The Return of Hope

I’ve written often about hope in this blog. As you know, I believe it’s nearly impossible to sustain a life in the arts without it. And hope is certainly what continues to get us through the aftermath of 2020. Interestingly, it is my relationship to hope that has undergone the most change for me in the past year and led to what I hope is the most growth.

My ever-practical husband often says to me, “Now, don’t get your hopes up.” He might be referring to a raise he might receive or a trip we might be able to take or a gift he’s trying to secure for me. And nearly always my response is, “Too late.”

I’ve always been the person with the packed calendar, the one brimming with ideas for both my personal and professional life, the one who made sure I had things to look forward to. Until this past year, when lockdowns and social distancing cleared my calendar. In the early days of the pandemic, I refused to look at my calendar to see where I was supposed to have been that day, what I was supposed to have been doing. Instead, I took my brain to a foggy land where time stood still and I didn’t have to think about what I was missing. I surrendered to quieter days, but in doing so, I shut down my ideas and also my feelings.

My usual optimistic self got pinned down by an alter ego who didn’t trust in anything and refused to get her hopes up again. At first, I thought maybe that was my growth. After all, I was no longer blindsided when the disappointments came. I expected them. But it didn’t feel like growth because there was no energy in it.

The real growth this last year was not in teaching myself to accept disappointment, it was in realizing that it’s okay to feel disappointed. It’s also okay to feel angry and frustrated and worried and sad. Feeling those things is not a denial of hope. It doesn’t make you less of an optimistic or faithful person. It makes you human. It makes you strong.

With spring finally here and the vaccines rolling out and plans starting to form, I can see hope standing before me. The alter ego that had pinned me down has moved on, and hope has her hand outstretched to help me stand again. She’s smiling at me like an old friend. She’s brushing me off and reassuring me there’s no need to rush. After all, I was down for quite a while. I can lean on her when I’m ready.

“No, it’s okay,” I say, “I’m ready.”

Teresa R. Funke

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