When Hope Evaporates

Man sitting on end of pier at dusk

I’m working on a novel. I’m also building my business. (And learning how to teach yoga.) I’m pretty busy. Each week, I post my progress on the novel in my Facebook group. Making that commitment to post what I’ve done is a key part of what keeps me going.

A couple days this past week, something else demanded my attention. It grabbed me by the ankles and pulled me under.

Sad woman

It told me everything was hopeless.

There are different names for that voice—inner critic, saboteur, depression.

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke called it “cloud shadows.”

Sometimes, I can easily refute that voice, and it goes away. Other times, I distract myself and the voice recedes.

But this time, neither strategy worked. It was like having the flu—I felt helpless to do anything but suffer, and wait for it to pass.

When hope evaporates, I know I have to listen more closely to what’s beneath that voice. The purpose of this particular pain is to wake me up to deeper meaning. Something important needs my attention, something that I need to feel, act on, or express.

But first, I have to face it. Facing what I don’t want to acknowledge gives me something to push against. It helps me build up the necessary psychic muscle to be with what is waking me up.

Happy woman

I see it as a necessary part of the journey to living deliberately, consciously, and authentically.

Thankfully, compassion for myself always (eventually!) brings me back to a more balanced place.

From there, I can stand on my tiptoes, peek around the corner, and face what has been calling to me. To know it more deeply. To understand what it wants me to do.

If you struggle with self-doubt, if you worry that it’s too late to make a difference with your life or your art, I offer this quote from Rilke. You are not alone, and there is a purpose to all you do and experience—even in suffering:

How should we be able to forget those ancient myths
that are at the beginning of all peoples,
the myths about dragons that
at the last moment turn into princesses;
perhaps all the dragons of our lives
are princesses who are only waiting to
see us once, beautiful and brave.
Perhaps everything terrible is in
its deepest being something
that needs our love.

So you must not be frightened
if a sadness rises up before you
larger than any you have ever seen;
if a restiveness, like light and cloud shadows,
passes over your hands and over all you do.
You must think that something is happening with you,
that life has not forgotten you,
that it holds you in its hand;
it will not let you fall.
Why do you want to shut out of your life
any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions?
For after all, you do not know
what work these conditions are doing inside you.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

What do you see when you turn the corner from despair to understanding?

What, deep inside yourself, wants your love and attention?

What wants to live and be expressed?

How does it show up in your art or in your writing?

Posted in Compassion, Inner Critic, Meaning.