I have been thinking about hope a lot this week. I am being monitored every other day right now for IVF and they will probably implant our embryo in four or five days. We have been trying to have kids for a long time so this likely negative pregnancy test after implantation will not be a new experience for us, and yet it will be different and probably more difficult this time and there is nothing I can do about that. I have to hope and I have to be let down, I can pretend I’m controlling expectations but that’s just an illusory protective instinct that will do nothing but make me more tired than I already am thanks to synthetic hormone induced insomnia.
This entire year has been a marathon of emotion controlling, and I should point out that it probably has more to do with not recognizing feelings than actually controlling them, but it’s the only sense of control I have so please don’t take that away from me. With Trever’s dad’s sudden death, infidelity and a near break up a of very close friend’s marriage, and of course this fertility saga, I have made a conscious and daily choice to choose to feel gratitude for what I have and release my expectations for my future. I do think this is a valid course of action, although it’s probably more like 20% control and less like the 80% control I think I have, but I can choose where I let myself dwell and thus how feel, sort of. I have a death grip on this self control thing, and even though I have a failing chance at accomplishing such feelings maintenance I find it’s better than the alternative, which is the constant emotional altitude sickness from the highs and lows of hope and disappointment. Because if I’m honest I think IVF will work and I’ll get a positive pregnancy test in two weeks but I wish desperately that I could be indifferent about the outcome, which is to say I wish I was a robot.
A therapist might tell me that all I’m really doing is not allowing myself to feel what I’m actually feeling which is a whole mess of sadness, fear, hope, excitement, anxiety and general botheration. But that therapist would be wrong because I like my control, 20% as it may be, and it helps me cope and therapists like when we cope. Imaginary therapist aside I do not think we are victims to our feelings, and so there is a lot of wisdom to chosen gratitude and thus peace, there is however no truth to the fact that I can keep myself from becoming hopeful and thus protecting myself from disappointment.
Because hope implies an unknown outcome there is beauty and pain wrapped up in the idea. There is always an existing, but nagging, voice that tells us we might have been fools to hope’s promises. It’s part of what makes pain so hard, especially sudden or unexpected pain, because the greater we hoped the further we fall. I think this is part of what make religion so difficult for me sometimes, it gives us so much hope and yet I can’t keep myself from often thinking, “what if it’s all for nothing.”
I was at work the other day and a friend played a video from a prominent church that does a great job allowing viewers to access sermons and church experiences via the world wide web. They are so damn hip and trendy, except as the church always is, it fell short of what’s actually at the tip of the cultural spear. I was watching this pastor that came across so narcissistic I’m not even sure of the content of his message except that he had a beard and was wearing Saint Laurent and made note several times of how his message had turned peoples lives around. His vibes read like the arrogance of Kanye West without the cool. I sat there watching and thought, gross I really wish I wasn’t a part of this.
I’m from a generation that has been inundated with ads our whole lives and so we know them and thus can detect them very easily. Sermons that are trying to make the Christian belief to be something a lot easier, more believable and much happier version of itself can be sniffed out really quickly as the bad sales pitch that it is. Religion is hard, it takes faith in spite of questions and a giving of one’s life to a greater call.
So I already have this nagging feeling that we’re all faking it and faith is one huge sales pitch and then my sister sends me an article. It’s about Christians leaving their faith written by a very biased author who is part of a support network for ex-pastors and who seems to believe all Christians are sexist homophobes, but the content still got to me. The point of the interview was to expose the difficulty in leaving a religious system because with the exit goes friends, family and careers. In the process of making his argument he interviews several former Christians and they all state that one of their main reason for unbelief was the unreliability of the Bible. While reading this article I disagreed with, I had a humming underneath my newfound faith that might be deeply and truly part of me, the part of me that thinks they’re right, that faith and hope is a joke. It doesn’t take much to remind me that I’m a skeptic, that even though I’ve been inundated with positive Christian study and have come to a place where I believe in God, there is a deep part of me that struggles to believe. I’ve heard the best arguments for the reliability of the Bible and it’s really not that convincing. It’s only by faith that I could buy into it and my faith, I have come to realize, is clearly very shaky.
So I will finally circle back around to my first point, hope. When I had that familiar feeling that I didn’t believe, it was accompanied by the embarrassment that I’m a fool. I’m a fool who wanted so bad for her faith to be real that she threw herself into study with people who could convince her of what she wanted to believe. When the truth might be that it’s one elaborate fairytale. Hope is liar, she lures you in with the promise of a better future and convinces anyone who will listen that she can provide tomorrow’s joys. It’s brutal when we realize we fell for her tactics using our desires against us, the humiliation makes disappointment worse which is just cruel.
Because the truth is, hope lets us down all the time. I may never be a mother and hope has convinced me I might be. Hope has made me to believe this life is for some greater purpose and that might not be true. And yet, what if she’s right, what if hope does know best in some cases? What if she was put here for a divine reason, to lead us to and remind us that the thing our very being desires most is here and is to come. It’s a risk to believe her, but it’s also a risk not to.