They are able to return again to barren spaces with seeds and watering can, trusting that of course there can be new growth, of course there will be spring.
Those hearts are precious and to be emboldened by a living and hopeful heart is one of the greatest gifts of my life.
A wise woman i know recently said that without hope there would be no life, no reason for life. We need to, in our darkest moments have a sense of hope that things will get better. Knowing the cycle of life (and to extend the garden metaphor) there is a season of burgeoning growth and fruiting and there is a season of decay. When we are in decay we must trust in the fruiting that will follow.
I am also coming to see how there is a special brand of hope that my Pollyanna tendencies were not prepared for. I have labelled that toxic hope.
Toxic hope is the kind of hope that keeps you standing in shit with your forehead bloodied from banging on the same wall over and over again, hoping that you'll break through to the clean clothes, shower and soft bed you trust is on the other side.
Toxic hope keeps you in a situation, keeps you manipulating the truth in your own mind, so that you will be able to turn up again to something that is hurting so badly, in the hope that this time it will change, or in three more times it will change or next year or....
Toxic hope is the kind of hope that drains your tank and asks you for more, that does not nourish anything inside you to flourish but only keeps that weedy hope alive to the detriment of most of the other things in your garden.
Toxic hope changes the soil conditions of your life so little else will grow inside you.
Toxic hope is turning up to a nuclear waste ground and expecting to grow some veges that will feed your family.
How do you recognise it? You are diminished by your hope. You are kept in a situation that takes and takes and takes and yet you make no discernible progress. You are shifting your own goalposts for what you would like your life to be.
How do you change it? You have to change yourself. Toxic hope is your issue. The person/situation/problem/relationship etc etc you are hoping to change will either do so or not. You cannot hold them accountable for what you hope. Yep, it's sucky and hard and it is your work alone. You have to change your boundaries. You have to change your hope so that you put it in the light. You have to look honestly (not through your toxic hope goggles) and carefully at just what is in front of you.
If you are hoping for a better relationship for example, saying "I hope we can resolve this. Are you willing to walk with me to take the next step and sort this out?" is one step. The next and crucial step is paying attention to the answer. You will either get a yes or a no. Your only way of rooting out toxic hope is to listen very carefully and act accordingly. If they give you a yes and act on it you are golden. If they give you a no then you have to act on it and you are golden (eventually). If they give you a yes and do not act on it then you actually got a no and you have to act on it (and again you are golden, eventually).
How do you recover from it? When you see you have had toxic hope the first thing you might want to do is be kind to yourself. Toxic hope doesn't mean you have anything to be ashamed of or to be harsh with yourself about, in fact the richer your self care the less likely toxic hope is to reroot in your heart. If you shame your lovely self you only make yourself more likely to turn to toxic hope when things get sticky the next time. My theory on this is if we are mean to ourselves we often hope (toxically) that someone else will love us more/better/deeper than we can love ourselves. If we love ourselves generously that need to have someone else apply the love balm is not there. We can meet them replete and ready to give honestly and kindly. To turn away from a situation you have held in toxic hope requires an immense amount of patience with yourself - it's a deep groove (to quote Fabeku Fantumise) and you have a lot of digging to fill it back in. Turn your capacity to hope onto something new. I hope, for example after my recent bout of toxic hope, to be present for rich and fulfilling friendships. I am taking steps to hope that i can learn the skills, meet the people, practise the actions that will make this happen.
Toxic hope can kill people, it certainly maims hearts every day. Please don't let it be you <3
If you have any experience with toxic hope i'd love to hear about it
ps if you would like kick start to self care that isn't about mani-pedis and shopping sprees you can try one of these.