Monday, July 23, 2012

Hope is the thing with feathers . . .

Hope is essential to survival and yet what is hope?  Have you ever been in a place in your life when you have lost hope?  When hope fades a hollow cavern remains.  It's as if someone or something has stolen your very soul and spirit.  Emily Dickinson wrote of hope in her famous poem:

"Hope" is the thing with feathers
by Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886)

"Hope" is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard,
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson at

Have you ever endured a storm so fierce that hope began to fade and that little bird no longer sang?  That moment is the most difficult of times in your life.  It is so important to protect that little bird -- feed it, nuture it and shelter that little bird, because your life and survival depend on that.   One thing that I am absolutely sure of is that even during your darkest hour that little bird still sings.  He may
have moved his perch, but he still sings . . . you just have to find that little bird when you think he has flown away.  So how on earth do you do that?  There is no ctystal ball or GPS available to know where hope has gone when everything seems so bleak.  You must have faith that hope still resides within you and finding it again is a journey unique to only you.  It is a journey that you must embark on by yourself -- alone.  Someone else can't do it for you.  And yet you aren't alone if you know that little bird is there to keep you company.  When people endure chronic pain and illness there may be days when you cannot hear that little bird sing.  And caging that little bird won't keep him there, because hope must fly to uplift your soul and spirit.  You must set it free.  Those precious things that you set free will come back to you and bring you joy.  So what are your strategies to set your hope free?  If your sadness is overwhelming and you can't seem to get beyond the sadness, make an appointment to see your doctor.  You may need an antidepressant and counseling may be beneficial.  It's important not to wait until all hope is gone; be aware of hope that continues to fade.  Confide in someone you trust when your hope seems to be lost.  When you become hopeless it is critical that you don't make rash decisions.  Hope is still there, you just have to find it again.  Get involved with people that understand your life challenges -- a support group, an activity group, even an online group can help give you emotional support.  Become involved with activities that have brought you joy in the past.  Your chronic pain and illness may prevent you from doing it the way you once did so scale it down to accommodate your abilities.   Make sure you get some exercise every day.  I'm not talking about hard core aerobics.  Take a walk outside around the house or just move your body in ways that feel good.  There will be days when you don't move much, but tomorrow is another day.  Listen to your body and be kind and gentle with yourself.

I have several hummingbird feeders in my garden and there are hummingbirds buzzing around everywhere.  They always remind me of Emily Dickinson's poem!  It is impossible to watch these busy little birds without smiling.  I made a brief video to share with you, but it doesn't begin to capture the incredible activity out my window.  The video was taken at about sunset so the light is low, but you can see their tiny silhouettes.  Enjoy!

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