Hope is a thing that the world needs more of. More precisely, hope coupled with belief in the hope, is really what the world needs. Hoping hopelessly turns the whole point of hoping upside down. Distorts the purpose. Gives us one more reason as to why hope is futile. But let me ask you this, if you hope for something “knowing” it’s going to fail, are you actually hoping for it? To me, it sounds more like you are hoping the hope will somehow do something different than what you are asking of it; which is, essentially, to fail. It all comes back to you, your thought, the place where you put your emphasis. Hope is often not present in our statements of hope. Somehow, we think simply using the word “hope” in a sentence automatically makes it so. Often, “hope” sentences are thinly veiled judgments or criticisms rather than true expressions of hope. For example, take the thought, “I hope I get a good grade on this test, I know I didn’t study enough for it.” Where is the hope in that thought? It sounds more like dejected resignation to me. The emphasis is on “I didn’t study enough for it.” It is time to liberate hope. It is a thing. Not just a word.
sitting on the porch
in the sun
drinking tea and listening to the birds,
crawling into a soft bed
laughing until it hurts.
realizing you are both
and surrounded by
the beauty of the world.
Kay was the family’s rock. Her dedication to her children was unwavering, her work ethic commendable, her cooking the tastiest around. She was, indeed, the glue that held their little family together—her husband, George, her eldest, Dave, Lisa & Jennifer who were a year apart, and her youngest, John.
George was the best father and husband that he could be. Unfortunately, he often fell short in many areas. He was a gruff man with a hot temper that could start whistling at any moment. Nary a day went by without him yelling at the kids or exchanging heated words with Kay. He worked hard though and provided for the family.
It was almost as if family life was an ill-fitting suit jacket for George. He was expected to wear it, but short sleeves and pinched shoulders chaffed him. Despite their often tumultuous marriage, there was a soft spot for George that Kay always carried. Sometime it was love, sometimes pity, sometimes partnership. In the toughest of times, this pocket of softness gave her strength to carry on. That and her deep seated and single minded love of her four children.
The feeling of your blood pumping
through your veins after running up
Pausing at the top to take a deep breath,
straighten your shirt and
run your fingers through your hair.
You slowly step towards the door,
heart pounding in your chest,
echoing in your ears.
the sound pierces the air.
And now you wait.
Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Lub-dub.
You hold your breath.
The blood is rushing to your face,
your body heating up.
You are in the middle of
a flood only you can hear.
Lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub…
You hurriedly turn and leave.
“I need to hear you say something,” Sarah said, her eyes nervously darting from the hands on her lap up to John’s face.
He looked back at her expectantly. “Okay…?”
“Tell me no.” John looked confused. “Please say, in as many words, that you do not want to date me–now, next week, next month. Say no. Period.” Sarah looked away towards the street.
John opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He tried again, “But, that…that’s not true,” he stammered. “I like you a lot and normally would want to date you. Now is just not–”
“No, none of that rationalization stuff,” Sarah interrupted. “Your answer now is not a yes, which means it’s a no, regardless of how you feel about me.” She paused for emphasis. “I know the answer is no, but I cannot accept it as fact until I hear you say so. Please close the door 100% of the way on us, in this moment and moving forward. It is the only true thing to do.”
“I don’t understand,” John countered. “You know this isn’t about you at all. It’s about me and where I am in my life right now…”
“John, look, I appreciate what you are trying to do, but it’s not helping. Trust me. I do not need you to understand why or to try to make me feel better. I just need you to say it like it is.”
John took a deep breath and held it in for a moment. “Okay,” he exhaled, “what do you want me to say?”
“Thanks. Please answer this question with a simple yes or no. Nothing else.” Sarah paused and looked over at him for moment to make sure he understood. Whey she say him nod his head slightly, she continued. “Do you want to date me right now?”
There was a long awkward pause. “No,” John finally answered with resignation, “but–”
“A-ah,” Sarah interjected. Yes or no only.” John sighed and shook his head a little. “Now,” Sarah pressed on, ” I know you like me–a lot–but that the timing’s ‘not right’ for you at the moment. Tell me, can you say with any amount of surety that the timing will be ‘right’ at some point in the future?” John leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees and clasped his hands together. “Well,” Sarah prodded, “can you say ‘I will for sure want to date you in one month’?”
“No.” John said quietly.
“How about in two months?”
A head shake.
“Three months? Five months?”
Another slight and reluctant head shake.
John lowered his head into his hands and ran his fingers through his hair. “No Sarah, I’m sorry. I can’t.”
They sat in silence on the porch step, not looking at one another. The dog across the street started barking at a passing pedestrian. The wind rustled through the trees, blowing Sarah’s hair around.
Slowly, Sarah reached over and gave John a hug, which he returned. “Thanks,” she said, forcing a slight smile and holding back a few gentle tears. “I needed to hear you say it.”
Sarah slowly stood up, draping her purse over her shoulder. She turned and walked down the steps to her car. She opened the driver’s side door and took one last look up at John on the porch. She wved a small wave and gave him a pinched smile before climbing in the car and driving off.
Tabitha was not prone to a life of excess. She lived comfortably, if not richly. Most of her possessions came from yard sales, second hand stores and craigslist. She drank occasionally, stayed out late a few time a month, ate dessert now and then and indulged in a rich dinner out every now and then. She was content with her life and wanted for very little.
Tabitha lived in a small cottage at the edge of the woods that she rented from the old farmer who lived further up the road. She lived with her two cats, Patches and Summer, two hens, a small garden patch and her own company.
During the week, Tabitha worked in the nearby town as a receptionist at a local real estate office. Her responsibilities were relatively menial but she enjoyed the office and her co-workers. After work, she occasionally ran an errand or two, stopped by the library or enjoyed a cup of coffee with a friend.
On the weekends, she could be found outside in the garden, curled up inside with a book or out walking in the sunshine. She visited the local farmers market one to two Sundays a month, although she rarely bought anything. She simply enjoyed the festive and friendly atmosphere and took pleasure in admiring the wares of the various farmers and artisans present.
It was on one such Sunday that Tabitha made the most extravagant purchase of her relatively young life. She arrived around 11 am at the market and spent the better part of an hour wandering the booths and people watching. She stopped to sit in the sun and listen to a local folk duo playing to the passersby. She was quietly sitting enjoying the music when a bright reflection flash off to her right. Curious, she stood up and began to walk in that direction.
A small crowd had gathered around a corner booth. She could hear an enthusiastic man’s voice and the sun occasionally reflected off of something in his hand. Tabitha gently pushed her way up to the front, her interest piqued. What she found was a handsome man in his 30s performing a series of demonstrations with a 12” stainless steel fry pan.
Disappointed, Tabitha began to turn away, then changed her mind.
Thirty. Thirty days in April, June, November, and December. Thirty New Years Eve’s, Fourth of Julys and Christmases. Thirty years, two dogs, one house, 3 failed relationships, 18 extra pounds, one car accident, and 15 jobs; what did she have to show for it? One 3 layer chocolate cake with 30 candles in it and a room full of thin smiles singing “Happy Birthday,” trying but failing to hide the pity they all felt.
Jennifer hated office birthday parties. Especially when they were “surprise” parties for yours truly, her. She smiled, trying her best to at least appreciate the effort, if not the actual experience of the party. She glanced down at the cake, nearly aflame with the thirty candles crammed onto it. The message “To the first year of the rest of your life. Happy Birthday Jennifer” was drizzled in red frosting in between the candles.
Some small voice in her head whispered, “Maybe they do mean it, maybe it’s not fake. It’s not so crazy that someone, or multiple someones, could actually care about you…” As quickly as it came, another voice pushed it out of the way, laughing as it fell on the floor.
“Yeah right, like that could ever happen. You are a sorry, good for nothing, whining failure. Do you really expect anyone to like you?”
“…rthday to yooouuuu!” The sudden silence jolted Jennifer back into the room and away from her self-abusive mind. She looked around for a moment, surprised to find herself the center of attention.
“Make a wish!” a male voice yelled out. A small chorus followed, “Make a wish Jennifer, blow the candles out!”
She twisted her face into a half smile, took a deep breath and bent down towards the cake. “Let this be the year I escape myself,” she thought to herself as she closed her eyes and blew out all 30 candles.
I opened my eyes, threw off the covers, and jumped out of bed. I ran to my window and looked outside. What a beautiful sight it was, the first day of summer vacation! I stripped out my pajamas, put on my favorite pair of summer jeans and one of my t-shirts that mom wouldn’t let me wear to school. “That shirt is to torn up for you to go to school in, go change.” It was summer now though, so that didn’t matter.
I pulled some socks on and started to head downstairs. Thud, thud, thud, thud. Midway down, I paused, turned and clamored back up to my room. I dashed in, hastily yanked the covers over my bed and tossed all the dirty clothes on my floor into the closet. I knew mom wouldn’t let me out of the house until my room was clean, so I figuredf I’d beat her to it.
Henry sat on the hard church pew and closed his eyes, blocking out the world around him except for the hauntingly beautiful sound of the choir. He let his fears run away with the alto line, his worries plod along with the bass notes, his prayers found harmony with the tenors while is hopes and dreams soared high over it all with the sopranos.
A baby began to fuss in the pew behind him. His mother quietly whispered reassuring sounds as she rocked him back and forth, her melody gently mixing and melding with the words of the choir.
Henry’s hands rested gently on his lap, fingers intertwined. The strong thick fingers and rough calluses from years of hard work did not seem to belong with the finely pressed dark suit they were resting on.
The song continued to cascade over the congregation. Henry sat motionless, soaking up every moment, feeling more alive with every passing measure. As always, he wished it would never end. Here, in the music, he found solace. Here, his spirit was free, dancing, laughing, singing and ultimately disappearing into the sound of the singing.
I’m waiting for the phone to ring. But it never does when I want it to. Plus, even if it did ring, there would be no one on the other end. I enjoy my solitude, beating to my own drummer, having a flexible schedule, spending time mainly with me. Even so, after so many hours in the company of myself, I want and need someone else around to interact with—most of the time.
Right now is one of those times. I feel friendless, boring, unwanted and pathetic. Come on phone, ring!…nothing to do but take a deep breath and a long sigh. Try to figure out what I will now do with the new hours of emptiness in front of me that I hadn’t planned for because I was hoping to share them with someone else.
I am waiting to wake up and start living. To get out of bed one morning, look around and think, “Damn girl! This is your life! What a dream.” I’m not sure that day will ever come. My life is too much of an enigma to me, I’m unsure of whether or not I’ll ever figure out how to live it gracefully. I’ll think I’ve finally succeeded in grasping it, only to find it wiggle and squirm right out of my hands once again.
I sometime try to imagine what I might look like to someone watching from “up above.” The image that pops into my head now is a long, wide, empty wooden floor, slathered in oil and melted butter. I’m bare foot at one end, and have to make it to the opposite side. Before starting on the journey, I dip my feet in a pot of the same mixture covering the floor and set out. I am also not allowed to crawl. What I sight I must be. Hey, at least my plight is good entertainment for someone. There is a little solace in that thought.