Hope 2012: Closing Ceremonies

Hope.

Such a small word.

And, you guys…I think hope is kind of destroying my life. Well, okay, not destroying, but definitely taking over. Because when I sent you all off to run with the hope baton, you ran. You ran like a beaver was trying to snack on your ankles. If you want to see how many people wrote or were asked to write in HOPE 2012, check this out. It’s crazytown.

And now, after starting this relay and watching that teeny, tiny word unfurl in a thousand different ways…I’m not quite sure what to say about it. I’m a little…umm…

Hmm.

Let’s start, as many of you did, with a definition.

We’ll use the legit, scholarly, not-from-a-lady-on-her-second-glass-of-wine source: Dictionary.com.

Hope: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

That’s a start, but it’s certainly not the whole picture. There’s more.

Here are our collective chronicles of hope, written elegantly, poignantly, hilariously, irreverently, and devoutly by you crazy-amazing hordes of writers.

Hope is like a ticker tape of wishes.

I hope my hair grows out (and looks fabulous). I hope my kids end up happy. I hope when I die it turns out we’re all headed for the mothership. I hope that can wear a bikini again in public someday and not show up on People of Walmart. -Mediocrates at How Did I Get Here?

I could go on for days about the things I hope for daily.  It is a never-ending and ever-changing and all-encompassing (big and small) list of things. -Confessions of a (not-so-) Super Mom

I hope that my writing touches an audience. I hope that cooler heads prevail. I hope that wisdom is heard. I hope that institutions reform, minds expand, hearts grow, and good triumphs. I hope because in hope we can find strength for action. -Michael J. Altman

My hope is to one day be completely happy with myself, at peace with myself, and to prove that there is something I can contribute. My hope is to one day be a mother. My hope is live a life full of love and without regret. -Linz at From the House of Cole

I HOPE I have a good hair day today. I HOPE Trader Joe’s is not sold out of those vanilla bonbons.…I HOPE Zocalo takes reservations. I HOPE I find something cute at J Crew.… I HOPE that shrilly, shrieky sound doesn’t mean we need a brand new Kenmore. I HOPE Cassidy finds the job of her dreams. Sooner rather than later. -Jodie at Cottage Cheese and Crepe Paper

Our hopes are big, and wild—powerful and fiery. They are almost too big to contain in our hearts.

I see that my fears are merely the flip-side of my hopes; that one almost can’t exist without the other. My hopes are so desperate that the fear that they won’t be realized is burdensome and suffocating. -Kristen Mae at Abandoning Pretense

I hope, albeit cautiously. I worry. I despair. But, I am also an optimist. My work, even though  I catalog hate, is born of optimism and the fervent hope that scholarship can help make the world a better place. If we understand how hatred functions, how hope can be a pivot for darker emotions, then maybe we identify the nefarious when it looks harmless. -Kelly J. Baker

Oh the possibilities
lining up
in an endless way
flaunting me just a tad bit beyond reach.
…Yet, I still start every single day by thinking “today is the day“.
-Marie at My Cyber House Rules

I think hope is like the love-child of some sort of human-nature-orgy. Take trust, intuition, faith, positivity, reflection, and let them inter-twine and get all funky with each other –  you get hope. -Lou at Fridge Scrapings

Our hopes are our secret dreams; we whisper them in the dark, forging a pact with tomorrow.

I was bursting with hope – hope that with a little support, I could change many old beliefs and self-limitations and open myself up to joy and new adventures. -Mary at A Teachable Mom

My hope is to expose my anger and the parts of myself that I think are despicable (that part that drops F-bombs in front of toddlers, for example) so that I can shine a healing light on them and then connect with other people who are dealing with their anger. -Christie at Outlaw Mama

And this is my hope. That there will come a day that feels like stepping off the stage. That the postpartum anxiety will subside and a wave of calm will wash over me. That I will be able to play a little anything on my very own grand piano. -Laura at I’d Rather Sit on the Couch

My hope is twofold. One is that we can all be more understanding of our fellow humans… whether our differences are visible or not, whether they are in our body, mind, or mental health; our gender, sexual identity, skin colour, religion or nationality. The other… is that those of us with differences that restrict us in some way, can learn to accept ourselves and our limits for what they are, and live fulfilling lives within a smaller sphere than we would sometimes like. -Imp the Sane

Hope is a fragile thing. It’s like a dandelion seed, it might just float by at any time, and just as quickly be swept away. -Tom at Running Physio

What do I hope for? I hope for the courage to face my life, the courage to be in whatever state I find myself in until that state changes. I hope for the courage to respond authentically to whatever I need to respond to. -The Kale Chronicles

So instead of focusing on my fears, I choose hope.  Hope is what I hold so close to my heart, scared to loosen my grip on it, fearing that it will slip away and I’ll be, once again, left alone with my guilt.  So I cling to it, as tight as I can, afraid speak my hopes above a whisper for fear that they’ll escape from my heart. -Sierra at Everything is Coming Up Roses

Sometimes, we whisper our hopes…and they are eaten. By monsters. It’s a bummer.

My intellectual and imaginative life doesn’t allow for hope. Most horror films end badly.  If there is a hero that survives the night, she (it usually is a she) has seen, and done, inhuman things. And then she’s likely to die in the sequel as the body count climbs. -Scott at Monsters in America

Other times, hope is our anchor, keeping us tethered, and giving us reason to believe.

…here feels hopeful. Not in the manic, I’m-going-to-do-a-million-things-before-bedtime way, but in a more settled, calming, enduring way. I have hope that I will find the time to write, that my family and friends will support me, that I’ll find solutions for the scenes or posts that are giving me trouble and be inspired for the scenes that will be my darlings. -Sara at Moments of Exhilaration

[T]hinking of hope made me remember what initially made me passionate about the church/state relationship in the first place: I saw people who navigated it well, with grace, and candor, and integrity. That’s seriously hopeful stuff. -Matt at The Church/State Guy

The hospitality that I have found in my social networks have been invaluable in keeping me hopeful; hopeful about my future, hopeful about my chosen profession (even in the face of contrary evidence), and hopeful about the future of humanity. -Jermaine M. McDonald

But hope is the stuff of everyday life. It is, at its best, rather … ordinary. It is that which greets us with every sunrise and calms us as we lay our heads down at night. It is learned as our hopes are met everyday in little and mundane ways – like when the recipe turns out just right, the hug offered is greeted with open arms, and we make it through a day safe and having smiled. -James W. McCarty III

Hope doesn’t always mean a heroic act or a thread to hold to in life’s bleakest times. I think we also find it in the simplest moments, the simplest memories, and the realization that more awaits. -Kyla at Free to Be Joyful

I got to this moment because of hope.  I could give up, and a few times I tried, only to find in my  despondency an awareness that I do no service to myself, my family or life by giving up.  So, I get up, damn it.  Over and over again.  I move forward, I move backward.  I sway. -Lesley at Merlin’s Garden

I have spent the last two years of my life attempting to silence the inner voice of my youth. I love what my heart is saying to & about the woman that I am meant to be. It was in that moment of realization that it occurred to me ─ make that, I decided ─ I not only have the renewed hope of walking into my destiny triumphantly, I AM HOPE. -Antoinette at A Serendipitous Sojourn

But sometimes, [hope is] just being able to say, in the moment, that this is okay. That maybe, this is As Good As It Gets. And I have to be okay with that. -Molly Jo at Frankly, My Dear

Hope is why I am pushing my own boundaries. Hope is why I read and write. Hope is why I communicate. Hope is everything. At the core of my being, the root of every action, the impetus behind every thought is…Hope. -Your Life is a Banquet, Don’t Starve

As I grow older, though, [my ring's] message deepens.  It has become a small, tangible sign that people can change.  Three-foot-high soapboxes can be lowered.  Crusty old mindsets can soften.  Tired arguments can find common ground. -Melissa at Goodnight, Irene

If I allow myself to look deeper, to not be seduced by cheap tours, cheap drinks, and cheap Spanish classes, I think I will find this place I now call home, [Guatemala], to be a country of great hope.  Hope against all odds. Reconciliation and healing and redemption against all odds. -Aly at Memoirs of Algeisha

You’re a four-letter word but not the one that we both mutter when times are bad. Tossing disregard for normal and laughing at convention, all of me walks our lives in need of your hand. You never fail to provide it. -Lance at My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

Hope is in the grand and in the abstract and in the eyes of a sick child, but more often it’s also simply what gets us through. -Jen O. at My Tornado Alley

Think of those who hurt you. Think of those who degrade you. Those who have ripped your heart from your chest, stomped on it, spit on it, and pretended like nothing ever happened. These people, each and every one of them, desire hope. Want hope. Seek hope. Need hope. -Adrian at Life Before the Bucket

Some of the treatments and medications I’ve been on made me numb, and it sucked.  So maybe that’s how I can tie the hope theme into this rambling piece of drivel.  I’d rather feel than not feel, even when feeling is overwhelming.  I don’t have a hope of being cured, but every day that I get out of bed is a hopeful one.  There are open windows, but I keep passing them, and that is hope. And sharing this madness with you is hope for us all. -The Klonopin Chronicles

And hope is a gift you can give in an instant.

She is quiet for a moment, and then asks “do you think I have a light in me?” I pause, and smile before I answer, “your light is so bright, I almost need sunglasses.” -Jenn at So This is Love

Before Miss Swears left, she pulled me aside when no one was around. She gave me a book with white and black models in it. She told me that I was beautiful, I was special, and that I was no different from the girls in my class. She told me that I was smart and that I could be anyone I wanted to be. -Kenya G. Johnson at Here’s The Thing

I am the 4th of 6, and have found hope and inspiration in every one of [my siblings]. Yes, I’ve told them, and shown them, but I am probably the “fluffiest” of us, so I don’t know for certain if they know the depth of my admiration. In short, my sibling have always given me HOPE. -Jackie at Blessed Be

Presents didn’t have to be big. Just enough to show the female clients that they are worthy of a gift. That they have hope for a healthy future. Or any future at all. As surprising as it may seem, some had never been given the gift of hope. -Jennifer at Another Jennifer

To Myself at Fifteen, I know you’re scared and broken. I have something I want to give you. -Lesley at The Spigot List

If you are in a relationship that is ultimately damaging your happiness and ruining the person you used to be, my hope is that you look to others to help you find your inner strength.  Surround yourself with love, and don’t lose sight of your self-worth.  And those of you watching a loved one suffer; I hope that you will be the un-judging stronghold that they will need to pull themselves out. -Erica at Yeah, I’m a Nerd

[Walt Whitman] understood that it did not take much– just a token– to revive men’s spirits or ease their souls.  He did not shy away from his chance to spread hope.  Hope, he realized, was not his alone. -Amy at ReadNCook

And then after awhile, he went out in the yard to pick flowers. For Jodie. He brought them in. Just the blossoms. He put them in bowl. We all said a prayer over them.   And then, he took them next door to what had been Jodie’s house. His grandmother lives there now which is really nice. He put the bowl on the table in front of the outdoor couch where he and Jodie used to sit. And then he came quietly home.

Not sad. Full of the hope he’d been given over the years. By Jodie. -Stephen at The Desperate Man

Sometimes hope is found in America, and in The Boss.

My Italian grandfather is 101-years old.  He migrated to the United States in 1913 with his his mother and siblings.  His family believed that America, to quote from Springsteen, was a “land of hope and dreams.”  And indeed, I probably would not be writing this short reflection on hope if he had not taken advantage of what this country had to offer him. -John Fea at The Way of Improvement Leads Home

The cross-cultural gathering captured the hope ingrained in our global community and manifested the best in America’s pluralist dream.  The dais on which the couple pledged their troth backed to open ocean off Palm Beach, but I saw a smiling Statue of Liberty dancing over the water. -Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe, PhD at MyStories

Children are a magnet for hope: they pull out every last scrap of hope we have.

This adorable wee babe holds the hopes of her mother. Photo © Amy Reams and Reams Photo, used with permission as part of the Hope 2012 Blog Relay

Although I was afraid, Hope worked to remove my fear and became my optimism that my baby would be born healthy. -Kenja at Grand New Mom

My greatest hope for my two sons, aside from their general health and happiness, is that someday, they will uncover something to aspire to, to work toward, that brings them such joy. -Five Uninterrupted Minutes

Throughout her children’s lives, a mother hopes…
her baby will be born healthy
the baby will go to sleep
the baby will stop crying
the fever will go down…
-Karen at Mom in the Muddle

I HOPE you continue to sing at the top of your little lungs, not caring who hears you. -Kelly at Cobwebs, Cupcakes and Crayons

Whether they one day break the world record in the 200 meter freestyle or simply beat the odds by surviving, preemies embody hope. -Stream of the Conscious

“Yep, some people say that, and I laugh, little do they know, she saved me. And you want to know a secret?….I don’t mind doing all this for her, you know…the expensive birthday parties, the constant hospital trips, being a parent when I am already an old man….but her days are numbered.. I only hope that she knows how much I love her. And then you know…it will be okay for us both to leave this world” -Humble Writes Words

But….even if with all of that hoping, even if he STILL experiences all that I did, I am a living example, that he can still be okay.  And if “I” turned out okay, then there is hope for him after all. -Jenn at What I Really Meant to Say Was…

The boy gave me hope. Hope that the future generation may not be so bad. Hope that family will win out over vanity. Hope that empathy is still alive and well. Hope that my kids will have even a smidgeon of the qualities that this boy showed by simply helping his sibling. -Brent at SooperDad Blog of Awesomeness

My mom’s final chapter had been written, but my tiny man’s life had so many chapters remaining. -Deborah at The Monster in Your Closet

While mourning the loss of one son, and hoping for the health of another in the NICU, Edward J. Blum quotes hope from WEB Du Bois, who says, “It is never too late to mend. Nothing is so bad that good may not be put into it and make it better and save it from utter loss.”

People often use the word hope along with two other powerful words – faith and love. As I think about my current parenting struggles, I remind myself that I love Sophie beyond words. I have faith that both Sophie’s and my intentions are truly good, and we will get past this awkwardness. And I have hope that we will become an even stronger mother and daughter because of the struggles. -Leah at Leah’s Thoughts

When I first started thinking about what I would write, it almost felt like an absence of hope, but as I watch my son and I look at the things he is able to do. Things that against all odds, he is now able to do, and I think it really is a hope for hope… -Karen at Real Life and Other Hazards

I hope my sister, niece, daughter and nephews mother all have healthy babies, I hope those babies along with all babies realise they are a gift from God and are raised in loving and caring environment. -Joanne at Joanne Rambling

I began to feel a swelling in my breast, a spark that had been drowned in worry and overwhelming fears since this journey had begun, reignited. I might get to bring him home. I might just leave this tiny clausterphobic NICU. I was still uncertain but there was no denying that at last I felt what I thought had been lost. Hope. -Darlie at Written Ramblings

Ali’s academic achievement would be impressive in anyone. But when you realize that he could not even pick up a pencil, this is really stunning. The thing about Ali was that he was hilarious. He had a biting wit and sense of satire, which would crack me up when I saw him. It was only after his death that I realized that he was actively putting up political videos on YouTube under the alias ScaryBears. -Dr. Craig Canapari

Sometimes hope is the very last thing you find, right when you think the whole world will go dark.

One man carried his wife, who was shot three times, out of the theatre, because when she told him to go without her, he refused, saying, “No, we go together.”  Not surprising then when his 14-year-old son (14!) stopped to carry another wounded woman, a stranger to him, out of the theatre.…Literally, a countless number of people carried wounded victims, held their hands, stanched their wounds - almost all of them strangers to each other. -Jen at Bible Belt to Boulder

Most of what we hear about is the hate and the violence, but so many people have open generous hearts. With kindness and a little effort, we can change the world. -Kelly at Blogical Reasoning

But hope is reserved for those with soft hearts; it patches the holes and stitches the tears. It’s the gift we receive for surviving the heartache.  For letting ourselves be vulnerable enough to love.  To believe.

Hope gives us strength without hardening our hearts. -Erin at Welcome to Grace

You would think this mingling of tombstones and vague suicide talk would have me calling 911, but red flags barely get notice anymore. Those flags need to be shooting rocket fire to gather any real attention.

“So you now want your tombstone to say, “He didn’t jump?” I joked and he did something of a laugh. With a father like mine you look for levity wherever you can, even in suicide talk. “Yeah,” he says, the mood automatically lighter. “That works.” -Ice Scream Mama

Hope, it is the thin piece of twine that binds us all together. -Cozzis Corner

Even when we start to lose hope, sometimes, if we are fortunate, hope finds us. -Ilene at The Fierce Diva Guide to Life

A battle-tested hope is the strongest of hopes. I pray you know HOPE like I know HOPE. -Matt Linden at The Dawg Run

When Pandora opened up that horrible box and let all the ills that plague the world out, hope was left behind.  And hope, time and time again, has beat back the horrors and turned them into blessings. Hope is a powerful weapon and it is battling for me today as I pay bills with the last of what is in our account. -Penny Tralia

It seems sadness, atrocity, and crisis are constantly on the radar. I’m reminded of the words of Thomas Paine, who wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” -Honie Briggs

When I think of hope and how it relates to me, my strongest pull is go back to when I first had my nervous breakdown. -Little Bits and Pieces

Hope sang her song. On those coldest nights in those darkest places she sang. She sang LOUD and she sang STRONG and she NEVER. GAVE. UP!! When the storms were raging and I couldn’t hear her sing she wrapped her wings around me and waited. -Shell at The Journey is the Reward

I have hope for the future that I will be able to learn more about whom I am and what I am here to do and accomplish.  I have hope that I will overcome my ridiculous fears and my awful thoughts that come with depression. -This Mama is Crazy

I was so in love with alcohol, it was tantamount to a death sentence.…Hmm, giving up the thing you love most in the world? I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to do it. The only hope I had was that I wanted to want to. -Natalie at The Cat Lady Sings

This is what I love so much about blogging — it gives me the experience of building a community of people who say, “Me too.  I’ve been there.  I may not know how to get out of the place you’re in, but, at the very least, you’re not there alone.”  That is the best expression of hope that I know.  Not canceling out the darkness, but being a body beside me in it, groping for the light together. -Rhea at Thirty Threadbare Mercies

After lunch I headed over to my place of employment to switch cars with my then boyfriend. He knew I was going to be doing this. And that’s when I saw them. Sitting in a car talking. That easily and that quickly, the life I had known was over. -Bethany at Runner B

Did I ever think that I would spend that “golden year” on a couch, writhing in pain for the majority of the day? No. I thought I would be in NYC, living out my dreams, having fun with friends, flourishing. Last night, I finally allowed myself to be angry about that. But then hope stepped in. -Caralyn at Gluten Free Happy Tummies

This kid had to choose a path. Hope or despair. I have no idea what the disease is or the circumstances it has brought to him and his family. All I know is that a complete stranger with issues I haven’t ever had to deal with showed me in the simplest ways that you can always choose hope. -Jerrod at Never Had One Lesson

For me, it is that hope of desperate belief in something when you have nothing else, that pulled me through my post partum depression when I became a mother for the first time seventeen years ago. I needed that kind of hope to hold me up and promise me a tomorrow. -Alexandra at Good Day, Regular People

When I prayed as a little girl I begged God to take me in my sleep PLEASE! He never did. Now I know it’s because he is not finished with me here on earth. I don’t know what his plan is but I keep myself open to him and what to do next. Hope. Sweet hope. -Kim at Dazed and Creative

This week, I am forced to face a serious and terrifying hope.My husband had a mole removed a couple weeks ago. What was expected to be a routine and unnecessary procedure has turned into what could either be a very lucky catch or four fatherless children. The biopsy came back malignant Melanoma. -Molly at The Good Enough Girl

In one week, it will have been exactly 3 years since I lost my job, in the new stages of pregnancy, and in a state of confusion and fear that was completely new to me. Some days it feels like it’s been longer; some days it feels like just yesterday. -April at Red Dirt Mama

…And then hope is just the beginning.

So although hope is not a plan, it’s the spark.  It’s the fire in your belly.  In your soul.  It’s what motivates us, and ultimately, hopefully, what moves us forward. -Diary of a Mad Woman

Without information and planning, dedication and sometimes sheer muscle, hope is a merely a dream into which one surrenders their future to the vagaries of chance. -Ann at An Unrefined Vegan

Hope often feels like a dead end path, but we will not know what is waiting for us at the top unless we start walking. -Erin at Life, Ablaze

Instead, [running] gives me the ability to face life’s curve balls unflinchingly. It provides me with a calm and open mind, it helps me take a step back, re-evaluate my initial, emotion-fuelled gut reaction and say, wait a minute, there’s a better way of dealing with this situation. It replenishes my cup of hope and optimism and makes me a much nicer person-Jennifer at Two Itchy Feet

Again, the only way out of that dark, hopeless hole was to take action, be committed and dig deep to find that inner drive to emerge a better, stronger person. To this day, I credit running for a lot of that hope. -Stacy at Will Run for Glitter

Hope is the only first step in accomplishing those goals. The next step, the hard work, is what defines me (as a person, a runner, a friend, daughter, sister etc). -Ashley at Running Bun

Hope is the basic, yet deep foundation that supports my sky-scraping love for running. For LIFE. -Liz at Runnerstood

To me, hope means opportunity.  An opportunity to change, to grow, to better one’s station in life. -Ingrid at Ingrid Improved

Hope is believing in your abilities to achieve this difficult task and knowing that while life may not be exactly what you envisioned it to be, it’s still pretty great because it has made you the person you are. -Gabby at The Veggie Nook

Hope is acknowledging that you have the power to choose to see things/people/situations/your past/life differently. -Cara at Fork and Beans

As a hope without action is simply just that, nothing more than a thought, or a desire. By doing, we become. -Shira at In Pursuit of More

I guess what I’m saying is if times are rough in your life, go ahead and hope for a better day, but you better be working your ass off trying to make it happen. -Aja at Writing and Recovering

Taking back my happiness gives me great hope that my reality will become everything I hope for, regardless of those around me. I will combine hope/work/and reality to create the world I want. That’s what hope means to me. -Nichole at Michon Michon

Hope can save us from ourselves.

I can sit with the surprises and  discover I  am not condemned to stare down the narrow barrel of my own troubled heart. -Doug Harrison at The Outpatient Monk

I’ve come up with the thought that makes me most hopeful for my future. Here it is: It’s okay to fail. It’s A-O-K to suck. To be wrong. To have everyone in a 5 mile radius turn to you in one accord and say, “…boo.” It’s totally and completely fine. -Melanie Crutchfield

Most importantly, you are capable of forgiving yourself for your perceived flaws, and understanding that perception is relative. Your flaws, as well as your talents, make you who you are. -Shannon at Unless I Change My Mind

I have realised that there is nothing wrong with asking for help and admitting that you can’t cope. It doesn’t make you weak, any more than trying to heal yourself and saying that you are ok when you are not, makes you strong. -Normal for Norfolk

I want to pretend that at times I’m not my worst enemy. I want to believe that a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and reading the latest Cosmo Magazine is all any of us needs to perk us up and get us back on our A game. I am human, after all.I’m also not totally delusional. So, I’ve set my nose to the grindstone and started stockpiling again. Maybe one of these days it won’t be so hard. Hope springs eternal. -Jen at When Pigs Fly

I can choose to quit acting like hope is this foreign concept that applies to the whole world except me. -Abby at Abby Has Issues

But sometimes, hope is just the little stuff that keeps us from losing it.

I hope to go eight SECONDS on the computer without hearing “Mommy, mommy, mommymommymommymommymommy,” usually followed by a loud bang and crying. -Carinn at Welcome to The Motherhood

Hope is the happiness that your dog showers on you when you come back from anywhere whether you were gone 1 minute or 10 hours. The wiggly bum, the rapidly fanning tail, the toothy smile “I am so happy that you are back”! -Richa at Vegan Richa

I am absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt convinced that this is the solution to ALL of my hair styling problems. This curling iron CURLS ITSELF, PEOPLE!  And, for those of you who are stupid like me, you can even tell it which side of your head it’s on by pressing a handy-dandy button, so it will CURL THE CORRECT WAY! Hope?  Of course I have Hope!!!! -What I Meant 2 Say

A Final Word: Thanks

Seriously, truly, a million thank yous to all you crazy, crazy people. I know some of you groaned your way to the keyboard when the baton was sent in your direction—thank you for participating anyway (perhaps despite your better judgement). I know some of you struggled with hope—watching your words evaporate as you tried to collect them—thank you for pushing through it. I know some of you haven’t written in a while—thank you for making the time for this.

But mostly, thank you for making this amazing thing. When I recruited the first round of writers, I summed up my hopes for the project in this: I just want to do something beautiful that we can all be proud of. I think we did that. YOU did that. So, high fives, fist bumps, tummy rubs, or whatever makes you feel like a superhero. That. To you. A lot.

Love,

-M

Hope 2012: A Blog Relay

Update: Friday, August 10: At last count there are 81 posts in HOPE 2012, and at least 196 people invited. I’m scheduling closing ceremonies for Monday, August 13, so there’s still time to write if you want to! Go write, you crazy people! Write!

The Olympics are starting today! Or, at least, all the Olympic fanfare starts today. Something Olympic and big is starting in some fashion today. That’s what I know. (I may not be an expert.) At any rate, hoorah for whatever exciting thing is happening today!

Yesterday while I was on my run, whilst thinking about the Olympics, I had this idea that I instantly fell in love with, which I then thrust on several other talented bloggers, proving that while I still completely hate exercise (sorry guy that told me I have a bad attitude), it isn’t totally useless. So, here’s my idea:

Hope 2012: A blog relay

A blog relay! Themed! Like the Olympics! (Yes, I know I’m both being obscenely nerdy and overusing exclamation points.)

So here’s the thing. I’m going to blog about hope, and I asked a bunch of fabulous, diverse, wonderful people to do the same. Then, they’re going to ask people to do the same. And then they’re going to…you get the idea. And just like in a relay race, we’ll go farther and faster than we could if we were doing it alone. Hope, in its beautiful, strange, unexpected and stalwart forms will be noted. Documented. Acknowledged. Appreciated.

I can’t wait to hear all the stories, perspectives, wisdom, and wit that is going to ooze straight out of these posts like that energy goop straight out of its space-age pouch. Hold on to your freaking hats, people. It’s going to be great.

Keep an eye on this post and the blogs listed at the bottom for more hope-filled goodness. And if you want to join in—do it! You can snag the little graphic if you want, too! Go to town, spread some hope, and have an awesome freaking day. In a couple of weeks I’ll post the “closing ceremonies” (more nerdery, I know), highlighting bits and pieces of all the HOPE 2012 posts that I can find.

So. Excited.

Without further ado, here’s my contribution to HOPE 2012

So, of course, predictably, after I came up with this snazzy idea for a hope relay and talked a bunch of people into it, my mind snapped its vicious little jaws on any shred of enthusiasm and inspiration it found laying around. “Oh, look!” it said, “there’s some hope…” *squeeeeesh* “That’s better. Continue.” And as charming as that is, it’s not entirely helpful. So, after a lot of anxiety-producing brainstorming, I’ve come up with the thought that makes me most hopeful for my future. Here it is:

It’s okay to fail.

It’s A-O-K to suck. To be wrong. To have everyone in a 5 mile radius turn to you in one accord and say, “…boo.” It’s totally and completely fine.

Now, for those of you out there that didn’t come out of your childhood with an angry but witty inner voice latched on to you like a rabid monkey, this might sound like common sense. But for some—myself included—this is a radical thought. This is revolutionary. This is sacrilege.

See, the anal-retentive perfectionist soul requires a daily sacrifice of self-worth. If you’ve done something good, something decent, something okay, the perfectionist soul requires that you bundle it up and set it aflame as penance for the fact that someone, somewhere, is better than you. That’s the requirement when you’re doing well. Imagine the price to pay if you’re wrong, or last, or embarrassingly terrible; it’s high and swiftly collected.

I think the real driving force behind my fear of failure is a fear of rejection. I read an article over at Lifehacker recently that talked about how rejection has a powerful effect on us, even resulting in something that, to the brain, is almost like physical pain. No wonder we fear it. But, as the article suggests, the solution isn’t avoidance, it’s embrace. It’s building up immunity. Building up resistance. Taking away the power of the pain. (They suggest playing a game in which you aim to get rejected once a day, which I think is hilarious. Maybe I’ll do that once I stop feeling like a scaredy cat.)

And here’s the thing that I keep thinking about: so I do something really sucky and stupid and everyone looks at me like I’m a Klingon for a second; then what? Who cares? Is anyone going to stab me in the gut with a javelin? Is the government going to repossess all of my belongings for writing a bad blog post, or getting a script rejected a thousand times, or forgetting important birthdays? No. And I think the simple reason behind it is that no one cares as much about what I’m doing as I do. In my mind, the process of me failing starts with people saying, “She’s terrible,” and ends with them saying, “let’s murder her in the alley.” When in reality, it’s more like, “She’s terrible. Ooohh…nachos!”

And just like that, me and my failure are forgotten by the light of neon yellow, cheese-flavored goo. No big deal.

The idea that it’s okay to be wrong gives me hope for a day when I don’t feel the need to dash myself on the rocks of self-hatred. Maybe I can just do things I like—things that inspire me—and not be fettered by the fact that I’m not the best. And—not to always talk about my kid, but those little buggers sure do make you think twice—maybe my daughter won’t absorb my crippling dysfunction and she’ll actually feel kinda okay about herself. She’ll try, and fail, and try, and fail, and get some freakin’ nachos.

And here’s the real amazing, frighteningly hopeful thought: what would I do with myself if I wasn’t so freaking scared all the time? What would I try? What would I embrace? What would I learn? Who would I meet? So many roads in my life are off limits, guarded by a big, smelly, hairy fear ogre. If the ogre’s gone, it’d be an entirely different voyage.

So that’s what I say. There is hope. Push that ugly fear ogre out of your way and go fail your pants off. Let’s do it together.

(Let’s do failing together, not “doing it” together. Ugh. That’s a terrible ending. *shrug* Who cares?)

Passing the Baton

Ready for more hope? Keep your eye out for these folks:

Jerrod at Never Had One Lesson

Cancer never looked more evil than it did last Saturday when it covered an 8-year-old.

As I watched him, all I could think about was the opposite of hope. Despair was the only thing my mind was concerned with. The typical “how could this happen” and “but he’s just a kid” thoughts were all I could think about. Then it hit me. [Read the full post]

Amy at Reams Photo

…Let everything happen to you: beauty and dread… [Click here for Amy's post featuring hope expressed through photography and a perfectly fitting poem from Rainer Maria Rilke.]

Denise at Victory Road

Matt at The Church-State Guy

…thinking of hope made me remember what initially made me passionate about the church/state relationship in the first place: I saw people who navigated it well, with grace, and candor, and integrity. That’s seriously hopeful stuff. [Read the full post]

Todd at ToddAndrewClayton.com

Kristen Mae at Abandoning Pretense

From the second I started thinking about hope, my thoughts were clouded with this fearful cynicism; but after contemplating the subject over these last few days, I see that my fears are merely the flip-side of my hopes; that one almost can’t exist without the other. [Read the full post]

Jenn and Casey at So This Is Love

She is little.

Too little to know what she knows of the world.

The neglect of her parents. The failure of a system that is supposed to protect her.

Bruises that have healed from her skin, but remain in her heart.

She folds herself into a chair, pulling her knees close to her. Protection. Defense. Knobby-kneed line in the sand. [Read the full post]

Your Words Matter. Don’t Be a D*ck With Them.

Psst. Check out my featured post over at Studio30Plus, a writer’s collective for people over 30. Here’s a preview:

Photo By melinnis @ Flickr

Our Words Matter

When you write them down and send them to the glorious internet; or get them bound, published and shipped through Amazon; or get them typeset and printed and in the hands of a producer—those words weave together to create our thought world. Your words go out there and tell us who we are. They tell us what our values are. They paint what is stunning and gorgeous; what is dark and horrifying; what is magical, and what is macabre.

Go read the rest, okay? Cool.

If You Don’t Live Forever, You’re a Sucker

Plastic mannequin head with futuristic v shape

Mannequins are going to have scary faces in the future. You don’t want to miss out on that. Photo by Horia Varlan, on Flickr.

I kind of want to live forever. I know it’s crazy. I just…I do. Because I just have this feeling that if I die—if I slip in the bathtub and break my neck or die from an aneurism while pooping (those are real reasons people die, y’all)—I’m going to miss out on AMAZING stuff by like 5 minutes. And wouldn’t that be terrible? I mean—to die right before life and science get REALLY cool? I don’t know if I could stand it. Even beyond the grave. I’d be haunting the crap out of a bunch of people.

I think it was the iPhone that did it. Not the first iPhone, but the comparison between the first one and the current one. Because here’s the deal: if you bought the first iPhone, you got an 8GB cool phone with texting and apps and stuff for a whopping $599. That’s a pretty penny. No subsidies. No free phones for AT&T users. You just walked up to the counter, gave them your entire wallet, coughed up a little blood, and you got a fancy doodad in return. Now—just five years later—I can get an iPhone with eight times the storage space, more battery life and a much better camera for $200 less. Or, if I don’t feel like paying ANY money for it, I can get the iPhone 3GS that’s still better than the first one for exactly zero dollars. What a difference 5 years makes. In 5 more years they’ll be stuffing iPhones in boxes of Cap’n Crunch.

And that, friends, is the world we’re living in. Except the iPhone—as cool, glorified and worshiped as it is—is no where near the coolest thing on our horizon. If we can make it another 50 years—shit’s gonna get crazy cool. And that’s why I want to live forever. Or at least for another 50 years. Or 100. Yeah, 100 sounds better. Reasonable.

Anyway…

For your enlightentainment (mashing words together is fun), here’s a brief review of stuff that is going to happen to you if you don’t go and die like a sucker before the tech evolves. Better go get you some vitamins, because it’s gonna be worth it.

Fix Skin Cancer with a Band-Aid

Umm…yeah. With a freaking band-aid. Or, rather, a patch. Same thing. You put the patch on your arm for 3 hours, then a few days later for another 3 hours and—shazam!—no more skin cancer. That’s being tested right now. Isn’t that crazy?! The current treatment for Basal cell carcinoma involves burning, freezing, scraping or zapping with radiation. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather slap a patch on my arm. It’s like those stickers from Trader Joe’s, except that it HEALS YOUR FREAKING SKIN.

Print Some Organs on Your Home Printer

“Keep your liver, Mr. Donor-face-guy,” said everyone on the transplant list, “I’ll just print one up after I’m done printing the banner for my daughter’s birthday party.” Okay, it might not be that simple, but I kid you not, people are PRINTING. ORGANS. Printing them! Like a coupon for Trader Joe’s. Except that it goes in your body to save your life. (Trader Joe’s really needs to up their game.)

Anthony Atala at the Wake Forest School of Medicine has done some stunning work with regenerative medicine.  The school is working on printing skin with a souped-up inkjet printer that would totally change the way wounds and burns are treated.

Skin is cool, but they’re also working on printing hearts. Hearts! It takes 40 minutes to print with a desktop printer, then 4-6 hours later the muscles are contracting. And because these things are comprised of the patient’s own cells, there’s no need for rejection meds. The body just says, “Oh, sure. That’s cool. You belong here.” Work is being done with all kinds of 3D printing, and an 83-year-old woman just received the first 3D-printed jaw transplant.

Is your mind blown? Mine is. Cra-zi-ness. This stuff is happening right now. Can you imagine how cool it’s going to be when I’m 132? Real cool, you all. That’s how cool.

Stop Driving the Car Like a Schmuck—Let the Car Drive Itself

This one’s already happening, too. Steve, the first user of Google’s Self-Driving Toyota Prius, is legally blind, and—I assume—feeling like a badass. Granted, he used the technology to drive to a Taco Bell, so clearly he needs some guidance on where to actually go (Umm…Trader Joe’s. Obviously.), but hey…we all gotta start somewhere. Clearly, the technology is perfect for people like Steve because it opens up really practical solutions to problems he faces. But it would also be perfect for people like me who are tired of wasting drive time not practicing hip-hop finger dancing. I mean, come on.

This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of stuff that’s being developed right now. Like I said, 50 years from now—who knows!? We’re in a time where the technologies that are being developed are working in synchrony to create exponential growth, understanding and revolution. And, dammit, if I die two years before I have a Speech Jammer gun, a cyborg mouse, or an iPhone that can cook me lasagna, I’m gonna be pissed.

So what do you think? Will you be drinking bloody marys in a space car with me? Or does a robot-filled super future scare the plasma out of you? Don’t be shy, friends, let’s talk this business out.

Don’t Let Shame Tell You Who You Are

Don't Let Shame Tell You Who You Are

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know I’m in love with Brené Brown. It’s true. She’s a vulnerability researcher stuffed to her eyeballs with grace and wisdom and I just want to hug her a whole lot (i.e., too much). I wrote about her first TED talk a while back, and she just did another one. After fighting back tears and hugging my computer screen I thought I should probably share it with you all, too. It’s only 20 minutes—and it’s amazing.

It’s raining today, and I love the rain. It makes me love the world we live in. But I’ve also been researching pimps and prostitution again, and it’s just so, so dark. It’s crushingly dark. I just needed some tiny amount of hope to keep me going. Just a teensy, weensy bit because, I tell you, it’s like every word I read steals a little light from my life. I needed something to say that there is still goodness in the hearts of humankind somewhere, somehow. This did it for me. This is enough for today. Thank you, Dr. Brown.

If you REALLY, really can’t spare 20 minutes, here are a couple of thoughts to take with you:

Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s courage. Vulnerability is what is going to save us from shame. Shame is the thing that lurks in the darkness and tells us not that we did something bad, or stupid or greedy or selfish; but that we are bad, stupid, selfish and greedy.

Shame tells men that they can’t ever be weak. Shame propagates the myth that being a man requires that you stay in control of your emotions, that you prioritize work over everything else, that higher status should be your life-long pursuit and that violence goes hand-in-hand with manliness. Shame tells women that we must be nice, thin, modest and look beautiful. It tells women that we have to be able to juggle every task that comes before us (home, work, cleaning, cooking, studies—all of it!) without breaking a sweat. And shame tells us all that falling short of these things is disgraceful.

But shame is a liar. So, I want to ask you a favor: don’t let your darkest day be your only day. Please don’t, darlings. You are beautiful. You are sacred. You are loved. Don’t let shame tell you who you are.

I Will Find Hope. Even if I Don’t Want to.

Okay, so this post is kinda serious. But I’ve had a few things on my mind and I wanted to write about them, so I figured it was best not to limit my voice here. I mean, in real life I’m not totally full of crap all the time. A good portion of the time, yes, but ALL the time? No. So if you were hoping for the usual absurdity, feel free to browse the archives, go get a Cadbury egg (they’re in stores all ready! Praise be!), and come back next week. I’ll probably be spouting some nonsense about music videos or my plans for my twilight years (hint: they include Bloody Marys and scaring children) or something like that. (Oh, also…thanks to Studio30 Plus for the writing prompt.)

Photo via Greg Timm @ Flickr

There’s a Weight Pulling On Me

I mentioned a while back that I’ve been doing some research on johns and prostitution and other unsavory topics for a project that I’m working on. I also mentioned that doing so will bum you out in a hurry. And it did. It does. It’s continuing to. I still don’t want to bombard you with the details of the research, because its kinda a topic that you want to be prepared to think about. Like, you don’t really want to be surprised by the darkness of it all. I’m a firm believer that surprises should be positive. That’s why, at surprise parties, everyone just yells in jubilee and smiles; they don’t throw ketchup and lizards at you. So I won’t be listing out all the details of the things that have been weighing on me, but I do want to talk about the weight itself. See, over time, each piece of data, each little story, each personal connection—they’re breaking down my ability to hold out hope for the soul of humankind.

As I grow older, it seems that more and more of the people and institutions that I trusted—that I revered—crumble and fall before my very eyes. Those that represented safety, goodness, integrity, and strength are found to have been corroded from within, their gleaming outsides eventually giving way to what had begun to die so long ago. Our news outlets are never in want for these tales of the fallen. The Catholic church stood brokenhearted in shame as its bastions destroyed the delicate hearts of parishioners. Evangelical pastors are found pursuing sexual relationships of all kinds outside their homes. Senators, governors—our public servants—are found to have forfeited the needs of their electorate for their own gain, serving themselves above all else. Teachers, parents, grandparents, businessmen, social workers—no one is off-limits. No one is sacred. Everyone is suspect.

Deceit. Betrayal. Scandal. Greed. Rage. Hubris. There are days when the endless torrent of our weakest moments threatens to drive even the most hopeful buoy to the depths of the sea. And that feeling—the feeling of unwillingly plunging into the abyss where the dark waters obscure even your own limbs—that feeling has hounded me.

Normally, I smile and say hello to people when I’m out on a walk. Normally, I make polite chit-chat with the checker at the grocery store. Normally, I keep my mind open to voices of wisdom and grace that might find their way to me. But these days, I find myself closing off…doubting…being afraid of what I can’t see in a man’s eyes. I have this sneaking suspicion that every person is just one second away from having their rotting interior exposed. And we will have one less good person in a world already short on goodness.

A Short Detour on Obligation and Boundaries

I don’t believe in obligation. I spent many, many years of my life doing things out of obligation because no one ever taught me about appropriate boundaries. The thing with obligation is that when you say yes when you want to say no, you end up hating whomever you said yes to. It makes you cranky. And bitter. And all kinds of nasty things. So, once someone did teach me about boundaries, I stopped doing things out of obligation. I only do things when I want to do things, even if someone makes a really sad face. Even if they think I’m a terrible person for not doing the thing. I would rather live and give genuinely than get caught up in the ugly snare of obligation.

And yet…

Over the last few days I realized that I do feel one obligation. An obligation that I will accept. An obligation that I will cling to, even if I don’t feel like it. Even if it’s hard. Even if my heart breaks a little.

I will be obligated, until death, to believe. To hope. I will never give up on a life, no matter how decrepit it becomes. I will never give up on love somehow finding its way through our diseased veins. I will never concede the fight and let my daughter live in a world that is too broken and damaged to be beautiful.

I call this an obligation, because at this moment, I’m not feeling inspired to believe. I don’t have that feeling that somehow good outweighs the bad; somehow light finds its way through the darkness. The great and powerful words delivered by sages of years passed are falling from my ears, unheard. I’m just having a hard time feeling goodness in the world. So that’s where I pledge my dedication. I pledge my obligation…

I’ll not let go.

I’ll not sink.

I will believe, dammit. I. WILL. Believe.

I’m Vulnerable. Like a Baby Sea Turtle.

I've got a long way to go

Photo by Luca5 @ Flickr

And just like the life of a baby sea turtle, it’s a little cold and scary (and somehow sandy?). But I’m pressing forward and trying to learn and grow and do things that adults are supposed to do. Truth be told, I do not like it one bit.

I recently got a little obsessed with a vulnerability researcher named Dr. Brené Brown. She’s super amazing and smart but, despite her amaz-a-brain, her talks make you feel like you’re just listening to a friend. (She’s also really pretty.)  It’s not too much of a stretch to say I’d like to snuggle with her on the couch. But not in a weird way (that’s possible, right?). Don’t judge.

Dr. Brown talks about how vulnerability is the where shame, fear and regret find their strength, but ALSO where love, happiness and connectedness begin. It’s a tricky place. One that takes more than a little bravery—and hope—to visit.

That's Dr. Brown. So adorable, right?

For whatever reason (let’s not over think this, okay?) I’ve never been great at vulnerability. Where some people spread out the welcome mat before the front door of their hearts, I build a moat, fill it with sarcasm and alligators and eat chocolate alone whilst watching endless episodes of 30 Rock. (Don’t worry, I’m not always that cool.)

In light of that reality, blogging is a uniquely odd activity for people like me to engage in. Despite the fact that I can edit and shape and frame my life in the most flattering way possible, committing words—little pieces of myself—to the screen for all to read and judge is, well…a little unnerving. And the stats—good Lord, help me—the stats! Unlike at a cocktail party where you can just tell yourself that people liked you and you had a successful social interaction, blogging gives you data. Cold, unflinching, morose data, to which you can add your own brand of crazy. And my brand of crazy is like a finely crafted beer—it takes years, sometimes generations, to make.

That’s why when I read blog posts that are truly and deeply vulnerable, I’m left with no small amount of respect—no small amount of reverence. Like when Jenny, the Bloggess, recently shared about her experience with depression and self-harm. Or when Allie Brosh at Hyperbole and a Half put such plainly human (and hilarious) words to the unannounced sadness that had shown up in her life. They’re both so brave. Daring to take the first step toward connection. Hoping for reciprocation. Believing it will come. And that’s the beginning of believing, as Dr. Brown says, that we are all worthy of love and belonging.

You should take a few minutes (about 20 of them) to watch this video. And, if no one else tells you today, know that I think you’re enough.

This post is dedicated to Norma. May you live and love with all your heart, regardless of which clouds darken your door.

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