Whenever someone makes some annoyingly cheerful comment about hope and its longevity, I feel compelled to point out that hope can also cripple. My favorite reference is The Homeward Bounders, by Diana Wynne Jones. In this sci-fi/fantasy novel, the main characters are imprisoned by their own hope; only despair can set them free. (There – I ruined it for you.) And since humans hope and breath and live and hope, the homeward bounders are trapped forever. (Well, not forever; that’s what the story is about.)
The truth is, losing hope has its positive points. When you lose hope for a lost cause, you are free to stop investing in it and pursue not-so-lost causes. Losing hope can be an important turning point in life.
The problem is recognizing when something is a lost cause. This is what I was thinking while contemplating the possibility of another first date. I was feeling hopeful already; who knows? It might be him. He was described in a very promising way… as were all the other perfect matches I’ve been out with. But hey, who knows, maybe this time…?
I don’t want to be hopeful. It hurts to have your hopes dashed on the floor and trammeled underfoot. And then rewind and replay. And replay again. And one more time. Crash – smash – stomp – crunch. That is the soundtrack of my dating career. Hoping about a date is like putting your hand on the stove and turning on the gas. Maybe the pilot went out, but get real. You are just asking to be burned. I mean, what are the chances?
But if you don’t hope, then you’re giving up. You’re saying “I’m a hopeless cause. Never gonna get married. Time to order my Spinster Forever t-shirt.” And I’m not quite ready for that yet either.
There’s a magnet on our fridge that Mindy gave me as a graduation present. It’s the famous quote from the Queen of Hearts to Alice, in Wonderland:
Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’
‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’
I’ve never really understood this little exchange. I figured it was one of those things that sound more profound than they actually are. But as I was standing and pondering it last week (pondering the outside of the fridge instead of the inside, for once), I finally got it.
Sometimes you need to believe impossible things. Because if you didn’t, you couldn’t keep doing things that have a lottery-esque chance of happening. Like finding a spouse.
Hitting a dead end here or there on your path to accomplishing the impossible is disappointing, but not crushing, when you believe that the impossible is bound to happen sooner or later.
It’s like that old Windows screensaver trying to bash its way through a maze by sheer persistence. You can hope that each turn is going to be the right one, but you’re not crushed when it’s not, because you know it’ll get there eventually.
And maybe it’ll even be this time!
Crash – smash – stomp – crunch.
Okay, maybe not this time, but it will happen. Eventually. I believe it.
Now let’s open that fridge and get some breakfast.