Skip to content

Tag: Self-awareness

A Hold on Hope, Part Three

Why is this piece of writing labeled ‘part three’? Because I have used the same title twice before. I am repeating myself within these pages, and I don’t know whether that’s good or bad. It could be that in my unhappiness, I keep running over the same ground to dissipate the sadness. Alternatively, I could choose to see these repetitions as a meditation, a clearing out of all that no longer serves my spirit and moving me closer to the bliss I seek. 

I like the second idea better.

Not to point out the obvious, but if I’m moving toward something I want, then I have hope. I have written before about Emily Dickinson and her poem about hope, and I have paraphrased Vladimir Nabokov: let the shadows fall behind you and all that. I have even Googled the definition of hope as a guidepost or waypoint to know where to turn at the next juncture or when to stop, rest, and recalibrate. 

Now I look to music which has saved my life more times than I can count. I did another Google search and found site after site with lists of songs about hope and perseverance. Many of the sites lean Christian, which doesn’t interest me. But I am intrigued by how humans continue cultivating hope in some of the worst circumstances. Music is one avenue, but I also lean on my friends, books, movies, and nature. 

Perhaps it’s a hodgepodge of many things that combine to give us a sense of possibility. We must believe that our situation will improve, or else why go on? I know people who are confirmed pessimists or call themselves “idealists” to make it seem that their negativity is based on some rational argument with verifiable data. But I don’t think hope is a measurable and quantifiable thing that can be pinned down with charts and clinical trials. Its origins and manifestations don’t reside in one place; they are everywhere. I have conjured up hope in the darkest moments as if I were an alchemist creating a new magical potion to save me from my demons. 

I suppose that is what we do every day: we find ways to inspire ourselves and the motivation to keep on keepin’ on, even though it feels desperately hard. I survived many things from my younger years that had the potential to destroy some people or render them dysfunctional forever.  I know I have issues and flaws that need to be addressed, but those events didn’t warp me.

What happened to me did not become the defining chapter of my life. They have informed my story but will not determine how it ends.

And so I go back to hope, eternally. I rely on it to bolster me. It reminds me of these lyrics from the band Guided By Voices:

Everybody’s gotta hold on hope/It’s the last thing that’s holding me.

I too am holding on to hope, and I won’t let go.

Leave a Comment

A Hold On Hope, Part Two

What does it mean to have hope? I know Emily Dickinson’s definition of the bird that perches in the soul, but what about here in the real world? With boots on the ground, I am moving through—or trudging through—this life of mine, surveying the horizon and seeking guidance, a wayward point that will give me something to aim for. 

As a noun, hope is defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” As a verb, it’s to “want something to happen or be the case.” Suppose I keep googling while asking myself why hope is essential. In that case, I find this sentiment from the website “Hope reduces feelings of helplessness, increases happiness, reduces stress, and improves our quality of life.” So, hope is a valuable tool in my emotional arsenal, one I need to have at the ready when life charges at me and tries to knock me backward. 

Hope should be as easy to cultivate as despair, but it doesn’t always feel that way. Hope feels fleeting, like Dickinson’s bird. It rests in the soul for a time, but it is easily startled and will flutter away if not given the right environment and nourishment. I have to create an internal space where hope can live and flourish. I must not allow my mind to dictate my feelings, especially when I am in a place of self-doubt. In that state, I am susceptible to negative and faulty input. I will believe everything those dark voices tell me, even as I recognize they don’t want what’s best for me. 

If hope is a desire for a particular thing to happen, I must decide what thing or things I want to experience. This means that hope is directly tied to purpose. If I have something to look forward to and work toward, my life feels purposeful. If I lose meaning, I lose hope; they walk arm-in-arm with me. I must accept that I am the only one who can create meaning for my life. I expect some external force or person to show up and give me direction. No one is coming. It’s only me here, figuring out each step along my hero’s journey. 

Joseph Campbell had the right idea. Each of us has to leave home, go on a quest for our unique Holy Grail, and then return with the news of what we learned. During that adventure, we are changed, for good or ill. We must determine how our journey will shape us and what lessons we will take from it. I have to choose optimism over pessimism. I must continue to turn my face toward the light so the shadows fall behind me (I think I’m paraphrasing Nabokov). I must stay on my path and follow my North Star. The journey is all I have; it has to feed my soul and nurture my spirit. Anything less is not worth pursuing.

Leave a Comment

A Hold on Hope, Part One

Since leaving my job, I wake up each morning and try to give myself a pep talk. I use the well-worn phrase, “Today’s another day.” I suppose the words are meant to remind me that I still have a life to live, and I shouldn’t get mired down in the present stresses. I cannot change the past, and if I continue to dwell on all of my worries, I will rob myself of a peaceful future.

Intellectually, I know all of this is true. And yet. My heart is aching. I find myself in a state of grief. This grief is not borne out of the loss of someone dear but something dear. I am mourning because I feel I will never teach again, at least not in the settings I’ve been to before. I am profoundly sad because I have lost the opportunity to do something I love: teaching. I thought that teaching would be one of the ways that I give back to the world; it would become a part of my legacy. But now that seems unlikely.

I am trying to separate the voices that do not help me from those who give me honest feedback, which is a challenging task. I am prone to self-deprecation and flogging myself for even the slightest misstep. It is difficult to balance being truthful about my shortcomings and telling myself I am a complete and utter loser. I’ve wasted years of my life berating and belittling myself, only to realize that it never made me a better person. It made me feel small and like a waste of space. If being mean to myself worked, I would be the best person on the planet.

So now I find myself ruminating on my grief at what I have lost and how I played a role in bringing it about. I am terrified that I am what some people have said I am, and I can’t see it; I won’t see it. I fear I am blind to the true nature of my intentions, and because of all the tragic events that have occurred, I am becoming bitter.

I don’t want to become bitter. 

I want to retain some of the wonder and innocence I once had before so many bad things happened. I want to remember that girl who loved to sing, read, and climb trees and whose imagination was boundless. She was the world through a particular lens, and that perspective contained hope. I need to hold on to hope; it has carried me through tough times like the one I’m in now. I think of a quote from Emily Dickinson. “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul—and sings the tunes without the words—and never stops at all.”

I need that hope now. I need it as much as the air I breathe. If I can hold on, I know hope will save me.

Leave a Comment