The Two Faces of Hope

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Like the three faces of Eve (for all you old movie buffs), hope is a schizophrenic bitch. On the one hand, as Karen Marie Moning will attest, hope strengthens (and fear kills, as I've written about here). On the other, hope can be the tie that binds, and cuts, and hurts more than any other pain possibly could, as Lilo Abernathy tells us in her Bluebell Kildare series. And, as I am endlessly curious about such things, how can the same feeling elicit such divergent responses from us?  Under which conditions does hope strengthen? When does it hurt?

I thought the answer in this instance, like so many others, might lie in truth. True hope gives us strength. Strength to go on, to endure, to persevere. False hope, by contrast, is a harbinger of death; it creates unrealistic expectations that, when disappointed, crush us under the weight of being dropped from a high place. Upon further reflection, though, I don't think I'm right, and it took JR Ward to show me the error of my ways.

I'm reading Book 13 in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. And boy, oh boy, are these books good. And rich, and complex and real as words on a page (or screen) can possibly be. I could probably write blogs for months based on inspiration from this series alone. And I likely will. In fact, while I'm reading The Shadows, I'm listening to Book 1, Dark Lover, on Audible in the car and while I'm in my kitchen (hey, I need something fun to distract me from the drudgery that is cooking and preparing food!). So it's a double dose of BDB goodness for me. Yippee. But back to why Ms. Ward is relevant to this post. In the most recent book, one of the male characters, Trez, is in love with Selena. Selena is sick, dying from a rare and terrible disease. She and Trez have only a little time together, and they want to make it count. He is determined to give her whatever he can. And he concludes that the most important and valuable gift he can give her is hope. Right up until the last minute, he can act like they have forever. Even if they don’t.

So even if it may be false, it appears that hope is productive, not destructive. This basically shreds the truth and fiction theory of hope. And in fact, one cannot know if hope is well-founded or misplaced until one is looking in the rearview mirror on the situation in question. I remember clearly when my husband and I were going through fertility treatments, desperately trying to get pregnant. The hope of success was the only thing that kept me going during the roller coaster ride of emotions the process generated. It was so hard. And I clung to the hope that I had, but, as time and procedures and drug therapy continued, my hope became a threadbare thing, with weak spots in imminent danger of ripping entirely. Until one day, when an urgent situation on Thanksgiving Day caused me to see a new doctor who happened to be on call. He spent two hours with me. And he told me I would be successful. Straight up, “you will get pregnant,” he said. And renewed hope bloomed in my heart. It was the most amazing experience. It felt like I had been thrown a lifeline. I held on. I had renewed motivation. Just when I needed it the most, hope strengthened. And he was right. I was ready to give up. The gift of hope made all the difference. And it was well-founded, but I didn’t know that till I had two bouncing baby boys in my stroller.

In other situations, hope can be a cancer that eats away at our good sense. Like for Blue, with Jack Tanner in Lilo Abernathy's series. Blue fights the hope she feels that Jack will eventually soften toward her and acknowledge their mutual feelings. She has experienced the yo-yo of his emotions for so long, she eschews hope as a portent of crushing disappointment and unfulfilled expectations.  Nothing hurts more than when you hope beyond hope it will happen, or you will get it and it doesn't and you don't. It's better to abandon hope, all ye who enter such situations. 

So, clearly the distinction isn't truth. Or maybe it is, because hope is true until it isn't. And sometimes hope is something we force ourselves to sacrifice because having it hurts more than letting go. So, if we give up before the miracle happens and consciously uncouple from the hope in our hearts, was the hope false in its failure, or did we merely create a self-fulfilling prophesy of failure when we let go prematurely?  Makes my head spin. Maybe hope strengthens until it doesn’t, when the scales finally tip, and the camel’s back finally breaks, at which point success would be pyrrhic anyway.

I don't know. It is said that where there is life there is hope. And sometimes that is both a blessing and a curse. Maybe it is a function of perspective. A pessimist fears her hope, while an optimist fears her fear, according to the poet James Richardson. Maybe hope isn’t a schizophrenic bitch, but I am.  I hope not.