Hope, You Like It

Recently, a colleague tweeted at me, “@ruthannharnisch: Where do you find hope?”

It seemed audacious to ask that question in public.

Usually that question is whispered, or DMd, or asked plaintively and unexpectedly in a random private Zoom.

I’m a go-to hope dealer.

Ever since the morning after the election in 2016, when it felt as if everyone I knew was crawling through the glass of shattered hopes instead of ceilings, people have been asking me privately if I’m holding any hope. And yes, I always am.

The day of the tweet, the news was awful. Several states were on fire, some under water, the plague was unchecked, soft civil war seething.

I gratefully took a breath that wasn’t smoke-filled and tweeted back:

“Breathing is enough reason for hope, even if struggling for breath bcz of smoke or CV19 or both or other reasons. If your heart is beating (even if it’s breaking) and you are breathing, there is life and hope.”

If there is breath, there is life.

If there is life, there is hope.

When I am looking for hope, I start by noticing that I am breathing. Ahhh, breath, nature’s built-in tranquilizer, usually available immediately, and for free. Conscious breaths remind me that breath is life and as long as I am alive there is hope.

Even when things are absolutely hopeless, in a weird way, recognizing the hopelessness is a sign of hope.

I’m not kidding, there’s a name for it.

Psychologists call it “creative hopelessness.” The “creative” part is figuring out how to release the futile hope and deal with what’s real. Find a creative alternative to beating your head against a wall, chasing a wish that will never be granted.

Accepting things, people, circumstances I cannot change releases me from the constant struggle of trying to make change happen. Giving up when it’s truly hopeless frees you up to hope for new possibilities.

Where do I find hope? It’s never in magical thinking, pretending the impossible is possible or that facts are not facts. My hope is not found in the past because we can only exist in the present.

I do find hope in the communities that buoy us up in our agony, our losses, our grief.

I know that even at the moment of ultimate hopelessness, many people still have enough hope to reach out.

As a Crisis Text Line Volunteer Crisis Counselor, I learned that even those who feel so hopeless they have a plan to end their lives, they wouldn’t be texting us if they didn’t have some glimmer of hope. Maybe they’re looking for some miracle, magic words, divine interventions, some kind of sign, or they wouldn’t be willing to text us. Even at our saddest and most desperate, we can have enough hope left to trust the world to catch us before we fall.

Hope is the willingness to exist one more moment in possibility.

If you’re alive, you have hope.

If you can, think a thought that is just a tiny bit better.

Gloria Steinem says one of her most overused phrases is, “I’m a hope-aholic!”

I see nothing wrong with that; as I said, I’m a dealer.

But I have hope that you can grow your own.