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On hope

I’ve been thinking, off and on, about hope. It’s considered buoyant, uplifting. Hope raises us up out of the pit, the anticipation of a better tomorrow, if we can just make it through today.

So it’s interesting that the related word aspire means, literally, “to breathe upon.” Not, say, “to breathe upward,” which I suppose would be anspire or anaspire.

And no, not all language is literal. After all, hope is an abstract concept and is not capable of literally lifting one out of a pit. But I still think it’s worth considering that when we English speakers talk about hope and aspirations, we talk about “breathing upon.” I suppose the etymological evolution makes sense; some hopes, we nurture and breathe into being, as if they are tiny sparks we blow on, encouraging to grow into full flame. And sometimes, blowing too hard on those tiny sparks snuffs them out.

Hope can lift us out of the pit, yes, but it’s an ephemeral thing nonetheless. An ill-timed word can shatter it. And falling back into the pit hurts worse than the first descent. I have hopes for 2014, but the potential for the rise-crash cycle keeps me wary. I play this game where I envision perfect outcomes, like “As soon as I get queries out for my book, an agent will want to represent it immediately* and it will then sell soon at auction.†”

Then I kill that hope. “Okay, so my book sold at auction and the publishing house wants to send me on tour to promote the book and, hopefully, help recoup the advance that bought me my new car. And put a solid dent in my mortgage, if not outright paying it off.‡  Then people hate the book. Everybody from The New York Times to Kirkus to the second cousin once removed of the owner of my dog’s daycare hates it, and all these people loathe it so passionately they are compelled to implore me to take up another vocation wherein I need never set fingers to keyboard again, or, ideally, even to speak, as speaking still requires the use of language and clearly I cannot be trusted with the medium.

Doing this–mentally running through best-case/worst-case scenarios–helps to keep my hope alive, but not spreading like rampant bindweed, choking all in its path. I hope (ha ha) that it remains at a level above merely “optimistic,” but not so high that having my hope shattered would shatter me.

So here’s to a hopeful 2014. May it be buoyant, and if there is a fall, may it be onto a soft, bouncy surface and not concrete. Cheers!

*I know that this is statistically unlikely, if only because most agents need at least 3 months to review things, and some much longer. But this is the perfect scenario, remember.

†Ditto; still a hypothetical perfect scenario.

‡Do I seriously need to repeat myself?

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  • Kelly January 8, 2014, 11:34 am