There are times when hope is not enough for us. Hoping for something better, for something to change, for someone to love us, seems like a crueler than cruel enterprise. It’s when you’ve been let down so often, when you’ve built up a hope for a good thing only to see it dashed to pieces, when you’d finally dared to trust once more and you got your heart broken, that the idea of hope is just so repugnant. Right after someone fails you again, right after you disappoint yourself, right after you lose something valuable – nobody wants to hope anymore.
Sometimes it feels wrong to hope right then, right in the bleakest parts of life. It feels like a betrayal to the thing that just shattered. It’s not always a huge life-changing event that makes you want to give up on hope. It can be something as simple and universal as helplessly watching a friendship drift away from you, feeling like there’s nothing you can do to fix it. It can be losing that job opportunity you worked for. It can be when someone proves to you they weren’t the person that you thought they were.
I’ve often found myself arguing with the universe about the idea of hope. I did it blindly, stubbornly, for so long. Hope felt like a physical act for me. It felt like sticking my heart out on a ledge to bear the brunt of the bad weather, and ignoring all the voices that told me it’d never happen for me. Hope’s defined as “A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” Oh, how long I hoped for certain things to change, and how disappointed I was that they never, ever did.
I don’t know that we can ever hope for the wrong thing, exactly. Sometimes though, it’s probably good that we don’t get what we hope for. I really wanted a job last year, and tried very hard to get it, and was bitterly disappointed when it didn’t work out. It took me six months to realize I would have hated that job, and that it was a blessing I didn’t get it. But I think we can sometimes hold out hope for so long that it starts to poison us. There’s a proverb that says, “hope deferred makes the heart sick,” and I think that’s really true. When we’re stuck just blindly hoping with all the power of our heart for something that is never gonna happen, never going to turn out the way we wanted, it can make us so heartsick.
I propose a new solution, one that says: know when to walk away. Know when to drop all that hope you’ve been collecting, and let it fall from your hands. But don’t give up on hope. Contradictory statements alert! Here’s what I mean–sometimes it’s hard to remember that hope is inherently a good thing, when all we’re used to is being disappointed and let down time and again. I want us to hope for good things, for true things, for the things we need, and to be able to let go of hoping for an old idea or dream that perhaps is better left to sail away into the great beyond to become someone else’s problem. There’s probably an exact science to figuring out what goes where and when and how to know. I’m no scientist, but I am a believer in the idea that each of our hearts knows what’s best for us, if we’ll only pay attention to it. Get into a space where you can be honest with yourself, and figure out what your heart is communicating. Continue to hope for good things, and let go of the heartsickness. Don’t let hope poison you from within. Let it be the good thing it wants to be.
Photo from North Lowell, used by permission.