I'm conflicted about hope, the desire for something to happen. It certainly seems like a good thing, a shoulder to lean on in tough times, a positive compass heading when happenings in your life are going in the wrong direction.
I've relied on hope a lot, as have we all, most likely. I've dreamed of better times, of bouncing back from a disappointment, of finding a way to accomplish something difficult.
For most of us, it's difficult to imagine not living without hope.
If we get sick, we hope we'll soon be well. If a romantic relationship falls apart, we hope that love will return to our life in a different guise. If we're fired from our job, we hope that our next employment opportunity will be better.
So hope appears to be a psychological drug with no negative side effects. It lifts us up when we're down, a mood elevator that doesn't require a doctor's prescription.
There's also something to be said for giving up on hope. It's unclear to me whether that saying, whatever it might consist of, outweighs the benefits of hope. I simply have a feeling, based on my own experience, that hope isn't always a good thing.
One drawback is that it contains the seed of disappointment. Whether that seed sprouts depends on the outcome of our hoping. If we fill our mind with a strong desire that X will occur, the appearance of Y with no sign of X is going to cause us to feel letdown.
Now, would it be better if there was no hope for X? I don't know. Perhaps.
That way, if X comes to be, it would strike us as a wonderful surprise, not the fulfillment of an expectation. And if X never happens, the disappointment caused by a gap between hope and reality wouldn't exist.
Another potential drawback is that hope can prevent us from living in the here-and-now. It's tempting to fill our mind with visions of what might be, rather than what is. Taken to extremes, this can prevent us from fully appreciating the life we actually have, because it is so different from the life we hope for.
Still, I find it difficult to recommend giving up on hope, which is why the title of this blog post starts with "Maybe." Hope can be the only thing that stands between us and despair. Yes, hope can be a crutch. But when we're limping along, a crutch can be what we most need.
Since I've become a fan of mindfulness, a middle ground strikes me as a good way to go. Keep on hoping, yet be aware of what you're doing.
Sometimes I say aloud, "Yes, I hope that..."
This helps me realize that I've got an expectation that might be fulfilled, or it might not. There's no guarantee, just a hope. It's when a hope becomes an obsession that problems arise. If we can't stop thinking, "It would be so wonderful if...", perhaps we've allowed hope to occupy too large of a place in our life.
Or, maybe not. There's certainly an argument for letting hope become as grand as possible, bigger than a mountain, more enduring than a diamond.
Like I said, I'm conflicted about hope.