The tightrope between hope and despair is one many of us have walked a time or two in the search for love….so I thought a few words on the subject might be due. If you’ve ever hoped for something in love one minute, but found yourself wanting to throw in the towel the next, then stick around. I’m about to share my thoughts on how to deal with the internal tug-of-war or battle that often takes place when we dare to hope in our romantic efforts and pursuits, but also find ourselves up against feelings of despair and failure in the process. While I personally believe that much of the conflict has to do with our expectations (about which many a therapist and relationship expert also have written,) I’m also going to venture to say that it goes quite a bit beyond this. In fact, I’m going to suggest that the battle between hope and despair doesn’t even exist. It’s a battle we create within ourselves….our egos create….as we attempt to control, force, or make love happen or persevere. But, before I get too deep into an explanation, I should probably just start at the beginning…..
First things first….the ego isn’t really my area of expertise. Nevertheless, hope and despair are feelings I am quite familiar with….feelings that have sent me looking for the forces that have driven my experiences in love. And this is where the ego comes in to play. Overall, the way I see it is that the ego wants “things,” seeks to control “things,” and thinks it knows “things”…..all of which creates expectation. Follow me? When it wants something from a specific situation, it will seek to either control the desired outcome or believe to “know” the desired outcome….which gives the false appearance of confidence, certainty, and hope. Since we often correlate action, confidence, certainty, and faith with success, all of these seem like a good idea on the surface. Furthermore, to give up hope and quit….to stop putting forth effort in achieving what we want….seems like it would be a direct path to failure and apathy. And yet, the tug-of-war between giving up and continuing to fight….between letting go and holding on….is nothing but the ego at play. And personally, therefore, I have found that we must question our motive in any given scenario…..especially when it comes to our personal relationships. Our ego is the reason we want things we can’t have out of certain situations. It’s the reason we read certain situations incorrectly. It’s the reason we make up things in our minds about what a situation or person is or isn’t. It’s the reason we can’t just love someone for who they REALLY are…..the reason we see another person or situation as one thing or another….and the reason we may see a relationship with a particular person as “meant to be” or not…..
And yet, as long as we allow our egos to drive us or cause us to give up, we close ourselves off to the possibility of what could be in any situation. And since we perceive the push and drive of the ego as hope, we tend to see the act of giving up or letting go as a LOSS of hope. But in reality, it’s a release from it….and (in short) it’s freedom.
I’ve often said, we only really lose when we fail to see how we’ve won and this applies to the apparent loss of hope, as well. The moment we free ourselves from the ego’s desires and hope, we open ourselves up to a whole new range of experiences. When we are patient and challenge our motives….when we neither attempt to force something or resist it…..when we leave ourselves OPEN to the mystery and possibility of life and accept each person, experience, moment as they are, the struggle, fear, and uncertainty end. People and relationships aren’t goals. Life isn’t a goal. And not one of these is something to obtain.
And so, with all of that said, I personally stopped worrying about or striving for some sort of great love or soul-mate (as some call it) pretty recently, actually. And it’s not because I’ve given up or don’t hope for that. It’s because I found hope to be of the ego and limiting…like it’s brothers, worry and fear. Love, on the other hand, is freeing and it transcends. If we were told with absolute certainty that our soul-mate exists and we were going to be with this person at some point, would we feel such a rush to find the person and “secure” our position with him/her? And assuming we all have a soul in the first place, is there really a need to be with the person in this life, anyway? After all, there are other things in this life that matter….such as a bigger purpose maybe? Perhaps we should all focus on that.
And say we do find the person and are able to be with him/her. If we worried before about finding/being with our one great love or soul-mate, wouldn’t we then worry or fear losing the person once we were with him/her? Again, the reality is that we WILL lose the physical person and relationship at some point….whether it’s the present day, a week from the present day, or thirty years in the future. Being with the person doesn’t remove the desire. We will always want more time with the person, as long as we continue in this mindset. However, as soon as we trust in that which is out of our control, accepting the reality and inevitability of loss and appreciating each moment for what it is, we free ourselves of the worry and fear and open ourselves to real and true love.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the movie “Arrival” recently….where the main character played by Amy Adams knows the future….knows the inevitable death of her daughter and the pain and separation it causes….but chooses to bring her into the world, anyway. To me, this is how we should enter all relationships and how we should live our lives. We often say we hope for good things to happen….as if hope exists in the expected fulfillment of our physical desires…..but everything ends at some point. Therefore, where hope really exists is in our release from our physical desires and attachment to them. Where hope really exists is in the present. Because, freeing ourselves from the confines of the ego and associated fears, we are able to live fully and experience life without reservation. True release, therefore, does not mean an end to hope as some form of reluctant acceptance of a dismal and unfortunate reality. Alternatively, it enables us to be present in our lives in its most beautiful and joyful moments.
A friend wrote to me a few months ago and shared with me that he was having trouble maintaining the balance between hope and releasing expectations. In fact, his struggle is the reason I decided to write about this topic. During our correspondence, he admitted that he had given up hope for a grand love, as he called it (hence the reason for my own use of the term,) and the question I had for him was why? Why did he feel it necessary to completely write it off as a possibility? He also shared how he had frequently ignored misalignments in his relationships and romantic interests….something I’m sure many of us have done. I know I have. And I also know how despairing this can be….questioning our instincts when it seems like we continue to go for the “wrong” people time after time.
But this is why I think letting go is so important. It’s not for the sake of giving up on the idea of something. It’s for the sake of surrendering to life in all of its awesomeness and letting go of the idea that we even know what the “something” is. And trust me….there’s far more possibility in NOT controlling and knowing than there is in whatever meager efforts we alone are able to manage. And it alleviates us of the responsibility and sense of failure, as well. For example…if you, like my friend, feel like you missed a big turn in your life, you may find that this really isn’t the reality as soon as you acknowledge and accept that you don’t have ultimate control over what happens. Again, it’s only our egos that need for situations and relationships to go a certain way. In truth, there is no “wrong” turn at all….only the opportunity for growth and learning….and only the opportunity to trust the cosmos….or whatever it is you give yourself up to. We are merely human, after all. We control only what we can and leave the rest to fall however it may. Our decisions and actions do and can affect the trajectory of our lives, but the wind can throw us off course in a matter of mere seconds. And yes, our lives are but a mystery….but nonetheless beautiful and amazing. They are to be lived….as honest and fully ourselves as possible. So, go ahead and be a romantic….a dreamer….and accept the world of possibility awaiting in every single moment. I mean, everything up to this point has brought you here, now….reading this. So enjoy….you’ll get where you’ve always been going and remember….there’s no rush…. 🙂