Last fall, I blogged quite a bit about how I was looking for hope. And then the new year arrived, and I just sort of . . . stopped. Not the looking. Just the blogging about it. It wasn't because I'd FOUND hope, really. (Although things were beginning to feel a little more hopeful back then, with a new president and vaccines on the horizon, y'know?) It was more that blogging about my search was hard, and I was ready to stop talking about it.
But I'm actually always . . .
And I'm feeling like talking about it again. So I'll probably blog about it now and then, going forward. Not on any kind of regular schedule. But every once in a while, I'll share my thoughts.
Don’t hope on this side of the grave
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.
---- Seamus Heaney
Lately, I've been feeling a bit . . . off. Not terrible. But also not great. Feeling stuck in an endless loop, and wondering how any of THIS (defined any way you'd like) will End Up. And I know I'm not the only one. Some of you have blogged about feeling this way. My in-real-life friends are talking about it, too. And so is my family.
I think . . . it's These Times.
I mean, we're 18 months into this Covid mess. And the country seems to be . . . well, let's just say . . . stretched. And it feels like kindness and care and concern have disappeared. And then there's the climate. And . . . ohmygod how can this even BE?
It's a lot.
Lately, I've been thinking about History.
And my Grandmother.
Even though there has been a lot of History (with a capital H) that has happened since I was born in 1959, it's all seemed kind of distant to me somehow. None of the history-making things of my lifetime have felt all that . . . personal for me. They didn't impact my day-to-day life, for example. They didn't direct what I could or couldn't do or where I could go. Everything kept rolling along . . . same as it ever was, and I never felt threatened (for lack of a better word) or worried about the future. Even though History was happening all the time, I could still pretty much depend that the future structure of my life would hold.
But now? Well, somehow the future doesn't feel so dependable or seem guaranteed in that same kind of way. And that really does suck the hope right out of the room, doesn't it?
On that cheery note, let's step back and talk about my grandmother for a minute.
My grandmother was born in 1909, and she died just over 100 years later in 2009. Which means she saw a lot of History in her long life, and she lived through a LOT of crises. I mean, think about it . . .
- She was a child during World War I.
- And during the Spanish Flu outbreak.
- As a young wife and mother, she experienced the Great Depression. On a dairy farm.
- And in her 30s, she went through World War II separated from her husband for years -- while raising 2 young children. (On a dairy farm).
My grandmother lived through some SERIOUS history.
And somehow, until recently, it never occurred to me to consider what it might have been like for her to live through SO MANY major crises of history -- ALL of them pretty darn personal. During those crises, she woke up every day not knowing how [fill-in-the-blank: WWI, Spanish Flu, The Great Depression, WWII . . . ] would end. She didn't know how any of these stories would turn out while she was living them -- and they really did impact her on daily basis. Restrictions. Rations. Loss. Personal risk. What kept her moving forward? What gave her hope . . . when all of these things were happening during her early life. It must have felt pretty bleak.
I never really thought about how significant these events would have been for her. First of all, because she never spoke of them. But I think the big thing was that, of course . . . I already KNEW the outcomes! I knew what happened: that the Spanish Flu ended and the Great Depression ended and World War II ended . . . with Victory. So it was easy for me to minimize the reality of how it must have been for her, living through the uncertainty. But my grandmother didn't know. And she got through all it anyway! She must have felt pretty crappy while any of these things were going on all around her. And yet . . . she managed through it. She must have had some hope, and a lot of resilience.
Hope and History.
I think it's hard for us to have hope right now . . . because we don't know the ending of this history we're living through. We don't know what will happen or how things will turn out. And we aren't terribly patient about it either. So it's all this . . . unnerving uncertainty. . . that's sucking the hope from our lives.
But maybe we can look to the past . . . to see how resilient - as a people - we have been. And how we can be now.
Yes. Things ARE bleak at the moment.
It doesn't feel good.
We don't know any of the endings to our current storylines.
It's unsettling, and uncertainty is never easy.
But History - and my grandmother - show me that we are resilient, and that somehow we find ways to get through whatever History we need to get through. It may not feel comfortable, but we can do it. I think, maybe, that hope and history DO rhyme.
And that's where I'm finding hope today.
(Speaking of rhyming . . . let's have a poem, shall we? Because if this isn't a poem of hope, I don't know what is.)
In Any Event
If we are fractured
we are fractured
bred to shine
in every direction,
through any dimension,
billions of years
since and hence.
I shall not lament
the human, not yet.
There is something
more to come, our hearts
a gold mine
not yet plumbed,
an uncharted sea.
Nothing is gone forever.
If we came from dust
and will return to dust
then we can find our way
What we are capable of
is not yet known,
and I praise us now,
Today's poem was selected for inclusion in How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope, edited by James Crews, Storey Publishing, 2021. Click here for more information about the poet, Dorianne Laux.