I heard the sound of a surfboard being waxed today. It’s been a while since the low pitched rumble of wax over sand has been heard echoing from our garage. I was surprised how comforted I was by the sound, by the idea that there are still ordinary rhythms to our life of chaos. Surprised at how a simple sound could bring me promise on an otherwise tough day. I stopped briefly to figure out why this was, why I was surprised, why I was comforted. But I don’t think it can be understood outside of the context of the shifting sand beneath our feet—our own personal traumas both little and big.
I know part of it was the security in the knowledge if he was waxing his board it meant he had found hope, at least a bit of it, at least for the moment. When hope is as thin and tenuous as it has been in our house for the last few years, I find I can cling to even the tiniest glimmer of it with a tenacity of a two year old. Perhaps another part of my comfort was knowing he would find respite, the happiness of doing what he loves if only for an hour or two. After almost 25 years of marriage I am unaccountably pleased I can still find peace and sustenance in the simple joy of my husband content. Despite all the work and drudgery that comes from building a marriage, a family, a life together, I am still profoundly touched by the prospect of his happiness. It strengthens my sense of hope and purpose, it has meaning even when it is hidden beneath the mounds of laundry, therapist bills, and relentless worry.
My husband is a committed pessimist, there is no situation so bleak it can’t get bleaker and no glass full enough it isn’t half empty. The whys and hows of his perspective are as hard as they are fascinating. But it is enough I understand and can help balance that particular quirk. So if my relentless pessimist has found hope, something simple to help him cope, I can’t help but apply that to myself. If he can do it, so can I. I am so optimistic that my rare flights into despair leave me reeling, grasping for any hold to bring me back to solid ground, to the place where I know who I am and what I have built. I have given up needing to control the future to have it planned or figured out, but I have an intense need to be in the present and to know that I am not wasting this moment, secure that it will morph into another and another. For me this is hope, it’s all I have sometimes.
I like this idea of an interdependent hope cycle. The cycle through which if I can find hope it helps you find it, the one where if I’m lacking one day, you will help pick up the slack with yours. That this has come to me seemingly out of nowhere just a product of love, respect and honor, out of listening and building, and hearing with no real skills, is a cause of wonder and comfort. It helps me get through the everyday. I know that if I am doing the dishes it means I think someone will need clean ones in the morning. That is hope I can grasp. Another load of laundry signals another day with clean clothes, another day with meaning. I can bury myself in the ordinary of my day, knowing that it contains all I need to see the promise in tomorrow.
I remember a family therapy session when my son said he was so angry at people who had hope, angry because he was jealous, angry because there must be something wrong with him that he couldn’t find it. It was one of my saddest moments as a parent. What a dark, painful place he had to be stuck in at that moment, and there was nothing I could say or do to lift him out. It was a place he had to find the way out of himself. He has to an extent, but it has changed him. Not changed the intensely sensitive compassionate, magical soul of who he is, but changed how he is able to interact with the world. It took his confidence, his self-worth, his devil may care I’m-all-in way of facing the world. It stole his trust. I see him building it back in fits and starts, refining it as he goes. I see such hope for him in this life he is creating. So perhaps I can bring him into my hope cycle. Perhaps he is already absorbing it, little by little. Perhaps if he sees hope in each small step, in every ordinary task of life it can sustain him. Just enough to hang on.