Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Form of Courage

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!


  1. Choose happiness. Wise words, especially considering your year of 2013. Like you said, each time we choose happiness our hearts or souls open wider. Merry Christmas dear happy blog friend.

  2. This one brought me to tears. It's a hard season for me this year and nothing compared to your year, but the message resonates deep. Choose happiness, no matter what the effort requires. ((((Sigh))))

  3. It is my first Christmas without my Mom as well, I have 58 years of memories I will cherish forever.
    I, as you, have chosen to be happy, the quote you mentioned is so very true. It is hard at times to stay in the happy zone but the alternative is not a place I like to dwell. My Mom had lots of trials in her life but always took the high road with happiness as her companion. Bless you & yours this holiday season, have a fabulous new year!

  4. This is my first Christmas without the love of my life, his birthday was yesterday a tear clouded my eyes, it was a good day. I am the last of the Mohicans of my generation but basking in the love of my children and grandchildren, I am truly blessed. I lost two good friends this year as well.
    Happiness is definitely a choice and no matter what trauma or tragedy we go through, if we but keep our eyes open, some small wonder of nature will uplift the soul and let you wear that glow again.

    A very Happy Christmas to you Pamela and your much loved Songwriter, Edward and Apple.

  5. Happy Christmas Pamela. Thank you for this wonderful reflection - you are so right. The best advice I received was to not only count my blessings each day, but to look for and appreciate the small "pleasings" in everything - a kind word or smile; a beautiful sky; a lovely garden; the perfect cup of tea(yes I am English). It has helped me find reliable contentment. I only discovered your blog at the beginning of December but am so glad I did - it is definitely a "pleasing". I wish you a healthy, peaceful, happy 2014. x

  6. What a lovely post! Thank you, Pamela, and a very happy Christmas to you and your loved ones.

  7. Wonderful post..(this year wasn't very kind to all the Hilltop inhabitants either) But...I do believe there sometimes is a reason and that happiness definitely is a choice..

    we are living the wonder..Merry Christmas xoxo

  8. A lovely, thought provoking post dear Pamela. Christmastime does bring memories of childhood, parents, home, and many good things for most of us. I thought of my dear mother lot these past days while baking especially! Today, when Jasmin comes over (after her driving lesson - can you believe the 'driver's ed' started her yesterday in this horrendous shopping traffic, scaring me to death!), we will, at her request, bake and decorate sugar cookies like other years since she was little, and hopefully the family memories will continue through her.

    Happy Christmas to you all - abundant blessings for the coming year.

    Hugs - Mary.

  9. Beautiful, Pamela! So perfect for this time of the year.
    May your holiday be merry and bright!
    xx Sunday

  10. Christmas blessings coming your way.
    Yes, you did have a really challenging year which you faced with grace wonderful grace.
    Here hoping 2014 is more peaceful and you continue to delight us with your thoughtfulness and lovely blog posts.
    Cheers to you all.
    Buster sends love to Edward and Apple.

  11. I've enjoyed this blog so much ever since I found it on Robyn Gordon's links. This post is especially meaningful to me at this time when I am facing a rather disheartening diagnosis. Your words remind me that the courage to remain positive is a choice always. Thanks so much.

  12. My philosophy is that' there is always someone worse off than you ' which often makes the things that happen to us seem pretty easy to deal with, even though they are quite difficult in themselves.
    The merriest of Christmases to you and your family Pamela and thank you for being a continued and valued blogging friend. Much love. XXXX

  13. What a beautiful, beautiful post. I too lost my mother very unexpectedly last year. It has been a hard struggle for me and if it were not for the support of a few close friends I have no idea how I would have managed. I am letting my sadness go and I am going to choose happiness and whenever I start to slide I will think of this beautiful post! Merry Christmas to you, the Songwriter, Edward and Apple!

  14. Pamela, what a beautiful message you have sent to all of your readers. I too, find myself remembering many happy times with your mom and dad, and you too! I miss them both so much, especially at Christmas when your mom would share her wonderful cooking and I would marvel at her beautiful home decorated for Christmas. I am glad you and the Songwriter are mending well and we wish you a very Merry Christmas. Keep writing Love for I enjoy it so much. Give Edward and Apple a hug!!

  15. Brightest blessings on your dear wonderful heart, hearth and home! Know that each of your postings are treasured, measured and kept in my heart and soul -- the best kind of present! And -- of course -- each day is indeed a "Present" -- even in most trying times!

    Happiest Christmas to you, The Songwriter, Edward and Apple!


    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

  16. Thank you, thank you for your beautiful words and gentle reminder. Wishing you a glorious Christmas.

  17. Thank you for you lovely words and choosing happiness. I'm basically a positive person who has trouble at this time of the year with SAD and a tendency to melancholy and outright depression in the past. You give me hope in our family "motto," to "keep on paddling" where all looks smooth and easy up top, but you're paddling like mad below. A blessed Christmas to you and yours.

  18. Wonderful post, Pamela. I have been having similar thoughts. This is the first ever Christmas Eve and morning without either of my children here, nor grandchildren, (trading with the in-laws) and the rest of my family (whom we traditionally spend Christmas Eve with) came down with the stomach flu, so there's no visiting there. But we're having favorite friends over for Christmas dinner and are looking forward to the calm and bright. Things are always changing, and I'm looking for the joy, fun, and blessings in it, and I hope that I can face difficulties with as much equanimity as you've shown. Hope you and yours have a lovely, peaceful, and happy Christmas.

  19. You are so right Happiness is often a choice we make. We are just two this Christmas and I was missing the daughters-in-law and our cookie baking. Sunday at church I saw 4 young ladies who will also be without families this year and told them to bring some Christmas paper plates and come Monday for cookie making, I would provide the dough and any thing else I could think of. We spent 4 hours laughing and listening and enjoying the day. They went home with 20 plates of cookies ready to give to families they felt needed an up lift and I had a lighter heart and a messy kitchen, which I loved! Best spur of the moment decision I ever made!
    Merry Christmas to you and the Songwriter. You lift me or educate me with all your posts.

  20. All of life is a choice, some easier, some more difficult.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  21. Memories of Christmas past are definitely filling my thoughts this year as well.
    I do hope that 2014 is a less challenging year for you, Pamela. Yes, you are a very courageous woman, but you deserve some more time laughing in the year ahead.
    Sending my wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year to you, The Songwriter, Edward and Apple


  22. Hi Pamela!!!

    My dad fell asleep in death on the 16th of April 2012. Last year was the hardest time of my life and I have not had an easy life. I felt when 2013 rolled in that I was leaving him behind.

    People would call me those words of bravery, guts, and yes bravery, but, I always thought, 'No...I had a job to do and I did it.'

    Yes leaving a husband when our son was just 5 wks old, being a diabetic, providing for my son and I by working 1 FT job and 2 PT jobs in order to survive. Moving to a different province to get away from a very abusive husband.

    I say, 'Ya I did all these things...So what.' I wanted to stay here in Vancouver because it was so beautiful and I fell in love with it right away. I just did what I had to do.

    It took me years to accept those words that other people described me as. The best as always will be my favorite is, 'Happy go lucky,' That's me!!!!!

    On Downton Abbey the Dowager tells Mary after Matthew's death, 'You have to make a choice. Choose death or choose life. We have to choose life because the alternative isn't nice.'

    I hope that 2014 will be a healthy, happy and filled with the greatest of all, LOVE year for you!!!

    Thank you for your open honesty and sharing yourself with us. You are a beautiful person with a very loving heart!!!!! And yes...I did say that about you!!! LOL


  23. A happy Christmas to one and all and a peaceful, prosperous and above all healthy New Year ,

  24. Popping in to wish you a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years Pamela. Paul :)

  25. What an authentic and insightful post. So many of us have had challenges in the recent years, and now yours.

    In return for your sharing, I pass on these small wisdoms that may be apropos to moving confidently into the future.

    A vital, energetic and fabulous chum views her hip replacement as a new and steadier foundation. And, when I broke a major foot bone, a wise one reminded me that it was a sign of need for more balance regarding how I "walk" in the world. That the right side signifies giving out too much, and he left signifies the need to more open to receive.

  26. Thanks, Pamela. Just this past week, I had a conversation about living in a "motto" for the upcoming year. Last year it was "Be the change that you wish to see." For 2014, I am posting on our kitchen wall "Choose Joy."

    We can have a pity party for ourselves, but what does it accomplish? I rather seek happiness throughout the day. One small thing to be grateful for when I have some many blessings.

  27. Your post has touched me very deeply. You express so well what I'm feeling and what I've chosen.
    Thank you.

  28. Thank you, Pamela. Happy hearts all around as we all strive for the courage to take joy.

  29. Yay Pamela for getting a new hip! May you have many years of happy joints ahead. So sorry to hear you lost your Mum. Mr. B and I were talking about how long it took me to grieve the loss of mine--a year! Grief is such an odd phenomenon, with a timeline of its own, no controlling on our part. But losing her -- and all the other events during the Year of the Sledgehammer -- truly galvanized in me the certainty that I should always choose joy. And so I have. And I feel happy, a state that may at times embrace melancholy, as strange as that sounds; I I think it's the willingness to go with the flow of emotions that makes a joyous life possible. The older I get the easier that path feels. Wishing you "Mush Love" this season. Cheers!

  30. Pamela, this post emphasises what I have always known to be true - there is absolutely no substitute in life for a happy and untroubled childhood full of love. How lucky you are to have such such a one.

  31. This time of year I always struggle. Your words are just what I need to read. Thank you Pamela.

  32. I wholeheartedly agree that happiness is a choice, and the more you exercise that choise, the more you find yourself surrounded with people, events, and moments that make you happy. Lovely post!

  33. Thank you sweet Pamela. This has been a most difficult year for many of us. Choose happiness yes indeed.
    Onward to a bright beautiful New year............Blessings and much love to you and yours

  34. Dearest Pamela,

    I read this post and my heart felt every word. I am so sorry to hear of your loss and hope you and The Songwriter are both healing, but your words "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." ring so true throughout my soul, it is as if I could have written them myself.

    Wishing you a beautiful, splendid and happiness-filled 2014. Thank you for finding my blog again, it was wonderful to see your name flash up x

  35. Your thoughts are a wonderful reminder. I need such reminders and it is can be surprising how they appear.

  36. Beautifully said. And you're so very right. One doesn't choose to be brave - one just does what they can to get through each day. I hope next year brings you many more reasons to choose to be happy.

  37. Oh goodness I have been away from blogging to miss sending you some cheer for your hip! I agree we must choose happiness, and the good memories, and put one foot in front of the other each day. I hope you know what joy and wonderful introspection you have brought to so many of us this year; despite your own worries you continue to give. Hugs to you and the Songwriter and Edward & Apple, and best wishes for 2014~

  38. What a beautiful post Pamela...I wish I had read it one week ago, but am thankful to have read it now. I often am surrounded by the 'cloudy silver lining crowd' and keeping happy is sometimes a bit tricky, but it's what I choose anyway, the alternative is not fun.
    Thank you...and wishing you much joy and happiness in everything, always.
    xo J~

  39. Dear Pamela,

    This blog post made me tear up too. You are truly a great writer/artist to be able to bring about that kind of emotion.

    And-not trying to sound pessimistic, it kind of makes me a little anxious to be too happy and to feel too good. In the back of my mind Murphy's Law is always there lurking in the background. But all in all - I am a happy person and am thankful for all my blessings - just not unrealistically optimistic. Maybe, being around elderly people who are in a lot of pain contributes to this. It is difficult for them to be happy and I wish they could be.

    Debra from NC


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