o hope

I feel like I am being sucked into one of those places where I just don’t know what the point is any more.

You try to help people get better, but they don’t want to get better, or never get all the way better, or it comes and it goes, or they’re back for something else, or you can’t figure out how to help them, or — you know what? We still all die anyway.

Write paperwork that no one reads. Go to work with co-workers who couldn’t care less you fell off the face of the earth. Collect a paycheck with little more motivation than paying bills. Go to bed tired. Wake up tired. Do it all over again and again, with nothing but a slogging sense of endurance.

Why? For what? I can grasp around some philosophical and ideological reasonings, but no real concrete substance of why.

Ironically, one of the reasons I first got interested in this field was because, even if everything else went wrong, at least I would still be doing something meaningful: alleviating suffering and taking care of human beings. Never mind all the people who don’t seem to want to get better, the people beyond any of my helping, and the somewhat appalling sense of something close to selling oneself on a street corner: being paid to care. Not in a deep meaningful sense of community building and relationship growing. People coming in who you honestly truly cannot stand, and yet pasting on a terse little smile and a professional voice, and listen to them go on and on in the most objectionable way — not because you actually care, but just because you can’t kick them out on the grounds of being unpleasant to be around.

I sometimes find myself thinking that if I was working to — support my own house and land, or if I had my own family, or if I had energy enough to be passionate and involved in some of my (many) other interests — then the why of it would ease up. But I don’t really think that’s true. I’ve seen too many people with their own property, and their own families struggle with the why, and to my shame, too many people with health much more limited than I still find a way to be passionate and involved.

I feel a terrible loss of agency, and I tell myself fiercely, “Good!” I need humility, need patience, need to look to the hand of my Master. But somehow I feel like I am losing things I need to lose without also gaining things I need to gain, leaving me completely barren.

I tell myself I have a job, a good job. Many people don’t have that. I have food and clothes. I have mother and father and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins. I have a grandmother. I have a few close friends. What else do you want? I rebuke myself sternly. What else do you really need? Would anything really satiate you, anything really make you happy?

I am angry at myself for trying to tell me I have no right to be unhappy with my circumstance, as though I ought to be content in that which is clearly lacking. Here I can see, to my shame, my arguing with the Potter that He doesn’t know what He is doing. But still, I protest. Where’s the plot? Where’s the fruit? Where’s the hope? Where’s the direction?

How many people, I scold, have spent their whole lives longing for a fraction of what I have? Well, yeah? How many people have more than I have? I know my defiance is helping exactly nothing at all, but still, it is there. Why should I not want more next year than I have this year? Just because I’ll always be wanting a little more seems no reason for complacency, for settling. Justifying my anger, justifying my dissatisfaction, justifying my victimhood. If there were more progress, I wouldn’t be so resentful.

For a while, I could play the game of just-beyond. If I could just get through this class –! If I could just get through this semester –! If I could just get through this degree –! If I could just–! But now that’s run out. Welcome to the stale American dream of slogging. I tried my hardest to make the best of the journey, but now the journey has stalled at something that looked like a destination. And while I furiously lecture about how a new plot point should be right here, how I can’t do the same thing over and over without seeing some kind of fruit, how a course to a new destination needs to be set, I don’t see any way forward, or any direction or any path. Or any point.

And I know that people talk about the grass being greener, that satisfaction is an illusion and if we can’t find peace in the present, we never will in the future either, and so on. But the thing is, that’s a double edged sword. If the grass isn’t green now, how will it ever get greener? If there’s no peace or satisfaction and there never will be — what’s the point? Why get out of bed to go to work? Deeply ingrained duty and responsibility and the illusion that there is no choice can carry you quite a ways, but they don’t carry you on in joy, or in hope. Instead it brings with it the keening wail of “how long?”

I know that I cannot run on anger. But I also know that I cannot run without hope. And when mornings run into evenings and days blur into smudgy memories I feel grateful only to have made through. . .either the well of hope is not deep enough, or the rope on my bucket is just too short to reach it.

And I can think of a lot of things to hope about, for hope deferred, for later, for when-this-is-all-done. But I can’t find a whole lot of meaning or purpose or hope for – tomorrow. For the day after tomorrow. For next month. For why I am here. And the prayers that I pray seem to bounce and rattle and never really drive home.

There is something to be said, I know, for endurance. For faith without sight. But there is a lot to be said for hope, too, and hard to stand and watch it crumble into little more than an intellectual construct with little light to offer on cold days and short nights. Hope was supposed to burn.

 

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