This is the first time I’ve really thought and written about something like this before. When I’ve talked about Hope it’s always been in the best possible way but today I’m going to show you another side of it.
I’ve always said up until now that no matter how bad things got, I always had hope for the better. But two times in my life, I didn’t have that feeling because all the hope and prayer and positive thoughts weren’t going to stop what was happening right before my eyes.
The last seven years of my mother’s life were just a matter of when she would die. It was a soul-deep certainty her, my father, and I knew from the day she was diagnosed yet it wasn’t something the three of us talked about. In those seven years, she was in remission for less than eighteen months. And even as the cancer kept coming back despite repeated blasts of radiation and chemotherapy, I saw her get up every day she could and go to work when she was sick and tired as hell. But on Saturday and Sunday, I’d get up with her and hang out with her on our back patio while she worked with her plants. That brought her some joy and happiness, yet as I look back on that, I felt like we had to guard it from most everyone else.
Why would I have to guard against these moments of happiness?
Because my mother heard so much that she had to be strong, brave, and think positive thoughts. But what that really means to someone is that they can’t feel their entire range of emotions both good and bad. It means that simple moments of joy could be seen as denial of the battle that has to be fought every moment of every day. Cancer isn’t a battle. It’s a disease that slowly kills a lot of people. So to try and dictate someone’s feelings about that reality is hell to live with. The worst part of that is not having hope for remission and recovery, and that every moment feels like it’s a stolen one and not meant to be cherished forever.
After my mother died and when my father moved out to the lake and I took the car (we only had one car between us), I used to go out to see him once a week to do his shopping and stuff. But I didn’t just hit-and-bounce. We took a lot of drives, sat by the dam, or I just sat and listened to him talk. We both knew he wasn’t going to get better, that his health was slowly deteriorating. And yes, there were times he told me I didn’t have to stick around and listen to the ramblings of a dying old man as he put it. I told him I did because he was saying things I needed to hear, and that one day I would become to keeper of his stories. And like before with my mother, the only hope I had was that after he was gone I would learn to live my life to the fullest. That didn’t happen then but that’s what I’m working on now.
Because I do have hope that my life will get better. I’m not sick and dying like they were all those years ago. And most of all, I don’t have to put up with anyone’s fucking shit like I did back then in a totally-wrong idea of keeping the peace.
I know how hard reality can bite you in the ass but I will say this here: if you are not dealing with death, dying, pain, and misery, you have hope for a better life. And not just for yourself, but for other people, especially people who have been hurt, oppressed, or forced to live in fear. Hope gives you the ability to be compassionate and empathetic to others. Hope gives you the ability to reject hatred, to reject fear-mongering, disinformation, and to stop the fucking spin and gaslighting. Hope keeps you going not just in the short-term, but in the long run.
When you have the ability to help others individually, or as part of something bigger like voting, that is hope in action. I’m one of millions of people who damn good and well know you can’t save everyone, but you don’t give up on saving the people you can.
Most of all, no one as the right to tell anyone how to think and feel, and that they have no right to feel happiness and joy despite pain and misery. No one should ever have to feel like their feelings of hope, joy, and happiness are wrong. And to anyone who has ever mouthed off at someone and told them not to be happy or sad, go to Hell. If you can’t handle someone’s hope, joy, happiness, or pain and grief, walk away and stay away. And to anyone who’s ever had to endure that fucking shit, know that you have every right to your feelings no matter what they are. Guard your hope like a fifty-foot dragon and breath fire if you have to. And never forget what it’s like to live without hope.