The name of the blog
"It was never just an affair" needs to be in quotations, because it was something my ex-husband said to me early on in the break-up. I guess he thought it might make me feel better to know it wasn't just a fling per say, it was real love? It didn't make me feel better. Him ending the affair and being willing to work on the marriage would have made me feel better.
Monday, 9 December 2013
Hope seems like a delicate and dangerous entity to me; like a poisonous jellyfish that, while beautiful, must not be touched lest you die painfully from its poisonous sting. It seems to me that hope, in my current situation with my ex-husband, could very well kill me. A lack of hope, or hopelessness, will also kill me though. I know because I waffle back and forth between the two extremes, sometimes daily, and the days where I feel hopeless are the darkest. Days where I have hope for my future and all it could entail are the good days. Balance with hope seems to be the way to go, but how to do it? How can I balance my hopeful dream and wish that my husband and I can heal the pain between us to have some sort of relationship, without that same hope hindering my personal healing journey, letting go of what is no more, and generally moving on with life? And what about the hope that he will decide he was dead wrong about polyamory and want to heal the marriage? That is a wish I can barely articulate, let allow much sun to shine on. How do I hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and have no expectations for anything? For that seems to be the message I am picking up from my spiritual beliefs and the various counsellors in my life, professional or not. I am struggling daily to integrate these three seemingly different concepts into my thoughts.
For me, right now, my best approach seems to be to suppress all hope when it comes to M. For the last six months any hope has inevitably led to crushing disappointment. Every time I have opened my email hoping to hear from him, or I have gotten an email from him and I have hoped it would say something positive or kind, I have been disappointed. That hope is not helping me, so I have learned to temper it. And the one email I did get from him in mid-October that created hope quickly turned into a heartbreaking disappointment. He wrote me to advise that he would handle the financial situation I had emailed him about, the following week, as he was out of town taking a self-improvement course. His words exactly: "Right now, I'm on Gabriola Island at a retreat called The Haven. I'm taking a course call 'come alive' and so far it's been so good for me. I'm finally learning who I am. I think that it would be great for you to come and do this yourself. It is rather expensive, but I'd be willing to pay for it as a gift for you." I was so hopeful that this course would open his eyes to his accountability, humanity, and love for his family. I hoped he was telling me about the course as a way of reaching out and starting a conversation. So I sent him back an email that I thought was positive, and I encouraged his growth, asked him some questions about the course, and accepted the offer of the gift. I didn't hear back from him. The next day I sent him another email asking more questions: "there are a few questions I have about your email: Are you there with Stephanie, or on your own? How did you find out about this course, was it recommended to you by someone? Why do you think this course would be great for me? What is your motivation for offering to pay for it for me? I am curious to know more about this experience and how you got to it". This time I got a response, and not the one I was hoping for: "The reasoning and motivation for my offer is because its been a really positive and rewarding experience for me and I think you'd benefit from it as I have. My offer to you still stands, it's up to you to accept it". I again responded that I would like to take the course, and that was the end of the conversation.
There has never been any follow-up from him to actually arrange for me to take the course, and by that time, I was starting to get some of my dignity back and wasn't going to force the issue or beg him for something. When I talked to my psychologist about my confusion and hurt the way the open door quickly slammed shut again, she told me that he had contacted me in a moment of weakness, and then his refusal to discuss the matter further was him retreating back into his other life. She further advised me not to engage with him on any personal level because he is not trustworthy right now. So, it seems like hope is a foolish man's game for me to play under my ex-husbands set of rules.
As for hope for my future, of course I have it. I hope to have love again one day, with or without M, and I hope to find peace and acceptance with the dissolution of my marriage. I hope to get to a place, sooner rather than later, where I can find joy in the time I did have with M and not have unpleasant feelings about the situation. I hope to find a career that fulfills me and I enjoy. I hope to continue developing an adult relationship with my son. I hope to continue my volunteer work. I hope to get healthier by losing weight and quitting smoking, and I hope to travel the world. I have many hopes and dreams, and most of them do not cause me the angst that my hopes about M. do. Is this because the situation with M. is so out on my control? Is that where hope becomes a dangerously slippery slope? Is it because I am too emotional right now regarding the way the relationship ended that it seems best I quash the hope? I think that a lot of the other things I feel hopeful about are within my control, so it is not so much a hope as a goal. And I can enable my goals with my choices and my actions. I seem powerless to enable anything with M.
My girlfriend and I have talked about hope on two separate occasions in the last week, with regard to two separate topics. When I asked her about her feelings on the Christmas season, she told me that she finds it to be a season of hope and possibility; anything can happen she said. She also has hope about men and relationships in a very different way than I do. Not that either is right, good or bad; I am not passing judgement, just commenting. I believe that a good relationship is one where you love and/or accept everything about your partner, and you hope to grow together, and challenge each other in a manageable way. She has hope that a partner will change, or you will change, to suit the other persons needs or wants at the time. If he is attracted to redheads you colour your hair red. Sure, I guess that can be done if you are amenable to walking around with red hair. I would rather find someone who loves the colour of my hair right from the start. We just have two different perspectives on relationships. I generally don't hold out a great amount of hope that people will change, or at least not significantly change. Which lands the joke squarely on me when I think about how significantly my ex-husband changed!
I wanted to research the origins of the saying "hope springs eternal," and by going to Wikipedia I was shocked to find that hope is linked in Greek mythology to Pandora's box; I had no idea. When fire was stolen from Zeus he was enraged and created a box that held all the evils and ills of the world, which would not be known to the receiver of the box. Although Pandora was warned not to open the box, curious woman that she was, she did, and out came the evils, with hope staying at the bottom of the box. The expression hope springs eternal is taken from poet Alexander Pope's Essay on Man, the phrase reading "Hope springs eternal in the human breast, Man never is, but always to be blest." Reportedly, this poem was "the centrepiece of a proposed system of ethics." The poem is overtly religious and is meant to be affirmative of religious faith: "hence man must rely on hope which then leads into faith".
Nor did I have any idea that within psychology there are actually two scales to measure hope. There is a hope theory developed by Dr. Charles Snyder after observing and interacting with people; he defines hope as "the sum of the mental willpower and waypower that you have for your goals". Doctor Snyder then reportedly states that “the goals involving hope fall somewhere between an impossibility and a sure thing." I like this quote of Dr. Snyder's: “we can best understand emotion and self-esteem as a by-product of how effective we are in the pursuit of goals”. Reading on, it was asserted that hope and optimism are quite different concepts. Which makes me think my friend is optimistic rather than hopeful. Hope is action directed and goal orientated while optimism is a general expectation of the best without critical thinking of how to effect the desired outcome.
Dr. Barbara Frederickson is credited with the following quote: "With the sense of hope come positive emotions such as happiness and joy, courage, and empowerment." She describes these “positive emotions” as coming from four different areas of one’s self: from a cognitive, psychological, social, or physical perspective. Further, Dr. Fredrickson, argues that hope "...comes into play when our circumstances are dire," when "things are not going well or at least there’s considerable uncertainty about how things will turn out".
So, is the feeling of hope the inevitable by-product of life's misadventures once we move beyond feeling hopeless? Is hope only reserved for the truly misfortunate amongst us: the homeless, the terminally ill patient, parentless children, third world country occupants, natural disaster survivors? Do the most blessed in our communities lack hope because they don't need it? That could make sense to me as a possible reason why my hope seems so fluid and skittish, why it won't stick around consistently for a good span of time. I am incredibly fortunate to live in Canada during this time in history. I know I have much to be grateful for. I am appreciative of clean water, electricity, my car, my money, my friends and son, my pets, my apartment and my health. I don't want for much, except what I lost when my marriage fell apart. My hope is absolutely centred around my losses.