Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Harbinger Of Hope

It's the cycle of living with a chronic illness.


The harbinger of hope is despair. Did you know that? At least, that is my experience.

Whether we are chronically ill, are caring for or about someone with a chronic illness, or are just dealing with Life As We Know It, we will run into despair. And sink farther and farther to the bottom, reaching a destination that is frightful and seems unavoidable. We feel as a heavy stone thrust into a murky pond, unable to see the good in what's past, uncertain of where we're headed.

The Harbinger Of Hope Is Despair

Here we are, lying in bed. Clock ticking, time moving mercilessly forward. It is two in the morning. It is two in the afternoon. We cannot be roused. The earth is still, the weight of the world sitting straight on our shoulders -- such a heavy, heavy burden. Once we were dizzy with heady rapture at the thrill of what's coming next, only to find it and now we are sick with longing that it was something -- anything -- different.

The Harbinger Of Hope Is Despair

We are caught in despair! We are that stone that has reached the bottom of that murky pond. The bed is sticky, yet warm, and we are tired. We may stay here for awhile. We look at our surroundings, which is dark and impossible to see through. And since there is promise of no contact with those who can help us (or so we perceive), we close our eyes. It is too painful to open them and see that nothing has changed. There isn't a lot of movement. Nothing like what we thought may befall us. Despair decides to make our circumstance its permanent residence and moves in all its bags. Orders Direct TV, kicks back. We do too, but not like the gnawing thing inside us. We feel we've lost everything and have no hope of rising to the top ever again. Why try?

Why try to seek out answers when all we find is dead ends?

Why keep up a fading facade so that others will feel better about us and them both?

Why be honest?

And then instead of "why", one day it dawns on us to ask "why not".

It takes awhile. We are now covered in moss. It takes awhile to scrape the dead stuff off and shun the freeloaders (anger, sadness, guilt, etc, etc...and moss). We eventually even open our eyes. It's nothing we ever wanted to see, but now we face it. But we are still in the depths of despair. We go back and forth. But before long, after such a long time in shut down mode, we rouse.

It is two in the morning and we drift to sleep.

It is two in the afternoon and we are sitting up.

Everything is still painful, but the weight isn't so heavy.

One day we are at the bottom of that pond, a much cleaner, lighter stone with eyes wide open. We accidentally look up. The thought had never occurred to us before. Up is where we came from. Why not try to retrace our steps a bit?

And then we see it: a light. It is murky, but we recognize this light. It is the sun! It is the giver of life! And it's been there all along. We look at it in awe and we are filled with hope.

And then daylight gives way to dusk. Despair creeps back in.

the harbinger of hope is despair

We realize that despair exists to announce something greater: Hope. Where would the light of hope be if not for the darkness of despair?

Days go by, and we start to realize that the daylight lasts much longer than the darkness. And one day at dawn, the first promise of a new day's light, we feel an unexpected thump. A rhythm of our own becomes apparent.

A heartbeat.

And for once despair takes a backseat. We are filled with hope because now we get it! Despair existed for so long, but it was only there to bring on this newfound adventure where anything and everything is possible. Including a stone with a beating heart.

Just then an unexpected current takes us by surprise and we are uprooted from the little plot we'd been assigned in the muddy bottom of that pond. We are rolling. Movement! The next greatest thing! We swell with anxiety and it bubbles over into joy. We let this current carry us to shallower and shallower waters, until we reach a spot where we are no longer submerged in that pond anymore. We get a good, clear view of the sun for the first time in a very long, long time.

And just like that, we are no longer a stone. The minute that glorious daylight hits us, we have turned Human, gasping and sputtering for air.

We stand. We leave that pond, never returning to its depths.

At any point we could have looked up. Some of us do sooner than others. Some need to roll around in the mud for awhile in order to finally realize that this is not the end. If you are in despair you only need to keep your ears and eyes open. Despair paves the way for Hope. And once we have that hope we don't ever have to let it go. We may experience the twilight of despair as things progress or regress, but night is for sleeping. Despair is for experiencing but not keeping.

Cling to hope, and all is not, and never will be, lost.

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