On Marine Drive, one block past Capilano Road, is a sign: Hope Road Closed. The street in question has not been open for years yet the sign always makes me smile. It reminds me of Anne Clark’s old song, Hope Road, which concludes with the line: There was no place called Hope Road.
I remember the kinship I felt when I first heard the lyrics twenty or so years ago. The words resonated within me, touched something I had known forever. They still do, albeit in a slightly different context of which I will explain below.
I learned from a young age not to hope or have expectations. It wasn’t that I was deprived of the material needs of life. It was, instead, the less tangible items, those things we desire but are unsure of how to ask. To hope was to set myself up for disappointment. It was easier to stay within the limits of the reality I knew. Even so, hope crept in ever so often. Still does. Although I have tried various techniques of shutting it down, it is only within the last five years I have become more successful in this endeavor. My method is simple. I sit down and remind myself of the differences between hope and its more valid substitute, trust. While hope is ethereal, I say, trust is almost tangible, something to hold onto. Trust is based on acceptance and an understanding that life is manageable, one way or another. Hope, on the other hand, is full of unfulfilled desires and expectations. Trust is safe, I conclude, while hope is but a danger that only leads to heartache.
Trust is also intricately entwined with one’s sense of inner safety. Hence, when I say that trust is safe, I really mean that you cannot have one without the other: when I feel safe in who I am, I am in trust; when I am trusting the twists and turns of life, I know I am feeling a deep sense of inner safety. I have not always felt this but with its development, I have been gifted in many ways. One of which is being shown another, more positive, side of hope.
Last May, the local general store had a Mother’s Day sale on orchids. For $34.95 one could bring home their very own flowering epiphyte. I declined. I tend to disdain the purchase of new plants; having instead a penchant for bringing home the sick and weary (plants, that is) that no one else will take. I decided to bide my time. The month went by. Stocks dwindled and the price decreased to $29.95 and then $19.95. Still, I said, no.
In late June I approached the store manager. There are three orchids left, I said. No one will buy these plants; the staff is neglectful and you will soon have to throw them out. Give them to me, I will take care of them. He dillied and then dallied and finally, through a multitude of dithering, he made his offer: all three for $5. Deal, I said.
I took my orchids home and sat them on the window sill. Two of the plants looked promising but one, I felt, was on the way out. Although it didn’t look as if it would survive the month, I hate throwing away plants. And I detest the casual care that many are given. I see no difference in the life of a plant from that of an animal: if we take it into our care, we must nurture it like we would a human. Still, a dead plant is a dead plant and, while I know that surrender is sometimes the only option, this one orchid silently queried a reprieve.
Several months went by. The two with promise sprouted new leaves. They were deep green and turgid; glossy with health. My less than promising one just sat there as if apathetic to life; dormant and quiet. I didn’t give in; I didn’t change my plans. I wouldn’t have called it hope back then, more patience if anything, but I liked how the leaves, while not quite glossy and somewhat splotchy with yellow, did not droop. Perhaps, I thought, its vital force, however reduced, still existed.
This past December, six months after the adoption papers were signed, a flower stalk grew on one of the plants. It stretched out long and lean, and grew over a foot in two months. In March it bloomed into a Georgia O’Keeffe canvas. The second orchid is not yet blooming, and may not this year. I am not worried; it glows with vitality in the north window. My third orchid, however, just sits.
Although I try to bring a presence to all my plants, I have been somewhat distant with this third one. Sure I water when dry and say good morning each day but I have not crowded it with excess attention nor placed any expectations upon it. I have, in other words, just accepted it; given it space, so to speak, to heal or not to heal. Early April I was rewarded: two aerial roots, one centimeter long, half hidden with sphagnum peat, grew from its base.
As I write this, I find I have come to a crossroads—a two way split in the path—my conclusion is no longer simple. The original point of this article was to talk of how trust can engender a new lease on hope. And, for sure, it has: as I move more deeply into trusting the processes of life (and death) I understand that hope doesn’t have to cling or expect the unrealistic; it can also be a patient yet detached acknowledgement of my desires. I wanted all my orchids to bloom, in fact, hoped they would, but I was also okay if they didn’t. It was about owning my wants but letting go of the outcomes.
The other truth, the second path from which to conclude, is a validation for what I have known for years but am always relearning: loving nurturance, compassionate care and good therapy are all excellent for healing wounds but sometimes… sometimes we need something different. Sometimes all we need is a little space and time to come into our own.
Jo-Ann Svensson teaches ‘Creative Codependence’ and is a BodyMind Practitioner.
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