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No, hope is not completely lost.  However, it has become such a weakened word that I have found no reason to utter it.

Maybe I need to start at the beginning.  Well, or perhaps it is merely just coming clean.  I have been diagnosed with Myofascial Pain Syndrome and have every conceivable symptom of Fibromyalgia.  The latter has been my dirty little secret…from myself.  I don’t want to own up to it.  Don’t want the label.  I want to be that vibrant me that I see in my head, not the pain ridden, sluggish feeling, bumbler of words, that the me I knew is now casted inside of.   Each day is comprised of breaking free and not allowing it to harden around my heart and spirit.

Photo credit: http://www.facebook.com/LikePositivity

During this struggle, of which I lost count of the days and years I’ve endured, hope was the last word I found comfort in.  It did not leave me, it just no longer helped sustain me.  It was the words of a fellow blogger and fibro sufferer that brought to light exactly where I lost my hope in hope.

Laura explains, through her blog Fighting Fibromyalgia, how hope eluded her:

“Hope has become this intangible thing to me that I can’t rely on anymore.  I have to take a more active role in my fate now and learn to manage my pain.  I can’t just rely on “hope” to get me through.  I do hope for a pain-free future with no fibromyalgia.  I don’t feel a sense of hope anymore.  I can’t place my trust in hope. “

I, like her, began to have this same look on hope.  After all, I had hoped my doctor could give me answers for alleviating my pain and I got none.  I had hoped he would understand the depth of pain, he did not.  I had hoped to gain some of my life back under his care, he, again, let me down.  I lost all hope.  And on those bad days, I had hoped others could truly understand how frustrating and disparaging it is to feel so useless and so physically and often mentally incompetent while you are letting yourself and everyone else down.  Only more despair was found; no hope.  Laura’s words went on to further explain perfectly how I felt, “Hope, for me, has become like winning the lottery.  You really want to win the lottery, but the odds are stacked against you.”  I, too, feel like I am putting every last penny I have on chances and hoping against a hope that will never bring me a win.

We often begin an encouragement to someone with “ I hope”.  “I hope you feel better soon.”  “ I hope you get the job.”  But upon immediately writing the word “hope”, I now stop, consider it’s insignificance and often times delete it.  The expression of it is not powerful enough, especially in times of great sorrow or trials.  There is no action in it.  It did nothing to alleviate the hurt, pain and sorrow of the person I expressed it to.  The word feels empty.  And any temporary alleviation of pain in expressing it is too easily dispelled.

Consider the opposite of hope; despair. Isn’t it an ominous, dark, and foreboding word?  And set against hope, say, in a tug of war, the word hope seems too dainty to cast down such a foe.  I see despair dug in deep with hope flitting about with the same unchartered course as a gnat.

The cocoon of this disease can’t hold me forever.  I’ll emerge as that butterfly again some day, but I can’t hope it will happen. Can I?   The desire is there to float, fly and move freely again, but it reaches much further beyond hope.  Doesn’t it?  A more determined and focused verb than hope is needed.  Isn’t it? That is what I thought, until I dug further into hope.

This is Webster’s definition of hope ~

1: to desire with expectation of obtainment

2: to expect with confidence

Nothing surprising there, right?  We hold onto for hope for something we desire with some level of expectation.  But what this definition does not express is what lies within hope. You might be surprised what is really packed within those four letters.

We can start with Charles R. Snyder, a specialist in positive psychology, one of the first developers of positive psychology and writer of“Positive Psychology” (the first textbook in that field according to Wikipedia).  Quite a bit of good vibes wrapped up in that sentence.  So, would you be surprised if I told you that his work and theories stem from two words: hope and forgiveness?  Of course, I’ll be focusing on his theory of hope, however, forgiveness is something that can never be taken lightly if we are to heal. (I forgive my doctor for giving up on me, when I put so much hope in him.  And I forgive myself, the entombed me, when I no longer meet my former self’s expectations.)

Snyder did not want to merely read and study it via what others had compiled, so while on a sabbatical, he decided to observe and interact with people to determine his own “hope theory”.   Within that study he developed this definition: “Hope is the sum of the mental willpower and waypower that you have for your goals”.

Now, I was starting to find some substance in what I had begun to perceive as a wimpy word.  Hope was no longer one dimensional; it was beginning to gain depth and purpose.  So what is hope’s purpose?  How much self~empowerment is packed into it’s equaled consonants and vowels?    And what are these things called willpower and waypower?  Here is Snyder’s description:

“Willpower is the driving force in hopeful thinking”

“Waypower reflects the mental plans or road maps that guide hopeful thought”

This is where the real grit and teeth of what hope can be began to emerge.  I was beginning to feel some life come back into it.

Furthering my renewal of hope, I found this explanation of Synder’s theory quite enlightening:

The difference between hope and optimism: hope entails pathways and thoughts to an intended goal. Optimism leads one to “expect the best, but it does not necessarily provide any critical thinking about how we are going to arrive at this improved future”

Doesn’t this now sound like something I may actually have some control of?   But for some reason I haven’t felt like I did.

You see, I view my self as a “glass half full” type of person, thus an optimist.  However, if that is truly me, am I not in a sense, according to Snyder’s theory, putting a lid on my own cup? Am I the one keeping it from becoming full?  After all, I cannot expect it to be full by just letting it sit there.   I have to invest in it.  I have to increase my own odds.  I have to work to earn the amount required for my purchase, chose my numbers, buy the ticket and cross my fingers that all my effort and plans pay off.  I have to hopefor the best.  But it will not be by mere coincidence that this hope pays off; I’ve put something into it.  But this still doesn’t seem like enough.

Try as I may, the lottery ticket example is falling short of portraying the true dedication that is actually put into hope.  Hope can’t be about putting all your faith in the luck of the draw or other’s hands, as I did my doctor.  Hope is making the right decisions for ourselves to attain a desired outcome.  It is the giving of something in order to have any chance of gaining more than we had.  And it has to be drawn from something more than just a hat.

I think we all agree that in order to have our fair chance at the lottery winning we need  to first obtain the ticket  However, it still remains a mere one in a million chance.  And we know our odds can be increased by how much we invest.  But the same could be said for hope.  But here is the key thing I learned about hope~  How much you put forth makes a huge difference in the size of the pot of gold at the end.  Remember that waypower and willpower? It won’t make that ticket a winner, however the more you bet on yourself by utilizing the best within you, the greater your reward. And even greater still~ you create more hope.

Yes, it’s true, the more hope you have, the higher the goals that can and will be attained.  You may be asking yourself, can I have more hope?  Absolutely!  In fact, there is actually a measure of hope. Who knew?

In my search to find strength in hope, I found this information in an article in the New York Times, by Daniel Goleman, that explains just what our sense of hope entails and what is gained by having it:

Dr. Snyder found that people with high levels of hope share several attributes:

*Unlike people who are low in hope, they turn to friends for advice on how to achieve their goals.

*They tell themselves they can succeed at what they need to do.

*Even in a tight spot, they tell themselves things will get better as time goes on.

*They are flexible enough to find different ways to get to their goals.

*If hope for one goal fades, they aim for another. “Those low in hope tend to become fixated on one goal, and persist even when they find themselves blocked,” Dr. Snyder said. “They just stay at it and get frustrated.”

*They show an ability to break a formidable task into specific, achievable chunks. “People low in hope see only the large goal, and not the small steps to it along the way,” Dr. Snyder said. Scales Measuring Lack of Hope

Perhaps after all hope is what I, we, all need. In fact, it is actually what I’ve had along.  Hope is no longer a word of expectation; it is the small seed that once planted within us will bring about the determination, confidence, and the will power to stand against the moments of despair. The power of this, now tended by our inner will, can grow deep, strong roots and hold us grounded to the earth while growing upright. It is this new hope that will dispel the wrath of any evil that attempts to pull us down. Hope is not finite in how it is used, obtained, or the abundance created and gathered.  And even more importantly it can be shared.

I can now say: I have renewed hope and believe hope will renew me.

So, I put the question to you one more time~ How much self~empowerment is packed into “hope’s” equaled consonants and vowels?  That, my hopeful friend, can only be weighed and measure by the individual.  What is the measurement of hope you plan to carry or create?

  ~I have high hopes for us all.~

Photo credit:  http://covcommunity.org/web/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/hoperestored.jpg

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