What do you need to hear right now?
"I've wasted all these years looking for something, a sort of trophy I'd get only if I really, really did enough to deserve it. But I don't want it anymore, I want something else now, something warm and sheltering, something I can turn to, regardless of what I do, regardless of who I become." ― Kazuo Ishiguro
I love the comfortable way strangers exchange hope. I love how starting a sentence with “I hope” can crack the tension brewing between people who are close to each other.
I hope you get an answer soon. I hope you feel better tomorrow. I hope you have a good time.
Hope allows us to be civil and sincere. Hope gives us easy access to heartfelt expression.
“Don’t give up hope,” we say from the stands to the basketball team losing by 10 points, to our long-distance friend whose heart just got broken, to the movie hero who’s responsible for saving the world in the next hour and just realized she followed the wrong fork in the road.
Hope is a highly-absorbent salve that smells of lavender and mint, and it’s almost always an excellent remedy to offer when someone's having a down day.
Except that every once in awhile, it isn’t.
I wrote previously about leaving my home of 14 years. Overnight, I went from trying to change my ex-husband’s mind about selling the house we rocked our babies in, to looking for boxes and testing out scripts for breaking the news to the kids.
Whatever my hurt feelings were about the situation, I was moving on.
A few weeks after the move, my friend Dina came over. We talked while we put away things that’d been hiding in the recesses of my old closets. I told her all about the failed negotiations with my ex—and the righteous indignation I still felt towards him.
Her busy hands rested in her lap for a moment. And then she said, “Oh, Rumi. It’s hopeless, isn’t it?”
Hopeless. That one word jarred me. The sound of it had the thud of a closed door. It even struck me as scandalous, a word-you’re-not-supposed-to-say-out loud. For a brief second, my brain corrected what she said to something more familiar, like, “I hope everything works out after all.”
But I knew that's not what she said.
Yes, I’d given up on staying in the house. That didn’t mean I’d given up on the hope that still lingered; I was hopeful that I was right about the “forced” sale, that it was unjust and unnecessary.
Suddenly I could see how stuck I was. I was trying to protect my dignity by insisting I was right, but in doing so, I was reinforcing the belief that I’d been wronged—which was dignity-crushing.
Hopeless, not hope, was the remedy I needed there and then. Dina’s words lifted a veil.
Now, it’s not like I accepted and digested the heartache of the lost dream all in one fell swoop. Every day, to this day, I live into that hopelessness a little more. Each day, I make a little more space for wonder and curiosity about what this no-hope-for-the-house version of life has to offer.
The day after Dina dropped the truth bomb, she dropped by with another surprise. This time it came in a small white box, and I found it sitting on my front porch. The waft of butter and sugar tickled my nose the minute I opened it up.
Metropolitan Market makes what they boldly call, The Cookie. A four-inch round concoction of toasted walnuts and Belgian chocolate held together by part-crispy-part-still-moist dough.
If Dina had offered hope instead of hopeless at that pivotal moment, I might not have recognized The Cookie as the revelation that it is. Hoping with all my heart that my home would remain mine, then accepting that hope was lost and releasing it: this sequence created a vacuum. It opened up space for me to recognize that life-giving sweetness exists beyond the hope-hopeless continuum. The Cookie is bliss manifested, and it’s pretty much untouchable.
May giving and receiving hope continue to nourish you and the people around you, the same as it always has.
May you also lose hope where and when necessary. Sometimes hopeless is the preferred remedy to offer someone in pain. Sometimes, your life depends on you releasing your grip on hope.
And if not through The Cookie (though I’ll stress that it’s only one of the most transcendental treats I’ve ever had) may you know a sweetness that makes you burst with gladness to be alive.
Xo, Rumi PS. I'm trying to squeeze all the juicy goodness out of what's left of long summer days and sultry nights. Here's the song that's playing in my head as I think about that.