In my dark ages, as I rode my bike to work one cold winter morning, I noticed holiday lights sparkling along the way. My heart sparkled, and like the moment kindling bursts into flames, my body filled with warmth.
The embers inside me had gone cold in difficult times, and warmth seemed like an external feeling—in warm places with warm people, I was cosy, and I’d thought that was enough. The inner fire sparked by those lights was Hope. I said the word out loud to the still morning air (the word still warms my lips; it feels like “open,” right?). For the first time in forever, I was excited about the future. I had nothing specific I was thinking of or looking forward to, I just knew “things” could be better than cosy, would be better, and I could feel warmth any time I needed to.
I’ve read and thought a lot about hope since then, committing to feeding its flames so I could move forward through helpless, seemingly hopeless times.
There’s a buffet of things to feel hopeless about, take your pick. My plate is full with the climate crisis and people without housing, but there’s lots to go around. War, political drama, racism, colonialism, the patriarchy, billionaires, nazis—no shortage of horrors. Maybe your hopelessness is more intimate and immediate, a devastating family situation or personal monsters. No shortage of those either.
And yet, I feel hopeful. Like fire, hope both needs energy to get started and is a source of energy. You feed it and it feeds you.
Here are my steps to hope.
What lights you up? What gives you energy? Do that. Delight in it! Magnificent joy can feel disrespectful when the world is literally burning (maybe fire wasn’t such a great metaphor to pick, oops). But I promise you, we all need your spark. We need your joy and inspiration.
I watched a video about the secret to keeping your house clean (wild life I lead, I know). The secret? Exercise. The YouTuber found that when she exercised regularly, she had more energy, so instead of crashing on the couch, she dusted and vacuumed.
Movement = energy and energy = hope.
For me, spending time outdoors gives me exercise, delight, and motivation to protect and nurture the outdoors.
Focus the Energy
When my kids were younger, we tried to help with every crisis they heard about. I figured a good antidote to feeling powerless is using the powers we do have, so the kids and I would research and send money, books, supplies, whatever, to people involved in each crisis or organizations helping them. The donations quickly felt like smaller and smaller drops in bigger and bigger buckets and making decisions was overwhelming. I eventually picked two areas to focus on, which instantly relieved the drain of choosing what to send where. The areas change over time, and none of it’s rigid, it’s simply a matter of not spreading energy too thin.
When people put sparks together? Fireworks. Actively seeking out people who are making a difference is magical. It can be online, in person, through books, charities, politics—find people trying to change the thing that most worries or upsets you about your life or the world and you will see possibilities you didn’t dare dream of. We’re in this mess of a life together.
Nurture your spark. Move your body. Share your energy with others and welcome theirs. I’m excited to see what we can do, and I hope you are too.