A Form of Courage
Throughout the whole of this year, people have been calling me names. Not exactly a assortment of pejoratives, it’s true, but their combined chorus has been unsettling nonetheless. Words such as “brave” and “strong” have been flung my way, not to mention “tough” and perhaps worst of all....”stoic”. Hardly compliments a girl wishes for when daring to imagine all the ways she may be seen by others.
I suppose when one looks at my past year..... which began with burying my Mother on New Year’s Eve and included the cleaning out and selling of my family home, a trip to the faraway Scottish island of Mull where The Songwriter broke three bones in his ankle, and concluded with me receiving a hip replacement in November... well, one could perhaps surmise that anyone who completed a year such as this one without totally going off the rails is deserving of these exalted labels.
But I feel neither worthy nor accepting of them.
While it’s true that the experiences of this past year have caused my coffers of empathy to enlarge dramatically, I truly don’t believe I am due any undo merit for surviving them. When one is in the midst of any sort of difficulty, and I feel I can now say this quite empirically, one never feels particularly brave or heroic; one just keeps putting each foot in front of the other, gratefully accepting help when it’s offered, praying constantly, and wailing occasionally. There exists no well-drawn road map or magic incantation to levitate you over your trouble; you must hack your way through to the other side. Brave? That’s a laugh. Strong? Hardly.
But just the other day I came across a quotation that made
my newly acquired labels just a bit more palatable.
“Happiness is a form of courage”.
Deep in the corners of my heart, I know what that means. Having spent a good deal of time wondering why some people seem to be innately happy, even when things are bleak, whilst others find clouds in the center of every single silver lining afforded them... I have come to know that happiness is more than genetically obtained. It is, at its core, a choice. Through the years I have come to recognize a certain kind of melancholy as a herald for its darker kinsmen of depression and negativity and therefore avoid it whenever I can. Yes, I am one of those people naturally inclined towards positivity, but more often than not I simply choose to be happy. And here’s the remarkable thing.... if one chooses happiness time after time, one’s soul begins to open wider with each choice until the positive aspects outshine the negative in nearly every situation. Was I unnerved by our dramatic experiences in Scotland? Well, sure. But how much worse could it have been? How thankful I am that The Songwriter didn’t break something more vital than an ankle. Was I a bit shocked when the doctor told me that the only way to erase my sudden and incredible hip pain was to have the whole thing replaced? You bet your boots I was. But I left his office overwhelmingly grateful that there was something that could be done. No longer conscious of the choice my soul was making, I found I was happy.
It was starting to rain yesterday as I placed a bouquet of holly upon my parent’s grave. This is the first Christmas without my Mother and both she and my Dad adored this time of year. I can see them clear as day... Mother baking in the kitchen, Daddy singing as he brings in another armload of firewood. In the happy childhood that was mine, Christmas shines as the happiest time of all. Because I miss them, it would be dangerously easy to allow nostalgia to melt into melancholy, sadness following close behind. Which do I choose?
Knowing my parents are not really there on that cold, rainy hill, I left my holly in their sweet memory, pulled the hood of my coat up against the chill, and headed home. Later that night, as I made my way to bed, I paused at the newly created gallery of family photos that line the passageway and my eyes came to rest on a favourite photograph, one I needed to see. Taken when I was around fifteen years old, I am seated with my parents in front of the Christmas tree. My father and I are chose together on an ottoman, his big bear paw of an arm around my shoulders - my Mother is just behind us in the chair. We are all three laughing. And there. Right there. That is what I choose to remember. Floodgates of gratitude and love open in my heart as I savour all the merry Christmases that have been mine to enjoy, and once again, I make that choice to be happy.
This is my wish for you in this Christmas week. May you choose happiness every chance that you have. May you make this choice so often, it begins to weave a tapestry of golden light in your soul; more beautiful that you can imagine, stronger than you’d dream possible and warmer that all the joyful memories that beg to be remembered.
A Most Happy Christmas to you all!