Thoughts on Hope

Last week I posted a music playlist and looked at some of the most recent posts on this blog and saw a link to my Word of the Year for 2022 post.

… My what?

I forgot that I had designated a word for the year and I racked my brain to think of what it could be. Coming up blank, I finally clicked the link and saw the word.

Hope.

Hope. I didn’t know how it would guide my year but that’s the word that kept coming to mind.

“In fact, it’s been so long since I felt hope that it almost feels like I’m betraying myself by accepting this word for the year. I’ve also been hesitant to share it. It just feels so unlike me.”

Years ago I took a job that I loved at first, but soon the toxic working environment amongst the staff took its toll on me and I lost myself. There were things that were intrinsic parts of me that I was no longer able to do and I didn’t see how things would get better. I would look forward to things and wish for things only to have them disappear.

I eventually left this job but all of this stayed with me. A few years ago I sat in church and I remember the pastor talking about hope – including a lack of hope. And that’s when it hit me: I don’t have that anymore.

Not only did I not have hope, but I was afraid to have hope. It seemed like every time the semblance of hope started to take root in me, it was dashed.

I’m surprised I was willing to accept that as my word of the year. I’m also surprised that I was willing to put that out on the internet where other people could see it. The only thing more vulnerable than being open to hope when you feel hopeless is telling others you’re open to hope. (For me, at least.)

I don’t remember setting this as my word of the year. I haven’t done anything to actively work toward having hope. But maybe it somehow worked through me.

I looked up the definition of hope:

✨ To cherish or desire with anticipation.

✨ To desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment.

✨ To expect with confidence; trust.

✨ Expectation of fulfillment or success.

✨ Something desired or hoped for.

I wouldn’t say I have that. There’s a part of me that still waits for things to be taken away, although that part of me is a lot quieter than it used to be.

I’m still afraid to confidently expect things. I’m still afraid to desire something and visualize it happening a little too much. When there seems to be something to hope for, I still wait for things to go wrong or for them to be taken away.

But those feelings aren’t a constant presence looming over my shoulder. And they used to be.

As 2022 comes to an end I’ve been reflecting on a few things. One I’ll talk about in more detail soon. But I’ve noticed that the parts of me that I lost are starting to return. I’m starting to think the way I used to again.

I’ve noticed that things in the workplace that used to make me anxious and uneasy no longer do.

John Green recently responded to someone on social media who asked for the hope that life will get better with a quote from Emily Dickinson.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

He noted that she doesn’t say you always hear this song, just that it’s always playing.

When I saw the word hope listed as my Word of the Year for 2022 I felt a moment of panic… and then it went away. It seems as though hope has been working through me all year. And even though I might not call myself hopeful or say that I am filled with hope, I will say that this is the first year I feel like I’ve started to think like I used to, in a way that fosters creativity. I will say that I purchased a planner specifically for my own personal projects and when I bought it I wasn’t thinking, “This is a waste of money. You’re never going to use it.” I will say that throughout this year and particularly toward the end I’ve successfully started to add habits that I missed back into my life and have been doing it in a manageable way.

I will say that I’ve looked at some of these things that are coming back in my life and thought, “These are signs of healing.”

And when I reflect on the word hope and the feeling of being hopeless, it seems to me that with healing comes hope.

I might not be willing to hold that word in my hands and say that it’s something I have.

But I do think it’s something that’s building in me. And maybe (probably) one day it’ll feel like a friend.

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