Staying hopeful

We recently published the second issue of The Third Space, our online magazine hosted by the excellent Medium. Our theme this time is Hope. We’ve shared five articles written by those with experience in the not-for-profit and public sectors, sharing ideas on what hope looks like for them.

On the blog today I wanted to share a piece from The Third Space written by one of our incredible facilitators – Michaela Horan. The piece needs very little introduction, so I invite you to sit back and have a read of her beautiful reflections on hope…

Sometimes I get totally absorbed by life. Weighed down by expectation. Totally lost in the needs of others. So far off my own track, I lose my sense of what it’s all for, and why I’m doing it in the first place. Life becomes one long to do list. I jump from task to task, with little time to grab a breath between. I rush through tasks, desperate to get to the end of the to do list — to put a tick next to each task, so I can move onto the next one.

In these moments, I am every ounce a human doing, and much less a human being. In this space my mind can become a dangerous place. Anxieties bubble up, and torment me when I least want them to. I get lurches of fear about imagined futures, or things I’m not dealing with as well as I ‘should’. I get distracted by my failures. My not-enoughness. It’s brutal. It’s a kind of survival, but not much else. In these moments, I lose my way. I don’t know which way is up.

And in these moments hope feels a long way away. Hope can feel out of reach. Hope feels like a distant dream.

Because all I can think about is doing. And then doing some more. And some more. My existence is jam packed.

And as for hope — well, hope is spacious. Hope is outward and upward looking. Hope is roomy and expansive. Hope is light and uplifting. Hope is bright and appealing. And when life is full and busy and all about the doing, and barely about the being — hope feels impossible. It feels a bit ridiculous. Almost irrelevant.

So what helps me bridge that gap — that space between the doing, and the hoping. What’s in that space? What helps me experience a glimmer of that uplifting exuberance when I feel ground down in the present? Because let’s face it — hope is a future looking feeling. Hope, by its very nature, is about what’s to come — what may unfold down the line. Hope is about imagining something better than the here and now. It’s about projecting yourself into a more appealing reality.

And yet, the experience of hope is very much in the here and now. It’s a delicious, present-moment occurrence when it comes.

And to access it requires a change of gear that can feel nearly impossible when life feels heavy. And as anyone who’s ever changed gears in a car will know, first you have to engage the clutch. Which disengages the engine for a moment. Which prevents the gears from grinding and crunching, and damaging the car’s engine. To change gear you have to press the clutch. You have to free wheel for a moment in order to access the new gear. You have to enter some kind of driving no man’s land called ‘coasting’.

And that’s no different in my life. I have to press down the clutch. I have to pause, and coast for a bit.

For me, that looks like breathing consciously. It looks like observing my thoughts, rather than believing them. It looks like engaging in a minute of meditation — or simply just sitting still and listening to the sounds around me. It means stopping what I’m doing, however briefly, and noticing my muscles unfurl. Feeling something in my neck unclench. Noticing the sensations in my body — the lactic acid in my shoulders, the fluttering in my chest, the churning in my stomach. It’s noticing the noise of the fridge in the corner. The gurgle in my dog’s stomach. The ticking of the clock on the wall. The sounds of the space I’m in. The feel of my feet on the floor. The birds singing outside…

And once I’ve done that — once I’ve coasted for a bit, there’s always a shift. And oftentimes it doesn’t feel like a dramatic gear change. But I always feel altered. I definitely feel more receptive, and more appreciative of the moment I’m in. Because I’ve stopped racing forward at a break neck speed. I’ve entered my own no man’s land where anything is possible. Where ideas and inspirations appear as if from nowhere. Where I remember something important I’ve long forgotten.

And it’s in this space that hope becomes an option again. It rarely presents itself to me as a tidily wrapped package. Usually it’s more of a slow burn. A small glow, and glimmer of warmth, a ray of sun that pokes through an otherwise cloudy sky.

And from here it can, and does grow. From here it becomes something more tangible.

Here, I am hopeful.

To read more articles like this check out The Third Space.

With love, Hannah and team Bird

Photo by Hillie Chan on Unsplash

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