What’s This Hope Thing?

While the Harney & Sons African Autumn is steeping, I thought I should write a little bit about hope.

One thing that some people have told me over the years is that in order to have survived the years with my parents, I must have had hope.

Well. No, I’d say.

And they would be horrified or they would insist I did feel hope after all, as if you couldn’t live through a horrible, nasty situation without it.

Nope, sorry, lived those decades, am sure I’d know hope when I feel it—indeed, I felt it during the 2008 election, because President Barack Obama is awesome.

I didn’t feel that kind of feeling until 2008, I think. Maybe that’s just part and parcel of having been afraid all those years; it crowds everything else out.

Sometimes what gets you through is survival instinct; it just happens. The gods do not bless you with hope just because you’re having an awful time, even if you are having the kind of time that truly would be called, from every sane viewpoint, awful.

Basically I survived all those years because living was better than dying. It might have been a mean life without hope or dreams of betterment, with nothing but the present and only a bare modicum of future, dragged down by the past at every step—but it was still better than dying.

And actually, it wasn’t fear of dying that drove me to, well, not die for so long.

It’s because dying would be humiliating.

Disparage everything and anything about me; but I will never be without some scrap of dignity, however small it might have to be. (And trust me, during the years with my parents, my father left me with very little dignity.)

So basically I’m driven on by the desire to not be humiliated. It still drives me. You could possibly hang honor or duty off of that.

Still, I’m pretty sure it’s a depressing answer to those folks who insist I must have been driven by hope—or by its sister, faith. All I can say is, my life story is probably not the one you want to look at if you want to dispel all doubt that God exists and is benevolent. If you’re going to have faith, you need to have it without looking for supporting evidence from someone’s suffering. That’s kind of the point.

(I swear, it’s like I’m the Matchstick Girl at these times.)

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