“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
Ahhhh… hope. To discuss my thoughts on hope, I really have to start with what I consider the opposite.
Have you ever had a case of the eff-its? It’s a condition to which I am highly susceptible.
Never heard of it? Let me explain.
A case of the eff-its happens when you give up hope and just say EFF IT. So, essentially, it’s the opposite of hope.
I’ve been known to say eff it with respect to eating (ok, especially eating), exercising, cleaning, studying, yard work, cooking, hair styling, grad schooling/experimenting, etc, etc, etc. But if I’m totally honest with myself, as satisfying as screaming EFF IT and diving into some sort of lactose-laced decadence (sans lactaid, because I’m a glutton for punishment when I’m doing it to myself), hope is always better.
In 2013, I was presented with an occasion to choose hope and I hoped harder and more vehemently than I’d ever hoped for anything before. In May, my grandfather fell into a canal in Venice, Italy and took an enormous amount of contaminated water into his lungs. Given his age, lung condition, and long-term history of smoking, the Italian doctors gave him very little chance of survival. But you guys, he pulled through. Against all odds, and perhaps on the strength of hope and love alone. During that time, all I wanted was for my Grandpa to come home again and I hoped for it night and day for the entire month long ordeal. Never once did I feel a sense of despair, never once did I give up hope and say eff it. How could I? The thing I hoped for was worth it.
So perhaps, then, the secret to hope is making sure that the thing you’re hoping for is truly worth it?
When I contract the eff its about diet and exercise, it’s usually because I feel like I’ve eaten something “bad” or failed to work out hard enough, but recently, I embraced the notion of Health At Every Size (HAES) in combination with the idea of living the healthiest life you can enjoy. I can more reasonably hope for a healthy lifestyle and comfort in my own skin than I can hope for a body and/or lifestyle that’s simply not enjoyable for me to maintain.
After 30, I hope for a healthy and enjoyable life.
When I contract the eff its about cleaning, it’s usually because I’m tired and I’ve set unreasonable expectations for myself. I make a mile long to do list and become overwhelmed. But it’s amazing how nice it feels to wake up and make breakfast in a kitchen that’s been tidied up. Just one little thing. And I think I can hope for a basic level of maintenance clean, enough to keep my home a peaceful place for us to live, without feeling the need to edge the carpets and dust the blinds on a weekly basis.
After 30, I hope for a peaceful and comfortable home.
Grad school weakened my mental immune system and I was highly prone to the eff its during that time. In retrospect, I think that’s because the only thing I ever hoped for was to be done. I took no pleasure from the process because it was never the end. And suddenly, the magnet my Aunt Susan gave me during grad school makes so much sense:
Right. Happiness is not defined by getting to the destination, but rather by finding happiness in the moment. I need to hope for happiness rather than the thing I expect to bring it, because if I’ve learned anything in the last 30 years, it’s that happiness can be found in the most unexpected of places.
After 30, I hope for happiness, wherever it may be.
I suppose the place where hope has never really deserted me… no, let me rephrase that. The place where, in my life, I have been least likely to desert hope has been in relationships. There are a lot of people in this world that I love very, very much and as evidenced by the immense hope I held on to while my Grandpa, Grandma, and Aunt suffered through my grandfather’s terrible ordeal in Italy this spring, the hope I can feel for their safety, well-being, and happiness, is truly limitless.
After 30, I will continue to hope for all-things-good-and-faith-and-peace-when-they-are-not for all the people I love.
Hope truly is a thing with feathers and in my first 30 years (or perhaps in the last year of my first 30 years) I’ve learned to appropriately direct it to what truly matters in my life, regardless of the storm. Much like it’s cousin love, hope asks for nothing in return and is not in limited supply. Of course, it can be accompanied by disappointment should the thing you hope for not come to be, but hope for peace or recovery or strength or gratitude can simply take its place.
PS: You know what else was a thing with feathers? Even if only briefly? Dinosaurs. Excellent.