Hope is a tricky lady. She’s all bright coloured, with a rainbow skirt, promising so very very many things. ‘You can trust me,’ she says, ‘it’s going to be good!’ She makes it possible for us to work through difficult times, holding on to the belief that something better is going to come of it. She works with our imagination to create beautiful castles, floating in the air, and sometimes, she delivers. We hope, and it happens. We find our missing wallet, we solve the problem facing us, we build the connection, we attend the picnic. It’s just as good as it looked like it was going to be and we’re happy.
But Hope, she lies sometimes. Sometimes the wallet can’t be found, the picnic is rained out and the puzzle is unsolvable. And then you’re stuck with this mess of emotions – crushing disappointment and anger that she failed you, so much indignation! If you hope, you see, you might expect. They’re pretty close to each other in so many ways. If you hope for something from another person and they don’t deliver, what does that mean? Should you give up on this person, hope again, closing your eyes to reality, bother this person to do what you hoped for? All perfectly valid possibilities – some, a bit hard on the person your hope hinges on. What about the world? Many people have given up on God when a hoped-for outcome hasn’t arrived.
There are days when I wish Pandora would have just kept that stupid box closed – when I see Hope as just as negative a trick as all the other ills and troubles that came out of her box. This is a new attitude for me – for years, hope was the thing. I hoped regardless of what the environment gave me back. I hoped in a vacuum because I loved the highs hope gave me. My heroines – Anne, Pollyanna, Heidi – they were very hopeful children. In fact, I remember when I first read the story of Anne and Marilla arguing about hope, I was totally on Anne’s side. Anne said that hope gives colour to the world and adds so much and turns a good event into days of joy with anticipation. Marilla felt that hope would lead to disappointment and to foolish expectations. Only recently can I see any point to Marilla’s side of the argument. I guess it’s an age thing. I’m just not 13 anymore, and can’t hope in that same firm way, with a solid belief in my own power and the goodness of the world.
So, I decide to give up on Hope, and say goodbye to her. I’ll live in reality, thank you very much, and take each day as it comes and be grateful for the gifts it brings and not ask for more. And for a bit I am, if not deliriously happy, then at least content. She sneaks in, though. Warm and laughing, she offers a hug, and I’m easy to convince when it comes to hugs. Once again I start listening to her promises.
I don’t know if there’s a way to have balance when it comes to hope. She seems like such a black and white gal; either you believe in her, no matter how tricksy she is about keeping promises – or you don’t. Can I hope without expectation? Can I be a hopeful pessimist – to clearly see that the cup is half empty, to be OK with it not being filled up further but to retain the belief in the possibility that there might be more put in the cup at some point? It seems like a tall order. It’s something difficult, but something worth doing – Hope remains a really fun, useful person to hang out with and she gives really good hugs. So, I’ll try. I’ll try to see reality clearly but still retain my belief in better outcomes in the future, without expectation or limit. I hope I can manage it