When life throws you lemons, thank it for the snack

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Why I Lost Hope but Kept My Faith

Hope vs. Faith: What's the difference? Aren't they both gifts from God? Maybe they are, maybe they aren't. Perhaps they are gifts that we give God as well.

Hope has become a "dirty four-letter word" for me. Aside from a brief 3-month project, 4 days "in training" at a pyramid scheme organization (so glad I got out when I did!), and 4.5 days as a temp, I've been unemployed since I moved here to Orlando in June of 2014. That's a very long time to be dependent on my parents and the little bit of assistance I get from "the government" for food assistance. That's a very long time to have nothing to provide for my daughter. That's a very long time to be a single parent battling depression (I suspect I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, though I've never been officially diagnosed because I can't really afford to see a psychotherapist). That's a very long time to hide the full truth of my financial situation from the world. That's a very long time to suffer heartbreak every time my daughter's school has an event in which she can't participate because I don't have the extra money to throw around like all the other parents. That's a very long time to not be able to purchase much-needed work clothes so that I can make a better impression in an interview and possibly get that job; I've patched, hemmed, and/or repaired every single pair of my work pants and it significantly limits me every time I have to take a pair out of circulation because there's only so much even the best seamstress can do to prolong clothing. That's a very long time to repress my true stress and anxiety levels as much as possible because I don't want people feeling sympathy for me or feeling bad for me; I don't want to be your emotional (or other form) charity case just so you can feel good about your existence and brush me under the rug again once you have expunged your "human duty" to feel for you fellow man, returning to your "perfect" life. That's a very long time (even longer for me, actually, because of the duality of lives that was my marriage) to have to justify every decision of my existence ["If you're so poor, why do you have ____ or why do you get to do ____?"]. That's a very long time for my already life-long ground-floor self-esteem to continuously find new bottoms to drop below. That's a very long time to give everything I have to try to insulate my daughter so that she suffers as little as possible, even at the expense of part of my own humanity (free expression of thoughts and emotions is necessary for mental health, but I must suppress as much as I can to make sure I don't burden her). That's a very long time to let only the bubbling over, tip of the iceberg emotions spew forth; there are too many "feels" still boiling inside and I get an extra double-dose of guilt any time I let even a little bit out, even though I know it's necessary.

So, why have I given up on hope? Before you mentally bash me as a whiny baby because "Hey! There are starving people in ____!" or "At least you don't have to deal with _____!", ask yourself if you use these guilt-tripping platitudes to shame the suffering person into "happiness" in a twisted psychological ploy, or if you use them to make yourself feel better by shaming them so you don't have to think about how much better you have it than the sufferer. Okay, so it could be worse. That doesn't make the bad situation less bad, it makes the bad situation seem more hopeless because there's still a bottom to drop out of the floor and is seems the world apparently feels you still haven't suffered enough because it could be worse still.

For me, hope has become illogical and meaningless. To have hope is to expect that what you want or need might come to pass. In my experience, hoping never did anything beyond causing more anxiety. Any time I hoped that this next interview would be the one to land me a job, I worried because my fate was in the hands of someone or something beyond my control; there was nothing I could do to affect the outcome. Hope means that I have to wait with baited breath, to roll the dice, to live in complete uncertainty of what is to come. Without hope, my anxiety level has dropped because I no longer count on things that may be but rather, I look at what is at the moment. I know some people would be shocked, worried, upset if I told them I have lost hope. I don't see the point any more because it only made my emotional situation worse without improving my real situation. Hope doesn't work if it is constantly dashed. Besides, why would HOPE be in a box with the world's troubles such as pestilence and war if it was such a good thing?! Hope is an empty promise, that's why!

Faith, on the other hand, is much more powerful. Faith is confidence or trust, a certainty. Rather than concerning itself with what might be, faith is the feeling of what will be. I have faith in God, in my parents, in my daughter. I have faith that our basic necessities will be provided--the promise of Saint Anthony of Padua is that God will not leave His people without bread to eat. I have faith, I do not have hope. I have cast aside wishes and desires. I now live with what is in front of me. If things change, for the better or if I find yet another sub-level basement to drop through, then they will do so of their own accord, without my increasing my anxiety levels and disappointment by hoping that the bad doesn't get worse. See, that's the thing with hope. When your wish doesn't come true it is even more devastating because your emotional level was elevated, so it has further to drop. Without hope, I can stay on the ground floor where less emotional damage can occur because I don't have as far to fall.

I am by no means advocating that anyone else give up on hope. I understand it can be a useful motivator for many people, especially those whose lives are particularly attuned to it. I'm saying that it doesn't work for me, personally. Do what works for you. No one needs to follow my footsteps because my path is not for anyone but me.

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