There was a time that I didn't think too much about hope. Kind of like the way that I don't think to much about air. Both are necessary, one for life and the other for life worth living, but I take them for granted. Or I did.
I started in a place of hope. My hopes for schooling and a wonderful job were fulfilled. Along the way there were unexpected adventures and friends that filled places that I didn't even know needed to be filled. Or at least, they needed to be filled to help me become who I am. Hope for a husband and children didn't waver at first. I had frustration in waiting, but of course it would all work out in the end, right? I mean, God gave me this desire, surely it was only a matter of time. I just had to wait a little longer.
So I waited. Eventually, I started to say things like "If I ever get married." But at the time, it was not an expression of lack of hope. It was purely frustration of waiting so long, while at the same time acknowledging some great lessons that had been learned along the way. Pleading at the same time that the lessons of my single life were over so that I could start to learn the lessons related to being a wife and mother.
Then I waited some more. Hope was still a faithful companion, but the bright shiny promise that it offered started to wear a little thin.
And then I waited some more.
And then I waited until I was absolutely certain I could not wait one more minute.
And then I waited several more years.
Hope became a four-letter word in every sense. I learned to hate it. I resented its warm, fuzzy wonderfulness because I knew how intensely awful it would feel when it was ripped away. Again. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Well, how many times over the years has it been, eh, Hope? Hundreds? And I just kept going along with it, just like Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy's football. That's just great. Not only do I have the heartbreak of continuing in a world where everyone around me is getting married and having babies while I learn what it feels like to actually want to drink just to get away from it all for a little while (I never did), but I also get to face the fact that I am some kind of moron because I keep letting hope play me like that.
Every time hope would start to creep back into life, I'd want to get rid of it. I wanted to stuff it in a box. Then I wanted to mail that box to the North Pole, preferably to the edge of the ice cap. Because then when it melted, global warming could finally be good for something by relegating hope to the oblivion of the Arctic Sea. Maybe life would be more blah, but it would also be a whole hell of a lot less painful.
But you know what? Hope really does spring eternal.
For a good 6 months to a year, I didn't have much use for hope. It would show up, but I wouldn't welcome it when it came. Or I briefly would, and the crash was that much worse when it cackled and pulled the rug from underneath me again. I would wonder at and admire those that could somehow keep holding tight to hope, but I couldn't take the pain myself.
Life without hope. Yuck-o. I have heard that when people are on the verge of passing out from lack of oxygen, their vision goes gray. I have no idea if that's true, but I can tell you with all the authority of experience that life without hope is very dull and gray and blah and maybe numbness is not as bad as some of the pain, but being numb to the good things is certainly not fantastic either. I was pretty sure that if I did manage to meet someone, that there wouldn't be anything good left for this poor man to find. The best part of me seemed dead.
And I was still drawn to those that held tight to hope. On purpose. Crazy schmucks. I mean, good for them, but was the pain really worth it? I didn't understand them, and I didn't understand why I was drawn to these beacons of hope. But when is death not drawn toward life? So thank you to all those that chose to hang on to hope and put your hope out for the world to see, even when you got smacked for your trouble. Not that you were hopeful every single day or every moment, but that it was your default position and where you chose to return when you got up again after being knocked down. I'm not sure I would have made it through without you.
Eventually I wanted to figure out how to be like them, but I didn't know how. Seriously, how the freak are you supposed to survive hope? Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but hope deferred long enough will kill you dead. Trying to return to hope did not guarantee that anything would change, and if it didn't, would I end up back in the same old place?
I guess, for me, it comes down to a couple of things. One is that my hope is in God. I have come to realize that for me, a husband and family may never happen. But ultimately, that is not what my hope is about. Ultimately, it has to be about Him. If what I really want is that I get to heaven and take as many people with me as possible, then as devastating as it sounds to remain single and childless (because that's how it sounds to me), if that's what it takes, so be it. I do think that if that's what God is asking of me, it will not always be a devastating thought.
But this post is about hope, and I really do hope and believe that God has a plan through the tough stuff and to something amazing, whatever that may be. Choosing to hope means choosing to believe that God is bigger than whatever it is that we're going through. As I was discussing with a friend, I don't know when or if things will change, but if they do, I want them to change when I am waiting with hope, and not when I am deadened to the world around me because I've kicked hope to Timbuktu.
The biggest part of surviving hope, for me, has been to finally learn (a little bit) to let go. I was always so afraid of letting go. To have my hopes dashed over and over, I felt like I was watching someone else smash the things that were most important to me. To let go felt like I was no longer trying to protect them, but rather handing them over to meet their end. It even felt like I had to pick up the bat myself and start in on them. But that's not how it's been. Letting go means that these things are still extremely high on the list for me. They are still precious and important and a part of my life. But they are not the most important thing. It gives room for God and His plan to be the most important thing. It doesn't mean that I no longer get smacked around by my emotions, it doesn't mean that I can get on fb any time I want without repercussions, it doesn't mean that I'll be able to go to that family work party by myself instead of sitting around and blogging, or that each birthday as I get older without family will get easier.
It means that on some level it's okay, and it's a little easier to get out of bed in the morning. It means that even though there are tough times, finding a frosty leaf with frozen droplets of water on it is an amazing discovery. It means that breathing crisp, fall air and seeing snow and deep blue sky is a very good day. It means being excited again by the life that I do have, even while I hope for a change. It means knowing that this is not all there is, and if I eventually do get married and somehow end up with a dozen children, that is not all there is, either.
So, Hope, you're welcome here. (Just please tread a little softly. I'm still a little scared of you sometimes!)