When I sat down to pen today’s lesson, which is weirdly the case with each weekly offering, I didn’t give the topic much forethought until I cozied up to the keyboard and allowed my fingers to initiate the intimate writer’s dance and the subsequent musings about hope filled the page (funny how that happens; suddenly this force takes you over and you’re furiously tapping and typing away, almost possessed, as if the message was destined to flow through you and you’re simply a vehicle).
Wait, hope, you say? Did I actually pen that word while we’re still living through the most desperate times that seem to go on forever, apparently interminable, daily exceeding all the projections politicians and leaders put out there with a smile, dragging on far beyond the estimates, the cruel and unforgiving pandemic in all its incarnations (now a jumble of even scarier variants) sending so many precious loved ones to hospital, taking them from us far too soon, devastating families and friends left to mourn in silence and pick up the pieces, continually wreaking havoc with our freedoms, desecrating the day to day normal of our largely unremarkable existence that we now realize was such a gift and privilege, never to be taken for granted?
Against that black backdrop of now, the current plunge into crushing wave three, unprecedented border closings with Ontario, cases spiraling out of control outpacing even the U.S., emotions reaching such epic levels of frustration they culminate in protests gone wild, did I really have the nerve, the gall, the chutzpah to say hope? Yup, I did (a feat rendered even more unbelievable for those who know me well, a creature often prone to pessimism, more than capable of taking realism to unexpected if not twisted heights, the type you’d call half empty when invoking the famed glass analogy).
But truth be told I said yup, yes, whatever your fancy when it comes to affirmative speak, because, one of my epiphanies during the ongoing descent into the surreal was shocked into being by a Dostoevsky quote I happened upon one dark day toward the commencement of 2021, when lost in yet another exercise in what the experts call “doom-scrolling” a common pandemic occurrence I’d refined to an art routinely unearthing the most terrifying of reports and predictions to be shared on the daily with friends and colleagues likely too polite to ask me to stop the onslaught, figuring it offered some odd form of solace and coping on my side (which, oddly, it did though, for a change, I digress lol).
That said, the quote I’m referring to herein reads as follows: “To live without hope is to cease to live.”
For obvious reasons, I just couldn’t stop re-reading it. Nine words configured together into a phrase that had me paralysed, gobsmacked as the Brits say. I swear a sharp slap across the face, or whack on the head wouldn’t have been as powerful for you see, in that pivotal moment, I realized that in so many ways, I had allowed myself to let the darkness take hold, to permit hopelessness to bring up the reins, to give up on the future and my role in it, to fail to see any way out of what was clearly one of the biggest challenges of our lifetimes. My doom scrolling had not only become habit and escape but had literally wiped out hope and my personal dreams and aspirations for the future.
As the potent words of the legendary scribe underscored, by giving up on hope, I had indeed ceased to live in all the ways that matter.
Clearly, the time had come to put on my big girl pants (carpe diem!) and let the sunlight back in, to realize that even during the worst of stretches, when that glass appears overwhelmingly empty for the brightest of optimists and rosiest of thinkers, there is always hope!
And much to my delight, the pivot in mindset then got me thinking in a whole new manner about formidable figures throughout history, inspiring a new genre of scrolling (might we call it “hope-scrolling”?!) this digital scroll driven by a desire to learn more about those who had faced the most daunting of circumstances and prevailed: How had they soldiered on? What did they hold onto when the going got so rough it looked like going wouldn’t be an option at all?
Not surprisingly, the thematic thread throughout, be it a world war, natural disaster or myriad other trials and tribulations, was yes, you guessed it, hope, aka, an unrelenting refusal to give up on the advent of better days.
In this instance, the great president Franklin D. Roosevelt (aka F.D.R.) who presided over some of the most difficult periods in history, comes to mind with his famous exclamation “we have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.”
The evidence was in. Hope was – is – certainly the way to go, when it seems like all else is lost, the light in the darkness, the force of life moving us forward.
I think that does it for now my friends. Hope this meditation on hope gives you something to hold onto as we continue to navigate the uncharted waters of the pandemic. For more from this series, check out the other lessons here and enjoy the companion materials on social media, especially Instagram. And yes, please reach out with your thoughts and musings. Love hearing from you and initiating cool exchanges and discourse.