Melanie Crutchfield, who blogs at melaniecrutchfield.com, came up with this inspirational idea to spread some positive change in the world. She decided to blog, and invite others to blog, about HOPE.
So far, there are 52 blogging writers participating in Hope 2012: A Blog Relay. The posts linked up so far are deep-breath awakening and leave me feeling ten feet taller.
Today, there are 53 linked up. How could I pass up an invitation to write about HOPE?
I've never written about what this word means to me. Just the thought of HOPE is a personal, beautiful, intensely private, defined one. No one can tell you what hope is to you; only you know what it means in your life and what it has done for you. I have been fortunate enough to have held hope in my arms at a time where I can say it is the only way I lived through a season in my life.
We use the word hope every day, loosely. We say it when we hope to find a parking spot; we use it more earnestly when we hope we have enough money to pay our bills for the month. There are the moments of hoping that what we've put hours of work toward, we see rewarded.
Are there degrees of true hope? Not for me -- hope can be a positive state of mind, of being optimistic -- hoping we get rain for our dry lawns. Hope can be realistic, knowing we stand a good chance of arriving somewhere on time or getting a piece we submitted published.
But it's the personal experience I've had with a certain kind of hope that makes me feel that hope is not on a continuum, that it's not a dash marker on a spectrum.
It's the hope that comes with desperation -- where you find yourself saved only by the thought of rescue -- that defines hope for me. Emotional, financial, or physical forms of hope; I think of trapped miners, parents with a child in NICU, someone waiting to hear back from the fifth or eleventh job they've applied for in a year.
For me, it is that hope of desperate belief in something when you have nothing else, that pulled me through one of the blackest periods of my life -- my post partum depression when I became a mother for the first time seventeen years ago. I needed that kind of hope or I wouldn't survive; I needed that hope to hold me up and promise me a tomorrow.
Even though it was seventeen years ago, the graveness of that time in my life makes it feel as fresh as if it were last week. There was a nurse from the hospital who cared for me in the days after I first brought our son home; she sensed something wrong, and checked on me. It was her; the hope of a nurse who somehow saw what no one else could see, saying to me, in the loudest voice possible without screaming, "I promise you, you will get better," that saved me.
I wanted that promise of getting better and to believe her. My God, I was scared enough to. But what was I going to believe? Was it her promise that was my hope? The part of me too scared that I wouldn't get better shouted back that no-- I won't be one of the lucky ones. I was afraid to believe in case she was wrong. But I had to. Through the roaring of giving up in my head, I heard her tell me I would get better; but it was me that had to decide that I either would be or wouldn't be, one of the ones who made it.
I remember that very moment when my son was five-weeks-old and I sat on our sofa, holding my baby, talking to my nurse who came to see how I was -- me, not even able to talk, but only sob; and she understood what I couldn't say. I heard her voice break through the deafening defeat in my mind with the word "promise," and then, somehow through the fog I was imprisoned in, something in my heart clicked on its own, and my pleading soul took on the fight for me and my baby and believed what she was telling me. What I felt was beyond a state of optimism, it was far more forceful and powerful than positive thought or statistical probability.
It was the belief that she was right. I would get better. I had taken that HOPE into my dead heart and made it mine. From then on, I knew I had to wake up every morning and claim that hope for me and my son.
I believed that living spark of knowing that I saw in my nurse's eyes when she looked into mine. I still feel that white hot commitment to hope when my soul took hope at its word and planted it deep, giving it no time limit or ultimatum for when. I accepted hope on its terms and believed in its promise.
Hope gave me determination and became that tangible thing that I clung to when I was barely hanging on to sanity in those earth shattering early weeks of being a new mother. I held onto it by the tips of my fingers and never let it out of my sight. Hope made me sure to look at my child with a smile on my face -- always. Hope led me to the library to find CDs of Broadway show tunes so I could learn songs to sing loudly, happily, earthily, to my child. One morning, as I sang "Oklahoma!" off-key but with my whole heart, my son smiled at me. He was ten-weeks-old, but with his first smile, he showed me how beautiful and indescribable, hope is.
Bit by bit in the days to come, hope kept showing me flashes of gifts of what life is like when hope survives within you.
It is this gift of hope that is flesh and blood real to me. When I speak to New Mothers' groups, I talk honestly about the slow, struggling climb out of the depth and darkness of my early days as a new mother, about the pain of hopelessness. I tell them, in a voice that still breaks from the fierceness of the memory, my true unprettied up story from the past with the hope that they'll believe this seemingly put-together woman standing in front of them, when I confess about the days when I thought I'd never get better. That once, I was right where they are now.
When I look out, teary-eyed, into the faces of the women sitting in front of me, I see them listening -- their desperation for belief in my words so clear, in the same way I wanted my nurse's promise of hope for me to be real -- like it's the only thing we have.
I beg them, in the loudest voice I can without screaming, never give up, never give up HOPE.
Pass along the HOPE 2012 torch. Blog about hope, ask others to blog about hope. Ask them to ask others. Let melanie know of your post, and link it up here.
Then set some quiet in your day aside to spend reading on melanie's site about what others have to say about what hope is in their lives. Let's recognize and celebrate how hope has held us up or pushed us through.
Write your stories, share them with us. We can't wait to read what you have to say. **Melanie Crutchfield will gather up little snippets from people who wrote about hope, so make sure you link back to her as the originator of the relay.
**Update: Friday, August 10: At last count there are 81 posts in HOPE 2012, and at least 196 people invited. Closing ceremonies on for Monday, August 13, so there’s still time to write if you want to! Go write, you crazy people! Write!