More and more over the years I’ve come to recognize that “hope” is another one of those words that actually means a buncha things, maybe some not quite compatible. When I was struggling, miserable and feeling trapped, I kept hoping things would somehow get better. My hopes would stand in the square and everybody would give them space, a lot of space, as though my poor little hopes standing out there pressed together for comfort, were at best embarrassing, at worst a bit revolting. Unmet, they would stand there till the evening gathered and brought the indifferent darkness. I grew to loathe them myself.
Finally, desperately, I rejected them. A relief! Truly. A relief. My hopes had taken so much energy. It was better not to have any. Just do whatever, what needed to be done now. Hungry? Eat until the emptiness doesn’t hurt. Don’t feel like getting out of bed? Lie there.
“One of the toughest steps a survivor has to take is to discard the hope of rescue … There is no other way for his brain to settle down.”
That’s a quote from Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzalez.
He continues: “Dougal Robertson, who was cast away at sea for thirty-eight days, advised thinking of it this way: ‘Rescue will come as a welcome interruption of … the suvival voyage.’” [ellipsis in orig.]
I generalize from “hope of rescue” to “hope of change” or “hope of something better.”
For some time I kept a button affixed to my backpack that said, “I feel so much better since I have given up hope.” But I tired of it catching on things. So I took it off.
Lately I’ve been wondering if there might be a sweeter form of hope, a non-virulent strain. Perhaps if mild enough it might be good for you, like an inoculation. Or might be a stimulant, like strychnine.