Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hope and Horror

There are two kinds of hearts: those holding hope and those haunted by horror.  I am a person who has known both, and I've got to tell you - hope is better.

You know the hearts haunted by horror; perhaps you're the owner of one.  These are what we might call "Worst-case-scenario" times.  It's when we get so fixated on the most devastating possibility to the extent of blinding ourselves to anything else.  It's eyes that can see only one outcome and that outcome sucks.  Hearts haunted by horror bring past experiences, past slights, a history of less-than-desired living, and a powerless disposition into every situation and defeat us before we can even assess the battle.  In the terms of this week, it's the heart that only hears "brain tumor" and can't let go of that possibility to entertain the blessing of a differential diagnosis, even if early results look promising in another direction.  At any moment, brain tumor is the story this heart is telling to the exclusion of all other possibilities, bracing for the worst and throwing itself deeper into desperation and despair because it sees this outcome as inevitable.

Or maybe it's a heart trapped in a cycle of victimization and it doesn't know how to accept any other story.  Brain tumor would be the most dramatic, for certain.  So the haunted heart takes that story because it fits the story the heart has always known.

A haunted heart is already defeated.  It is a heart trapped in something lesser.  A haunted heart holds itself back for fear of daring for something more.  It pulls itself away.  Rips itself away.  It prepares itself for disaster without chasing a dream, then feels somehow vindicated when disaster comes.  Like the heart knew it all along.

A haunted heart has no idea what lies on the other side.

Then there are hearts that dare to hope.  These are what we might call "miracle" times.  It's when we choose to believe even the highest probability doesn't have to be the outcome, that there is something on the other side of statistics and that is hope.  It's a heart that is open to multiple outcomes, that is looking for the next break, the next chance, the next blessing, the next good moment.  It's a heart that drinks in the signs that things don't have to be as they seem and sets its sights on something more.  Hearts holding onto hope bring a sense of promise and purpose to life's situations.  They look for the deeper meaning and refuse to feel victimized.  They choose to believe in something better.  And not necessarily because there's any good reason to do so.  Simply because a heart in hope knows life is better that way.

In the terms of this week, it's the heart that hears, "It's likely a brain tumor, but we're hoping for thyroid" and is able to rejoice in a phone call saying there are indications of just that.  At any moment, this heart is telling the story that we just don't know yet, but it could be any number of things.

These hearts are different than hearts in denial.  I am not suggesting anyone cultivate a disposition to denial.  A heart truly holding hope understands that things may not work out for the greatest, but it dares to believe anyway that there's more than one answer.  It is open to the possibilities - all of them - without prejudice and it's telling the story of an open-ended question.

A hopeful heart is fully aware what lies on the other side.

Then what is the benefit?  It is attitude.  It is the way things work out when an answer comes.  It is life as we know it, love as we dream it.  A haunted heart is discouraged, and is thrown into depression by being right yet again that life sucks and these things always happen and there is nothing good and there is never any rest, never any peace.  A heart that dares to hope has left itself open to the possibilities and prepared itself to handle whatever decision comes down.  It doesn't take life as a personal attack and is not defeated by difficulties - because those difficulties aren't justification of anything.  Those difficulties do not confirm anything.  It's just how it is.

That's not saying a hopeful heart doesn't sometimes get crushed.  It doesn't say that the hopeful heart is joyful in whatever outcome.  But a hopeful heart has perspective - an honest assessment of a situation.  And it has something else - it has the time in-between.  It has no regrets over wasted moments waiting on the other shoe to drop.  It has memories of hope, of love, of joy, of agonized waiting but togetherness.  Of prayer.  Of openness.  Of possibility.  And somehow, this gives a hopeful heart the confidence to hope again one day, even in the face of an improbable outcome.

Hope is strength, and strength is love.  Love gives us back the moment and stands in the face of the improbable.  Hope is so much better.

Is yours a heart haunted or hopeful?  What would it look like to choose hope?

(As most things this week, this also comes back to an update on my big ol' fluffy Kiira: the vet called late last night to say that the second thyroid test did not pan out and that he no longer believes that a thyroid medication will be any kind of a solution for us.  For her.  Which leaves us back where we started, which is at the diagnosis of a brain tumor (diagnosed by exclusion).  We are going to talk today about the long-term plan.  We are looking at an anti-seizure medication and if we can find one that works well for her, we just kind of watch and wait to see how long it works and how effective it is.  If she starts to have what they call "break-through seizures," we will have to re-evaluate our course of action.  She has not had a seizure since the second little one on Saturday morning.  And no, I do not regret at all holding a heart of hope for her; I still hold hope.  It keeps me from pulling away from her when what we both need is each other - a little love, which is strength, which is hope.)

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