Hope is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. And I’ve come to a realization.
Hope is a necessity for life.
There’s a phrase that goes; “Where there’s life, there’s hope…” but I’d put it; “Where there’s hope, there’s life.”
When I feel hopeless, it becomes difficult to do… ANYTHING. I can barely even breathe. I cannot think. I cannot function. I fall into a deep depression. I become numb. Ultimately, I can even go into the darkest of places and simply wish to stop existing. Why?
Because I have no hope, and without hope, I am unable to see a future. What is the point of a future without hope?
So the first thing I have to do to take myself out of depression or despair is to, quite simply, find something hopeful in my life again. Or to at least acknowledge I have the ability to find hope again, even if I’m not feeling it now.
Just knowing the possibility of hope is there gives me the energy to pull myself up out of my depression and into a state of at least trying once more. From that place, I will begin to look for things that bring me joy in the moment. I then look for those things that bring me joy in the coming moments. And as I do this, I begin to fasten onto the idea of hoping for even better things to arrive.
Hope slowly breaks through the hard earth of my heart and a tiny bud starts to open up, spreading green seedlings around, making the soil of my soul fertile once again
Faith leads to hope.
In those moments of looking for joy, it is faith that gives me the stabilizing force to stand on until I am able to allow myself to take a tiny step onto hope once more. It is the ground that supports hope and allows it to take root.
There’s a verse that says; “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Another translation of this says; “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for…” I like that. Faith is what builds us into hope, it assures we CAN hope, it allows us the ability to hope. We have to have Faith in life – in our God, or in ourselves – before we can have hope for our future.
Another verse on says; “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
The term “longing” in this verse is also translated as “dream” or “desire.” Yet all translations put the first and last parts the same way – “hope deferred” makes your “heart sick,” but fulfilled it becomes “a tree of life.”
Think about that. Even the Bible says that if hope keeps getting set aside, put off, pushed away, it will literally make you sick in your heart. It hurts the center of your being.
I know how this feels, to have my heart sick – it’s what I described above, that feeling of desperation, of loneliness, of darkness. It’s a deep depression that is difficult to climb out of. And it comes from a lack of hope.
Yet having desires, dreams and longings fulfilled helps to give you back that hope…and as it comes to you, life literally blooms around you and within you, it grows up tall and strong. The Tree of Life resides in your heart when you have Hope.
Hope is key to Life. And Faith is key to Hope.
So how do we get back into Hope when those dreams, desires or longings have not been fulfilled? Or when they’ve been nearly realized and then crushed?
Once more, I look at the Eagles to guide me.
Recently I was given an opportunity to be in Big Bear where the Eagles I’ve been observing live. I hoped to see them while I was there, but after three days I’d had no sign of them. And then, that last day, as I sat by the lake with my binoculars casually looking at blue birds, robins, geese, ducks and basically everything except an eagle, I glanced up.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness”
– Desmond Tutu
And there above me, my hopes were realized. A Bald Eagle was circling high above me, searching for fish dinner in the lake.
I peered through my binoculars, and then checked the live camera feed for their nest to see who it was, and sure enough, it was Shadow, slowly riding the thermals over my heard.
My Eagle. My Shadow. Flying over my head.
It was no coincidence that a Shadow circled above me as I sat on the lake that day, riding higher and higher into the blue sky. I’ve had my share of shadows to deal with this past year, as have we all. I’ve needed to come to terms with them, and to let them go.
Seeing this Shadow flying free, I realized in that moment it wasn’t about simply letting my own shadows go, however. Sure, I’d pushed them away from me, but they were still hanging out with me in my nest. I also needed to really set them free so they could soar away from me. So I could live again.
As I watched Shadow fly over me, I symbolically gave my own shadows to the Shadow in the sky, and let him carry them up and away until he disappeared into the crystal clear blueness. I felt a lightness as I did, a releasing. I felt tension easing, and I knew I was there just for that moment. It was a blessing.
But there is another way in which he’s guided me through hope, this eagle called Shadow.
This year his hopes – and those of us watching him and his mate Jackie – have been crushed not once, or twice, but literally five times now, as all five eggs laid over two clutches this season were either lost, died, or non-viable.
Still, despite the disappointments and the destruction of his (and our) dreams, until the day I am writing this, he’s been guarding that last, non-viable egg, doing his best to make it hatch. He’s proven himself to be a great dad, and deserving of the prize he desires (an eaglet to raise and fledge). But all we who are watching him and the nest know that this year it is not to be. That last egg is not going to hatch and it’s time to release the hope for it. It’s time for Shadow to be set free.
And so, as we observe him slowly letting go of the hormones that drive him to try to continue to incubate and nest the egg, as we watch him leave it for longer and longer periods of time like his mate, Jackie, has already done, we cheer him on in his endeavors to leave this old egg – this old hope – even as we ourselves sigh in disappointment about it.
Because we know the only way for him to have a chance at receiving his longings and desire is to let that old hope go, and to move on until he is able to create a new hope.
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Today when he got up from the egg, stretched, and walked over to the edge of the nest, looking out at the horizon, I was glad on his behalf, he finally seemed to be making the choice to let it, and himself, go.
It was bittersweet to see how he looked back at the egg, contemplating it several times, before gazing out once more into the distance at the beauty of the lake spread out before him. It was a bit heartrending to hear him answer his mate as she called him to join her. Their chortles were a sweet duet. Yet his indecision was palpable.
It was harder to watch, however, when he’d so stubbornly stayed, knowing that nothing would ever happen with the egg even as we loved his dedication to it.
As difficult as it was to let go of that tiniest last shred of hope that an eaglet would appear for them this year, it had finally come to the point where I truly wanted him to move on… so he could free himself. So he could fly high into the blueness of the sky and soar. So he and Jackie could at last leave behind the bitter dream of the past that had come to nothing, in order to create a better dream for the future. So they could have new eggs and a new hope together.
I smiled when he finally launched himself towards the voice of his beloved, following her calls into the wild, joining her once more and moving on as she’d already done.
There’s a lesson in that.
Sometimes to get to the hope we need, we have to let go of the hope we’ve had.
Sometimes it’s time to stop hoping for the old dreams, the old ideas of what we thought we wanted, the old desires. And that can be hard. Yet if this past year has taught me anything, it’s that we never know what the future may offer us – but holding onto the past will only prevent us from finding any kind of joy in that future, or in the present.
It was hard to find joy in this past year. Yet I was able to do it.
I found great joy in the quiet once I got used to it. In the clean air and water it provided. In the slowing of the pace of life. And as I came into that joy, as I let go of what had been my hopes for the year and for my career and for my future, I found myself discovering new things to hope for, new dreams, desires and longings.
For instance, I now hope for a future in which we continue the progress made this past year in environmental awareness. An awareness that was created on a global scale as the enforced isolation caused us all to see with wide eyes how quickly the planet can recover from our damage if given the chance. This gave me great hope indeed.
I have great hope for a continued growth in our understanding of the inequalities towards people of color, ethnicities, LGBTQ, and other groups – inequalities and injustices that have plagued us as a nation and around the world for far too long now. And I have hope for the consequential changes to attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that are already occurring because of it all being brought so clearly into the light. The changes may be slow, but they’re there, and that does give me hope, especially among young people.
Speaking of young people, they themselves give me great hope.
So many criticize the youth of today, and certainly as with every human in every generation they have their “something” – as the old song says; “Everybody’s got their something.”
But I see in them an incredible opportunity for a better world and future for all of us. I say this because they are the ones for whom many of these changes required of older generations aren’t even needed.
They are already aware of the environment and living consciously to care for it. They are already aware of the equal rights of all and treat others without regard to their color, nationality, sexual orientation or identity, or otherwise.
For so many of the young people and children I know, these are non-issues, something that simply should be obvious as items to change in society, and if you haven’t already chosen to change, what’s your problem?
The youth of today, though obviously not perfect, though having shadows of their own they must set free (as we all do), still give me a reason to hope that our future will be one worth living.
But let’s bring it down to a practical and personal level.
What hopes do I still hang onto, incubating them, trying to get them to hatch, even while knowing somewhere deep down they never will?
Is it dreams from my childhood of what I thought I’d become as an adult? Is it desires from my college days of the kind of life I thought I would ultimately live, the type of house I’d own, the many places I’d travel, the career I’d have? Is it my longings as an adult of what I’d planned on doing last year, this year, or the coming years of my life?
What are the old hopes I cradle to myself even now, even though my gut is telling me to let them go and move on?
Those are the ones that hold me back from joining the people in my life that I love as they call to me to catch up to them, to finally fly free.
It is time for me to take one last look at those old hopes, and then turn around and climb to the edge of the nest, and fly away.
“We must accept finite disappointment,
but never lose infinite hope”
– Martin Kuther King, Jr.
It is time for me to leave them all behind as I whip my wings faster to soar above the lake below and search for the next good thing to nourish me.
It’s time to allow myself to rest, recover, relax and enjoy my life once more so that I will be prepared, healthy and ready when that next hope is created inside of me.
Because this time when I birth it, I want to make sure it hatches and grows until it flies all on it’s own.
This, too, is hope. It is the faith that as we leave it all behind, a new hope is coming.
And that it will result in wonderful things.
By JEANETTE DUBOIS
Jeanette is a film & tv editor, writer, director and producer who’s worked on Emmy & Telly Award winning shows, movies, and music videos for a variety of networks. She’s also a trained operatic who mostly sings to her cats now, though sometimes she expands her audience to her family & friends. She loves gardening, good books, good wine, and good conversations, preferably all at the same time.
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