Emily Dickinson wrote, “Hope inspires the good to reveal itself.” We all want to be better human beings, to grow and to ennoble our souls. It’s soothing to know that hope takes goodness seriously and combines it with humility, to allow us to approach everything and everyone with a readiness to see goodness revealed and to be pleasantly surprised. Hope gives us a lightness of step, and eases a heaviness of heart.
The Pandemic revealed to us a great deal of goodness during the shutdown and the many months of staying home, wearing masks, and avoiding close social contact. We discovered our own creativity, gained new skills, and learned more comfortable ways of doing things such as grocery shopping via Instacart, going to church services online, and connecting to friends and family via Zoom.
What did you hold onto during the difficult times? What sustained you and kept you going? I found my resilience tested this winter when one medical issue after another popped up in my family. What kept me going was love – the love we have for each other, and the love that supportive friends gave as they stayed in touch via texts, emails, and Zoom meetings. The good that was revealed was that I learned that laughter is a saving grace, and that I don’t have to do everything to perfection. I learned the healing power of “good enough.”
How can we strengthen our hope when days seem long, and the future looks scary? Hope must be nurtured, and there are four steps you can take to keep hope alive:
1. Accept life on its own terms – humble yourself to know that you aren’t in charge and, in fact, there’s little you can control. Practice saying the Serenity Prayer until you have absorbed it and made it a habit -”God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Life is full of impermanence, and there are many losses we encounter along the way but with hope as our companion, we can do more than survive; we can thrive.
2. Be patient and have faith – do what psychologists suggest when you are learning a new behavior: “act as if” you are already hopeful, even when you don’t feel it. Know that life runs on “divine right timing” rather than human timing. Each life transition begins at a threshold where we leave one way of being and enter another. Thresholds are not accidental; they are intense frontiers that divide one world of feelings and experiences from another. Once over the threshold, you cannot go back because you have changed; you are no longer the same person who crossed over. It takes time to acclimate to the new world, and to the new vistas that will be revealed in time.
3. Be grateful – end each evening with a review of what you are grateful for that happened during the day; who came to visit and gave you helpful advice or words of encouragement; or how good that first cup of coffee tasted in the morning; or how sweetly the birds of spring were singing when you went out for a walk. Each day, keep an attitude of gratitude and accept the invitation to grow, to transform loss into presence, and to allow the past to fall away when the new emerges.
4. Surround yourself with beauty, especially flowers like the red tulips on the top of this page (courtesy of Peter Howe, my friend, and talented photographer, writer, and all around terrific person.) I chose this image because red tulips symbolize love, and, because they are one of the first flowers to bloom in spring, tulips also represent rebirth. As the poet Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote, “Human beings are not born once and for all, on the day their mothers give birth to them, but . . . life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
I send you this blessing as spring arrives this month:
God speed and tender mercies be yours; may your sunrises and sunsets bid you courage for this new season of life. May you be heartened by the lilting songs of the birds and the gentle warm air of spring time. May you take solace in the people who love you, and may that love light your path. We stand at the threshold of a new birth, a new beginning. Take heart. Be bold. You are enough.