HOPE IS DANGEROUS
By: Lauren Anderson
It’s dangerous to think that something I want very badly could actually be had, and that things will work out for the best and in my favor… and yet, I find myself doing it all the time.
It’s dangerous to look forward to something or someone with desire and reasonable confidence… and here I go doing it again.
It’s dangerous to let myself believe. To trust.
In other words, it’s dangerous to hope. Because hope hinges on the future, and the future is unknown and changeable. Even if something feels like it could be, doesn’t mean it will actually be. And the only thing we can ever be fully clear about is RIGHT NOW.
Blah blah blah I KNOW, Gaaaaawd.
And even though I know I know that– to my core– Hope remains.
Why? Why does it feel so necessary to the human experience to hope? And why is it so frickin terrifying to let yourself go there?
Well because silly! I COULD BE WRONG OF COURSE!!!
And what then? What if I’m wrong and I don’t get the promotion, or the guy, or the cure, and the country just continues to be awful forever no matter what? What then?
Well I don’t know about you, but just typing that last sentence felt like a gut punch. So Hope remains.
Because it must. It must. Sometimes it feels like if I didn’t have hope I would perish. I know that’s dramatic, but hey– I have degree in drama.
I don’t think of Hope as escapism. It’s different than wishing, even though they get lumped together in pop songs and poetry. But I like to think of hope as a tool to help propel me forward.
The main difference in my mind between HOPE and a WISH is that hoping has capacity to actually work out. Because Hope lives in the dreams you’ve been working on. It creeps into the ideas you are headed toward. It puts down roots in the spaces where we put the time in.
Because even though Hope feels dangerous, it is also reasonable.
For example, you might hope that you get the promotion you’ve been working towards your whole career. Because you’ve literally been working your whole life to get to the spot where that promotion is feasible.
You hope that your child will grow up to be successful, because you’ve spent their whole life making sure they have the skills necessary to take care of themselves.
You hope that one day we will have equal rights for all, because you fight for equality every day. Or you hope that your loved one is cured from illness. Because you’ve spent so much time loving them.
And conversely, you might wish for the ability to fly, or wish for it to rain skittles on your birthday, or wish to be BFFs with Beyonce and Jay Z and go racing together on matching yachts. (Just me?)
I think I spend a lot of time wishing because unlike hope, it IS an escape. It’s fun to think about what could be. It’s fun to dream. And wishes are not so dangerous because the stakes are so low.
If it doesn’t rain skittles on my bday, I know I’m gonna be alright. If I need Skittles to rain that badly, I know I can bop over to the gas station, buy some, and pour the bag over my head.
A wish is just a wish. As fleeting or as fickle as we want them to be.
But Hope on the other hand? Well, that’s different.
There’s a distinction right? Hope implies time and effort. And that intention we put into our hopes naturally raises the stakes. That work turns dreams into actual probability.
Here’s another story I never thought I’d be able to tell…
For years I found myself inside a body that I secretly hated. Wishing that one day my feelings would change. That I would wake up miraculously loving something that had only brought me pain.
I’m sure at one point when I was younger I loved my body, but I couldn’t remember. It was too bleak. It was all darkness.
This went on and on, and the hate compacted and compounded itself. Until my feelings were like a solid dark core inside of me. I thought that was just how I was. I thought that was my fate. I thought having a relationship to my body that was anything other than tortuous was for anyone else but me.
I tried my best to keep it hidden, but I’m only human.
And then one day I decided to step in a new direction. Just one single step. I didn’t have an agenda. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I just moved. And that one step turned into another and another. And before I knew it, I walked a mile.
That mile eventually turned into milesssssss, and then a yoga class. And that class turned into my decision to join Solcana. Which led me to a nutrition education, body celebration, and community.
I could feel that dark core inside of me being chiseled away. Slowly but surely the bits were being broken off, and shoveled out with every step back into the gym. Until one day, I felt love for my body as if it was the first time.
True and deep love. And all that wishing that I had spent so much time doing turned into HOPE.
And I felt exhilarated. And the new hope felt so DANGEROUS. Could this be? Could I love again?
The answer is a resounding YES.
It is possible. Because I could feel it. The dark core had slowly and quietly been replaced with hope. Hope that everyday, with continued effort, I will get closer and closer to being able to love again. Without fear. Without judgement. Without needing that love to be a certain way.
I could let go of what was holding me back.
And Hope (plus time plus effort) is the thing that got me there.
Because let’s be clear here: It’s not a perfect thing. There are days when the darkness creeps. There are days when I revert back to my old life. Old fears. Or I feel at odds. I mistakenly forget that the old me is exactly that–THE OLD ME– and doesn’t exist anymore.
When that backsliding happens, (And notice I didn’t “IF” I said “WHEN”– because I like to keep it real like that.) But when the relapse happens, I have hope to guide and propel me through the darkness.
Hope is the light.
It’s in those moments that I lean on hope even more. It keeps me motivated. That one day, if I’m ever asked in earnest, “Hey Anderson, how do you feel about your body?”
I can finally answer without hesitation, “I love it. We are in love.”
I don’t think it’s naïve to have hope. I think it’s courageous. Like our former president so eloquently penned, it’s downright audacious! Because letting yourself have hope also makes it pretty clear what is at stake. That what you are hoping for is IMPORTANT.
That’s how I want to love my body.
That’s how I want to love, period. Full stop.
And that shit is dangerous.
It is brave and it is bold, and frankly– that’s exactly where I want to be.