A new client came in for our second meeting. She was shy and a bit uncertain. Her story was one of pain that seemed to have no cause, and no easy healing.
She began the conversation with a difficult story about a co-worker. Then she told me about her parents who were critical and judgmental. In their latest encounter, her father had told her he didn’t think she would ever be well. “You’ve tried everything,” he said. “I just don’t think that this next round of medication is going to work either.”
She was devastated.
Of course she was. Her father, probably without intending it, had robbed her of the most precious resource any of us have: her hope.
Hope is a precarious feeling, as Emily Dickinson reminds us in her poem.
“Hope is the thing with feathers —
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words — ….”
Dickinson’s next line is that the little bird never stops.
But I have seen that little bird fly away from people with the slightest push: a statement of doubt, a critical word about how you are handling your illness.
The thing with feathers also disappears when there is an absence of support and care. Any of those can topple the fragile bird of hope from your heart.
We need hope to survive, to thrive, and to carry on to the next day. Where does it come from?
And we need that hope to survive, to thrive, and to carry on to the next day.
Where does it come from?
As I watch those who are hopeful, even in difficult and stressful circumstances, I see that they recognize the power of their connections. It is the quality of the What and the Who around us that determine much of our hope.
Think about it: what are you taking into your emotional and physical environment every day? Are the messages hopeful? Or are they cynical, judging, dismissive? Some messages pull us to numb out — why bother? Others tell us just to quit.
But there are also some people and situations that raise our spirits and start that inner singing. Who makes you laugh? Where do you feel that subtle uplift that suggests a tiny bird resides in your heart?
There are many sources — people, poems, music, prayer, scenery, animals. You can begin to create your own hope-meter.
If you feel more hopeful around certain people, make sure you see them. Get it in your calendar.
The next step is to make sure you get a good dose of it every day. What would be excellent would be several times a day.
If you feel more hopeful around certain people, make sure you see them. Get it in your calendar. And conversely, if you find yourself feeling more hopeless around someone, don’t see them very often.
You can also be a source for others. Check your own comments and inner conversations. Are you making a gracious space for the goodness and blessing of the world in your life and in your interactions?
Cultivating hope is essential for your well-being. It is essential for the world.
Let us each make space for the thing with feathers with its powerful life affirming messages.
We were together so someone could listen to her.