Friday, December 23, 2016

Addicted to Hope

Fog, 2016

I woke up thinking about expectations and disappointments today. Letdowns have always been and always will be a part of my life. Why? Because I'm addicted to hope. It's nothing new. I don't know if I've read too many books, seen too many movies... It's everywhere, really. Plays, musicals, television, blogs, podcasts. A conflict is introduced. A resolution closes things out. And even though the resolution isn't always positive, it can be a letdown, there will be another conflict, with a better resolution. There always is. But long before most of these things were part of my life, I was hopeful, a believer.

When I was 4 years old and in kindergarten my teacher told our class we were going to China. I was absolutely ecstatic. I firmly believed her, obviously. Why would she lie to us? I rushed home to tell my mother. When she thoughtfully tried to manage my expectations, I was appalled. She wasn't there! She didn't know! We were going to China! When the day arrived and we sat on the floor eating bowls of poorly cooked white rice I was shocked, and then deflated. I'd never really liked that teacher, but this seemed a particularly cruel joke.

Oh, I forgot to mention that on my first day of kindergarten, my introduction to the whole concept of school, when most of the children were crying, I was excited to visit this new place and meet new people and start learning. Hopeful. Okay, back to the story... 

I don't remember if any of the other children were upset or even aware of what I saw as profound disillusionment. I don't think so, because I recall feeling very alone. But I did not give up on teachers. Although this teacher was an utter disappointment, due to her lie (I know the word lie seems strong, but I was a very serious child) about China, the way I feared raising my hand and asking her if I could go to the bathroom during Weekly Reader, and an array of other unfortunate events, I did not resolve to distrust all teachers.

As it turns out, the next teacher I met, my first grade teacher, remains my favorite teacher. Because that's the way it goes. When times are tough it means something better is around the corner. This too shall pass. Right? I don't really know how to live another way. The bus breaks down. There is the pleasure of unexpected downtime. A bad breakup? Love will come again. Even when something is so tragic I know the only thing that will aid healing is time, no matter how slowly it seems to move, time does pass. And even if it seems implausible, I know, deep down, joy will eventually return to my life.

This coping mechanism has carried me far, but it began to falter this year. I've never been an avid follower of politics or current events, but I did keep informed about most major world issues, until I snapped in early November. I reached capacity. Part of the reason for this is what the rapid advance of technology has made available to us, at such incredible speed, and the other part is the number and intensity of actual events taking place. Since snapping I have avoided radio, newspaper, online news, talking heads of all sorts, and people who focus their attention in these areas.

I've instead gravitated toward nature, albeit mostly urban nature, literature, beauty, peace, and the belief in the capacity for human kindness that I know still exists. I haven't decided if this is a sustainable way to live my life. At times it seems I'm avoiding reality, or is it just another version of reality? I don't know. I'm sure there are many wise arguments against living this way, but it is where I am at this moment.