We tend to expect a happy ending.

That’s the way we’re programmed. That’s the way it works in the movies. The happy ending helps us negate the pain we went through to get it. It resolves the anxiety (for the moment) and leaves us with enough warm fuzzies to get us through until the next time we’re smack-dab in the middle of the misery.

We wait for it.

The good news ends the nightly broadcast. The book’s conclusion is satisfying. We sense a “but” is coming as the article full of hard truth draws to a close.

And inevitably, when we talk about our hard days, we feel compelled to do the same.

It’s incredibly difficult to open up and be vulnerable at all, but when we’re brave enough to do so, we have to follow it up with a “but.”

But I’m so blessed.

But life is good.

But it’ll be better tomorrow.

But this is just a season.

Those things are surely true, but we don’t always feel them at the moment. We’re just groomed to soften the truth. That’s what people expect. And if we don’t do it, we’re afraid people will think we’re weak or ungrateful. Lacking character. Lacking faith.

But, can we be real?

Not every story has a happy ending. Not every day does, either. And sugar-coating the truth isn’t always helpful.

These tales we tell each otherwhether on a phone call with family, over the internet with virtually everyone we know, or around a table with friends and winethese tales are more than simple stories. They’re the experiences of our days. So it’s important we’re honest about them, as hard as it may be.

These are stories about real life. They should be authentic.

And this is a piece of my story.

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I spend most of my time at home with my kids.

I love them more than I ever thought I could love anything or anyone.

My heart feels like it’s bursting when I hold them tight, when we snuggle, when I look at their smiling faces.

I would do anything within my power—and pray for everything outside of it—to ensure their happiness and good health.

Genuinely, they bring me unparalleled joy.

BUT.

That doesn’t mean life is perfect. It’s not all Instagram-edited and Karen-approved.

Some days feel never-ending. Sure, we read books and craft dinosaur footprints from Play-Doh. We paint pictures, take baths, watch movies, build snowmen, assemble tile castles and LEGO forts. We cover all the magical things memories are made of.

Yet, I suspect even a magical life would feel ordinary if there were never dull or difficult moments. And we have plenty of those.

Life doesn’t always sparkle. Sometimes it’s just so painful all we can do is get through.

Some days—no, most days—are sprinkled with tattles and tears, sickness, behavioral issues, desperate pleas for half a dozen foods that are prepared and never eaten. Morning snuggles give way to tantrums. My little sweethearts are often temperamental, totally irrational, and impossible to please. (In other words, they’re human beings.)

I spend a good chunk of the day cleaning noses and tushies. Otherwise, I’m constantly cleaning a house that remains perpetually cluttered. I’m always tired, and I probably will be until the end of time, which is an agreement I didn’t realize I was making when I signed up for the parenting gig.

Yes, it’s worth it. But I’m still exhausted, and that’s still hard.

Some days, the kids’ battles with each other somehow turn me into Monster Mom. And Monster Mom makes everyone miserable.

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Some days, I don’t know the person in the mirror. Others, I don’t like her. Many days, I find faults in her appearance. More often, in things she does and says. I replay it all in my mind.

Some days, the anxiety is more than I can handle. The psychological anxiety is tough enough, but there’s physical anxiety on top of it. I cannot reason myself out of that.

Some days threaten to never get started. Some days, I’d rather stay in bed. And then I battle myself to get off the couch. But I have to. And I feel completely worthless when I can’t.

Some days, I’m physically drained, emotionally wrecked, and mentally torn apart. Just a little of anything feels like too much of everything. I’m overwhelmed. I snap too easily.

Some days are full of doing all the things, yet nothing gets done. And I wonder why I bothered in the first place.

Some days are lonelier than I ever thought possible.

Some days, I cry in the shower. Or on the toilet. Or wherever I can go to be alone for a minute. Except I usually don’t even have the option because someone always wants to be with me . . . even in the bathroom.

Some days, it feels like the soundtrack of my life is a Sarah McLachlan song on a loop.

Some days, I wonder why I gave up my professional identity. Why did I derail my career? Did I get all the degrees for nothing?

Some days, I wonder if I’m fooling myself. Why am I trying to pursue my dreams? Did I hear God’s voice correctly? Did I project my own goals into His will?

Some days leave me feeling shattered. I thought I’d be more accomplished by now. I imagine people are thinking that I had such promise, and instead I chose to just stay home. They probably don’t know how challenging it is. They probably don’t know that so many moms-at-home have some kind of dream-chasing or craft-selling or teaching or side-hustling going on. Or those who don’t are still working insanely hard.

I try to remind myself it doesn’t matter what people think. But I still care.

Some days, my chest feels heavy and tight. My mind is full, and it won’t stop racing. But my heart, the thing that’s supposed to feel full, instead feels empty . . . on some moments of some days. That’s just the reality of being human, of being a mom, of being a woman, of being me.

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Some days are not MOST days. But they still impact me, and I’m trying to remember I still matter. And they impact everyone else, too.

Some days, all I can do is look toward all the somedays still left.

Because I know the dark days are only the antagonists of my story. They will not win.

So, no, not every story has a happy ending. Not every day does, either.

But while there will inevitably be dark days, every day can start a new story.

And God and I are still co-writing mine. His plans for me are good, and I’m determined to live like it. I’m determined to have more happy endings than anything else.

Some day, I’ll look back and see that goodness and beauty were woven into the dark.

But for now, on those darkest days, what matters is that I’m honest about them. And that you’re honest about them, too. What matters is that we’re not alone in the struggle.

So, if you’re having a dark day . . . just know I’m fighting alongside you. We’re in this thing together.

Previously published on the author’s Facebook page

Cassie Gottula Shaw

I'm Cassie, and I'm a writer, mama, Jesus enthusiast, cliche coffee drinker, and lover of all the stories. I believe in the power of faith and empathy, radical inclusivity, and the magic and beauty of ordinary days. I'm inspired every day by the firm belief that we owe something to each otherlove and human connection. When I'm not writing, you can find me running from dinosaurs, building castles, pursuing joy, or watching the sun rise over the fields of Nebraska (coffee in hand) where my husband and I are raising two spectacular children. For more stories, visit my Facebook page, From the House on a Hill with Cassie Gottula Shaw; Instagram, Cassie Gottula Shaw; and the blog, fromthehouseonahill.com