Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hold on Hope project

Hope (is a Colour)
(Hold on Hope Series, 2010/2011)

Hold on Hope (a life project)

I’ve always had a well of hope, of optimism, and I never tried to guess how many experiences, at what intensity, might drain it too quickly to replenish. I assumed it was infinite. I assumed I could always draw hope from within, even when the world was stingy in providing. I could always find reasons, ways to hope.

And then, I couldn’t.

Sometime last year, I started losing hope. It’s been coming on for some time, in waves of despair that I dissipated quickly with some pride in my efficiency.

But they kept coming.

Stronger. Pounding me down a little harder each time, with fewer moments for a relieving breath before the next wave, BAM. And me, the whole time, trying to pretend to stand upright, pretend I’m not dripping wet, my smile determined.

That day, the day I scraped the bottom, I didn’t see it coming. I was paying attention to my body, breathing, focusing on my strength and capabilities. Then gradually, an undercurrent distracted my attention. I felt a rumble of discontent, like a little earthquake shaking my Okay. I felt a rumble of BULLSHIT.

From threat to explosion, brutality disguised as truth, the dam I’d been building gave way and what was there behind it was still there, rancid and steaming:

You don’t buy this. You know it’s hopeless. Is this what you’ve made of your life? Do you think that all those people watching Fox News are really capable of understanding what is required for humanity to live in peace on this planet? You have no more impact than a finger stuck in a pond and removed. Where do you get off even thinking you should or could make a difference? You’re just a middle-class no one in nowhereville doing nothing that anyone will ever care about, and that’s all you can be. You're on a path to fucking even that up. You’re ridiculous.

I sunk to the ground. I couldn’t remember one reason why I might want to dwell among humans. I thought, if I die right now, that’s okay. Whatever.


I don’t know how long I was there, in a heap, repeating that word , Whatever, over and over and over to myself like it excused every weak and ugly thing about me, like it absolved me of thought, caring and action all at once. A guilty relief, and a fake one, but I didn’t care at all. I laughed, manically at and to myself. I thought maybe my head would explode with the pressure of rejecting anything that felt like caring.

Me, without hope, is not someone I’m fond of being.

Eventually, I had to move. The body required it. Stiff, drained, empty, I rolled to my side. I sat up and faced myself in the mirrored wall. I couldn’t look in my eyes. I moved closer, rested my forehead against my forehead in the glass.

You need to get a hold on hope, I told myself.

I raised my head, and my blue eyes shocked me with their brilliance. I watched me see myself, and I smiled for a moment.

But it’s hard, I said, whiny.

I nodded in sympathy. Yes, it’s hard.  Hope anyway.

I held my eyes. I told myself: decide and stop deciding. Commit to a life that demands hope, every day. Stop worrying if it’s going to hurt. It is. Just figure out how to do it. Each choice, each decision, says what we really believe. What do you believe? What do you dare hope for?

This Hold on Hope project is about that, for me. It permeates everything I'm doing. It demands expression, this process of asking:

What do I believe? 
What do I dare hope for? 
And how will I be strong enough for all the inevitable disappointment along the way?

It's a life project. I’m glad you’re here with me. Stay tuned.
Almost a Path
(Hold on Hope, 2011)


  1. last year another friend of mine was having an issue with hope, thinking that it was a useless, passive word. this is what i said to here then, and what i would say to you now:

    "i am sitting here thinking about hope. it is a passive word, but it doesn't feel so passive when you're doing it.

    and then i am thinking about hope and wishes, and the difference, if there is one.

    i can live without wishes, but i don't know if i can live without hope. or rather, i could, but i do not want to."

    so i am with you, in the quest for hope, for a lifetime.

  2. This post gave me goose bumps. Raw, full of emotional and something so many of us can relate to. Hugs x

  3. "I felt a rumble of discontent, like a little earthquake shaking my Okay. I felt a rumble of BULLSHIT." Oh have I EVER been there. I love this.

  4. Okay --I've been holding on to hope about a couple of things until I think I've finally realized that the other person wasn't, the friendship is truly over no matter how much I wanted it otherwise. Then I thought, I've put hope on a person who has lost hope in me but what I've gained in the process WAS that hope in me... or at least the beginning of hope in myself.
    So, many rumbles of BULLSHIT here too -- thank you for always igniting that light bulb over my head.

  5. As usual, I have more to say than words to say it. This post hit home for me. I keep losing hope lately - and then, finding it again. I think this is the dance of our time, isn't it? We know too much about what's going on too far away. We don't yet understand how to help, without physically DOING something. But that understanding is emerging with the desire, the hope that we can - do something I mean. Even if all that we can do is pray. For me, when I am feeling hopeless, that is often the most powerful thing of all. And when I am so hopeless that I don't even believe in God anymore, I pray to me - and something moves. Just like when you looked into your own eyes. (Beautiful eyes, by the way. I was happy to 'meet' them.)

  6. Mrs. M - passive. For me, hope has never been passive. It's forced itself on me when I didn't want it, and I've wrangled it from the depths when it was hiding and fighting me off. Hope is passive like water is passive in a stream. It's what carries action. I think maybe it comes back to our earlier conversation - the line between hoping and devaluing any other outcome, between hoping and wanting?

  7. Kathryn and Elizabeth, when your comments came in it felt like you were having a conversation with each other and I was about to jump in. Thank you.

  8. Becky, you've been calling out Bullshit as long as I've known you. You rock.

  9. Amy, I wish that prayer wasn't so mangled up with religion for me. I hear certain language always tainted, immediately dismissed before I've even thought long enough to say, hey, you know, anything is possible. Hope would be much easier if I believed in "God." Holding a place of openness without belief or dismissing beliefs remains a balancing act that knocks me over and over and over. I appreciate your approach - at the core, I can only pray to me. I can only love me because I am the only one who knows me well enough to decide whether I am lovable. If I can love myself all inadequate and embarrassing, suddenly I can love that in anyone, if I let myself. Is that God? Is it nothing at all, reduced to chemical interactions, a trick of the emotional mechanisms? I think I've gone into another blog post...sorry!

  10. Dear, dear Mrs. Which - this post resonated with me big time! A few years ago I was so shaken by an earthquake of events (destroying my land of Okay) and so deep in the bullshit at my depths - that I never thought I'd be back in Hopeland - ever! And I didn't give a good shit.

    I feel similar to what you said in the comments section - that hope forces itself on me - and just as I've been reading here I realized something:

    When I was a therapist I did a lot of work with folks who were grieving (all kinds of losses - not just death - invite grief work) and I know, from walking with those people, and from my own grief experiences, that one grief brings up other grief experiences.

    I just realized that hope does that too. New hope brings up ripples of hope from the past.

    I'm grateful that there IS hope -- or, anyway, that we can choose to hold on to hope! The alternative is so...like you said - it's so "whatever" (which is not love). Thanks for sharing this awesome post!!!

  11. Thank you. Yep, that's it... THANK YOU.

  12. It was soon to be my birthday. I had to choose. Had to. The losses over the last year have been SO huge. Another year of pain, poverty, loneliness? How can I celebrate that? The BS was rumbling deep and I felt there was no reason to hope for better - how long can I hope when nothing has changed in response to all I have done? HOPE is unquenchable. It sneaks in and raises its life-educated head and says, But Elfie....what about THAT one thing that has become a bright spot - the kindnesses of friends and strangers? That was all it took Hope's victory was complete. The three demons transformed into a focus for the coming year - Peace, Prosperity, Partnerships. Hope never really dies. You know that.


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