The secret to a happy ending, Mom used to tell us, is knowing when to walk away.

Jennifer Egan Candy House

I’m guessing you all know what my question is today:

Is the secret to a happy ending knowing when to walk away?

I think it is YES in the particular frame of one’s own personal perspective- if you call the shots, you can control your happiness. But if someone else is calling the shots…like…Person A breaks up with Person B because they don’t see a future. Person A gets their happy ending- they left a relationship when they were ready- but Person B is crying over their latte…

I don’t know if I’ve ever had a happy ending. Most endings end up with me in tears, or banging a wall, or binge eating something. I think of endings as necessary evils- you push through the bad to eventually get to the good. So my next question is :

do happy endings actually exist?

There’s your thought exercise for the day. What say you about happy endings?

84 thoughts on “Leave them Laughing

      1. I’ve forgiven and been forgiven. Doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten. Depending on what it is, it’s a day to day thing. Iny experience anyway.

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      1. I’ll take an uncomplicated example. You retire from a job you enjoyed and felt appreciated for, and are now ready to embark on your next phase of life. Happy ending, happy beginning. 😊

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      2. In my example I’m ready to do something else. And there’s nothing stopping me from continuing to see those colleagues I’ve been close to. You’re working hard to deny happy endings, LA!! The person in this example will feel happiness and gratitude at having had a fulfilling work experience in a friendly and respectful environment. 😊

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      3. We could debate deny vs pragmatism , but I think the real semantical argument is what is happy/happy endings. What you describe as happy I think of as contentment or satisfaction…

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  1. I’ve written a couple books, not yet published, so I’ve given a lot of thought to the matter. Life has its ups and downs so it’s simply a matter of where you choose to end the story. I think anytime there’s a happy ending a lot gets left out. Ultimately life defeats everyone.

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  2. In terms of romantic relationships I’m not sure if truly happy endings exist. But person A has control of the situation which is important. Perhaps once you move past the pain, you see the break up was for the best.

    I’m remembering a relationship I had in my twenties. I should have broken up with a guy after we had an odd fight and I perceived he was playing mind games. I don’t think I’d heard the expression “When someone shows you who they are, believe them”

    Nevertheless I ended up as person B and it was heartbreaking when it happened. Realistically though it was for the best.

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  3. Happy can be anything from contented, to cheery, to joyful which to me signals once more that we are judging levels of emotion. I’ve never had a cheery or joyful ending. Contented yes, grateful even and plenty of endings filled with relief, some bittersweet. Classifying individual emotional reactions is hard and perhaps unnecessary. Maybe you’re just a survivor…

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  4. I also have problems with that statement, as I don’t see that Person A (in your example) has a happy ending, but rather the one they’ve chosen. The emotion they’re likely to be feeling would – in my mind – be more on the spectrum of relief, sadness or apprehension. If lucky, they may feel gratitude for knowing the person they’ve been in a relationship with and for the good years spent together, but I don’t believe happy people end romantic relationships – unless they’re happy about a new relationship they’re escaping to.

    There’s plenty of other endings which can be happy, such as the example Jane gave.

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      1. I like to hear what people say, but if I were writing a character, and they ended something, I don’t think happy would be a word I’d use to describe the ending. Some people do agree with the quote from the book, others don’t. I think humans are multi faceted and I think with something big, like an ending, it doesn’t make sense to only feel one thing. Some of the answers don’t resonate because they don’t make sense to me

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  5. Hmmm Happy Endings? I guess it depends on your view oh what an ending really is. I was married twice. Both ended. One with an attorney, the other with a death certificate.

    Endings aren’t usually happy, they tend to be bittersweet. Storybooks like happily ever afters. But nobody is always happy, not even robots. (My oldest son had a toy robot that kept waking into a wall searching for Will Robinson. Trust me that robot wasn’t happy. His Star Wars robots were more sophisticated but neither of them were particularly happy either. So nope, happy endings may bring, contentment, bittersweet memories., chuckles, it might even bring peace. But happiness? I’m not sure.

    Happily ever afters are just fairy tales. Real Life is filled with some wonderful ups and quite a lot of downs. Some of us are luckier than others. But endings? They can be a tad exciting I suppose, as you look forward to the future. But who says, “Oh a train is coming towards me, I’m going to die, yay!” Um, nobody!

    Wait! I do know a happy ending. Yes! at the end of each great school year I felt happy it was over, sad to say goodbye to the students, but content with their accomplishments. So yes! Sometimes there are indeed happy endings.

    I prefer new adventures. Endings make me feel both content… but also very sad. And I really dislike feeling sad. Because sadness hurts.

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    1. LA I’m going to add to my above comment. I came back to it after after thinking a bit more about this blog topic…if I rethink my entire life… I believe the good things out numbered the bad. ( At least in my memories). The blessings, like my children and grandchildren, far out weigh the sadness or setbacks. So, I suppose if you can look at your life and realize you lived, loved, had adventures, multiple experiences, and have more good memories than bad ones, then you’ll have had a happy life, and that as they say, is a happy ending. So I’ve had a pretty special life, and when it’s my time to go I can smile and say I have lived happily ever after. When the smiles out number the frowns you’ve gotten the real version of the happily ever after fairy tale. That’s a wrap!

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  6. The yardstick for measuring happy endings can only be used way down the line, unfortunately. My breakup with my ex sure feels like a happy ending, given where I’ve ended up with Tara, but am I being premature in making that claim?

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  7. Such an interesting topic LA. What is a happy ending? I thought I was happy many a time only to be taken out by some unexpected linebacker, right before the goal mark, at the knees. But you get up, brush yourself off, and sometimes I realize the delay, or stumble was a godsend. Sometimes not. The thing about happy is it’s a moveable goal, once you reach it, the flag gets adjusted, and you still have yards to go. Which is good. Life is not stagnant and you should always have something just out of reach. Like cookies. Hugs, C

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  8. Well, when my bosses decided to retire but I managed to talk them into letting me help them end their medical practice and in doing so transitioned myself to my transcription business I consider that a happy ending. I was not sad about leaving the medical office and I have not been sad about working from home for the last 22 years 🙂

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    1. I think graduations are mixed. I was thrilled about getting through college, thrilled about my new life, but devastated that I would no longer be down the hall from my best friends. Bittersweet. Quitting a job is ok…but are you truly happy and not resentful or angry about what happened?

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    2. E.A. for some reason I am not able to leave comments on your blog lately. I’ve been reading and liking but when I try to leave a comment it says that I have to fill out the required fields, whatever that means. Just wanted to you to know that I haven’t been ignoring you – LOL.

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  9. In fiction, sure.
    But in real life? How can anything ending be “happy”? If it’s good, then you don’t want it to end, and if it’s bad, then it’s already not happy.
    But I think you can end things amiably if you know when to end a relationship.

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  10. Retirement is a happy ending, if it is your choice. Happy endings are in fiction and non-fiction. What makes one happy might cloister or stifle another……if I had to live in some places, I would constantly be checking on my surroundings without any relief unless I had a body guard, of course. Other than that, staying busy keeps you from paranoia.

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  11. It’s all a matter of perspective, as you write. We can see happy endings in every ending, if we look hard enough. This, of course, does not mean that we are devoid of emotion when something ends differently than we expected, but, rather, that maybe we choose to expect differently than we usually do, let go, and move on.

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    1. It’s clearly perspective…and I think humans are too multifaceted to just be one thing…it’s what still separates us from robots…for now…

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  12. I’m still trying to define what happiness is. Such a relative term. The student with a 95 is upset because she expected 98; the student with 36 is delirious with happiness because she hadn’t expected to pass.
    Now to think about endings.

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  13. I was quite happy walking away from my second relationship in my 20’s. From a girl who wore me down emotionally for three years and once tried to kill me. It was cathartic with no regrets. Granted it gave me baggage to compare future relationships on but August 2, 1991 was probably the happiest ending until my Dad passed. I know that sounds harsh, and yeah I was upset that with his passing I would no longer have parents, but after decades of emotional abuse it was a huge weight off my shoulders. I will say the last six months of his life, we seemed to both managed to break through steel walls. The bigger question is how long does the happiness last ?

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    1. See…your last line is what I think about…it’s like east mark and Anne said…happy endings can change, and is it premature to call it happy right after it happened?

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  14. Happy endings can start out feeling like that way and turn out to be a not-so-happy ending. Just ask my ex who thought ending a 30 year marriage to be with someone else was going to give him just what he wanted/needed. Two days ago he admitted that he’s no happier. He was the one who made the decision and yet, it didn’t leave him happy in the end. Hmmm….

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  15. You’re on the right track about defining happy, but you also need to define endings. Each day ends for me when I go to bed. Some have been very happy – lots of feel-goods in the day. Others are stressful and keep me awake. Nothing is happy about a relationship ending, for any of the people involved. Then there’s the ultimate ending, death. I don’t suppose myself being happy about it when the time comes, but maybe circumstances will bring about a change in thinking about the matter.

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  16. Endings are neither happy or sad, good or bad. Endings are what you decide to make of them. Person A can say, “It’s over.” Person B can say, “Oh, good, I’m glad you agree with me!” or they can walk away in tears or they can eventually realize that Person A was right or stupid or a **#HT)@%^# of a person! or they can go “Meh.” LOL. Mona

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      1. Yep…specifically “happy ending.” Maybe the ending is happy to me, but not you. I was happy to end things with my best friend; she probably wasn’t. I saw it as a happy ending because our relationship had run its course.

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      2. Not necessarily “if you control it,” unless we’re talking about controlling our perspective. Know what I mean? That’s what I’m talking about. Depending on who’s doing the thinking, it may be a happy ending.

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