It springs eternal, or so they tell me. Hope. You gotta have it. It is as essential to the human condition as breathing, but why do some of us have it in abundance while others feel it has abandoned us?
I got thinking about hope the other day when I got a call from Trish who organises our Writers Group. Nat, one of our members, who is a very gifted historical fiction writer and an ACTUAL published writer (yes, it can happen) has been admitted to hospital suffering from a nervous breakdown. Trish rang me in tears, extremely distressed. ‘You won’t believe what Nat said to me,’ she said. ‘I’ve given up hope. I am empty inside.’
Nat has had her fair share of stress and turmoil over the past few years. Illness, marriage breakup, loss of her parents, and a heightened sensitivity to the problems in society which sometimes leaves her reeling. As an historian she sees us making the same mistakes over and over again as if we are gluttons for punishment. ‘We never learn,’ is something she has often remarked to me.
Despite this, and on ongoing battle with depression, she is one of the most cheerful people I know. Now I am wondering if her cheerfulness was merely an act, an attempt to convince herself and others that all was well.
I am worried for Nat in her hospital bed, medicated so intensively that she is lost deep inside herself, crippled, shivering. Having battled depression most of my adult life I know how desperately I cling to that glimmer of hope that sustains me when the darkness begins. I can’t imagine how bleak it would be without it. I had to do something. I couldn’t just let Nat lie there feeling the emptiness eat her alive.
So I set out to show her that a healthy sense of hope is alive and well in the community. It is all around us. Sure, there is a lot of bad in the world, but there is a lot of good too. If you’re sitting in your house right now, go to your window – see that old lady with her smart coat and polished shoes? She has things that give her hope. See that guy rushing home from work in the rain? He has things that give him hope.
Are you sitting in your car, or a bus or train? See your fellow passengers – the lady in the bright, shiny car with the little girl in the booster seat who has fallen asleep with her face pressed against the window? They have things that give them hope. See that young guy with the briefcase battered at the corners and the strap that has the leather peeling off like sunburn? There are things that give him hope.
But I knew that to convince Nat that hope was still alive and well in the community I needed more concrete examples. So I went out into the street, notebook at the ready, a seeker of hope.
Kylie is a nurse at the local maternity hospital. She is 25, single, slightly overweight. She worries about money, her health and whether or not she’ll ever meet the man of her dreams. ‘One thing gives me hope every day,’ she says. ‘The cry of a newborn baby. It’s life in its purest form. It means that for at least another day the human race will continue to exist.’
Violet is 75. She has a beautiful rose garden which she tends everyday. Her roses give her hope. ‘When I see them bloom and flourish, even after being beaten down by a storm, I know I can never give up hope, because they don’t.’
Billy is 19. He works at the local supermarket. He left school at 15 because he had trouble with reading. Last year it was discovered he is dyslexic. He is doing well in his reading classes at college. His work skills have improved so much his boss has given him a pay rise. He hopes that this will help him attain his dream job of Assistant Manager.
Jane is recently divorced. She lets her dog swim in the bay even though it means he leaves muddy footprints on her cream carpet. She used to have two dogs but her husband took one to live with him when they divorced. He was drunk and abusive. She believes him to be capable of mistreating the dog but her house overlooks the park and when she sees her ex’s new girlfriend walking the dog, she feels hopeful. ‘The girl smiles as she walks the dog and frequently pats him,’ she says. ‘I figure if he can attract a woman who seems kind and friendly then there is hope he might have changed.’
Ruth’s son is a doctor in Africa. He has seen over two hundred children die of preventable diseases. Ruth worries when he goes to areas where there is a lot of fighting but when he sends her photos and stories of children whose lives have been changed by access to fresh drinking water, vaccination and schools, hope springs. ‘That’s what they mean when they say hope springs,’ she says. ‘Hope rises brightly, like a star, out of despair.’
Rachel is seven months pregnant. She has had three miscarriages. Her husband wanted to give up trying for a baby – he couldn’t handle the disappointment and grief of losing the babies – but she never gave up hope. ‘I used to dream of a little face of what I thought was an angel but what I later realised was my baby. Those dreams convinced me not to give up, not to lose hope.’
The busdriver lives in hope that his footy team – the rank outsiders – will win the Grand Final. Mary, who works for the RSPCA lives in hope that every animal she rescues will find a good family to love them. Kristy, age 7, lives in hope that one day she will see the Tooth Fairy, for real.
A local community. Going about its daily business. Different people awash with differing hopes that unfold, warm, uncrushed, blooming like the delicate petals of a flower. I see them at every corner, leaning on their fenceposts, cupping hope in their hands, and I am glad they have not given up.
I hope this goes part of the way to convincing Nat that not all hope is lost, that hope abounds, gloriously. And I wonder, what is it that gives you hope?
i too am hopeful that your friend will see the silver lining as we say… from personal experience with depression,, i know that my inability to have hope at times is unquenchable.. i disassociate myself with everything else,, and even tho,,, in the course of my daily life, ie at work, the store etc..you would think i was one of the most ethereally happy people you had ever met,, my soul remains as black as soot…
i am not feeling this utter despair as of the present,, but i do still have more connection with dying than i do with creating life for myself… i am unsure exactly how this works.. but it does..
i believe that hope,, or whatever it is that allows us to have a lust for life must come from within,, and in its absence,, little external stimuli will bring about such a change…
but you know selma… there is always hope….
PAISLEY – I know what you mean about external stimuli not being of any help. I’ve felt that way too. It’s as if you fall into a deep, dark cave and you can’t get out. The worst thing is, you actually don’t want to get out. I try to just ride it out when it hits and hope it’ll pass quickly but I do find that forcing myself to recognise positive things around me does help. I’m sorry you feel that way too. Sometimes I wonder if it comes with being a writer. Most of the artistic/ creative people I know battle depression in various guises. It’s tough but I guess in some ways it shapes our work. Learning to live with it is a constant challenge. Don’t give up hope, my dear friend – you’re not alone.
What a wonderful, uplifting post Selma! I too have been without hope at times in my life, and that is a very dark place indeed. What gives me hope? Seeing the changes that take place in my life and others that come suddenly and totally unexpected. Finding John was one of these! 🙂 Just when we think life can never get better, we are proven wrong, time and time again. It can and it does!
Hope is the opposite of fear. That’s what a good friend of mine once told me.
Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
Chapter One is online!
I too have had what I think is more than my share of depression and dispair, also to the point of hospitalization. I do hope your friend finds the help she needs to learn to cope with the circumstances that have led her to this point in her life. My writing has helped me a great deal, and especially since I started Slice of Life Sunday I have gathered more strength. It has given me a joyful purpose for getting out of bed everyday. I love reading the slices of life written by others.
Hope… big word eh?
I’m glad she found help. Hope, what gets me out of bed in the morning. I hope that I can make a difference in spite of the violence and hate I see around me. I have hope in the world and the community around me…
JOSIE – so nice to hear from you. You are a living example of hope. You have been through so much in the past few years and now look how great things are. It’s inspiring!
BETH – you are absolutely right. I really appreciate you stopping by. I am coming over to visit you right now!
CRICKET – awww, my dear, I know what it feels like to be in that place. Writing has stopped me from jumping off a bridge many times. For me it is like a little magic potion. I am so glad it is acting as a form of sustenance for you too. It has made me really happy to hear that!
APRIL – I’m sorry about your Dad. I too found that my faith/hope had been lost in the wilderness somewhere when my grandmother and cousin died. But slowly it re-emerges. Thank you so much for your heartfelt and positive comments. You have made my day!
NAT – Boy, is it a big word. It gets me out of bed in the morning too. Makes me realise there are a lot of good people out there.
I love the subject of hope. To me, it is air. Without it, life do not exist.
The thing about hope is that it is always present, whether we believe it or not. And like a relationship, or love… we can either hang on to it or give it up. But it’s always our call.
I love the way you always manage to put a positive spin on things – like hope, it is what many of us that have battled depression cling to – like that bright light at the end of that dark tunnel called depression. It is funny how you pointed out how many artistic and creative people battle depression in one of your comments. I wonder why that is? Is it because our minds are more open to ideas and creativity? Depression is a real bitch! Its like a daily battle and you are always trying to stay one step ahead of it. Its that hope that you wrote about that keeps us going, but unfortunately sometimes its not enough and we fall into the jaws of depression. I hope that you were able to convince your friend that there is hope and all your examples were all heartfelt. Selma you rock in my book!!!! And thanks for putting me in your daily fix – I noticed it there the other day when I popped by to get my daily fix.
CHRIS – you are a wise, wise man. Whenever I hear one of your songs I feel very hopeful. It’s like you’ve managed to capture hope and transfigure it into a melody. I totally agree with you when you say hope is always present. Like air. (((((Hugs))))
TBALL – it is my pleasure to include you in my daily fix. I am glad to see your blog is going so well. I think the artists among us do have more open minds and it does make us more susceptible to ‘the black dog.’ It is a daily battle and I know you experience it too. Just remember though, you’re not alone. I regard you as a friend even though we’ve never met. 🙂
What a beautifully written post Selma. I found hope in reading this. You have shared so many gems in this post. Sadness yes, but so much more than that to contemplate.
I am really enjoying stopping by your blog. Thank you for visiting my two, too! 🙂
Selma, thanks so much for the wonderful comment you left on my blog. I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by. It is my prayer that Courage in Patience will truly be a source of hope for people who have lived their lives each day purely through surviving. Thanks again, and if you would like an ARC of Courage in Patience to review on your site, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have been abused
Chapter One is online!
My daughter. She’s innocent and new and yet already completely her own.
I have a file called ‘Fan Mail’ on my computer, into which go the emails complimenting me on my articles or my blog. Reading through them never fails to cheer me up.
Especially the one which says ‘I think u rite a load of s**t’ … never fails to amuse as I get paid for my ‘s**t’ (sometimes) … and I think, well, I’m not such an ignorant oik as the writer of that letter seems to be, so there’s hope for me yet!
Lovely post, I hope that Nat regains a sense of hope…
I find hope in nature, in my friends and family, in the ordinary friendlinesses of people I don’t know, in art and cinema.
I’m having a problem with hope at the moment too but like some of the others here have said, writing and my blogs help on the bad days. Friends are the most important thing though. I am so grateful for the ones I have. And having a purpose in your life – I’m struggling with that one since my husband died and my son left home, but I have hope (!) that I will find a new purpose some day soon.
I love travelrat’s idea of saving nice comments (and the odd bad one!) in a special place and reading them on bad days …I think I’ll go and do that right now…
This is beautiful. Really. So simplistic, yet it shows how complicated everyone’s lives are. I hope this touches her. I hope she gets better. I hope.
VEGGIES – I am enjoying your blogs too. You are a very talented poet. It gives me hope when I meet like-minded people on the net. Makes me realise the world isn’t so bad after all!
BETH – you are very welcome. I hope your book sells well because it is spreading an important message.
BRITT – there is nothing more full of hope than that. I agree with you 100%.
TRAVELRAT – as always, your sense of humour brightens my day. What a great idea. I definitely need one of those files.
CRAFTY – I am often inspired by people I don’t know. You describe it so well – ‘ordinary friendliness’ – that is exactly what it is like!
PUDDOCK – so nice to hear from you. I am so sorry that you have lost you husband and that your son has moved out. Under those circumstances I know I would have a hard time retaining my sense of hope. Don’t give up. You are a great writer with a lot to offer. You will find a new purpose. Take care of yourself. Travelrat often has great ideas and he is a great writer. You should check out his blog.
MOMO FALI – I hope so too. So much.
I have great long periods without any hope at all so it is times like this when I turn to blogs like yours and the other fantastic people I read. They help me to remember that not every problem in the world is mine and other’s have solved some of the things I am going through; that other people survive in this crazy world – that gives me hope, much more than stepping out of my front door.
Exquisite post Selma. Your words so often brighten my day.
I’ve decided to hope for something that has a 50/50 chance of going either way. At first I thought I should prepare myself for the “worst”, but I will find out in a few weeks’ time and I would much rather deal with the extra hurt then but in the meantime have sweet dreams of hope to enjoy. When I thought about it, it seemed silly to give up on it already in the attempt to spare myself hurt when I know full well it will still hurt the same amount whether I hope or not. So I’m hoping with all my heart.
BEC – you know, I feel exactly the same way. It’s amazing to think we are all offering each other moments of hopefulness. That makes me feel really glad!
DAOINE – aww, my dear friend, having you visit entirely brightens my day. Whatever it is you are hoping for I pray it goes your way. I am hoping with all my heart for you.
My kids and grandkids, definitely. I have three of the most amazing and talented people who I happen to have given birth to, and they constantly amaze me by their goings on and accomplishments.
They give me hope for a brighter tomorrow, a more kind and intelligent and laughing and passionate world.
Hugs to you!
NANNA – you have some exceptional kids, that’s for sure. But then, knowing you, I wouldn’t expect anything less. You are one in a million!
One of my favourite expressions is “Wherever there is life, there is hope” or words to that effect. We all have our dark days but what has always given me hope in the past is that we never know from one moment to the next what wonderful things, people or events life has in store for us. It could be waiting right around the next corner for us. It’s that glimmer of hope that keeps my feet moving forward. I hope Nat finds a lovely surprise waiting round the corner for her.
GYPSY – it is so true. Often, when things have been really bleak for me something will happen that I didn’t see coming and then I will feel better – like when I get a visit from you! However, I know when it’s really dark – pitch black – it can be hard to see anything positive at all. I’m hoping that Nat is getting some time to heal at the moment and that she will come back to us soon.
Selma–what gives me hope? I normally say:
the arts–theatre, poetry, the ability of all of us humans to CREATE-
A year ago, it hit me:
If God created us, and we are “In His image”, then we are INHERENTLY creative. To do otherwise, and NOT be creative, seems an injustice, a disrespect for the Creator(however you define Him/Her).
So there you are. The Arts, Humanity’s Ability to Create, God–all give me hope.
And YOU, SELMA–writers like YOU, who care!
LISA – you and I think so alike. It is uncanny. We must respect and utilise the gifts we’ve been given because doing so does honour whatever divine power we believe in. And people like you give me hope too. Really. I mean it!