I’ve been there. That place that just feels like there is nothing worth getting out of bed for. Whether it was because of depression, a lack of purpose, illness, or terrible grief, it immobilized me. I laid there thinking what was the point? Why would I want to put my two feet on the floor let alone shower and get dressed? And yet, most days I did anyway.
You see part of me wanted to wallow in things and just succumb to the feelings that possessed me. It wasn’t easy to be with those hard feelings but it was easier than choosing to move despite the feelings.
There was another part of me though that pushed me. The smallest, quietest part of me, said “come on now, love. Let’s get out of bed. Even if things don’t get better, you’ve given it all you’ve got.” What a wise small voice.
I think that was the voice of hope. It wasn’t as though that voice said “if you get out of bed things will be better” or “look for the silver lining”. It simply asked me to “show up”, “get dressed”, and “get to action.” It didn’t promise success or happiness. It didn’t promise results. It just asked for effort.
My voice of hope was present even at the very bottom of my well. You could say trite things like “there is only one way to go from the bottom and that is up.” But at that time, I actually wasn’t sure I could survive waiting for the turn around. But hope gently nudged me to at least move.
It was the harder of the two options. Lying in bed would have been easier.
I think hope knows that aside from sleep, rest, and maybe some healing, nothing of value will find me lying in that bed. Opportunity wasn’t going to come knocking on the door. Maybe support in the form of a friend or family might come alongside my bed but more likely I could go and find that support by rising. Movement was my stake in the ground. Two feet, one in front of the other, was my “fuck you” to depression to say you can get me down but you cannot stop me from taking action.
So when we look around at our world right now and we feel like we are at the bottom of the well, can we find hope? It nudges, it is quiet, but it is not meek. It demands action. Here, in the worst of times, we could resign ourselves, sit in our grief and depression or we can rise, get into motion, and put one foot in front of the other.
I don’t know what motion might look like for you. Perhaps it is simply keeping your family functioning, perhaps it is marching in protest, or perhaps it is writing letters. But hope is not passive.
I’d argue against the saying “Hope is not a strategy” and say instead, if you listen to hope you will find a strategy. Maybe we are talking about a different kind of hope – the first is the hope found in “I hope everything works out” and the second hope, the hope I am referring to is “I cannot and will not give up, there is something left here worth striving for”. Very different sentiments and very different outcomes.
I think hope is tethered to conviction. They must be conjoined twins. I think back to when I have tried to accomplish anything that seemed hopeless or impossible. There was first the small voice that asked me to take the baby step of action. Put the sneakers on and go for a walk around the block. But right behind, the boisterous big sister of conviction would barge in and shove the small voice out of the way and say “You’ve got this.” Conviction was the momentum I need for action. It is the energy.
I also think conviction is fear turned inside out. Fear is inaction and resignation but conviction is action and determination. So when I get those tingles of fear down my spine I don’t look first for conviction. I look first for hope. It is tethered to conviction and if I pull the small string of hope, I tug the wire of conviction and the energy begins to flow.
But again the hope I am talking about is not the pat voice of optimism. Everything might not work out but hope says “try anyway.”
When you share that type of hope with others you tug on their conviction too. I’m not motivated by the rose-coloured glasses optimist. Sure, they can keep you uplifted when things are going well but when you are staring at the tiniest glimmer of light from the bottom of a well, the voice you will listen to won’t be the one saying “there is a silver lining in this”. You will listen to the one saying “we have to try. Let’s try together.” That taps my conviction. That prods my determination. That unites my efforts with the energy of others.
So in the tough situation we find ourselves in, though I could say “this too shall pass” I cannot be sure that things won’t get worse first. But instead I will say “get to action, find something you can do to make a small difference, or at least at all costs, try.”