There’s a line in The Pirate Movie an appallingly bad movie version of The Pirates of Penzance, in which Kristy McNichol breaks character as Mabel and tells the camera, “I want a happy ending.” She then proceeds to re-arrange the cast into couples, and action resumes. It’s an exceptionally cheesy moment in a movie that was over the top when it came to corniness, but there’s a sincerity in her delivery that has made the line stick with me for a couple of decades.
There are days when I’m feeling so frustrated because my muse isn’t speaking to me, the dogs are being obnoxious, and my husband and I just can’t manage to communicate that I, too, want to demand that the universe provide me a happy ending.
The thing is, though, happy endings aren’t something anyone can give you. They’re something you have to make for yourself. While it’s true that there are events that you often cannot control, it’s equally true that what we can control our own actions and reactions.
In one of the early episodes of his show, Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, everyone’s favorite fashion mentor tells the subject of the week to repeat these words: I cannot control how I am perceived; I can only control how I am presented.
It’s a phrase that made me rethink a lot, and helped me change my attitude about life in general. It wasn’t a moment of epiphany, or anything, just another concept clicking into place. The realization that I can give myself a happy ending whenever I want.
So now, when the dogs are driving me crazy, I still get frustrated with them, but I can step back and watch them and realize they’re pestering me because they adore me. Being adored is never a bad thing. Likewise, when Fuzzy has to work late and is being terse and uncommunicative over IM, I remind myself that his behavior isn’t intended to annoy or insult, he’s just wrapped up in whatever he’s working on, and his absence is a sort of a gift: two more hours of me-time before I have to focus on another person.
In improv, we are taught that there are no wrong answers, just high and low percentage choices, and that there are no mistakes, just gifts of a new direction. Most of the time, I have no real plan. I’m not a list-maker or a compulsive calendar-writer. I wing it. I do know, however, that even though I don’t know how it will happen, I will have my happy ending.