The world before March seems like another lifetime on another planet – thumbing through the May issues of Vogue, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar made me feel like I was looking at the archaeological records of a dead society. Huge travel features. Really? Jewelry and extravagant handbags. Really??
None of us knows what life will be like on the other side. Nor do we know how and when we might start carefully venturing back into the world. “Normal it will not be,” Governor Gavin Newsom told Californians on April 14. Just how not normal remains to be seen.
And yet, even in this deep not knowing, there is so much heroism, so much beauty, so much stamina and resilience and courage and good humor. So much to spark hope.
Hope is the essential energy that has sustained so many of us through this physical, economic, spiritual and emotional lockdown. At least for me, I have a deep, powerful hope that a beautiful new world will emerge on the other side of this crisis.
What is hope? Here’s a secular definition: “A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” Here’s a spiritual one: “The confident expectation of and longing for promised blessings.”
Hope’s synonyms are as varied as our perceptions of what hope is: aspiration, desire, confidence, expectation, optimism, assumption, buoyancy, daydream, endurance, security or utopia. Is hope a fantasy? A spiritual energy linked to faith? A plan? Is it all of the above? I think it depends on the day. Hope is whatever we need it to be for us to make it through to the next morning.
Hope is profoundly connected to perspective. Alexandre Dumas says: “There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more . . . never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope’.”
In San Francisco we have been collectively waiting and hoping for weeks. We will do so for weeks more. But I have been doing my waiting and hoping in a large and sunny apartment with a freezer full of food, running hot water, electricity and great bandwidth. The way I’ve been living through lockdown might be a fantasy of luxuries to millions of people in the world, even in my own town. Still, on any given day, I can feel grateful and replete or isolated and miserable. Hope, like perspective, is a choice.
Some days I’ve had to stand up and say what I’m grateful for out loud. I’ve had to drag myself into hope, wrestling my soul away from the power of my fears.
I’m hoping, waiting and preparing to walk into what’s to come full of hope, ready to participate in the fragile emergence of our new world, which will be as delicate as a newborn. My hope for this nascent world may indeed feel as light and mobile as a feather. Maybe Emily Dickinson was right after all: “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.”