Choose Happy… 9 Steps to Re-Writing your Fairy Tale

Choose Happy…
9 Steps to Re-Writing your Fairy Tale

A few years ago, I turned fifty. Well, perhaps a little more than a few, but on that monumental half century mark, my world turned upside down.

Looking back on my “lifeline,” I entered my 42nd year, believing I had the perfect fairy-tale life.  I was happily married with four children. My husband was an Emmy-nominated writer/producer in the television industry. In fact, he wrote for a series that was a modern day fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast on CBS, starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perelman.

I was first, a wife and mother, and second, I worked alongside my husband as his editor and manager of our production company. Occasionally I took acting roles. It was a glitzy fun life.

Toward the end of my pivotal 42nd year, my life became a series of assaults on my castle.
A week before Christmas, my 16 year old son woke up with a fever. The doctor diagnosed him with the flu. The next morning, I went to awaken him. He was dead. The misdiagnosis was bacterial meningitis.

The aftermath was the tragic and painful charted course of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and ultimately, acceptance.

Except my husband never got to “acceptance,” instead, he ran away somewhere at the “anger” stage into the deep dark forest of my fairy tale.

By the end of the fourth decade of life, my husband wanted a divorce. His journey to escape grief ultimately killed him. He died suddenly at 54, and it broke my heart.

Chaos, utter chaos. I had no option but to defend my castle. The future I thought I had, suddenly disappeared. As part of the Baby Boomer generation, we were taught to get an education, get married, and live an abundant life. But it never prepared us for the unexpected, like…the death of a child, the loss of a husband, or the loss of a home or income.

I chose to look at this change differently… as though I was 20 and my whole life was ahead of me. I pretended I was full of options, and failure wasn’t one of them. I was on a mission. I had 3 children to support!

I created a plan for re-writing the tragedy of my fairy tale and choosing a happy life. The plan
included specific practices and steps… and they were non-negotiable.

9 Steps to Choosing Happy

1. Choose Happy:  When you wake up, your only choice should be to choose happy. You’re alive and blessed with another day. When you’ve suffered a loss, it’s not a life sentence. You learn to love harder, and never take waking up for granted again.

2. Feed the Spirit:  Read at least 15 minutes every day from inspirational and motivational books.  This is an important fuel for “happy.” It sort of “talks you into it,” when you can’t resurrect the feeling of “happy” for yourself.

3. Chaos is the Door to Transition: William Bridges, author ofThe Way of Transition” wrote:  “Change can happen at any time, but transition comes along when one chapter of your life is over and another is waiting in the wings to make its entrance.”  You can’t transition without chaos.

4. Surround Yourself with People Who Love You and Share Laughter. Avoid negative people! Remember, laughter is the buffer for difficult times. Find a friend who makes you laugh, or a funny movie, or watch something on YouTube! Laughter literally changes your body chemistry.

5. Create Something:  Everyone can create something whether it’s a garden, a poem, a painting, building a sand castle, cooking, etc.  You can be the most creative when you’re going through tough times because your brain longs for positive stimulation. Oddly enough…chaos fuels creativity. Go ahead, light the fire.
6. Use Symbols to Trigger Faith:  Choose symbols to remind you you’re alive with possibility. Roses are symbols of undying love and resilience. They’re cut back every year, enduring snow and frost, and yet they come back with glorious blooms each spring.  Your symbol can be in the form of a stone, a rose, anything that has special meaning. Clutch it, touch it and say to yourself: All things are possible.
7. Fuel your Body with Neurochemicals:  No…you can’t find them in pill form at the pharmacy, but you can manufacture them in your body.  Eating well and exercising is even more important when in crisis. Exercise releases “feel good” hormones into the brain.

8. Change a bad day by doing something for someone else. It’s the give and take that creates the tapestry of our lives.  

9.  Trust that everything is perfect right now. If it seems imperfect it’s just the perfect order of how things have to happen.

What I learned from my perfectly imperfect life is that everyone has a fairy tale life. After all, what are fairy tales but stories of triumph over adversity. No one is immune to having challenges, sorrows, and loss. Is there such a thing as happily ever after? Not during your lifetime. “Happily ever after” is a phrase used in fairy tales to hold the promise of a happy ending...That only happens at the end of your life, after you’ve lived a full life. It’s what you do now that will hold the promise of a happy ending.

I’m now in my 6th decade of life. I’m supporting my castle, I’ve put my children through college, and life continues to awaken me with awe and possibility. I met my prince charming two years ago, married… and my intention is to live happily ever after. I expect more bumps in the road, but guess what? I know I can handle anything that comes my way.

You see, a resilient life is about taking the sum total of all of the joys and sorrows, finding a path for resilience, and never giving up until you’ve triumphed.

                                              Best wishes and joy,


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