For many of us, our 2020 outlook was dingy at times and full of sharp edges at other times. It’s now a new year, and boy did it arrive in an explosive way. Last year, and its current new year counterpart, have kind of felt like we’ve experienced an entire lifetime of uncertainty tempered by acute feelings of fear and anxiety with no relief!
Who of us want that to be our 2021 way of being?
Not me. Same-o, same-o just doesn’t work for me. We cannot change what has transpired and have marginal ability to shape what is to come, but I relish the opportunity to control what is within my personal ability to control:
I choose to enter this new year by altering the way I respond to it. When I change my outlook, I have the chance of changing my response. When I change my response, I might be able to paint the way others choose to respond. If that sounds too good to be true, please know it is not. Everything we say and do influences those around us – whether someone living in our own household or the strangers we encounter in the community. We can choose to come from a place of possibilities rather than defeat; from a place of nourishment rather than a viral place of bitterness.
We are all harboring sad and bitter emotions – many of them resultant from the events of 2020. We can’t change the past, but we can create a better present that might turn into a more hopeful future. And let me tell you a secret…sometimes you just have to fake it until you make it. Who knows, you might be so convincing, you’ll be able to drop your efforts at fakery and actually flourish in your new found well-being.
I want that for me, and I want that for you.
Won’t you give it a try with me?
The Seattle Times newspaper has a Saturday column, Faith & Values, that spotlights a variety of religious denominations. One week there might be an article by a Catholic priest, another week, from a Rabbi, another, an Imam from the Islam faith. On Saturday, January 11th, the one who submitted her article is a minister with the Northwest Ministry Network (Assemblies of God), Jodi Detrick.
Ms. Detrick quotes several of the more well-known scriptures from the Bible that focus on hope, one of which is: “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” Romans 8:24
In my experience, I’ve found that there are many messages of hope out in the universe, and not all of them come from a spiritual text. Take Astronaut Mark Kelly’s response to Diane Sawyer on ABC’s 20/20 program a couple years ago. When talking about his wife Gabrielle Gifford’s chances for recovery from a gunshot wound to her brain, Diane Sawyer suggested that he was holding out too much hope for his wife’s successful recovery from the bullet’s onslaught. His response:
“You can’t have too much hope! That’s not practical!”
Isn’t that the truth? How limiting it would be to portion out a wee bit of hope, but not invest fully in that state of being. “In other words, it’s OK to be filled with anticipation for things that seem way out of sight and out of reach … Uncertainty is where hope does its best work,” says the columnist Jodi Detrick. Two years after the 20/20 interview, Gabrielle Giffords is doing “miraculously” better and she would argue that her day-to-day life is very complete, and very worthwhile. Thank goodness neither she, nor her husband, gave up hope!
“Hope outlasts disappointments. Not everything we hope for, happens, it’s true … Unrealized expectations can be an open door to new possibilities – options we hadn’t previously considered.” Jodi Detrick again. I agree with her statement because I’ve experienced those other possibilities. I’ve certainly couched my hopes and dreams to look a certain way, only to discover that the options I hadn’t previously considered managed to transform my hope into something better than I could have imagined.
Interestingly enough, the first hope that Jodi Detrick mentioned when she listed the types of dreams that hopeful people think about, was writing a book. I happen to be writing a book about the effects of Alzheimer’s on family caregivers and the ones for whom they are providing care – a project I started on December 29th, 2012. In the year since then, my novel has been through numerous edits – some of a substantive nature, and many that were grammar related. The mission for my book has always been to put a personal face on Alzheimer’s disease; to expand on the impressive, yet horrific, statistics on this fatal condition by making it more personal, and therefore more real.
One of my first “friendly editors” happens to have the same name as the protagonist in my book, Colleen. When Colleen read the very first draft of the very first 150 pages of my book, her first question was, “Who is your reader?” I insisted then, and I insisted for the past year, that my reader is the current or former caregiver, or the soon-to-be-caregiver who will find themselves amongst the millions of family members caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. “But does the caregiver have time for the luxury of reading a novel? Or does the caregiver even want yet something else that reeks of the challenges they are currently facing?”
Crap. Of course not. But I kept on structuring the novel in my original – and stubborn – way. My second friendly editor was a coworker who was dying of cancer. Dennis wanted me to hurry up and finish my book so he could read it – “before it’s too late.” I gave him what I had. A week later I met with him and one of the constructive suggestions he gave me was, “You should be considering this novel as a textbook.” My response: “Dennis, I’m not writing a textbook. I’m not even writing non-fiction. I chose fiction as the genre because I don’t have any sophisticated initials that signify astute knowledge, such as: MD, PhD, MSW (Masters of Social Work), and the like.”
Dennis responded, “I do have a MSW and I think your novel should be required reading for medical professionals and others directly involved in Alzheimer’s care.” I continued writing, thinking that a textbook might be a secondary use for my novel, but it would primarily be a vehicle that provides hope and promise for those intimately involved on the Alzheimer’s disease journey. (Didn’t I tell you I can be a little stubborn?)
Fast forward ten months. I had lunch two weeks ago with a friend of mine, Gwen, and a woman who lives in the same apartment building as she. This woman, Liz, works for a company that provides a remarkable early-detection testing and monitoring system for those suspected of having mild cognitive impairment. I’m not here to promote the company, I’m merely providing the background of the person I met.
My friend, Gwen, brought up the fact that I was writing a novel about Alzheimer’s with a focus on the caregiver and patient journey. Immediately, Liz suggested that the founder of her company, who among other qualifications, has a PhD in Clinical Psychology, should read my manuscript. The Curriculum Vitae for each member of this company’s scientific advisory board contains more initials after their names than letters in the alphabet. These professionals know their stuff and most of it focuses on Alzheimer’s and other dementia.
I insisted that if the founder were to read my manuscript, Liz had to pave the way and do so without putting any pressure or sense of obligation on this very busy doctor. She met with him and that afternoon, Liz e-mailed me his contact information. Phew! Very long story, short, he is now in possession of the first 150 pages (the much revised version which I printed and overnighted to him) and he is taking it with him on vacation. What?!
Indeed, what? Also – what does this mean? Can I throw all caution to the wind and have even greater hopes that he and/or his advisory board will provide valuable input so that my manuscript carries more credible weight? Can I also wonder if my manuscript’s exposure to these professionals may segue into what my now deceased friend, Dennis, suggested it should be? Required reading? Whoa! The institutions of higher learning to which these professionals are attached, to name a few, are: Duke University Medical Center, University of Washington (Seattle) Medical Center and Memory Disorder Clinic, Stanford University School of Medicine, and UC San Diego School of Medicine.
I know what you’re thinking. “Aren’t you getting way ahead of yourself Irene? You could be setting yourself up for a huge disappointment.” My response to that is: Haven’t you heard? Hope outlasts disappointments.
And so I keep on hoping.