This has been a tough year for anyone concerned with truth, decency or self-dignity. I have slipped into a sense of abstract dread so many times that I have come to understand it in a whole new way.
Dread is, in my personal calculation, a lack of hope. By definition it is great apprehension or fear.
This year my husband, Hal, and I have watched more news than can be good for us, but neither of us feels that looking away would be better. So, an open-eyed look at the truth of the political landscape has been our daily practice. It is a daily practice that has lead to dread, anger, fear, repulsion — and little glimmers of hope.
I wrote here in Thrive about my own experience of being raped as a child. I am a coincidence in the #MeToo silence breaking culture. At first I found myself disoriented by it all, and then that glimmer of hope shimmered a little. People in Alabama came together around the idea that there was more that united them than divided them, and there was that little shimmer again, and my curiosity about hope itself grew stronger.
I asked family, friends and colleagues a simple question: How do you cultivate hope?
Amazing, soulful answers came flying back to me, insightful meditations on keeping the faith. And there was this most delightful aspect of the investigation: The connection I felt with each friend as I listened or read their stories of hope.
People I have known for years and years, and a new ripple of their dearest selves was shared.
For instance, I have lived with Hal for 32 years — I have an intimate understanding of his ebbs and flows, of his rituals and creative disciplines. I know his moods and can read between the lines of the tilt of an eyebrow, but I had no idea how he cultivates hope in his own life.
That seems so strange to me now, but we had never talked about it. Standing shoulder to shoulder making coffee one morning, I asked. He thought about it for a minute and replied, “I use selective avoidance — I ignore things and use the brain space to make something that I want to make.”
Others use history to put troubling things into context. My nephew needs to find humor to cultivate hope. A friend who loves to travel finds endless inspiration in distant cultures. A colleague described how focusing on gratitude was a surefire way for her to feel there would be good outcomes to come. Over holiday drinks the conversation lead to curiosity about the difference between faith, trust and hope (fascinating). For many, mindfulness practices and meditation are at the root of so much hope, as is self-care.
And over and over I heard friends talk about face-to-face connection, how simply getting together with someone else or a group of someones can switch off the fear, drown out the dread.
And I wondered, how do I cultivate hope?
I cultivate hope by helping. I feel connection when giving a hand, I can imagine great outcomes when focused on the smallest of tasks. I am, conversely, filled with dread when I sense there is nothing I can do.
I’m sharing this investigation as a way of lending a hand — a message in a bottle that documents we’re out here, hoping. There are people out here, believing that something good will happen.
If you have a moment, would you share with me how you cultivate hope?