“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul – And sings the tune without the words – And never stops – at all” – Emily Dickinson
Hope carries, sustains, pushes, pulls, perches, flies, anchors, propels, promises.
It invites and feeds optimism, trust, light, perspective, perseverance and gratitude.
Rooted, instinctual, a resting place.
Never underestimate the power.
Hope, sweet hope.
The Instinct of Hope
by John Clare
“Is there another world for this frail dust
To warm with life and be itself again?
Something about me daily speaks there must,
And why should instinct nourish hopes in vain?
’Tis nature’s prophesy that such will be,
And everything seems struggling to explain
The close sealed volume of its mystery.
Time wandering onward keeps its usual pace
As seeming anxious of eternity,
To meet that calm and find a resting place.
E’en the small violet feels a future power
And waits each year renewing blooms to bring,
And surely man is no inferior flower
To die unworthy of a second spring?”
“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“We shake with joy, we shake with grief. What a time they have, these two housed as they are in the same body.” – Mary Oliver, Endure
Listen to your thoughts and words, where they lead you. Consternation and complaint are pit of quicksand. Hope and light are the path to contentment, peace and joy amidst the struggles. Stop holding your head under water, claiming others are drowning you. Make the daily decision to rest in gratitude, see the good yourself and others, release worry that only steals our days and never affects the outcome or eases pain that comes and goes with loss and change.
Steadfast, continue the journey anchored in hope, looking for light and ready to shake with joy.
The Gift, Mary Oliver, Felicity
“Be still, my soul, and steadfast
Earth and heaven both are still watching
Though time is draining from the clock
And your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.
So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
Know you are grateful.
That the gift has been given.”
“Great effort is required to arrest decay and restore vigor. One must exercise proper deliberation, plan carefully before making a move, and be alert in guarding against relapse following a renaissance.” – Horace
“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.” – Samuel Ullman
When we forget or get distracted, there are signs and signals all around to wake us up to the present moment, to gratitude and awe. I find it in nature, in the greening of spring grass, amidst awakening of slumbering flowers, at the dog park with the girls and in watching kids lost in play.
We need to do less “adulting,” “reality” and judging and more noticing, searching and observing. Break the hard ground, bud and bloom. Celebrate today with your attitude, thoughts and actions.
“Die to everything of yesterday so that your mind is always fresh, always young, innocent, full of vigor and passion.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Elizabeth Appell
“And why, you may ask, spend precious time searching for something as elusive as a soul? Why not leave it where it hides—near to us, yet so difficult to find and sometimes dangerous to follow? There are two reasons: First, you search for the soul for the sake of your own life—for purpose, for meaning, for strength, for freedom and peace and love. Second, you search for your soul for the sake of everyone else. You do it for your family, your children, your coworkers, the whole world. The world needs your originality, your ideas, your humor, your creations. All of this is alive and well within you, hiding somewhere near you, beneath the layers, down, down, down, into the soul.” — Marrow: A Love Story by Elizabeth Lesser
We forego the everlasting gift of Easter Sunday, if we neglect to carry it forward into Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…and each day going forward. Not just a drive-by holiday, the story of the Cross to resurrection is life-changing, world-changing.
That relief and lightness that people are feeling about getting the vaccine after going through year of a pandemic is but a glimpse of what Easter living offers, present in each day beyond frustrations, fleeting feelings and what the world says is true. That lightness will pass as we resume “normal” whatever that may be. We’ll replace it with the next worry, the next dilemma. It’s exhausting. The eternal light of God was, is and always will remain true and available to all freely, no matter what humans say, do, deny or pursue, thinking it can be found somewhere else. Somewhere else is here on Easter Monday.
To get to here, there is a lot of letting go of resentment, anger, unforgiveness, opinion, judgment, assumptions that shape our life and steal our joy, wonder and awe.
No one makes the decision but you so if you are all good, riding high and where you want to be, carry on, you’ve figured it out. If you’re struggling, searching and unsatisfied, Easter Monday is here and will remain no matter your choice. Consider your options. It is up to you.
“People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong. Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?” – Thich Nhat Hanh
“No doubt about it: this is the day of the going down into the tomb—our own as well as Jesus’. It is now the time for us to die to false hope. But it is also time for us to die to faithless despair.- Joan Chittister
This week in posts, I am focusing on Holy Week, the road to the cross. I realize that this will not sit well with many and that is alright. This journey is uncomfortable. It is heavier. It is deep. I am wandering through it and searching for its meaning in my own life.
It makes us stop our flurry of activities. It holds up a mirror to show us how we define our life, our being and how we can redefine our life, to be changed and transformed.
It is not about religion. It is about relationship. It is expansive, filled with mystery, unknowing, joy and light. It pulls us out of our own story to see how it fits into the story of humanity.
In struggles and victories, you are not alone, you are worthy and enough. Lighten your load and open up to seeing the hand of God in this moment and all moments. Life changing, hope-filled, luminous.
“Hope, you see is a slippery thing, often confused with certainty, seldom understood as the spiritual discipline that makes us certain of only one thing: in the end, whatever happens will be resolved only by the doing of the will of God, however much we attempt to wrench it to our own ends.
There is the hope that we can begin, finally, to see the world as God sees it and so trust that God is indeed everywhere and in everything at all times—in abstruse as well as the luminous, whether we ourselves can see the hand of God in this moment or not.” — The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister
“The only road to Easter morning is through the unrelenting shadows of that Friday. Only then will the alleluias be sung; only then will the dancing begin.”— Kneeling in Jerusalem by Ann Weems
We look for shortcuts, ways around, a clear path, sunny days. Daily life is about going through, both the light and the dark, woven together. Seeing the streams of light in the clouds, trusting the sun remains, that it will rise and set.
This past year, the world has carried a heavy cross of a pandemic, of politics, of racism, of hatred. Darkness is a dead end, hatred begets more of the same, an abyss. Hope pulls us from despair and carries us to the other side.
Light, redemption, resurrection are real, overflowing and calling to each one of us. Light is the only sustaining choice to live in joy, equanimity and peace in an unrelenting world that keeps calling us to our worst selves. Choose light, life over death.
Streams of light are everywhere. Choose to be a beam in a world that longs for light yet still chooses to see the clouds alone. Cast light!
THE FEAR AND FEEDING OF THE SHEEP — Kneeling in Jerusalem by Ann Weems
“We have nothing against Jerusalem; in fact, it’s the place to be on a sunny Easter morning.
It’s Golgotha that we fear; and yet, we’ve been to church enough to know that the way to Jerusalem leads through Good Friday.
Keeping covenant means keeping covenant under a cross as well as by an empty garden tomb.
What we’d like to do, of course, is wave palms and shout Hosanna and then rest up for the Hallelujah Chorus. We dismiss the others as religious fanatics, who wallow in the woe of Holy Week!
O Lamb of God, Lamb of God, Lamb of God, feed us!”
“The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind.” – Paracelsus
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson
Last week, I stepped on a rock at an angle that stretched my foot, ankle and knee in a direction that they are not meant to go. I could feel that it was different, not just a tweak, but a jolt, something that would linger.
In the past week, I stopped running, iced and elevated my ankle regularly, wore an ankle brace to steady it to allow for healing. My normal response would have been to tough it out and work through the pain. While a slow learner, I have learned that with an injury like this, resting now will allow for running later.
We try to rush through the healing process, to tough it out, to “be strong.” Healing has its own timeline which requires patience and pause. Patience develops with experience, practice and rigor. If we are patient and rest there for a bit, we come out stronger, allowing healing to do its work in due time.
This morning, I didn’t feel pain in my ankle for the first time. It has more flexibility and range of motion. While I feel better, I’m not going to run 5 miles today, but will add activity gradually to build back up to get into the groove again.
The past year has had a tremendous impact on our collective and individual psyche. It’s important to acknowledge the “injury,” to grieve and most importantly allow for healing. We are coming closer to the end of “pandemic living” and there’s a new fear of going back out there again. Fear and grieving can wear you down and burn you out. Healing and meaning pull us through to the other side of grief, to our near future self that will be stronger, changed and renewed.
In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote the classic book On Death and Dying describing the five stages of grief in loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that the stages are cyclical rather than linear and they show up in various ways at different times.
He states, “The stages have evolved since their introduction and have been very misunderstood over the past four decades. They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order. Our hope is that with these stages comes the knowledge of grief ‘s terrain, making us better equipped to cope with life and loss. At times, people in grief will often report more stages. Just remember your grief is as unique as you are.”
Allow your grief, but also allow healing and meaning to greet you with a warm embrace on the other side and in glimpses daily throughout. One day, you’ll wake up and the injury won’t hurt as much anymore. It will still be present but in a different form. Give yourself permission to find joy and light daily as you work your way through and we work our way through together.
“An exchange of empathy provides an entry point for a lot of people to see what healing feels like.” – Tarana Burke
“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” – Saint Basil
I have had many conversations in my head with others, things I want to say to “set the record straight,” to “put them in their place,” to “lay it on the line.” Fortunately, I’ve kept most of those where they belong – unsaid. When they’ve escaped and actually came out, regret usually followed. At times, it is appropriate to not be a doormat as well and to speak our own voice.
Our choice is between reacting “in kind” – returning what’s given to us, especially the negativity and criticism or responding “in kindness” – by not returning the same so we don’t turn into that which we want to avoid. Complaint, negativity and criticism are rampant and only create a downward spiral. Gratitude, optimism and hope offer an alternative and multiplies rather than substracts, a whirlwind upward, a deep well to draw from.
So little of what people serve us in negativity, complaint and consternation has anything to do with us. When we take it personally, we allow them to steal our joy. That person who cut you off, the coworker who has a bad attitude and shares it every time you interact with her/him so you do everything to avoid her/him, the family member or friend who triggers that 10 year old in you are all carrying their own burdens and struggles. When we understand this, we have arrived at empathy and understanding and can move out from that place rather than the “what about me?” hole.
Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements are simple rules and principles to follow that can help us respond “in kindness” rather than “in kind,” freeing us from the power and winds of external forces that we allow to permeate our internal state of joy and peace:
Be Impeccable With Your Word.
Don’t Take Anything Personally.
Don’t Make Assumptions.
Always Do Your Best.
As Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We can choose to respond with empathy, understanding, positivity and optimism to combat negativity and model a different path that creates contentment and joy, which is in short supply right now.
Choose mindfully and with forethought the energy that you put out into the world. You can be that thread of hope, that beam of light, that source of joy that someone desperately needs from you now.
“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” – Stephen Grellet
“People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong. Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?” – Thich Nhat Hanh
“The February sunshine steeps your boughs and tints the buds and swells the leaves within.” – William Cullen Bryant
A bulb in dirt five weeks ago, now on the tipping point of bloom. Native to South America, Amaryllis are tropical bulbs that are harvested in the summer and then chilled to prepare them to bloom. Given light, water and time, the flower bursts on the scene in brilliant red, a glimpse of spring amidst the restoration of winter.
Seasons and cycles teach us to sow, take root, seek light, be nourished by water and patiently wait for the certainty of bud, bloom and burst to unfold in due time. From dirt to bloom, seed to harvest, winter to spring, start to finish to start again, we discover the journey of the circle, the flow of the river.
Steeps, tints and swells.
“The earth’s crust has not yet stopped heaving and plunging under our feet. Mountain ranges are still being thrust up on the horizon. Granites are still growing under the continental masses. Nor has the organic world ceased to produce new buds at the tips of its countless branches.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.” – Henri Nouwen
“Forgiveness is the economy of the heart… forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.” – Hannah More
The past year, the past few weeks and yesterday in particular, being positive, hopeful and optimistic feels like a futile pursuit. If we believe that all of humanity is what’s represented on the news and Facebook, it does seem hopeless. The world is disappointing because it’s made up of flawed, broken and imperfect humans. Humans are fundamentally good. Our circumstances, other people and our own thoughts inflict pain that’s carried forward from one generation to the next, continuing the cycle of hatred, self-loathing and scarcity.
We are put here to bear fruit, to be salt and light, to walk peacefully with others not on them. Real, meaningful answers come through difficult conversations, hard work and resilience in the face of obstacles and complexities. If we focus on the destination and accept that the solution doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker, we can get to the hard work that requires authenticity, strength and resilience to stick to it and keep going. Cynicism, hatred, judgment drain our capacity and energy to do the necessary, difficult work grounded in love.
Stop the rhetoric, stop the “they” accusations, stop pouring gasoline on open fires. Start with yourself first before casting stones. Self-awareness leads to empathy, kindness, conversation, forgiveness, compassion, honesty, generosity, accountability, grace, mercy, optimism, hope, understanding and love. Hatred never has and never will be the answer to anything.
The pain in this world is very real. Healing is optional. Choose to be an outlier, a rebel. Dare to be optimistic, hopeful and be light. Enter the world with enthusiasm and resolve to be part of the solution, not the problem. We don’t need more of the same of either side. We need different and more of it. Sow seeds today, cast light.
“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” – Francis of Assisi