Getting to Happy: Neither Happy or Sad Sticks Forever

BlogHer Review

When Waiting to Exhale came out, I was still in college. I read it later in my early twenties and still couldn't relate to women in their mid-to-late thirties. It's interesting that now -- as a 37-year-old woman around the same age Gloria, Robin, Savannah and Bernadine were in Waiting to Exhale -- I find their fifty-something selves infinitely more relatable in Terry McMillan's sequel, Getting to Happy.

As the novel opened, these women were anything but happy, which -- even though they needed to start low in order to finish high -- started to grate on my nerves. Could one more horrible thing possibly be unloaded on these folks? And they didn't handle their trials and tribulations very gracefully, either.

As time passed, however, these characters did grow and change and find real grace. Around the time I finished the book, I read Stacy Morrison's blog post about falling from her happy place after Falling Apart in One Piece came out and her parents died and a million things in her world imploded. She wrote:

And it doesn’t help matters that I wrote a book about a triumphant moment in my life where I faced down weakness and pain, and found the part of me that is both weak and strong at the same time, forgiving and loving even in the face of disappointment and heartbreak. I know I lived the wisdom of everything that I wrote in that book, but I’m still sorry that the triumph left me so quickly, aided by a series of losses in such short order that I’m still stepping out of a cave, blinking into the sun ...

And that's what I found with the women of Getting to Happy. You get to happy, then you get to sad, then you fight your way back to happy again. The triumphs don't last any longer than the falls, but the reverse can also be true.

McMillan writes:

All she feels are warm little arms and hands squeezing her thighs and waist. She's thinking that all these miniature people are real people. That one day they'll grow up and become real adults and they'll fall in love, and some of them will have their hearts broken and cry and wonder if they'll ever recover.

You get to happy, then you get to sad, then you work on getting to happy again.


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