‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick. But when the desire comes it is a tree of life’ Proverbs 13:12
As we all experience a range of emotions including anxiety, sadness, stress, anger, exhaustion emotionally and physically, I would say that this is a normal response to what is happening in the world at the moment. We may even feel numb and shocked – unsure and unable to process the enormity of what is going on for us personally and for the world. This is grief – we bargain, try to make sense of and control what we can. We may feel disconnected from ourselves emotionally. Our bodies may be experiencing some of the distress that we feel – perhaps stomach aches, headaches, tension in our shoulders and jaws. Perhaps we are having vivid dreams of being lost, unable to find out where we are or where the safe place is. What will we do with all these feelings – we may be tempted to push them down or deny them or anaesthetise them with alcohol or drugs or other ways of self-harm. I would encourage us all to hold on to hope – even if it is very small at the moment. This can be developed.
I find myself thinking a lot about hope and what this means to us as human beings. In 2020 we have all hoped for many things. We are all impacted by the pandemic wherever we are in the world. We may well be hoping that:
the pandemic will soon be over
the vaccines will be safe and that the logistics of manufacture, distribution and administration will be handled with efficiency and compassion
we won’t lose our jobs or businesses
we won’t lose our homes, health or lives
that our relationships will be healthy and that we can find a way to meet with our loved ones in a way that is beneficial for us all
If we have lost jobs that we will soon find something suitable
that the world itself will survive this trauma – we all know that we need to make changes individually and together
Clearly this list is not exhaustive.
My sense is that hope has risen and dipped throughout the year, sometimes several times in one day. Back in March 2020 I thought we would be back to normal by September 2020. This was based on hope but not on any facts. I imagine we all have a limit as to how long we can imagine our lives being disrupted, especially when the whole world is affected and it is nigh on impossible to answer the many questions we all have.
How many times have we all asked ‘are we there yet?’ Many of us will remember asking this question of our parents when we were going on a journey as children. We may have just about left our home and someone in the back seat of the car asks: ‘are we there yet?’ ‘How much longer?’ ‘I am hungry’ ‘I am thirsty’ ‘I’m tired’
This pandemic journey hasn’t been travelled before by any of us so it is inevitable that the journey will be complex. Which way? When? When do we stop? (for a lockdown or circuit breaker).
One way I have found of managing these understandable anxieties is to ask ‘Where am I now?’ ‘How am I?’ ‘What do I need?’ ‘How am I physically and emotionally?’‘ How can I meet these needs?
Without hope we will really struggle and when hope is offered and is then withdrawn or lost we may feel our hearts sink and wonder where we will find the energy for the next part of the journey.
It can be helpful to consider where it is that we place our hope – is it placed somewhere reliable and that can be trusted. Is it based on reality or wishful thinking?
When there is a long journey, we can feel exhausted just trying to plan and think about how we are going to travel, and what we will need to do to sustain ourselves on the way.
This year has been and is a long journey yet, as with every other, year we need to take one day at a time one step at a time. If we make decisions based on facts rather than hearsay or speculation we will find ourselves better able to cope with the unknown. Sometimes more facts become known as we journey onwards. We can do some planning – but it is best done with facts otherwise we may be disappointed if our plans are thwarted.
We may be socially distant at the moment but it is imperative that we remain emotionally connected to those that we love and that love us.
I have noticed that we are all more weary the longer these difficulties go on yet a desire to thrive is deep within each one of us. Can we dig deep, with self-compassion and compassion for others, asking for support where we need it. Can we make good choices about what to pick up, what to put down and when.
I wonder where your hope is placed? Don’t lose hope – we need it to thrive. Stay focussed on what you know and what you can do and just do that. The next steps will come into sight in due course.
If you are struggling to process the enormity of what is going on for you personally and professionally it is imperative that you ask for support. We are relational beings and need others to help us when we are overwhelmed. This is a sign of strength not weakness. Who can you reach out to who will help you?