tricked me! There’s nothing in this book!”

The old woman took her time to turn around, then with a face full of kindness she replied, “Write in the book and you will discover the key to happiness.”

The girl rolled her eyes and continued her journey. When night came, she lay under the stars and wondered at the mysterious meeting. In the early morning light, she woke up and began to write about her journey the day before. She marveled at where she had been and how much she had seen. From then on writing became a habit and she even began to enjoy the scent of leather.

One day she felt lonely and discouraged and it seemed she had nothing good to write about. That was the day she began to write down her dreams. Each night when she felt her day had not gone as she had hoped, she dreamed a new dream for the next day and recorded it in the morning.

Like a winding river—ever changing and always moving, her journey continued for many miles and years. The young girl refused all suitors–until she found the prince of her dreams. Her family began to grow and she built a life worth living until one day she looked back through her book and realized her dreams had merged into real life. The things she wrote about were no longer a fantasy, but they had become real. By the time she realized the value of the gift the old woman had given her, she was no longer a young girl, but was becoming wise in years herself.

One day she met a beautiful girl full of energy, yet longing for stability. She recognized the pain and confusion that she had worn on her own face so many years before. She reached into her bag and offered a book much like the one given to her so long ago. As she held it out, she was surprised to notice her own hands had begun to grow wrinkled. The young girl almost snubbed the gift, then took it out of politeness. The woman sighed and smiled, because now she now knew the key to happiness is that we each decide how the story ends.

Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
-Mary Oliver

4 Replies to “You Decide How the Story Ends”

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