“Hope is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -“
I’m torn on the wisdom of looking to Emily Dickinson for life advice. It seems problematic, at best.
Gifted poet. Yes!
Introverted shut-in. NO.
At the same time, Emily knows a thing or two, and she wrote one of the most beautiful and elegantly simple depictions of hope I have ever read.
Hope is one of the words I can never quite put down. No matter how many times I want to. I devoted an entire chapter of my book to it. Which isn’t surprising as it’s something humanity, on the whole, seems obsessed with. Don’t take my word for it. Google. There are 10,419 hope-related quotes on Goodreads alone. Funny story, I got the idea to write about hope last night, and, true to life, Allison Fallon ended up beating me to it.
I have a problem with hope. And I completely accept how AA that sounds. It feels very addiction-like at times. The sad part is, I could have turned out very bitter and disillusioned. I’ve traced the path, and there are several moments when I could have easily thrown up my hands, cursed everything, and consigned myself to never hoping again. But, for some reason I don’t fully understand, I didn’t.
I keep hoping. Despite, and I put special emphasis on that word, everything. Despite repeated disappointments. Despite repeated dashed hopes. I keep hoping.
It’s not so much a conscious effort, of course, and maybe that’s the most frustrating part. Despite everything. Despite my own attempts to stop it. My heart keeps hoping. Somewhere, deep down, there is a wide-eyed, hope-filled dreamer who still believes that anything is possible.
And you can’t give him an inch. If things go right once, he’s ready to believe it’s smooth sailing from here on in. If an opportunity shows up, no matter how thin its chances, he will devote all his spare thought to it. He will make plans because, of course, it’s going to happen. He will hope. He will run wild with it.
And then, inevitably it seems, he will be crushed when it doesn’t happen.
I could have been cynical. That voice is in me. I have tried to chain up the reckless dreamer. I have bargained, made promises, tried to make him see reason. Because it hurts too much when it doesn’t happen. It hurts so much I’d almost rather not hope at all to be spared the pain of disappointment.
And yet, the moment I take my eyes off him, there he goes. Building castles in the air out of the smallest things. Out of nothing at all. And that is the most alarming thing about him.
Yet, despite the pull towards cynicism, despite my own hesitation, I envy him. I envy his resilience. I envy his ability to shake it off and try again and again and again. Maybe that’s why he never stays chained for long.
Because in the end, the word I have a problem with is probably not hope. It’s disappointment. That’s the thing I’ve never known how to handle. I’ve never known how not to let it lay me low over the smallest thing.
Because depression lies, and disappointment is a cat arching it’s back. It wants you to think it’s bigger than it is. Because all of these, cynicism included, are parasite thoughts. They know only how to take.
But not hope. No matter how many times I try to squash the dreamer in me, he always pops back up. He’s never once asked me to apologize. In the end, Emily knows what she’s talking about. I always remember the first stanza of her poem, but, true to life, I always forget the last.
“I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.”