One of the number one difficulties I’ve had over the past two and a half years of my illness is verbalizing to those who are not ill the lesson that I’ve learned about having peace and satisfaction with who I am and where I am. My listeners’ automatic reaction is to assume that 1) I do not have the faith required to be healed, or 2) I do not have hope in being healed or recovering in my future. Then they hasten to “teach” me all about how my approach is wrong.
Granted, they may be right in regards to #2, at least sometimes. There have been times when the enormous friction between my present and my past–or my present and my future–has worn me out to the point where in order to be happy, I’ve had to give it up, to just let myself be who I am and where I am right now, and not worry about “healing” or what all may or may not be involved in the process beyond managing my own present better.
Maybe that’s a lack of hope. I used to think I lacked hope, until someone once told me that hope is far more pervasive than that. Hope isn’t just about the future, hope can also be about your present. Hope is the power to see the goodness in your darkness. It is the power to overcome despair and sadness with humor, cheer, and optimism, (despair is from the French désespoir and means a lack of hope). Hope is the power of knowing that all things, even the hard things, will work together to make you stronger, more compassionate, more courageous. Hope is the power of peace in every moment. It lets you see why you are here, now, in this moment, that it builds you up towards some end goal, and that whatever beast you are facing can be tamed.
There are some people who will suffer with their condition or illness all of their life. To tell them they lack faith or hope, especially when they do not in fact lack these things is cruel. To misunderstand them when they talk about the lessons they’ve learned about finding joy in their present, building sandcastles and making their present richer, mores satisfying and more enjoyable–to misunderstand them is inexcusable. Please stop and listen to them, they may have something to say that you can then apply to your own present, to your own challenges, to make your own present life more fulfilling–wherever you are in it.
And yet, there is one facet of hope that I must not ignore while I take satisfaction in my present. It is the prescient power of Hope, the power to believe–and to work towards–a change of your present so that your future won’t be more of the same. It is letting go of fear of The Unknown, and embracing the Better Unknown instead. It’s being willing to walk into the dark tunnel of change, not knowing what awaits you on the other side, or even how painful it will be to get there.
It is a letting go of control over your life, and giving it up to God or fate or the future or someone else.
This prescient hope, this hope that is a force for change, is only a part of what heals. Healing begins first in your present, creating greater peace, calm, and happiness. Then it extends backwards and forwards–looking more favorably into your past, and weaving itself into a brighter future. At least, that is becoming my experience.
There is a famous and wise saying: learn from the past, live in the present, and plan for the future. Whenever I talk about making my present a better place to live, I hope you will not mistake me. I am not ignoring the past, and I am not shutting out the future. I am only discussing all the weeding and planting I’ve been doing in my present. There has been a lot of work to do, and I have learned a lot from the endeavor.
For those who don’t like large blocks of text, read the Twitter-condensed version:
The delicate balance of the chronically ill: learning how to both accept & appreciate where you are, yet still have hope in something better.
Those who are healthy will want you to be healthy, impatient and unsatisfied with your present.
Those who are ill will find it hard to imagine anything could be different or better.
Accepting your present for what it is, for its joys and sorrows, does not mean you do not–or should not–have hope for a better future. There can be peace in any present, as well as joy in any journey.