Looking for Hope

Looking So Hard Right Now

This has been a tough week.

I mean, there's all the ordinary crap of life -- the melancholy-ness of pulling the pontoon out of the lake for the summer, for example. Or weird issues with a friend you used to like hanging around with. Or the "medical morass" you need to lead your dad through. Y'know . . . just ordinary, everyday kinds of crap. The kind we all deal with on the regular.

But then . . . there's the EXTRAordinary shitshow stuff happening all around us right now. The grieving for RBG. The frustration of inaction in the Breonna Taylor case. The latest Trump outrage about refusing to commit to a peaceful transition of power.  The lies. The ineptitude. The hypocrisy.

It gets to be too much.

Especially when you're trying (so hard) to look for ...

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I'm betting that many of you are feeling much like me right now.
Wrung out.
Weary.
Disheartened.
Disenchanted.
Tired.
So tired.
So tired of this shit.

In other words . . . hopeless.

So today, I'm going to share something that gets me through when I've lost hope.

I meditate every day, and I usually use a GREAT app called Insight Timer for my practice. (Really. I've used most of the apps out there over the years, and Insight Timer is the best.) Sarah Blondin (of the Live Awake podcast) is one of the most popular teachers on the app -- and one I really like, too. In the early days of the pandemic (which seems now like years and years ago, doesn't it?), Sarah did a session for Insight Timer on Instagram Live called A Message of Hope. I listened to it back then, and I've listened to it several times since -- including twice already this week!

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I thought you all might enjoy Sarah's message, too. You can click on this link to listen. It's on the longer side -- about 18 minutes, but I think you'll feel better - and maybe even a little more hopeful (or at least more settled) - after you listen. You don't need to be a regular meditator to enjoy this; it's less a guided meditation than a soothing talk from a wise friend. It's comforting. And relaxing.

Sarah gives us hope.
And we need some of that right now, more than ever.

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(Now, here's the weird part. When you click into the link, it shows the talk with a 46 minute timeframe. I freaked out when I saw that -- because on the app it's only 18 minutes! And it IS . . . 18 minutes. There's a mistake somewhere there. When you click the arrow to start listening, the time goes down to 18 minutes within seconds. It is NOT 46 minutes. Just so you know.)

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My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. 

Don't forget to look for hope.
We're all right. We're okay.

 


Thoughts on Hope: A Story About Showing Up

It's Friday. Let's look for . . . 

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As you know, I'm desperately seeking hope.
I'm looking everywhere.
(And actually finding it more often than I thought I would.)

I've also been doing some thinking about a phrase that seems to pop up everywhere these days . . . 

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Show up.

I really like the phrase, myself. It means "to be conspicuous or clearly visible," according to the dictionary on my phone. For me, it means . . . being there. Even if you would rather not be there, and especially if you don't have to be there at all. It involves a choice on behalf of the shower-upper. It's about taking your light out from under your bushel basket and letting it shine. It means speaking up. It means supporting someone. Or an issue; a cause.

Show up.

Today I want to share a story with you about a guy who lives somewhere near me. I don't know his name or anything about him (well, that's not entirely true; I know something very important about him - and you will, too, after you read my story), but I see him all the time. He's just some guy, older than Tom and I I'd guess. Maybe . . . late 60s? Early 70s? He's tall and he has gray hair and he runs in our neighborhood. Every day. I'd probably not really notice him, really, because we have lots of runners in our neighborhood and he would just kind of fade into the mass of them.

But. He stands out.
Because he shows up.

The first time I noticed him was in the winter of 2017. Trump had recently been sworn in (y'know . . . to uphold and defend the constitution) (but I digress). The first Women's March had just happened. The forest rangers were resisting. Remember those days? Anyway. It was a winter morning and I was driving to my kickboxing class at the gym, and I noticed this guy running. And he had big, homemade sign safety pinned to his back: "Dump Trump," it said. Bright yellow sign, brown words. They showed up clearly on his brown running jacket. I honked my horn and waved.

And then . . . I continued to see him running in my neighborhood almost every time I drove to the gym in the morning. His "Dump Trump" sign pinned to his running clothes. Tom would see him, too. We started watching for him. Every day.

By spring, he had gotten rid of the pinned-on sign -- and ran in a brown t-shirt screen printed with "Dump Trump" right on the back. Bright yellow. Clearly visible from a distance. Every day. 

Now, he has an entire "Dump Trump" running wardrobe. For all seasons, for all weather. Jackets, t-shirts, tank tops. Brown and bright yellow. (A model of consistent branding.) Every day.

THAT, friends . . . is showing up!

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I've long wanted to introduce myself to him. Let him know how much seeing him running means to me; how brave I think he is . . . to run with his heart on his sleeve (you know what I mean) like that; how much HOPE he gives me whenever I see him. But it's hard -- because I usually see him when I'm driving and it's hard to stop then.  Besides, I'm in awe of him, and that makes me feel shy about it.

Last month, I was out walking with JoJo and I saw him running past. I quick grabbed my phone to try to at least get a photo, but by the time I got the phone out and the camera ready and  JoJo settled . . . he was too far ahead for me to talk to him or (as you can see) get a decent photo.

But that's him. Mr. "Dump Trump." A fixture now for nearly 4 years . . . showing up . . . on the streets of my neighborhood every day!

I've decided that . . . showing up . . . is much more than just being "conspicuous" or "clearly visible." (Although there certainly is that.)
We show up because we hope.
Our showing up gives other people hope.
When we show up, we shore others up.

Hope . . . in action.

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And because Fridays can still be for poetry (every day can be for poetry, actually), here's a poem for you by Jane Hirshfield, another one of my favorite poets. I've probably shared this particular poem here before at some point, but it seems to be especially appropriate when we're talking about showing up.

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My Life Was the Size of My Life
Jane Hirshfield

My life was the size of my life.
Its rooms were room-sized,
its soul was the size of a soul.
In its backgrounders, mitochondria hummed,
above it sun, clouds, snow,
the transit of stars and planets.
It rode elevators, bullet trains,
various airplanes, a donkey.
It wore socks, shirts, its own ears and nose.
It ate, it slept, it opened
and closed its hands, its windows.
Others, I know, had lives larger.
Others, I know, had lives shorter.
The depth of lives, too, is different.
There were times my life and I made jokes together.
There were times we made bread.
Once I grew moody and distant.
I told my life I would like some time,
I would like to try seeing others.
In a week, my empty suitcase and I returned.
I was hungry, then, and my life,
my life, too, was hungry, we could not keep
our hands off         our clothes on
our tongues from

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My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.) 

Don't forget to look for hope.
Show up.

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Today's poem was published in The Beauty by Jane Hirshfield, 2015, Alfred A. Knopf.  Information about the poet can be found here

 


Around Here

Edited to add note: If you try to leave a comment on this post, but are unable to, would you mind sending me an email (link to the left in the sidebar) to let me know. I've had reports of a problem, and need more data to report the situation. Thank you.

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. . . on Fridays we . . . 

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This week, I got a new book for my poetry collection -- Together In a Sudden Strangeness: America's Poets Respond to the Pandemic (edited by Alice Quinn and published by Penguin Random House). The editor of the collection, Alice Quinn, reached out to poets across the country to see what they were writing during the days of quarantine, and this collection is the result. The poems, as you might expect, cover the gamut of emotions during those early days when we were all staying home . . . trying to make sense of a pandemic in our midst. Some of the poems are dark, some are melancholy; there's some humor in there, and sadness. 

What strikes me most about these poems, though, is how "far" (I'm not sure that's exactly the word I want to use here, but it will suffice) we've all come in 6 months. Reading these poems -- written, collected, edited, published in a mere 6 months -- was like stepping back in time . . . back to March and April.

Remember that time? Remember how it felt then? We were shocked and anxious and more than a little afraid. We were at home. Inside. Washing our hands and not touching our faces and wiping everything down and hoarding toilet paper and thinking it all might end by . . . summer, surely. We were trying hard to make sense of things back then. To sort out what we could do and not do. Trying not to panic, but kind of panicking.

And the poems in this collection? That's where they are. They come from those early days of the pandemic and the time of staying-at-home.

And reading them now . . . feels kind of dated. 
In a mere 6 months.

And that actually gives me . . . hope. I mean, sure. I'm a lot more jaded about everything now. Worn down and weary and sick of this shit. Like everyone else.

But look how much we've learned.
Look how much we've adapted. 
Look at us.

We're not happy. But we are resilient.
I can see that. I can feel that.
Despite everything . . .  all the crap and all the politics and all the stress and all the just, well, more regular kinds of horrific disasters happening against the backdrop of the pandemic . . . we're still here. Making our way and pulling each other out of the dark spaces and putting the pieces of our lives together as best we can.

That's hope.
In action.

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And because Friday's are still for poetry, here's one from Together In a Sudden Strangeness for you. Now, this poem apparently went "viral" in those early days, so you may already be familiar with it, but somehow, I missed it completely back then. The first time I read it was this week, in this collection. I only found its history when I Googled the author.

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And the People Stayed Home
Kitty O'Meara

And the people stayed home.

And they listened, and read books, and rested, and exercised, and made art,
and played games, and learned new way of being, and were still.

And they listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.
Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed.

And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, and heartless
ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they
grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and
created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

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Remember, friends. This story isn't over yet, and we don't know how it ends.
We're in the "messy middle" right now.
Let's keep moving.

My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.) 

Don't forget to look for hope.

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Today's poem was published in Together In a Sudden Strangeness: America's Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn, 2020, Borzoi Books/Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House.  The poem was first published on the author's blog, The Daily Round and in O, The Oprah Magazine. 

 

 

 


Fridays Are For . . .

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Several weeks before everything shut down for the pandemic, I had a little cavity filled at the dentist . . . and there ended up being just a tiny bit of "roughness" that would catch the dental floss every time I flossed my teeth. Not a big deal, certainly. But an annoyance. I made a quick appointment to have it smoothed out at the same time I was due in for my next cleaning at the end of March. Canceled, of course.

So I finally got in to get that little "roughness" smoothed out . . . a couple of weeks ago.

While I was waiting to go in for my appointment, masked-up and alone in my little distanced area of the waiting room, a mother came in with three kids -- all ready for their annual check-ups. There was a big brother, who was probably 8 or so, and a little sister who looked to be about 5, and a baby brother being carried by his mother in a front-pack. (I'm gonna guess he was 12-15 months old; probably walking - but needing to be "contained.") Everyone - except the baby brother - was in a mask, of course. And these kids were beautifully behaved. They sat still and quiet and waited, looking at books they had brought in with them. Nobody fussed or whined.

Except the baby brother.

He was fussing and agitated. He wanted to be in a chair with his big brother and sister. He wanted to be free of the front pack.

(Or so I thought.)

You know what he really wanted?
His face mask!
As soon as his mother put on his tiny, toddler-sized face mask . . . he calmed down. He wanted to be like his siblings, darn it. He wanted his mask on, too.

And then I was called in to get my rough edge smoothed out. But I was comforted by the scene I'd just witnessed.

It gave me hope!

Why? Because to these kids (including the baby brother) wearing masks is . . . just what is happening right now. It's just another of those things we need to do to keep ourselves and each other healthy. An inconvenience, but workable. Even for young children.

The kids are alright.
And that gives me hope.

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And, because it is Friday and Fridays still seem to be for poetry around here, here is a poem for you.

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The Thing Is
Ellen Bass

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold your life like a face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you again.

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This poem reminds me that even when we think we just cannot, we usually find a way to keep going. Dig deep, my friends. Keep looking for hope in the dark spaces.

My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.) 

Don't forget to look for hope.

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Today's poem was published in Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, edited by Phyllis Cole-Dai and Ruby R. Wilson, 2017, Grayson Books.  Information about the poet can be found here

 


Planting Hope

This week has seemed to be a particularly . . . ugly one. Fires and hurricanes and plague. Politicians encouraging the worst in us. I don't need to go on. You all know this. You all feel this. These are wearying days.

So I encourage you to dig deep, my friends. To turn off the news. To put down your phones. To stop scrolling. Go outside and see what's happening there. Renew your soul.

"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature - the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter."
            --- Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

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Last night, as the sun was going down, I went out in my garden with the dogs . . . and I noticed these incredible rays shining through the trees. It made me forget the troubles of the world for a few minutes. It reminded me that there is more happening out there than what we see on our screens; what we hear in the news.

And then I turned around.
And saw this . . . 

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Among the weeds and plants dying back in my late summer garden, there was my little pond frog . . . nestled in the arms of Garden Buddha, basking in the sun's last rays for the day!

Could there be any better reminder . . . that we have a place in the world beyond the despair?

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And, because it is Friday and Fridays still seem to be for poetry around here, here is a poem from you by another of my favorite poets, David Whyte. 

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The Journey
David Whyte

Above the mountains
   the geese turn into 
      the light again

Painting their
   black silhouettes
      on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
   has to be
      inscribed across 
         the heavens

so you can find
   the one line
      already written
         inside you.

Sometimes it takes
   a great sky
      to find that

first, bright
   and indescribable
      wedge of freedom
         in your own heart.

Sometimes with
   the bones of the black
      sticks left when the fire
         has gone out

someone has written
   something new
      in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving.
   Even as the light fades quickly now,
      you are arriving.

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It's especially important for us to remember that . . . we are not leaving right now (even as the light fades quickly); we are arriving. Dig deep, my friends. Keep looking for hope in the dark spaces.

My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.) 

Don't forget to look for hope.

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Today's poem was published in David Whyte: Essentials, edited by Gayle Karen Young Whyte, Many Rivers Press, 2020.  Information about the poet can be found here

 


Fridays Are For Hope

You know how when you start thinking about something -- a specific brand of car when you're interested in a new car, for example -- you start seeing it everywhere?

Well. I'm thinking that might be the case for hope, too. Because now that I'm looking for it, I'm finding it (in little pieces, at least) more often.

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Just little bits of it. 
Here and there.

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I've been playing around with the word "hope" this week. The definition. The way we use it in everyday speech. That kind of thing.

Turns out, hope . . . is a Really Useful Word! Noun, verb, proper noun, adjective, adverb.  It shows up everywhere, all the time. A word with many uses.

I think, in my case - right now, I'm looking for a . . . thing.

Hope.
As a noun.
"A desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment."
(Yep. That's it.)

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I've also been thinking about all the ways we talk about hope . . . without actually using the word hope.

Things are looking up . . . 
The light at the end of the tunnel . . . 
Seeing through rose-colored lenses . . . 
Keeping the faith . . . 
The cup is half-full . . . 
She's a real Pollyanna . . . 
Look on the bright side . . . 

It's everywhere in our language!

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It's an interesting word, that's for sure. Fun to play around with. Poets, of course, have a field day with hope. I've got a poem for you today that I'm sure you already know. But, when you're thinking about what hope IS . . . you need this poem in your toolbox.

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"Hope" is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
and never stops - at all 

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I've heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

    --- Emily Dickinson

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Right now, hope feels elusive -- that "thing with feathers that perches in the soul."

But.

I felt some glimmers of hope now and again this week.
Did you?
Did you find any hope in the dark spaces this week?

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My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.) 

Don't forget to look for hope. (And let me know if you find some.)

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Today's poem was published in The Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by R.W. Franklin, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999.  Information about the poet can be found here

 

 


Planting Some Hope

For many months now, Fridays have been for poetry. But I'm feeling the itch to switch things up a bit.

So, starting today . . . Fridays are for hope.
(Which will still likely include poetry sometimes. It's just, well, I'm more than a bit desperate for some hope these days.)

I've decided to go looking for it.
(Hope, that is.)

And when I find it, I'm going to plant it right here.
(On Fridays.)

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Let's start with a little story of hope.

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On Turning Things Around

In the days before the pandemic, I used to go on regular bike trail rides with a small group of friends. We had all met at the gym, and we didn't know each other well - but we all liked being active, and we had bikes, and our schedules lined up. (That's about it for simularities, though. Let's just say . . . we cover the spectrum when it comes to politics and religious beliefs and feelings about climate change.) Anyway. There were 4 of us, and on the trails we would often "pair up" and ride and chat . . . switching the "pairs" now and again. Eventually, we had one-on-one chats with everyone on a ride. And, because we generally liked riding together, we just silently agreed not to discuss certain things. Or we sidestepped entire topics.  Our chats were pretty superficial; day-to-day stuff. It worked.

Anyway . . . once, I was riding along with the most quiet and thoughtful woman in our group. She never said much about herself, and she tended to play things pretty close to the vest. Mostly she just chatted about her daughters and their families and "gym stuff." I knew she had some health issues, but I didn't have any idea what they were.

As we rode that day, she told me she'd been diagnosed with MS many years ago, and she explained how it had changed her life. It had meant ending her career, a slowing down, a turning inward. The diagnosis turned her into what she calls a "thoughtful planner." She's always thinking ahead now -- coming up with options for how she'll live each day (depending on how she's feeling), what she'll do to maintain her ability to move and stay active, how she wants the rest of her life to look.

Her outlook is so positive, so focused on movement, so . . . forward thinking.

I asked her . . . Were you always so accepting and gracious and wise about your diagnosis?

Oh, no! She told me. At first, she was in despair. She asked her husband . . . 
What will become of us?

And he told her to turn that statement around . . . 
What will we become?

I almost fell off my bike right then. Because YES. That's it.
Hope.
In the face of a dark and uncertain future.

The message in my story today? 
Sometimes when things look particularly bleak, we need to remember to . . .  turn it around.

What will become of us?  ==>  What will we become?

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And . . . because maybe you showed up here today for some poetry . . . here's a poem for you, too.

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Small Kindnesses
Danusha Laméris

I've been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say "bless you"
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. "Don't die," we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons 
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don't want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress 
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, "Here,
have my seat," "Go ahead - you first," "I like your hat."

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My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.) 

Don't forget to look for hope. (Maybe it's planted right there in your garden!)

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Today's poem was published in Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindess & Connection, edited by James Crews, Green Writers Press, 2019.  Information about the poet can be found here