I’ve had up-close experience with a few intense situations in the last many weeks.
Critical illness, death and dying, life-changing decisions, rites of passage. Life, unfolding.
While these circumstances weren’t mine, I was involved by my proximity, my relationships, my presence. Heart, fully engaged.
Sometimes a witness, a watcher, or someone’s “person.” (I accept this as one of the great honors of my life, always completely draining me and completely filling me up with love at the same time.)
The nature of each different situation contained within it a delicate filament, a common thread, of Hope.
Hope that things would get better, that they’d turn out differently, that there would be a miracle that changed everything.
Remember, though – I said “dire”.
In the face of dire, “hope” can look more than a little like “denial.” And so hope is pushed against, shelved, found potentially harmful (maybe even dangerous.) Labeled “false” to make it undesirable and unsought-after.
I agreed with all that. It felt like the smart thing to do. I could see from a broader vantage point where things were really headed, so I nodded and comforted but quietly Knew Better. (Quietly, because I feel true-ness in the adage “Do not take someone’s hope away from them, for it may be all they have.”)
When the heart is allowed to take back over from the head, though, wisdom just might return. (Thank goodness!) I’ve had a lot of that these past many days.
So, today, I no longer agree. I don’t Know Better than to kindle “false hope.” Because I saw something happen when hope arrived, false or otherwise:
A deep breath, taken.
Or a breath held, exhaled.
A tailspin into fear, leveled off.
A step back just far enough to find footing and a moment of calm.
It only takes an instant, and the trajectory changes. Love can get in, choices can be made, presence can return.
Then we can be there for whatever happens next, with our honest pain and humanity, with the people we love.
Now, I get it.
THAT is the actual beauty of “false” hope.
So much value is ascribed to being able to “out-survive” others – and ourselves:
“oh, you lived through that?
Well, I can live through.. THIS!”
We award big points for getting through it, ’cause life can be just so damn hard.
And then, because life is – in fact – ridiculously accomodating and convenient here in the 21st century, we have to create or attract or construct the very “just so damn hard” scenarios we are to overcome.
Is this way of doing things a throwback from times when war and deprivation were front and center, and people-still-living-now cultivated tough skills for tough times?
Perhaps it’s leftover, outdated cultural programming from the 80’s and 90’s, when “pushing ourselves” (read: “punishing ourselves”) as far as we could go – 168-hour workweeks, no sleep, and little use for subtle or simple joys – would win the badges of honor.
Or, maybe this a newer competiton, pervasive in our reality-TV culture, where snark, shame, and “there-is-one-winner-only” are the new norm (“it gets viewers!”) and calm, reflective stability is just not considered good television at all.
What if we are now living through the time when the primal, reptilian brain that exists in all of us – the amygdala on constant Defcon-1 alarm – is sensing that its time of being center stage and running our shows through fear is coming to an end?
Could it be that the current collective need to out-angst, out-pain, and “out-survive” each other (and ourselves) is evidence that this way of doing things is making its final death-throes gasp for – survival? (ooh, chills!)
Imagine a new time – and I do feel it coming – when we set aside the need to collect “survival” badges –
and, instead, collect the rewards for simply living.. well, and with kindness.
I can imagine that.