I’m a trafficker.
You may have seen me, lurking around the dark corners of the internet, hand in pocket, waiting to share the drug so many of you desperately need right now.
It’s called Hope.
Peddling Hope is a dubious business these days. Hope has so much competition – sarcasm, cynicism, gaslighting and outright lies, anger, and fraud. Hope has it tough, what with the four horsemen of the apocalypse loose on the Earth. What chance does little old Hope have?
There’s this psychological thing I ran across shortly after the lockdowns started. It’s called “sense of a foreshortened future” – the idea that when things are looking particularly bleak, we lose the ability to see good things ahead. And if there is no possibility of improvement in our lives, we start to lose interest in the present too. After all, why go on with work or life if tomorrow is just going to be a worse version of today, and so on and so on until it all just breaks down?
I’ve been really feeling it this week, as war breaks out, real estate prices somehow magically continue to rise, and the pandemic stretches into its third year. So I posted something on Facebook the other day about not having the life I was promised, and got three main responses, which I’ll summarize as:
- Oh how I feel this!
- Nobody is promised anything in life.
- We’ve been here before.
The first one is my choir, and boy do I know how to preach to them! The second is both true and misses my point – of course there are no promises, but we grow up with expectations based on how things are and what our parents have.
But the third… that one stuck with me.
We have been through turbulent times before. Wars (hot and cold) that tested our mettle. Bigots (who sadly never actually left). Fights for our rights. Pandemics. And so much more. I was lucky to live most of my own life between many of these, and so I may have a biased viewpoint about what I expect from the world. Boy have the last two-and-a-half (or six-and-a-half) years been a rude awakening.
And when the last time we faced a hot war, a cold war, a wave of racism/facism, and a pandemic all at once?
As they say, these are the times to try our souls.
I’m reading a fascinating (if maybe overly long) book by Kim Stanley Robinson called New York 2140. What strikes me about this book at this particular moment in time is the idea that life still goes on, even after a horrific global trauma. New York in the twenty-second century is waaaaaay different, with half the city in the intertidal zone and half built up to a few hundred stories on dry land. And yet, it’s exactly the same. The people still live elbow to elbow, even in half-drowned buildings, and still fight each other and work together and jostle elbows in a particularly New York fashion.
Am I worried about the state of the world right now? Hell yes. Mark just got back from the grocery store and half the shelves were empty, which really brought things home for me.
Are we living at the start of the end of everything?
I Hope not.
See? There’s that word again. I grasp it with both hands and hold it to my chest, and it suffuses me with warmth and possibility:
Hope that Covid is finally on the decline and we don’t have to suffer through another wave.
Hope that the war will end, and the West will find itself united in a way it hasn’t been in a generation.
Hope that the supply chain will start to unsnarl, and inflation will calm down, and we’ll actually start to tackle climate change in a meaningful way.
Did you hear that many in Europe are calling this a turning point? That the war in Ukraine may finally force the EU to move full-speed ahead on green energy, if only to wean themselves off of Russia and its dirty (and blackmailable) gas?
I have control over none of those greater things.
So I focus my true Hopes on smaller ones.
I planted pepper and zucchini and tomato seeds in small paper cups in the garage last week. Every morning I water them, and Hope they will find their way to the light.
I am planting the seeds for my own future success too, wrapping up a trilogy and putting my published books onto Smashwords for the first time as part of going wide.
And I am allowing myself to visualize a world where a virus no longer limits what I can do. We’re getting a table at a local pride event in May, and who knows? We might actually go.
My stories always have a streak of Hope in them, and I’m allowing my life to have one too. In the midst of chaos, I dream of a better, more stable future, and take a few small steps to get there.
So this is my gift to you.
Say a few prayers or thoughts for world peace, for an end to sickness, for a saner world. Then invest yourself in smaller Hopes. Spring is coming. Hope for flowers and seedlings and robins’ eggs in the nest. Hope for a good day, for coffee with a friend, for your dinner to come out just right.
And pick a medium-sized Hope, a few months out, and let yourself imagine it might come true.
I’m a trafficker. And I have a little Hope, just for you.
To my friends, what’s your medium-sized Hope, the thing you wish for a few months from now?