I have always felt a sense of alienation from my middle name. I only disclose it reluctantly, with a wince and cloaked in a mumble.
I have always been told I have “sad eyes.” There’s a weight, I’m told, a depth, a tiredness in them. Years of watching this life’s aches have accumulated in my gaze and reflect outward.
Perhaps this is why my name feels incongruous, discordant with my tempestuous mind. My middle name, “Hope,” seems ironic. A macabre joke of the universe.
I hate to raise expectations, to disappoint. I fear people might expect some sort of unceasing optimism from me, a vigor gleaned from my namesake. But when my “sad eyes” give me away, my hopelessness is glaringly evident.
Hope. It’s a concept I’ve long rejected. I’ve seen it as only a setup for disappointment, only wishful thinking. I have seen it in others, so it’s not as if I think it’s a myth. It was simply not something meant for me, not one of the cards I was dealt. Others’ hope, though, is fruitful and sustainable. They’re worthy of good. But, as with all things good, I brand myself as the exception.
There’s been a shift, though. Hope has been altered in my mind. It’s come to clear its name, to tell me it’s not what I think it is. It’s stuck its foot in the door, slowly slid its fingers in the gap, and maneuvered its way into my room. It perches in the corner, silent, eyes riveted on me. I won’t look at it for long yet it won’t leave my periphery. It’s clever. Incessant. It makes its presence known—in pictures, lines of literature, people, music. I’ve grazed its levity and found it’s not the blind naivete I incriminated it to be.
It’s not believing things will soon, or ever, be good, joyful, happy. It’s not a demand to be happy now, to simply drop the sandbags of pain. It’s a resolve, a burning knowledge, that whatever suffering, despair, and aching, are present and enduring will all come to some purpose. It’s not that pain will ever end but that it will have been for a purpose. It’s not here for nothing.
“Hope is a virtue that helps us grapple with the temptation of despair.” — Kyle Robertson
I have yet to turn fully toward the corner where it sits. I haven’t looked it in the eyes. But I’m listening to its breathing; perhaps I can sync with it. I’m willing myself to be curious. Slowly, I’m turning my head. I’m rehearsing being able to proclaim the words it longs to hear me say: “I trust you.”
Perhaps the universe was actually caring for me, giving me this sobriquet. Perhaps it knew that the EXIT sign of life would always be in my sightline, that I would need the anchor, the reminder to stay. Carried with me wherever I go. Perhaps I can equate hope to resilience. Perhaps I can feel I fit in my own name.
My middle name is Hope. I’m trying not to wince.
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