I'm sad. There. I wrote it. Now, maybe I can get past it, but I'm not too hopeful. This sadness has stuck around for quite a while, and sometimes it is so pervasive I take a nap. While dreaming, I imagine a bright neon world complete with flashing billboards, sparklingly clean sidewalks, and everyone wearing the same black high collared uniform. When I wake, I'm even more depressed. I hate neon.
There is also hope in there somewhere. It is hard to find at times, and usually is found while trekking through redwoods or washing rice or sitting quietly at Progressive Grounds with my magenta pen scribbling across a page. Occasionally, hope visits when I'm lost in Facebook in the form of an article by Rebecca Solnit about the hope of the Occupy movement or a cheeky music video like George Michael's "Outside" or a simple status update about birthday thanks. I try holding on to those moments as much as possible. Mostly, though, they slip through my fingers and run as tears down my cheeks.
It is easy to stay sad and give up on hope, especially when it seems so fleeting and intangible. Hope is not visiting me as a steady income or as economic security. I cannot touch hope, and yet its presence, when there, is physiological. I feel my feet lighten and my heart slow when it is near. In fact, my physiological reaction is better than any drug, and certainly more addictive. The crashes, too, are there.
Nowadays, the crashes are bigger, longer, more depressing, so I go chasing hope. I run to the beach, a protest, an experimental performance, a cafe. I'm constantly on the go hoping that hope will find me and stick around for a little longer. Sometimes, like my meeting with Roland and Dawn at the Pacific School of Religion, I find it the quiet moments of possibility where we discuss using theater to open dialogue among LGBTQQIA youth about their personal spiritual beliefs. (I can't imagine what it would have been like to have an opportunity when I was 16 to talk about being out and spiritual.) Those kinds of moments can sustain me for a day or two. Then, like all drugs, hope is gone, and I am back chasing some other hope. It gets tiring.
There is nothing wrong with chasing hope. I have noticed how sad so many other people are. It pops up in blog comments, status updates, turned down eyes, fidgety fingers. I see it as my neighbor walks down the street with his hunched shoulders and shuffling feet. I find it in the 80-year-old Hawaiian woman at McDonald's as she stares out the window every day. It is right below the surface for most these days. It seems a major depression haunts our collective psyche. At least by chasing hope, I have found a way to cope.
I have also seen my temporary hope expressed through shared smiles ripple. I have sat with people in a cafe, listened to their stories, and shared mine. In this exchange, I tend to stay positive, which results in smiles and hugs and more positive outlooks. The exchange even gives me a momentary lightness. Yet always, always, it fades the further I get from that moment. And we live in a linear world, so I am always getting further away.
Lately, though, I have wondered about hiding my sadness. I wonder if hiding it makes it seem that I am fine and don't need help. I wonder if hiding it delays its eventual departure. I wonder if hiding it is hiding truth. I also wonder if in hiding my sadness I am projecting a reality that can never be.
I have told myself that I want to be a point of inspiration for others, that I want to be beacon in these tumultuous times, that I want to provide renewal especially to those on the frontlines of the struggle for social justice. In that narrative, I have chosen to highlight hope because I have believed that there isn't enough hope. If I want to see more hope in the world, I must model it even when I don't feel it.
I am now beginning to realize that hope only exists in relation to sadness. I feel its physiological presence precisely because it ameliorates my sadness. And I wonder if in "faking it until I make it" I am postponing harmony and balance. Maybe if I truly acknowledge sadness, I can let it be and thus be at peace with it. Maybe I won't need to chase hope.
Instead, maybe hope will chase me.
This is Part One of a two-part blog post on interdependence. The next post, titled "Hope Found" will be published on 11/8/2011.
The photos below were taken on the day of the above post as Jason chased hope through the Presidio.