“Hope is a tease designed to prevent us from accepting reality.”
~ Violet, Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey
When I heard that quote during an episode of Downton Abbey several months ago, I immediately paused the show and wrote it down.
I had already begun gathering my thoughts about how hope isn’t always beneficial, so when one of the older, sometimes wiser characters made that statement, I was particularly struck by the timing.
I have found, based on my own experiences, that we can become addicted to hope, thinking that we can somehow control our situations and lives.
And although I truly believe in our ability to create our reality, I know for sure that we can’t actually control the outcomes. That’s simply because we don’t always know what’s best for ourselves when we’re in the midst of a situation.
Let me explain myself: When my husband and I decided to stop trying to have a second child after years of infertility and two miscarriages, it was largely because we were tired of maintaining hope that I could maybe one day become pregnant again. By constantly hoping, I was placing so much of my attention on the future.
And, perhaps most importantly, I was implying that I wouldn’t be happy until I gained something I didn’t currently have. My incessant hoping was suggesting that my family of three was somehow incomplete and lacking.
I wanted to start embracing the now, enjoying the life I do have with my one, wonderful child.
The fundamental point here is that there’s a difference between hope and optimism. Pema Chodron explains it so perfectly: “Hope is wanting to change your situation. Optimism is believing that all is well and will continue being well.”
It’s a fine line, for sure, but one that’s worth noticing.
Hope involves discontent and a desire for change. It often means you are not accepting your current reality. And it can mean that you haven’t found happiness and peace, no matter what’s happening in your life.
Optimism, on the other hand, is the belief that life is good overall and you can be happy no matter what happens. You might know what you want to happen in the future, but you trust you can be happy in any situation, even if you don’t get what you want.
To clarify, I’m not saying all hope is bad. Without it, we certainly couldn’t improve our lives and make some extremely necessary changes in society.
But when we dwell in hope, we can’t focus on the present moment. We think something is missing in the now.
I’d like to add that I recognize my decision to stop hoping for another child doesn’t mean that I’m closing and locking the door to the opportunity. I still hold onto a small bit of optimism that it’s possible that I could have a second baby. But I no longer spend a majority of my time thinking, wondering, pondering, questioning whether and when it will happen.
I have abandoned hope in this situation, and I’m happier and more peaceful because of it.
So what can you do instead of always holding on to hope? My recommendation is to remain optimistic that your situation will change or you will get whatever you desire. But first you must:
• Focus on the present moment, enjoying every second of it as it unfolds before you so that you don’t waste away your life wishing things were different, and…
• Trust the universe and surrender to the outcome. Accept that there simply is no way to guarantee the future, no matter how much you try or convince yourself otherwise. Let go of whatever you’re trying to achieve and trust that it will come to you if and when the time is right.
Author: Dina Overland
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Pierre Lognoul