on the productivity of hope, and baby deer
Updated: Aug 31, 2020
We are in difficult days. We are in the midst of global pandemic, a racial justice uprising, a divided country, a crucial election, an unemployment and health crisis, a drastic shift in climate, etc, etc, etc.
It has been very easy for me to slip into the narrative “nothing will ever change, this is the apocalypse.” My mind wakes each morning wanting to give in to the dark thoughts that equity and freedom can’t be achieved, that there will never be a cure to this virus, that my field, my art, my community, is gone forever. That we will never again rest or laugh or celebrate.
But. Beyond the fact that these sentiments are simply and actually untrue (or I sincerely believe them to be untrue), they are not useful. Doom and pessimism are tools for oppressors. It is easy to manipulate or overtake people who have given up. I am less useful and active when I assume the worst. Hope, however, has been productive for me. Operating and moving through my day with the assumption that not only can things get better, but that they will, especially if I persist in trying to make them so, has felt like a better tactic than throwing up my hands and saying “it’s all too much”. We are all desperately clinging to the possibility of things getting better, and often our grip is too tired to sustain. And that's okay. It’s okay to fall apart. It's justified. Fall apart as many times as you need to. Spend a whole day in bed. These days, waking up and drinking water is a success in and of itself. Everything sucks an unbelievable amount. I’m not here to tell you it doesn’t. I am scared, sad, exhausted, angry, and heartbroken every second of every day, as I am sure many of us are. Our world, as we know it, is being destroyed.
But ya know, maybe it should be. Everything is coming down because it isn’t functioning, not for most of us. It never really was. For the Black & Indigenous community in America the system was literally designed not to serve them. Destruction means re-creation. When something comes down, another thing takes its place. And we are in the poised position to imagine and dream and work towards what we will replace it with. If we wake up every day knowing we are participating in justice movements, bettering ourselves, taking care of ourselves and our communities to the best of our abilities in preparation for the sun coming out after this hellish storm, we will be ready for the sun when it comes.
Stay hopeful. Hope is productive. Also, I don't mean "hope" as in naive optimism or a dismissal of struggle or hardship. Absolutely cope in the ways you need to. If hope doesn't serve you in the way it does me, by all means, ignore this post. I understand fully that hope in its most corny form is a luxury, even a frivolity (AND I want to point out that even though hope is a privilege, so is pessimism). I don't mean "hope" in like a "live laugh love, pull yourself up by your bootstraps" way. I mean hope as in a deep and almost carnal trust in people, in organization, in resilience, in strength, in nature, in justice, in self, and in capacity for change. I mean grounding in and pulling power from what is possible. I mean refusal to accept that this is as good as it will ever be. No matter how terrible we feel, what we can control is our own personal small movements toward a better world after this one comes down. That new world exists - because we will make it so.
It can be almost impossible to let go of a path you've put yourself on. You find yourself on a path you have worked on and trudged through and created that you feel you owe it to yourself to stay within the parameters you worked so hard to establish. Many of us had paths we were on, lives we thought we had before losing jobs, safety, health, stability, trust in the police or the government. But as impossible as it is, it can be rewarding to let it go, to start anew, and to grow and create and struggle in a different direction. To triumphantly build and destroy all over again.
I went back to Virginia, where my parents live (and where my partner and I are now living to plan out whatever our next move is) at the end of last year. Fresh out of the decision to leave school and feeling lost and listless. I sat on the couch with my mom, trying to answer the question of “what happens now?” My mom looked at me with the curiosity and worry she has my whole life. And then she told a perfect story for the moment, as she often does. She said earlier that week she saw a family of deer run through the yard and shortly after a baby deer followed them but stopped because she realized she didn't see where they went. So she froze, closed her eyes, and listened. She said it was like the deer was using the force, connecting to the universe to find an answer. After a moment, she opened her eyes, and followed confidently in the direction of her family. After this story my mom said "in this tough time, be the baby deer, stop and listen and then make a move. And then keep doing that over and over again."
May we all, in this time of uncertainty and fear and change, have the courage and patience to stop and listen to what our universe is telling us.
These days, I am trying to be more like the baby deer. And trust that if I dig in deep and listen close and hold my hope tighter than I hold my cynicism and fear, I will know what to do next in service of a better world that I hope - that I know - is on the horizon.