The Fragility Of Hope & Goldfish

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Am I the only one who has a love/hate relationship with hope? Or is it a love to hate kinda thing? Either way, we see its value and appreciate its place in the human experience. If nothing else, it’s like a warm blank and a hot cup of tea on a stormy day. It brings the snuggles, the vague sense of security, and we bring the realists guide to cynicism for lite reading.

Is there a better way to spend a cold and stormy day? There is one problem. It’s relatively minor, and I shouldn’t even bring it up. But here I go, poking the proverbial nest. 

If I know anything? There’s a fine line between realism and pessimism, and that line get’s very blurry. It’s been washed out, scuffed, and repainted so many times it’s hard to tell if it’s in the right place. Wasn’t the line a little bit more to the left? I could’ve sworn it was further away, but here we are, straddling it again.

A toe in each pool like goldfish in a tutu. Hopeful the water in one will be warmer than the other. This one? That one? Oo, it’s hard to tell. But that’s life, you see. It’s a confusing pond that runs scorching hot and freezing cold simultaneously. Poor little golden fish just wants to go for a nice swim and do a pirouette.

Huh, that analogy is getting a little off track. Perhaps I don’t know enough about fish? When I was a kid, we had a goldfish named…something. I can’t remember. It only lived for about a week, I think. Poor thing, I still remember the sound of the toilet flushing. It was the best of times— for six and a half days— and it was the worst of times.

Sigh. Where was I? Right, the ecstasy and tragedy of hope. The fragile little beast has about as much staying power as that goldfish. It’s fun at first, face pressed against the aquarium. It’s decorated with greenery and a plastic man wearing diving gear. Hope swims in lazy circles until you sprinkle some food, and then it nibbles at the surface.

It’s all lovely until you wake up one morning to find it belly up, and your dad is telling you about the burial rights of the Carassius Auratus (aka: goldfish). Ah, what a way to go.

Is it any wonder that I often find myself in a tug of war with this pesky emotion? Is hope an emotion? Is it a mental illness that needs treatment or a demon that needs excising? Did I plant two feet over the line, and now I’m treading water? 

It’s a silly question to ask: is hope an emotion, a mental health crisis, or is it something else? A state of being that’s reflexive or a deliberate decision to view our circumstances differently. Is it a conscious step or a reactive one?

This might be one of those things where the answer is: D, all of the above. Perhaps that’s why I have such a fractious relationship with this four-letter word. It’s everything, and then it’s nothing. It takes me by the hand and drags me forward when I don’t think I can walk another step. Then, out of nowhere, it lets me fall flat on my face and disappears into the ether. Poof! Gone. Come back. Please? 

No, wait, stay away. I don’t want you anymore. You’re a liar and a cad. You give me warm and fuzzy feelings, then you leave me with a black eye. I don’t want to play your game anymore.

But I miss the warm and fuzzies.

As I sit in a puddle of mud, staring up at the sky whence it vanished, I clench my jaw, shake my fist, and say, “No more! You won’t fool me, entice me or trick me into taking your hand. I’m onto your wicked ways, and I won’t do it again. Do you hear me? Never!”

In the distance, there’s a faint chuckle because we both know I’m a sucker and when I’m presented with reason to have hope again? Well, I fall for it every damn time because surely it will be different. It just has to. There’s no way that it will let me take another tumble. Hope wouldn’t do me dirty like that.

Oh, yes, it will my gullible little friend. Just wait and see. *Insert evil laugh here*

If you’ve been around for awhile, you’ll know that I’ve been looking for a new job on and off for a few months. It’s a great time to try and make a major life change, isn’t it? Right, smack dab in the middle of a pandoodle (just go with it, it makes me happy). It’s not like the majority of the population is in a similar position, and we outpace the number of opportunities. Ha, that would be silly and make this process damn near impossible.


Photo by Monica Silvestre from Pexels

But I recently came close to scoring a really brilliant opportunity. It was something I was actually qualified for, and it would’ve put my theatre degree to use. Yeah, don’t get a theatre degree. They’re basically useless unless you find yourself with a really nifty job posting.

There were several interviews, and I have to say, the whole experience was actually quite enjoyable for what it was. They’re really cool people, and they’re doing amazing things. More than anything, they were really nice and kind. It’s a quality that should never be undervalued or under-appreciated.

Of course, me being me and my luck being what it is, they went with someone else. Naturally, there’s no surprise there. If you could see my shocked face you would assume I was a mannequin. 

I’ve never been the person people gravitate towards or pick first, second, or even tenth. The whole team would have to come down with food poisoning before the coach remembered I was on the bench. Oh, it’s you, well, okay in you go.

Maybe it’s because I’m immensely shy and socially awkward. I’m about 98% introverted, with the occasional spurts of extroversion that come as quite a surprise to everyone involved. Yes, that includes me. Where did that come from? Why can’t I be that charming and outgoing all the time? At the very least, let’s switch the numerics so I can be 98% extrovert.

That would be so lovely and helpful. Ah, to be a normal, functioning person for five minutes longer. But no! It’s not meant to be. For better or worse, I meant to be me. All awkward, weird, and stuff.

Before I continue, I want to say one thing with zero sarcasm or bitterness: I wish them all the best. They’re good people that are doing good work. They deserve success, happiness, and all the best the world has to offer. There’s absolutely no chance that they’re reading this but, thank you for the opportunity. May you receive a million blessings in your lives.

I can’t imagine what life would be like without a little bit of hope. Can you?

Ah, but the experience left me, once again grappling with my contentious relationship with hope. It picked me up, flew me to the moon, and it showed me the wonders of the cosmos. We danced among the constellations, twirled across the rings of Saturn (that’s the planet with rings, yeah?), and we ate popcorn as we watched the birth of a new star.

For a short while, it was absolutely glorious, and I thought, ever so briefly, that it would never end. This was it! The beginning of a new era of happiness and wonder. Me and hope, together forever.

But that was a rookie mistake, and I’m such a fool.

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

Wow, that was a sudden shift in mood and tone. How’s your neck? Any signs of whiplash? No? Good, phew, but also you get it now, don’t you? The sudden drop from the edge of the earth’s atmosphere. The stomach plummeting sensation. Do I need to insert another evil laugh? I think I do so, do it. Laugh maniacally.

Hope isn’t supposed to be a bad thing. It’s supposed to inspire us to keep going, try one more time, or hold on a little longer. It’s should be our own personal cheerleader, not a trickster. It’s the last resort when nothing is going right, but you can’t bring yourself to quit; you have hope.

Except, I find myself oscillating between two extremes. I either have an abundance of hope or none at all. The desire to have it remains constant despite my instance that’ll I never fall for it again. Oh, I wish it would pick a lane. All or nothing but hopefully the former.

Damn it, I did it again. I can’t quit you!

I have a fragile relationship with hope that I can’t walk away from no matter how fast I run. It’s a liar and a cheat. It lulls me into a false sense of security. It leaves me feeling powerless and desperate. It’s a sucker punch to the gut the deprives me of breath.

It also keeps me grounded when all I want to do is close my eyes and drift away. It’s the voice that whispers, “It can get better,” when everything feels broken beyond repair. When I’m too tired to get out of bed, it’s the shot of adrenaline that gets me moving, trying, praying. It’s a compass in my quest for belonging, acceptance, and a little bit of love. 

It’s the dirtiest four-letter word I can think of because it’s everything, and it’s nothing. A lover and a hater. A peace giver and a warmonger. It’s so damn complicated, but it’s also the simplest thing. Hope carries a world of possibilities, dreams, but it conjures up a few nightmares.  

It’s a tight rope to walk, but I can’t imagine not taking the next step. I can’t give it up. I can’t imagine what life would be like without a little bit of hope. Can you?


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