Hope Is the Hardest Part

Mood: Determined | Drinking: Tea

darkwindow

A friend and I had a discussion recently about the nature of hope. She said, “Without hope, what is there?” And I agree.

But hope is so hard, and so painful. It’s the knife edge that cuts both ways.

With hope, you live on the edge of constantly being without, being proven wrong, being a fool. The object of your hope, the things you hope for, may remain forever elusive, may never materialize.

With hope, you feel the edge — the prick of faith, the sting of doubt.

But without hope, you’re so lost. No light in the blackness. No promise of a way out.

And so we hope. In spite of, because of, in the face of all fear and doubt and evidence to the contrary, we hope. What else can we do?

Years ago, I tattooed a mantra on the inside of my wrist. Written in latin so strangers couldn’t read my heart whenever they chanced upon it: “I am a prisoner of hope.”

The days of late have been dark, and not just for me. So many sad stories from so many people.

As for my own story, I’m working my way through a morass of anger, of fear, of helplessness, of sadness and loss. But I’m leaving room for hope. I’m turning my face toward the light.

What else can I do?

-Lo, who is getting better at waiting.

Inaugural

Mood: Ebullient
Drinking: Waiting

I shot my mouth off a lot on Tuesday.

Giddy with the dawning of a new era, I got all sassy on facebook and talked smack about inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander.

I really have nothing against the woman herself. I just felt her poem to be middling-to-average, and her delivery of said poem was awful.

Perhaps I took it a bit too personally because I was so excited to have a contemporary poet standing up there on that bright stage, in full view of the entire world. I cheered when she appeared and was all full of goodwill and go get ’em, girl.

And then she spoke, and I was a bit deflated.

Granted, whoever planned the order of the ceremony did her no favors by placing her after all the big hoopla, and so the crowds, whose toes were probably a bit frozen by then, couldn’t be bothered to sit through a poem when the big moment had already transpired.

If she had been placed right after the invocation, she probably would have fared a bit better.

Someone also brought up the point about nerves given the huge crowd, the national stage, etcetera, but let me say this: I have performed in front of tiny rooms and huge auditoriums and outdoor concerts full of raucous teenagers and I would take the hundreds of thousands of faces any day over a small, intimate gathering. Big crowds are cake.

No, I’ve never performed in front of all the living Presidents of the United States, with Oprah in the front row and CNN cameras staring me down, but I’m quite confident I could have pulled out a better reading than Ms. Alexander.

So that’s what I said, more or less, on facebook on Tuesday. And then somebody called me out, challenged me to put my pen where my mouth was and write something myself, since I was so dissatisfied with the poem in question.

And that’s what I’ve spent the last 2 days doing. I’m sure inaugural poets get more than 2 days to craft their work, but I’m not really trying to one-up anyone. Not really. It just became important, sunddenly, to put my finger on what exactly it was I wanted to say about January 20, 2009.

As I started writing, I found that my focus was very simple. It was all about hope. So I wrote about the steadily burning hope I felt on that day, and the hope I’m sure so many others felt as we watched it all unfold.

I borrowed a few words from Nietzsche, from Dr. King, and from President Obama himself. And although I’m sure my chances of being invited to read at such a historical event are quite slim, if I were, this is a poem I would not be embarrassed to read there…

Harbinger

Hope does not automatically spring eternal.
It must first be ignited and after that, fueled.

Constantly it must be sheltered,
lest it be crushed
by the brutal jackboot of prejudice

or wither into obscurity beneath the negligent gaze
of the well-intentioned ignorant.

If hope is indeed the “worst of evils,”
prolonging the torments of the living,
it is also, by necessity, the best of pleasures,
making the work of living worthwhile.

While we breathe, we hope,
for without,
breath blows in vain
heart beats only out of habit
and all of it ceases to mean anything lovely.

It has to begin somewhere, so why not here
this winter morning, under limitless frigid sky,
why not here where we have gathered together
so when the books are written, we can say
we were there.

Why not here where we wait, guardians of the day,
assuring one another by our presence
that this hour has really come.
This moment is really ours.

Take the hope from its hiding place
deep in your chest
and pass this warm light
from hand to hand
quickly
carefully.

Watch as faces
begin to share a telltale glow
and a path appears
where once there loomed an impenetrable wall.

Once, a man had a dream.
Today another man stands
and raises his hand
as evidence of things hoped for,
the embodiment of things not seen.

While there is hope, all is not lost.
While there is hope, courage can be found.
While there is hope, there is momentum,
the sudden possibility of change,
the eternal probability of joy.

Give us a reason to believe and
we will hew from the mountain of despair
a stone of hope.

And with that stone
we will bring down giants.

-Lo, who finds that it always comes back to the knife edge of hope.

A Sense of Rising Dread

Mood: Salty
Drinking: Iced Tea

I am finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate. The fewer hours there are between me and tomorrow (election day), the more prickly I get.

It is nerves. It is dread. it is a feeling of impending doom. And mixed in there somewhere is a tiny pinch of salty hope. Hope that my country is not as full of stupidity as I think it is. Hope that we have nearly seen the last of George W. and his smug, self-righteous, stubbornly wrong-headed ilk.

Begone, fearmongers and homophobes. Run away, you bloodthirsty oil barons. Shoo, fly, you pestilent preachers of my-way-or-the-highway-doctrine.

I will wake up tomorrow, unable to eat, most likely, and trot down to my local polling place. I will vote for hope. I will vote for peace. I will vote for a better, safer, less hate-filled world for my unborn children. I will vote against George W. Bush. With a vengeance.

And then I’ll most likely spend the rest of the day chewing my already-stubby fingernails into bloody stumps and hyperventilating. I cannot remember a time in my entire life when I have been so hopeful for change and so incredibly wracked with nerves over the possible outcome of an election.

I’ve always voted, since I was eligible, because I grew up a good, Christian Republican and it was drilled into my head, everywhere I went, that good girls go to the polls. And I haven’t been able to shake the habit, even though I started voting like a bad, bad girl — all Democratic and Libertarian.

But this election, this year, feels so full of portent and potential, that I will vote with greater pride and greater anxiety than ever before. (Yes, with more pride, even, than when I voted against that big austrian oaf, Ahhhnuld.)

And once that’s done, all I can do is hope for the best. And thank the lucky stars that I don’t live in Florida.

Lo, who thinks P. Diddy looks more like Mr. T every day.

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