The Relentlessness of Hope
“Hope does not disappoint.” (Romans 5.5)
This was the beginning of my reading at Mass today: All Souls’ Day. Hope does not disappoint.
These past few weeks, I was going to write about dark places. Being squeezed by the relentlessness of parenting three three-year-olds, and constant crises, and lost time. About panic, the desperation to claw my way out of those spaces, because they are familiar and frightening.
I was going to write about how feeling trapped and lost and alone squeezes the heart and the mind until that feeling is the only feeling there is–no room for logic and truth. That story becomes the only story, told over and over into the foreseeable future. Relentless.
I was going to write about the toxicity of shame: what I’ve learned from my prior experiences with anxiety and shame and panic, and about how this time I called my therapist right away. About how I reached out to a couple of mama friends who hugged me and cried with me and told me that it would be okay. That light exists on the other side. That this parenting, this teaching, this being a person is hard, hard, hard, and that it gets better.
Then at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, one student brought an entire community into pain.
Then I was going to write about how several days a week, I walk through a high school cafeteria 23 miles from that cafeteria, and how I teach freshmen like the freshmen there. I was going to write about how I wept when I looked out over that sea of teenagers this week and imagined any of them lying in a pool of their own blood.
I was going to write about how my colleagues in counseling and social work were at Marysville this week, helping people in that community wade through the swamp of grief and shock that they found themselves in. And how I don’t know how they do it, and return to their own schools, and try to figure out a way to prevent this from happening again and again: this violence that seems relentless.
I was going to write about the medical struggles of family and friends, which are different swamps we need to learn how to navigate. We learn how not to sink into the fear of the future, of other prognoses, of the dark uncertainties we imagine.
Maybe what I need to write is about the relentlessness of hope.
I was going to write these things after they passed. How one day I turned on Pandora and the first song that played was “Here Comes the Sun.” And then when I was driving back from my therapist’s office, a rainbow appeared against dark storm clouds.
Then I went for a run in the rain and felt joy again. My kids’ hysterical giggles at letting go of a blown-up balloon and watching it squirt around the room were contagious. My students discussed how to support someone who is struggling emotionally: their insights and compassion will heal hearts.
It can feel like hope disappoints us. I have been there. Where hope seems like an illusion, like a unicorn, like fairies. Hope seems like another form of platitude, like “Stay strong,” or “It’ll be okay,” or “Keep your chin up.”
But it exists. Relentlessly. It waits. Sometimes for a long while. Like my mountains that hide in fog and shadow and reappear surprisingly, around the curve of the highway, or between houses on a side street.
Even when healing seems impossible. Even when the darkness feels all-consuming. Even when we don’t recognize ourselves or the future we expected.
I keep finding that the relentlessness of hope overcomes the relentlessness of despair.