Earlier today I was about 2,000 words deep in an overly effusive essay about hope. This is the first week of Advent, after all, a few days meant to celebrate the virtue. I was excited to share some stories and ideas with you and just typed feverishly all morning.
Then I received some disturbing news wrapped in painful, stabbing words that sparked some deep anger, and my enthusiasm plummeted. I let myself “feel the feelings,” so to speak, until it felt like I was actually spiraling out of control in those emotions. I am struggling lately, as hard as that is to admit, and it doesn’t take very much for me to lose my balance.
One valuable lesson I have learned in this ongoing emotional rollercoaster is that when I sense my feet are on the banks of quicksand, when I feel that out of control kind of grief about to overtake me, it’s time to reach out to someone else. Not for salvation necessarily, but to be a help if possible. It’s good to reach out to someone beyond the situation at hand, pray for someone totally unrelated to my current crisis, and widen my view until my heart expands past this immediate pain and I regain some perspective. Our grandmother Ina Lynne was know for practicing a version of this, and she was one of the gentlest, strongest, most forward-thinking women I have ever known.
So I called my sister Angela, just to say hi and let her know I was still praying about something she had shared with us. I used my most stupid fake-chipper voice.
Can I pause here and say what a blessing it is to have siblings who are your friends and confidants?
We chatted only briefly before she asked about my girls, and my stupid chipper voice faltered. We have grown close enough now that I can no longer hide much of what’s going on inside me, and actually this is wonderful.
“This is not hopeless,” Ang said. I physically crumbled against the wall and started crying. She did not know I had been writing for the past three hours about hope.
“You have every reason to be hopeful,” she asserted, in a low, denim-velvet voice, both soothing and authoritative. She knows a thing or two about hopelessness, recovery, addiction, alienation, and more.
She also knows about healing and the power of community and HOPE. She works for an agency by that exact name, by the way, and their mission is to usher the least hopeful among us into new lives.
We spoke for a few more minutes about odds and likelihoods and statistics, about patterns and trauma all the many hardships inflicted on our kids over the years. But the real message between us was the power of Love and prayer and the reality that hope flourishes into actual, living-proof results. She got me to refocus on the future instead of wallowing in hate for the people who have hurt my girls. I hate that I need this redirection, but I do sometimes, and I am grateful when I get it.
We get to choose hope. We get to let it warm us and strengthen us while we endure the unknowns. Hope leads us into better choices and better habits and better outlooks. We expect more from ourselves and hold higher standards for each other when we side with hope and remember that despair is a shifting illusion.
Sure, we get to feel the fear, and the pain, and even the rage, and then we get to actively set our feet on solid ground and walk the much better path.
I am so thankful Ang picked up the phone while I was still on the brink of emotional quicksand. Part of the magic, as I am sure you already know, is that in reaching out toward someone else, chances are pretty good that the connection will lift you, too.
For my family, I choose hope. I choose to believe that healing is real and overcoming is what we were born to do. I choose to believe that Love transcends literally every hardship, and the fate others have chosen does not have to be ours.
“Hope is not a strategy.”
“You must not have been here long.”