Saturday, 12 April 2014

Abandon hope...

... all ye who enter here. Is that right? It could be. Or I could have got it wrong. I could, of course, Google the quote but I can't really be bothered right now. It was only a hook for a title anyway. So it doesn't even matter. So shut up, yeah?


Every now and again the Guardian shares some content on Facebook that isn't about feminism and isn't blatantly crafted to provide click bait and comment fodder for twats. Just every now and again. Especially on Saturdays when they essentially share my favourite features from the Weekender magazine.

If you've never bought the Guardian on a Saturday then you're missing out on some pretty quality shit. Well, there's The Guide. And there's usually some god awful interview with some celebrity. I'm pretty sure they had Katie fucking Price at some point last year. But there are also some gems. Oliver Burkeman's column: This Column Will Change Your Life, is one of them.

Today his column was about the concept of hope and the measured fact that scientists have discovered that people register as happier if they live their lives without 'hope'. That sounds bleak doesn't it? Not to me it doesn't. Makes loads of sense.

Naturally, this immediately struck a chord with me. I am vehemently against phrases that include the words 'positive mental attitude', 'positive thinking', 'stay positive' and all that they imply. Obviously the concept of thinking positively cannot be a bad thing in and of itself but it's bandied around like some kind of voodoo.

It particularly gets on one's tits when used in the context of illness or other uncontrollable life events. The inference is that if someone doesn't survive their illness then it's down to the fact that they just weren't THINKING POSITIVELY enough. Ill people have enough shit on their plate just breathing in and out and dealing with things like pain and fear. The last thing they need is to be guilted into not being able to express these negative feelings in case it affects the magic that is being wrought by the positive thinking of everyone around them. It's bullshit. It's a crock. It's like PRAYING or HOMEOPATHY. All bollocky bollocks.

Being ill and hoping things will change is unhelpful. Being depressed and hoping things will change makes no sense. Hoping for a change of state in any capacity does absolutely fuck all. You can't control events with the power of your mind, you see. And the constant state of hope by definition puts you in a sort of holding pattern. Moving neither forward nor backwards. Not living today, this moment, right here with its potential pain and fear and sorrow, because you're holding out for that moment over there. It's basically waiting. Waiting and praying. And waiting and praying is no way to live your life.

The antithesis of hope is what? Desolation? Horror? I reckon it's acceptance. If you accept whatever craphole of a situation you're in right now - say, you're smack bang in the middle of a depressive episode, for example, or you've fucked something right up and you're reaping the consequences, or maybe your partner decided that they wanted to bugger off with someone else - whatever is going on, isn't it better to be in it, to face it and to go through it, rather than merely hoping it will change?

Hope in itself does nothing. We can all sit here and post make-up free selfies to Facebook and hope that we'll all magically 'beat cancer' but what actually contributes to that is the donation. It's the action. The doing. The giving. The changing. The researching. Sitting and hoping does fuck all. Less than fuck all. It could be actively damaging to a cause, to a life, to a future.

Hoping while acting could be a thing. Or looking on the brighter side of black, maybe. To me it's just another waste of energy attempt to control things. I'm a massive control freak and instinctively try to control every environment I'm in, every place I go, everything I do. Spontaneity isn't welcome in my head. I need to know where the exits are, who's going to be there and how I get the fuck away, should I need to.

I hoped this would change for many years. I hoped that the Velcro in my brain would become magically unstuck and I would become this relaxed, chilled person because, you know, I really really wanted it to. It's only relatively recently sunk in that if I want to change things and live a different me then I have to DO things to make that happen. Small steps. But small steps of action, not inertia. Small steps of doing, not praying. Small steps of being awake in the moment, not hiding behind gin or fags or fear anymore.

Living a life in hope is living a life in anticipation for something that may or may not happen. Sometimes it's giving up hope that sets us free.

1 comment:

  1. When I buy Saturday's Guardian, I do the quiz in the magazine first. Never got all 10 right yet, but I live in hope. Which brings me to my point: hoping for something that COULD happen, when it's of no great importance whether it does or not, is a fairly harmless pastime. Hoping for things that can't, and won't, happen is a refusal to accept things as they are: and that's the key to a life lived in limbo. So yes, you're absolutely right: the opposite of hope isn't despair, it's acceptance. Depending on the circumstances, that can take some doing sometimes: but it's true, nonetheless.