“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” -Anne Lamott
Hope – with it we are able to take that first step forward. It is so very important but it is not something that is always easy to obtain. Rising up from the deepest place within us, hope requires work and determination.
Recently I have been aware of how much energy is required to be hope-full. I am now a breast cancer survivor(x3). I have been a survivor since the day I learned of my first diagnosis 19 years ago. This was four days before I celebrated my 40th birthday and having breast cancer was the farthest thing from my mind.
That is how it happens. While moving through life with plans and ambitions, the path changes, abruptly and with little warning. In a single moment on a normal afternoon, I was told I had breast cancer – a diagnosis that would change my life forever. Enveloped in the bright light of a doctor’s office, all plans dropped away – priorities shifted – I started living as a survivor.
So I have found myself once again inthat single moment. In December I sat under the bright lights of a new doctor’s office to hear I had breast cancer again. Being a survivor feels empowering and overwhelming. In my experience it does not matter how often you face a new diagnosis the resolve to continue life as a survivor has to be made anew.
I am inspired by the survivors I have known and know today. These women and dear friends have shared their living stories with honesty and extraordinary courage. During my new ‘single moment’ I honor and remember these amazing women. They have taught me much about living life to the fullest from day one.
Hope does find a way. From learning of the first test results I learned how hope would reinforce the ground underneath my nervous stance. I know this “stubborn hope” that Anne Lamott describes. It is what stirs the courage to take my next step in life. When the news seems unbearable and the options for healing sound impossible hope has been there.
Like a seed planted deep into the ground, hope has taken root within, creating a strong foundation to support my steps toward the gentle light of Dawn.
(This video is one of my favorites. It has been my inspiration on more than one occasion.)
artist Roger Hutchinson
A bowl of cereal, a new caregiver and a stack of notebooks filled with bills and correspondence – what did these things have in common? They were all in the right place at the wrong time. . Too early in the day to have gathered my defenses, I sat wide-eyed and speechless as a bowl filled with milk and cereal, slipped out of my new assistant’s hand only to land upside down on an ordered stack of paperwork and notebooks. It was a moment when my patience and desire to be in control were challenged beyond words.
I spend a lot of energy creating ‘systems’ that keep the details of my daily life, both items and routines, accessible to me and the people who assist me. When someone has worked with me for a while these systems become familiar, reducing the amount of time necessary to give directions or search for things. It all appears logical and routine until a new person is added to the team.
Certainly the one most challenged is the new assistant. Already on the spot, it is easy to see the anxiety rise as new tasks are introduced.
At least that what I must say to myself. So many details in life are not in my control. If I focused on this fact for too long a wave named ‘overwhelmed’ could quickly wash over me. So I sit in my beautiful home taking deeper breathes to settle my nerves as I help to reassure my assistant and clean up the breakfast spill – one simple direction at a time.
‘I learn whatever state I’m in, therein to be content.’ What an amazing woman, Helen Keller. Her wisdom is my encouragement and for this I give thanks.
I share this with you knowing that each reader will have their own image of taking these steps. Most often moving beyond our comfort zone fills us with anxiety and distress. The “place we have occupied for so long” is familiar and safe.
Yet these words are filled with an invitation – honest and comforting. The steps may not be easy but they lead to freedom and compassion. Our perspectives need to change in order to hear the gentle answers of our hard-earned questions.
Once again I give thanks for Bishop Stephen Charleston. His words are wise and rich with imagery. May these words offer safety and compassion as they call for change.
Come stand over here, just a step or two beyond the place you have occupied for so long, where you have worn the earth smooth with your pacing, where you have spent so many hours fighting the problem you cannot seem to solve. Take a break. Catch your breath. Come stand here, where you can catch a freshening breeze and see far into the valley below. Let the distant clouds carry your worry for a while, see how the sun empties the world of shadow. The answer you seek may be just a step beyond, a higher place where the view is clear of all obstructions.
Bishop Steven Charleston