I don’t like hope.
Hope has caused me to not accept what is. It makes me wait. It brings dissatisfaction with what is now. It lets me down, time and again. I was taught to abide by Faith, Hope, and Love. Hope is highly sung, worshipped for its sustainability through the worst of times. It is claimed to be the reason for survival, for redemption, for mercy, help, love, food, freedom, life itself. To say that I now believe it is harmful to hope raises many an eyebrow. To acknowledge aloud that I have, in essence, given up on hope, provokes defensive reactions. Perhaps these reactions are stemming from a pure place of experienced truth. Or perhaps they are stemming from a place of threatened denial.
When I hope, it puts me in a place where I feel like I am constantly waiting in vain. Hope, to me, is the blind expectancy that things will be different. Hope has an air of desperation about her, a narrow-mindedness that is hard to pinpoint. On one hand, Hope offers every possibility. On the other, Hope can cheat you out of truly accepting and appreciating what you have in this moment. Particularly in love.
In a romantic relationship, I had hoped for more. I hoped for breakfasts and surprises; I expected phone calls and vacations; I longed for specific words and a particular sort of quality time. I kept waiting, agonized every time I was let down by my expectations, which I often didn’t realize I had until things didn’t turn out the way I’d thought they would. This, I believe, is because I hoped. I let my mind go into the future, determining what would make me happy and prove he really loved me and knew me. It is a tricky thing, Hope. I never conciously said to myself, I am hoping for this… But how tricked and fooled I felt when the sharp pain of disappointment rattled me through and through. The self-judgement and self-pity, the sorrow, the denial. It kept me from fully loving the other things that were there, like the sweet little notes that said how much he loved me; the kisses showered that hadn’t happened in the places I wanted them to; the I-love-you’s that came across more frequently in actions instead of words.
Hope, to me, seems to be a very selfish thing. It has kept me from loving someone purely, selflessly. It has blinded my eyes into seeing something I wished for, something I felt entitled to, instead of seeing and valuing the love that was right there before me. If I hoped that he would give me a romantic getaway on my birthday, it diminished the thoughtfulness he showed when he brought me flowers and fuzzy socks, so my feet wouldn’t have to be cold on my polished cement floor. If I hoped he would initiate a day at the beach, it dimished the times he did, because I’d worked myself into feeling entitled to it.
Perhaps hope is only unhealthy when it is dependent on other people. But I am trying to think of something that is not dependent on people, or even on animals. To hope for something as vague and noble as peace? Only people will bring that to fruition. One could argue that only God has control over things like peace, resolution, freedom from political tyranny… If not God, then fate, destiny, or providence. But to those that believe in the predetermined, what happens to our will, our choice? Patience is a virtue, and faith is sustaining. But I personally believe proactive choice by ourselves or others, is what really determines the outcome of our lives. I personally do not believe in fate or in a mysterious plan we are all watching unfold. But I respect those that do, and I offer my innermost thoughts as food for the mind to ponder.
Now, with all my disagreement on hope, I do want to stress that I do not believe that to release hope means wallowing in despair. While I’ve stated how I feel that to hope is unhealthy, I equally believe that to be despondent and pessimistic is unhealthy as well. I don’t believe one has to be either a Pollyanna or an Eyore in life. I am not encouraging ignorance either, or the refusal to acknowledge disappointment and dreams. I am not trying to promote numbness, a Stepford existance where no cage gets rattled and one feels like they must settle. In fact, I am trying to convey that I encourage the opposite. But let’s not give it the word hope. Myself, in my private mind, I sometimes like to call it “Now-ness”. Contentment and inner peace. Joyful acceptance of what is. Maintaining a positive attitude and optimistic outlook while embracing the present.
I know that many will disagree with my opinions on hope. In fact, I haven’t met one person who seems to agree with me at all. I’ve been told I’m bitter, that I’m cynical from a relationship gone wrong. I’ve been told that as an American, I can never understand the meaning of the word hope as an African refugee does. Perhaps there are elements of truth in these. But a part of me chuckles, because no matter what it makes me, whether bitter, ignorant, or enlightened, I feel like at least I have been freed from the blindness! I am catching myself thinking that that is horrible of me. Still, I feel that I, at least, don’t have to waste any more time and emotion with this thing called hope. I feel lucky to have learned this so young. Maybe twenty years from now I will reread this and feel embarrassed at my youthful ziel, but maybe I won’t. Maybe by then other people will have caught on, and instead of hoping, we will all be accepting and appreciating, and doing. Not hiding behind the virtue of patience while our world crumbles around us. Not cheating ourselves out of truly loving others while we secretly expect them to change. Even the Dalai Lama, a refugee himself, has said that even in suffering, we must embrace the present moment. I don’t know his thoughts on the actual word “hope”, and in all honesty, I suspect he would say hope is a good thing. But I think he would also be able to understand my point of view.
Sigh… Is there another word for hope?