Why are we so obsessed with happy endings?

Last week, my family and I walked the “Camino de Santiago” together, the way of Saint James in Northern Spain. As three of our children accompanied my husband and me, we became quite an attraction for other pilgrims and the people in the villages along the way. Eventually, we caught the attention of a film team working on a documentary about the “Camino”. They asked whether they could interview us and we agreed. Here’s what happened:

I had imagined that we would be filmed for ten minutes and that they would ask us some questions. I was wrong; it was an in-depth documentary and the team met us on four different occasions. I was interviewed twice for about an hour. Initially, the main focus should have been the experience of doing the “Camino” with the children. In the end, the film team became kind of obsessed with my cancer diagnosis.

And they had their own ideas why I was walking to Santiago de Compostela. Did I expect to be cured at the end? My answer was such a blatant “no” that they had to accept it. In search of a sensational story, they asked me whether I felt weak. Of course, I did. I had not been able to train in order to get fit due to various virus infections I had had. Walking for six to eight hours a day was tiring for all the pilgrims, not just for me. I managed, though and felt the positive effects of moving, being outdoors and breathing fresh air. The reporters were over the moon: I was getting stronger! It was magical! Against my protests, they agreed that that had to be the story.

I used to be a journalist myself and I understand the necessity of having a storyline. I have also learnt the hard way that my diagnosis overshadows me as an individual quite often. And that’s what I am fighting against. I did the “Camino”, because I wanted to, for many reasons, but leukemia didn’t have anything to do with it. We had discussed my physical ability before and had agreed that I would be able to do it. Full stop. I didn’t want to be cured, I didn’t expect to be stronger. And I definitely didn’t need a happy end to be happy – I had been happy all the time, walking with my family in a fantastic landscape.

Why are we so crazy about happy endings?

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination.” says the prominent Indian bishop Alfred D Souza. “For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one.”

There is no better time be happy than right now.

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