Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hope is not a friend

I was talking with a good friend this morning over the phone, catching up on the last few weeks. Actually, the truth is that I was doing most of the talking and she was listening avidly, offering her honest, unabashed opinions. It's actually one of the things I love and appreciate about her most--she has never been anything but blatantly open with me, even when I don't want to hear it. I sometimes wonder how she manages to make it through life with that kind of honestly; it has an edge of nakedness to it but when you hear it, you know it's her truth. She often reminds me of the little girl in the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, crying out "But he's in his underwear!" as the rest of the crowd pretends he's royally clothed. And for me, it's virtually impossible not to respect her for it. I have known her for nearly twenty years and consider her as close to a soul sister as anyone could be.

So we were talking about my son. I was telling her how difficult the past few weeks had been. She offered advice, based on her training as a special education teacher, her understanding of children and neurological disorders, and of me. I rejected most of it. I believe I whined something along the lines of, "I've already tried that. It doesn't work." And it doesn't--that was not a lie. She suggested changing the dance--if I respond differently to my son's actions, then HE will be forced to respond differently. It was at this point I felt my frustration. This is the point where so many well-meaning people accidentally hit the "nerve". "What you need to understand," I told her, "is that I already KNOW how to dance! I've danced around the name the culture and I've done the dance."

She laughed. She made a joke about me dancing African and Indian dances. I was thinking the samba and the fox trot. And the defenses came back down again. This is why I appreciate her so much--instead of arguing that there must be some obscure dance that exists in some region of Southeast Asia, she accepted my answer and moved on.

She told me about a theory she has that she believes keeps me from being happy. She basically said I'm too smart, and that smart people end up having all sorts of issues. Issues? ME??? I argued back that it's true that some smart people do isolate or have trouble connecting with the world, but that intelligence is only one small factor in those lack of connections. Her point, though, was that by being intelligent, you're able to envision and predict things that the average person doesn't even think about.

I'm not sure if I agree with that or not. I can't possibly say if it's true because I only know things from my own perspective. I've only been me, and that's all I can operate from. In my own assessment of myself, I consider myself to be quite reflective and intelligent but I wouldn't say that I'm really any smarter than most people. Of course, some people--like idiots who try to outrun a train and get killed or people who need a coffee cup labeled "hot" to keep from burning themselves--I might have an extra IQ point on them, but I think most people do as well.

The main point that my friend wanted me to hear is that all of my thinking takes away from my hope. And to that extent, I think she's right. I overthink, overanalyze, overwrite, overexamine. And at the end of the day I have a million reasons NOT to hope. Not to believe that my child has the ability to be better, to succeed, to survive and be a happy camper. My experiences with my child have led me down a road of disappointments. My hope has not been a friend.

A few years ago my husband had a stroke. That life event shook my faith in God deeply. It has taken years for me to shakily rebuild what I once thought was strong. My faith is strong on some days but weaker on others; I know in my soul that God is with me but I get angry with Him. I ask all the questions that most doubters do: why all the suffering? why all the pain? And most of all, why MY child? Wasn't the pain he went through as a baby enough? Why must he suffer through life?

My hope has led me to believe in the past that things could be fixed. That my child could live the same life as any other child. My hope has led me to believe that *I* had control over things beyond my capacity. My friend asked me to hear what she said: that hope is important for us to hang on to because without it, we have nothing. And to my dear friend, what I couldn't express earlier to you is this: Hope has not always been my friend. At times it has been my enemy. I'm angry that I am losing hope in this battle. I'm angry that the hope I had has been destroyed. I continue to *hope* for the best my son can have in life, but I don't know what that is. And so hope is an incredibly heavy topic for me right now.

And one more note--you won't be getting that public acknowledgement on Facebook about your intelligence theory anytime soon! ;-)


  1. It's alright... I'll wait for the apology. It usually takes you a number of months to fully process... :-) One of the things I really know, just for me, is that I don't want to waste whatever time I have in the moment being involved in the dim uncertainty of the future. In order to be in the present moment, all I can do is wrap the future in a blanket of hope and embrace the present for the gift that it is. Namaste' and keep dancing, my dearest friend...

  2. The smart theory must really be true, because hey I'm happy most of the time, (so long as you can overlook my complaining haha!)

  3. Oh Jeanette, you're smart too...

    And Christy, I'm dancing my little shoes should have seen my moves today...