I am not predisposed to subtlety. I live loudly, and that reality inspires and intimidates. I hope that living loud encourages others to do the same.
Overcoming fear is an essential step to nurturing hope. It takes courage to face fear, the same kind of courage required to experience faith and hope.
Since I’m all about spicing up life, embracing the unexpected is my idea of adventure. I’m already pretty memorable, but I’ve struggled with living bravely for several reasons. The biggest reason is a lack of grace, less socially and more so spiritually.
None of us lovely souls is without the potential for grace. I’ve merely denied opportunities to embrace it, letting my fears run rampant. In my disgrace, I felt the need to dampen my personality. The “me” I presented to the world was muted, a wet blanket. I was too disconnected from God, caught up in my fears and doubts.
My spiritual disconnection left me adrift in life’s myriad currents. I needed change, as I felt certain parts of my life stagnating, so I tried to force a future into being. This effort resulted in my poor decision to lessen myself. I couldn’t fit into who I should be, watering myself down.
In this shrinking of myself, I grew apart from God’s plan for me. I found myself tolerating a professional bully. I cared too much for the opinion of those unwilling to change. I let others’ fears and expectations get to me. I turned myself into a victim, inviting criticism, under-appreciation, and ignorance.
The more I watered myself down, the more I resented present people and opportunities. Losing myself meant muting the world’s colors, and I was too afraid to hope again. Instead of giving in to fear, I dared to hope.
I’ve got a complicated relationship with hope. But honestly, don’t we all? If hope comes easy to you, it’s for one of two reasons.
Either you’re spiritually mature and wise beyond your years, or you’ve never had your hopes dashed so severely you’re afraid to hope again. I mean the kind of put your faith in someone so blindly and intensely, you find even hoping terrifying.
Maybe I’m wrong, and nurturing hope isn’t as hard as I think. But even with the receptivity I’m working on, I find cultivating a space for hope challenging.
Over time, I recognized my weirdness with hope and determined a lot of my fear came from my mind. I overthought, justified, and rationalized myself dizzy. This labyrinthine logic made me feel like I had Mandora’s box for a brain (a nod to the original lady with a crazy box full of dark shit, too).
When I tell people about the melancholic gravity hidden in my mind’s maze, they struggle to see it or believe me. It’s not that this darkness defines me (by no means, I fight any singular dimension defining any person, myself included).
I think people assume my joy comes from some endless faucet of energy and optimism. I’ve never been an optimist in my whole life. I blame my childhood fascination with Greek mythology and its all-too-common tragic endings for my less than sunny outlook.
Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m a pessimist, either. I don’t do idealism in more than a moment, as it often leads to dangerous ideas like daydreams and desirous delusions. And I can’t afford nonsense like that in my heart or head.
My joy doesn’t come from nothing. It comes from the deepest recognition for the gifts of suffering. Last week, I addressed some of my journey with mental health and its subsequent growing pains.
Finding this joy came at a cost, one I’m glad I paid. And I think my past battles with fear, vulnerability, and courage put me in a space to hope the right way.
In lieu of passionate, angsty daydreams, I can feel clearly. I used to think my feelings were the problem, but they’re far from it. When I get nervous about hoping for something or someone, I learn something from it.
Today, I experienced so much hope, despite my heartaches, old and new. I went to Confession (since Easter’s around the corner, I needed a check-in with God). And the number of souls I saw there brings me so much joy.
I’m grateful for the solidarity and the dedication, and I’m hopeful that people care so much about forgiveness and redemption. These are critical to experiencing true hope.
And hope’s a gift bestowed on the faithful. It’s a balm for those with unquiet minds and hearts (mine included). And I felt that today, too.
In the past, I hoped for those who used me to step up and make amends, to acknowledge my worth with more than a single night’s pleasure. I’ve hoped for people to solve my problems and take away my pain. But I hoped for the wrong things from the wrong people.
As I’ve matured, I recognized misplaced hope and learned where to place it: not in other people but God. I’ve hoped beyond myself, too, realizing hoping for others is a good and beautiful thing.
Even now, I hope for old friends to discover truths that will bring them closer to joy. I hope for peace in my family and their struggles. I hope my friends find love and peace outside of superficial satisfactions.
Sure, I hope for love. But I also hope to be the best person I’m meant to be for those already in my life. I think that’s the point of nurturing hope. We’re not doing it just for today, but for tomorrow, too.
With the Flow
Making space for hope means flexibility, the kind that stems from honest vulnerability. I’m relatively flexible in that I say I like change but resist it once it’s happening. But I usually experience gratitude somewhere before a full transformation happens.
But going with the flow isn’t in my DNA (it doesn’t come naturally to me, really). I’ve learned to adapt, but I’m pretty feline when it comes to change. If you have a cat, you know what I mean.
Most of the time, I feel like I’m up a creek without a paddle. I tend to fight the currents of life. Most who know me personally would agree that my “element” is not water.
If I did live a life aquatic, I’d most likely be an ocean or a major river like the Nile, maybe a small sea. Either way, I’m not good at going with the flow. Instead, I’m more like a tidal wave or the waters held back by the Panama Canal.
I’m not something that flows calmly. I don’t slowly wear away at mountain ranges until they become Grand Canyons. Nor do I move as a giant mass and melt into great lakes.
I’m not gentle rainfall. I’m more like sleet or hail, a snowstorm if you will. I fall, crystalline and brittle. I might sting your face or bring you mild delight. Or I might dent your car. All of this depends on how hopefully I approach change.
See, as we’re not entirely water, change takes time. How we approach a time of transition determines just how ready we are for a change. Essentially, throwing a fit about not getting my way with the flow of God’s plan would be like throwing my paddle into the river.
Water ebbs and flows, constantly changing and moving. Humans are only 70% water. I guess we’re only changing that much of the time. Then again, staying still and growing stagnates water as much as a person, and water does freeze.
It might stay chemically H20 but easily changes states from solid to liquid to gas. Although this level of state fluidity is not so simple for humans, metaphorically, it is. The hardest part is being open to a change of state.
Most of us suck at being too open or too closed. We come up with all sorts of excuses or guards to not change. We maintain pretenses and pressure ourselves to be what we should be vs. who we are or could be. We rush growth, or we don’t grow at all.
We never know what twists and turns life will throw at us. They require patience, grace, discipline, and willpower. Heading around life’s bends isn’t something you do alone, either. You only stay where you are when you fight the current.
Going with the flow is in your best interest. It means following God’s plan for your life. Sometimes, you’re merely along for the ride. Maybe you’ll get tossed about in some Category 5 rapids.
Don’t fret over life jostling you about. If you want a permanently smooth ride, I think you’re looking for the River Styx. When it is smooth sailing, lay back and enjoy coasting along. When it’s not, that’s your opportunity to fight for the path you’re supposed to be on. Usually, those grand rapids come from pressure to meet false expectations, throwing you off course.
I could wait hopelessly, gripping my oar and lamenting my lack of control in the situation. That’s not really me, though. As someone who elementally identifies with fire, I won’t sit still for long.
Of course, I don’t want to burn up my metaphorical boat, so I’d probably contain the flames of whatever I’m feeling. That being said, if I’m open to no longer resisting the current flow of God’s plan, then I’m going to have to turn down the heat.
You can throw your oar overboard, lament about your inability to change life’s current, you can relax and enjoy the ride, or you might have to fight the current when monsters try to knock you off course.
It isn’t easy to go with the current when things don’t go your way. Sometimes we misinterpret the water. We take risks that might put us off course or bring us closer to our next resting place.
After the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling to make space in my boat for hope. But have I thrown my oar out yet? Nope. I share about my pain and learned resilience as a lesson and personal reflection. Going with the flow means reveling in the journey as much as the destination.
I hope y’all enjoyed this week’s post! If you missed out on last week’s post about pain and the gifts of suffering, check it out here. If you don’t wanna miss out on stuff like this, sign up for email reminders (since Facebook seems to refuse to notify anyone).