Breathing space. An intermission.

This is a bit of a different one. Maybe I can call it an interlude? I have done a few interviews now, and there have been times when I wondered whether I wouldn’t just get the same replies from everybody at some stage. Yet, every time I interview someone, that person surprises me with a beautiful perspective and emotion towards hope. Unique to them, and I would think, shaping their approach to life as well. I feel a different kind of inspiration, and a different kind of hope after each and every interview. And I remain curious where this project will take me in the future.

So this unplanned post is not to subtract from anything written so far. I hadn’t thought I would be writing another, more generic post that was not going to focus on telling someone else’s story. But then I read something online, written by Glennon Doyle. Apparently her book ‘Untamed’ was on all the bestseller lists in 2020. I just happened to stumble across it in my Audible library, and loved it from the very first second.Over the past year, I listened to it three times. Once on my SUP in the summer, floating about, attached to a marker buoy.

For those who read a lot, I would think it is a familiar experience: from time to time you will come across a book that just sticks with you. That somehow leaves a lasting impression, that has an impact on you in that chapter of your life. That simply speaks to your very core.

I have had two of those in the past couple of years. Glennon’s book was one of them. However, the topic of her book is not why I find myself writing this post on my floor, leaning against the heater on this February evening. It’s actually one of her Instagram posts that I saw this week. And that comes from someone who doesn’t entirely understand how Instagram works, who doesn’t have her own account, but likes to look at Glennon’s from time to time. To be uplifted. To feel real. To belly-laugh, and to be reminded of the beautiful innocence that child-like silliness and joy can bring into our lives.

This is what her post said:

“This is why hope is so dangerous. Imperative but soul crushing almost every time. #RelentlessHopeAnyway. If you need to quit hoping today and start hoping again tomorrow: permission granted. Hopers need lots of breaks.”

Immediately, I wanted to write about it. Incorporate in what I am trying to pull off here with this project of mine. It took me a few days to start. Not for lack of time or thought.

If I am being honest, maybe there was some reluctance and fear despite wanting to express what her post evoked in me. Fear of confronting, of what it could mean to my project? For me?

Maybe the thoughts and feelings just needed to simmer away in the back of my mind and heart for a little while. That is usually the case with me.

When I read her post, I felt intrigued. I felt a pain. A deep pain in my chest, one that is as deep as the relief I simultaneously feel is great and enlightening. When I really listen inwards, I hear a question. “Is that really the world we live in?”
An experimental piece I made a while ago, and came back to me when writing. It just feels very fitting.
Experimental art that seemed fitting here.

A year ago I would have wondered if hopers weren’t really dreamers. These days I wonder if we should dream, instead of hoping. Maybe I am getting too hung up about the word itself. And with every interview I do, it shows that my definition of hope differs very much from that of others.

But, let me get back to Glennon’s post.

She hit the nail on the head. Hope is so dangerous. It can come crashing down on you. Yes, we cultivate resilience through it. But a part of me wonders why we are so attached to the narrative of things having to be hard. Of having to be resilient. When it comes down to it, the reason for me stepping away from conservation for a while came down to fear. Fear of not being resilient enough. Fear of not having the resources to deal with the hardship that could come with it. Fear of the pain of hope, I realise now.

And I cannot help but draw parallels to my personal life. If I had fought as hard for my ‘career’ and the environment as fiercely as I have fought for many a relationship, where would I be? Why have I been able to cultivate hope over and over again in personal situations, losing myself at times, and depleting my own resources for someone else, but not to help those who are unable to speak up for themselves?

It is a question that only came to me recently. The amount of times I have tried to make partners and friends understand that the courageous thing is to love anyways. Despite hurt, despite fear, despite past, current, and potential future pain. I have excused so very many things I shouldn’t have excused. For the sake of loving, for the sake of showing more understanding and kindness. Believing almost blindly that I could “crack” that particular pattern of the person that I thought stood between them and me.

Oh, do I wish I would apply it for the one topic that has been close to my heart from a very young age. Excuse my rant, but for heaven’s sake, I cried as a child when I heard about and saw my first documentaries about wildlife crimes! Thirty-odd years later, I have not stood up for those values as fiercely as I believe in them. I want to give up that fear of doing so. And besides all the other aspirations for this project, quintessentially I am asking questions to find my own answers, too. Part of this project is me looking for the key that will turn the lock that’s been holding me back in that part of my life.

And I can certainly feel subtle shifts, by seeing the world in general, and the world of conservation through the eyes of others. So maybe this post is more than a random, rambling rant? Maybe it is me starting to speak up, and break free?

Breaking free?

I have been re-reading and re-reading Glennon’s post several times. To get a sense of what it is I am truly feeling. And you know what I feel tonight?

I don’t want to hope. Not if it means to feel my soul crushed over and over again.

If I can’t replace hope, then I want to at least back it up with something more powerful, and less fragile. That is what one part of me feels and thinks. It’s the part of me that wants to scream into a pillow, or stamp her feet to release that massive chunk of frustration. What is behind any frustration, really? Anger.

This is me wanting to express my anger healthily.

“No! Just simply no! I don’t want to live a life that is so exhausting and driven by such a fragile emotion. I don’t want a life that will constantly demand breaks of me for having fought so hard for it!”.
The freedom beyond saying No.

I feel a pain for all of us who just want to live in a better, more peaceful, more considerate and kind world. A more equal world with better values being promoted. Surely, that can’t be too much to ask for? And yet, the world is trying to tell us that it is. That we have to fight for it. Do I want to take part in that?

I have been called relentless many times. Exhausting. Draining. Too much. Are those really the labels we are going to put on one another for simply wanting more? For wanting to break through the walls of ego, cultivated by insecurities and fears of vulnerability?

And then this other voice in me comes butting in. Look at the evidence, it says. Look at the facts. There is inequality. There is a massive disparity of worlds. There are so many people, and living beings suffering out there. For reasons that shouldn’t even exist in the first place. They won’t benefit from my self-pity. They won’t benefit from my pain about the state of the world sometimes.

It is like I am banging up against that brick wall. Willing it to come tumbling down to create something new in its place.

And again there is a certain parallel to my personal life. Maybe not in relationships, but in many other parts of life I have long learned to not put my energy in protesting or getting frustrated, or letting things mess with my energy for the day. There are so many things that others lose so much time over that just glide off my back.

So what is this other voice telling me? To stop battling what is, to stop wishing for an entire reinvention of the world, and instead focus on what can be done with what we have. What can be done from within. Is it unreasonable to ask for a revolution if the revolution seems unlikely?

It’s just that I can’t quite shake the feeling that it would be a compromise to stop asking for the revolution. It feels as though I’d be making my own beliefs and ideas smaller to make them fit into the world we have created.

And so I wonder. What if I accepted the fragility of hope? What if I - in Glennon’s words - took the judgement out of feeling the need to give up? Of actually giving up at times, of giving myself permission to quit when I need to quit? And as I am writing I realise that I have quit. That I have allowed myself many breaks. In life, and on a daily basis. I am very aware of my need for them, and have come to appreciate my ability of stepping back and slowing down. As it seems to be something that others need to learn.

But I never thought of it as giving myself permission to give up for just a little while.

Is there a middle ground I can find for myself?

A place where I won’t swing from one extreme to the other?

On one of my sunsets breaks. Time to breathe.

Who will join me in creating a world in which hopers are allowed to dream? A world in which hopers don’t hope themselves raw. A world which will instill hope, rather than us injecting it with our own.

I do not know. It’s why I am asking. And it probably is why this is the only post that has the commenting function enabled. I don’t want to be doing it alone is all I know.