I believe most of us are taught that hope is a positive thing. Certainly hopelessness is a negative. If you google it, and I have been, you will also find articles that discuss hope as a negative. I find myself caught between the two and desperately trying to find the middle ground.
Eastern philosophy has a tenet on non-attachment. It is usually our attachment to things that brings us pain. That is often mistranslated into “not caring” or being cold. A simple example is you set a goal but then you set your attachment on the outcome. If the outcome doesn’t work the way to which you’ve become attached then you can be devastated. The pragmatic, less painful, way to do it is to set a goal and work towards it and put aside what the outcome “should” be. You detach from the outcome. You focus on the work of the goal.
I don’t know how to have hope without attachment. I’ve always loved Dickinson’s #314 about hope, but I’ve been finding myself at odds with the last two lines. They state that hope never asks anything in return, but it does. It seems to require that you hold onto it, and in that direction can come great pain.
Hopelessness, when the future is a gray, smudged blank, is not a good place. Clinging to hopelessness is a way towards misery and death.
For me, hope has been a soul killing disaster. I’ve had my share of hopeless despair and that has been equally soul killing. Generally hope comes before the hopelessness. I do something towards a positive goal and hope it works, and for the last ten years or so more often than not that hoped for outcome gets its teeth knocked out, and I spiral to the dank depths of hopelessness. Apply for a great sounding job and immediately have an interview? Have the interview go well? Hope hope hope that it comes through! It could go through! Things went well. It not going through could spell disaster. And… it falls through. Over and over this has happened, and the cruelest fall is the fall from hope. The roller coaster of high crashing to low, over and over, is part of my PTSD.
Yet I’m left where the opposite, hopelessness, isn’t the answer either.
Somewhere there has to be a middle ground.
Since this latest catastrophe hit a few weeks ago, I’ve been having two mantras.* One is “Don’t hope!” Sometimes that morphs into “No hope!” (not the same as hopelessness). It has helped, but because I also was raised on the notion that hope is a good thing, repeating “Don’t hope!” when I stop and think about it, is, well…depressing and pathetic.
There’s the saying, “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” which I can’t argue with, except how do you hope without investing in that hope? Once invested, even if you prepare for and receive the worst, how can you not be hurt when hope’s smoke puffs out?
Even with this ongoing discussion with myself, I’m still falling prey to the evils of having hope. I found another perfect apartment, in a great location. It has been on the market much longer than most and that could be because it is in a weird looking building in a rather odd location. I got in to see it immediately, fell in love with the place, had a great interview with the landlords, sent my application in. The bad hope began when they asked for some extra info for their application, like a copy of my driver’s license. That could only be good, right? My hope soared. There was cause for it. Could I possibly have gotten through the month from hell in record time? A new job within 48 hours and an apartment within a week? The answer is, “No. Sorry. Not that easy.”
The new landlords know of my tight time table, but they are dragging their feet, and I may not learn anything for another week. I can’t wait another week, at least not without actively pursuing other options (which are near non-existent). I have to keep looking. Again my mental state crashed through the floor, and the last I saw of it was on its way to China. I have to get movers planned and committed to a date; I can’t until I have a destination. I still might get the perfect apartment, or, I may have to play a type of Russian roulette. I can see it now, signing a much less-than apartment to have something, and then being notified two days later — and too late — that I can have the perfect one. That damned clock is ticking to a deafening din.
I don’t have answers. I have my mantra: Don’t hope. I’m clinging to that to keep semi-stable. It isn’t a happy place, but it is better than being crashed to the rocks again.
*The other working mantra has been “Don’t be an asshole.” That has been working pretty well, but is the subject of another post. I should write inspirational quotes for Hallmark.