What makes hope so hard to hold on to?

Hope’s a slippery thing to hold onto.  Reach up to wipe one of life’s tears from your eye, and hope fumbles from your hand, bounces on the floor, and rolls under the couch.  Hidden there among the dust bunnies and a few runaway M&Ms, you’ll need to look for it, sometimes stretching as far as your hand can reach before you’re able to wrap your fingers around it again.

What makes hope so hard to hang onto?

Criticism pops hope’s balloon – sometimes startling so – and we are unprepared for its aftermath. How shaky we feel minutes, hours, and even days later.  Once firm ground doesn’t feel quite so solid.  Confidence wavers. Doubt rises.  And hope’s drifted away.

Criticism destructs.  Hope constructs.  And it’s hard to rebuild sometimes.  We stack each block of advice we’ve ever heard about overcoming criticism, but the ego’s still a little shaky.  Consider the source.  Learn and move on.  Surround yourself with nourishing people.  We know all that, but criticism – even just implied criticism –  moves right into the ground floor of our consciousness, an unwelcome squatter crowding out all the good stuff we know to be true about ourselves.  No compliment ever seems to build us as high as criticism knocks us down. 

Disappointment.  Another hope-foe.  Disappointment in ourselves, in others, even in hope itself, disappointment wraps around us and smothers us.  If we are to remain hope-full, we have to believe in second chances.  We have to allow ourselves some do-overs.  We seek out new beginnings and fresh starts.  Disappointment can devastate, but it can also motivate.  A multi-feathered phoenix from the ashes, hope can rise again in a new day, new year, new job, or a new relationship.  We are hopers for happy endings.  All’s well that ends well.  A place where everything old is renewed again.

Worry.  Large, small, and even nagging niggling little worries are hope’s party crashers.  Often showing up late to the show and when we’re at our most vulnerable, worry is the great what-if.  We what-if all night long, tossing and turning and churning up worst-case scenario after worst-case scenario.  Hope’s never awake at 2 a.m., but worry’s an insomniac and wants a little company.  Prayers and deep-breathing and faith and sometimes sheer tenacity can overcome worry.  Life’s greatest waste of time, worry lives simultaneously in our past, present, and future.  In the morning, hope has to lift the shades, push back the curtains, and open a window to the light and fresh air of the here and now. 

Regret.  All the once upon a time beginnings we didn’t quite see through to the end.  All our should haves but did nots.   The might have beens but were nots. Regret is a rusty wheel refusing to spin and move us forward.  A detailed list of failures, people we could have been, decisions we made and wish we hadn’t, regret challenges hope by pointing its crooked old finger back to where we have been, while hope stubbornly looks ahead to where we want to go next.

Hope dares to be happy.  Hope is the better and born-again reincarnation of criticism, disappointment, worry, and regret.  Refusing to abandon us, hope waits like a forgotten five dollar bill in last year’s coat, and we delight in its discovery and smile a bit at our unexpected good fortune. Hope helps us do the next day, whether we want to or not,  with a faint whisper of encouragement, “I know you can.” 

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