"Sometimes in the darkness, we dare not hope because it feels too expensive. There is no energy available for that, humanly speaking. But hope isn’t wishful thinking. It’s an anchor into the future." ~Kate Bowler
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Sometimes in the hard and grieving days, the days when even the little things feel too big to breathe through, I imagine the anchor that hope has given me toward believing in a way forward and centering into this current now. Some days, I have to work pretty hard at this, cultivating steadiness from the discipline of daily hope when the ocean is calmer. How else, when we’re navigating choppy seas, can we remember we have an anchor if we’ve never used it?
This week, I needed a hope boost. One night over dinner, my daughter told me she’d Googled me. “Did you know you’re a published writer?! You’re name came up a lot!” she exclaimed. I smiled. A moment in which I was impressive to my 16 year old? I’ll take it.
My husband sweetly began to add a catalog of my past achievements: “Your mama is a published poet, she taught college, has traveled the world teaching yoga. She’s even been a model for a yoga book.” I don’t think about these things often but as he listed, I started to feel how very full my 48 years has been, and that I’ve traveled to places and accomplished things I once said were my desire. I took a few deep breaths as I considered this. I’ve lived into so much of my desire.
Later in the week, stress levels amped up. I suddenly felt heavy with worry, frustrations, a lengthening to-do list. Early one morning I read a writing prompt from The Isolation Journals asking what was something I’d love to do or try. My right-away thought: Live overseas in Europe with my husband and kids. Immediately after that, my brain started cooking up all the reasons this was impossible. Maybe you know that voice, too, friends. It’s a Protector voice—keeping us from getting too excited so we don’t have to be disappointed.
Yet, isn’t that actually the opposite? Without a hope for the future, why would I want to live fully in the now, I wondered. So I greeted my protector with some compassion by softening my frontal cortex. I closed my eyes, relaxed my face muscles, imagined a smile spreading across the top of my head, my forehead, my eyes and corners of my mouth. It was like I was offering that more constricted voice in me a soft compassionate gaze, a little awareness of its fear to hope, and offering it a caring hug. In that moment, the world and my brain felt more spacious. I recalled the earlier week conversation at the dinner table. Why would I not imagine this hopeful future possibility when I’ve already lived into so much desire?
Does this mean that I’ll accomplish all I want, like somehow hope guarantees a smorgasbord of future delights handed out on a platter? Of course not. I’m hopeful, and I live in reality. Side by side, I practice walking into life with both. What it meant was that for a moment, I felt less overwhelmed, more buoyant, free to desire, and to hope.
Later, I took the feeling on the road. As I drove to town with my teens, I glanced into the rear view mirror. The hat I was wearing looked pretty good, so to the rear view mirror I proclaimed, “Wow! You’re a beautiful woman!” My teens cracked up. I did too. What a treat to find a little joy, to feel hopeful about my life, and to laugh. A small moment, but it was anchoring. And it shot an arrow of hope forward into a future I can know nothing about.
Perhaps try this practice this week friends: Write or consider any desire you’ve already lived into. Perhaps it’s something that you’ve forgotten entirely. Hope is like anchor for now, and like shooting an arrow into the future. From an awareness of having lived into some desire already, consider what it is you’d like to do or try—if there were no Protector voice to tell you no.
Friends with paid subscriptions, enjoy a link below the following blessing for this current week’s practice with ways of calming your brain and body, lessening stress, so that hope might feel a little more possible.
What Matters ~Terri Kirby Erickson What other people think of you, what they say, are burdens no one should carry. Lift a spoon, a cup, things that fit in your hand. Carry on a conversation, pick up baby. Listen to the wind when it whispers, nothing else. There is no one watching you, no one straining to hear what you say. The present has arrived and you are in it. Your heart is pumping. Your breath moves in and out of your lungs without anyone's help or permission. Let go of everything else. Let your life, handed to you through no effort of your own, be all the proof you need. You are loved.