Is hope obscene?
I've been getting some asks lately about things people are experiencing, either remembering or it's happening to someone they care about, and I've felt a growing sense of despair in the messages that ask for advice or help.
I don't know if I'm the best person to talk about this, but I decided to say here what I've told them in private. Take it with a grain of salt, as it's only my personal opinion. Boston's been through some hard times lately, so it's not surprising that those waves are still washing over us.
It is absolutely normal to feel off-kilter, angry, scared, disappointed and any number of other negative emotions. Sometimes it's even satisfying to bask in them for a little bit. Let them wash over you--because god damn it, life sucks sometimes. And let's be honest, there's a reason Fall Out Boy got back together. But once you've run out of sad playlists and it's too cold to go buy more booze, that's maybe when you should read the rest of this post.
I'm personally a big fan of inspirational quotes. Anyone who knows me knows that a sure way to cheer me up is to give me bitesize optimism. One of the quotes that really affected me was something I read that supposedly Beyoncé had said. I actually can't find the exact quote now, so my life philosophy might be a sham, but it was something like when a bad thing happened, she gave herself three days to feel down about it. Three days down in the dumps and then she was done, forced herself to not let it affect her anymore.
It is, of course, a little more complicated than that in real life, but what I appreciate the most about that outlook is that you take back the control over yourself. When you say "I choose not to feel this way", there is power in that. It reminds me of this other Ted Talk I watched that really grounds me when I feel like giving up. It was by Courtney Martin and she talked about the shock of becoming an adult and realizing that all your world-saving ideas have been had, tried and failed before. Here's a passage:
I experienced this firsthand myself when I graduated from Barnard College in 2002. I was fired up; I was ready to make a difference. I went out and I worked at a non-profit, I went to grad school, I phone-banked, I protested, I volunteered, and none of it seemed to matter. And on a particularly dark night of December of 2004, I sat down with my family, and I said that I had become very disillusioned. I admitted that I'd actually had a fantasy -- kind of a dark fantasy -- of writing a letter about everything that was wrong with the world and then lighting myself on fire on the White House steps. My mom took a drink of her signature Sea Breeze, her eyes really welled with tears, and she looked right at me and she said, "I will not stand for your desperation." She said, "You are smarter, more creative and more resilient than that."
I'm not ashamed to admit that I've felt that kind of desperation before. I think maybe everyone in our generation must have at some point. There's a lot of bad shit going on and seemingly no way out. So how do you deal? Like Courtney's mom said, my vote goes to being smarter, more creative and more resilient than whatever you face. I've put together a list of some of the stuff that's helped me get through these hardships in the past. Please keep in mind that this is based on my personal experience alone and is in no way comprehensive and final. On the off chance that it helps someone, here it goes.
1. Remember that you are loved. The very first thing you have to remember when you decide to take back control and tell hopelessness to go fuck itself is that someone loves you. This is important, because what dark forces will do is that, when you break free from their vicious cycle, they'll try to convince you that you are no longer worthy of love. And the notion of not being loved, of being isolated and alone is a very powerful restraint to keep you chained to their desperation. Which brings me to the second point.
2. There are people out there who are just like you. When your entire social circle is comprised of darkness and negativity, misery can become a sign of strength or smarts. So in some perverse logic, you strive to be the darkest, most miserable and loneliest in that circle, because then you're really making it in life. When that logic stops making sense to you and you're ready to break out, this is what you keep in mind. There are a lot of people who have woken up to happiness. Being happy is not a sign of weakness or frivolity. It is a choice and it is not an easy one, but it is one that pays off. So when you're ready to take that step, do not fear that you will be alone or ridiculed. There is a crowd here and we've been waiting for you with open arms. Take the leap, we'll catch you. More importantly, you'll catch yourself. Which brings us to...
3. Trust yourself and reject fear. Fear is an illusion. Danger is not fear. Danger is an immediate threat to your well being. Fear is fiction we create for ourselves. Fear is what makes you believe things can be too good to be true. Never believe things can be too good to be true. Good is the norm, bad is the exception. And you are strong enough to withstand the bad when it comes by. Don't worry in advance, because most of the time, you're wasting vital energy on situations that will only happen in your mind. Nothing you do can prepare you for tragedy, so don't suffer twice over it. Which gets us to the last point.
4. Live in the now. Realizing that the past and the future are also illusions is a sure way to quell fear. Focus on the now, amplify your joy and don't create situations that don't exist. If you live in the moment, nothing can get you down. If it's good, enjoy it. If it's bad, be surprised at how strong you are to handle it. Once it's past, it no longer exists.
In short, if you've wondered whether it is inappropriate to feel hopeful and happy in a time where chaos runs rampant, the answer is it is never inappropriate to be happy.