Chimpanzee contemplates nature of life, thinks “Well, shit.”

My mother is always the first to notice when I’m not writing. “February 5 was your last post,” she pointed out during lunch last week. I appreciate this. She notices.

In that vein, I want to dispense with one issue upfront: It has been suggested (not by my mother) that the occasional long gaps between my posts indicate I’m insufficiently “serious” about writing. I always despaired a little at that, because it felt unfair. At the same time, I always feared it was true.

But I’ve found that when we interrogate the assumptions behind our fears, and follow the what-if trail to its conclusion, we can find clarity. And I’ve realized it is true. There are many things I take more seriously than writing. Understanding, feeling, processing, life, and honesty are all more important to me than simply stringing words together. These things are indispensible to the kind of writing I want to do. Devotion to writing, without attention to them, is pointless to me. And sometimes, they demand all I have.

2016 has, so far, been a tricky one.  I returned from my last photography trip in Florida early in the new year. Less than a week later I learned two things in one day. First, I learned that my grandmother was dying, and would be gone in a few days. A few hours later, I learned that someone I loved as a girl, who has turned into a grownup soul-friend, has a progressive and usually fatal illness.  Shortly thereafter, another friend was diagnosed with cancer.

This is not to whine, but rather to explain my non-writing state of mind. Most people have it harder than I do, principally those staring down terrifying illnesses. But still, all those things drove me underground, into a place of contemplation and sadness. I was unable to speak for awhile, sorting through the dark threads and trying to understand their meaning.

I’m not a writer who processes via blog. When I do that, the work I produce is often flecked with the bullshit I tell myself while trying to fend off harder truths. And what I’ve been doing in my silence is coming to term with these grim realities, despite my best efforts to shut them out:  that not every anguish can be ameliorated; that no, everything doesn’t happen for a reason, and sometimes we struggle to extract any kind of meaning or lesson when it does; that terrible things will unfold over my objections, no matter how strenuous those objections are.

I talk with my friend, my young love from a million years ago, often. When we reconnected, it became clear that we are jarringly alike in many ways. We have both struggled to balance an intense, soul-driven orientation with obligations we couldn’t bear to disregard. We both know well the conflicting pressures of having a free spirit paired with a heart devoted to our kids.

His ethic is simple: Live as well as you can while you can. We talked about it briefly last week.

“Live well,” he wrote to me again in a message. And the darkness around me began to crack, because the truth had finally cornered me.  Live well.

I’m coming to understand that there is no such thing as the future. And those of us like me, who have probably pinned too much on it, could find all hope in it abruptly dissolved. There is only now, this very second. And if you cannot, for whatever reason – whether because of money, time, or obligations to others – live the way you desperately want to live, the way that is most meaningful to you, then you better learn to extract the meaning from the way you live now.

It took me two months of dark and sadness to accept that, because doing so meant embracing hopelessness.  How do I do that?  What if I can’t?  What if all the time I get is spent confined to a Midwestern suburb, grasping for small crumbs of time in nature, for tiny pieces of things to write about and images to capture?

Well? What if?

We are back to the task of any life – to figure out how to live it as well as you can within the bounds of your own conscience and circumstances. Right now. Abandon hope.

This means something different to me now than it did ten years ago.  Back then, I was still struggling to accept the two contrasting parts of myself, and struggling to endow my creative side with even a slight sense of entitlement. Today, my creative side has found its bearings, and feels, mostly, frustrated at the impossibility of full actualization. Five more years, it whispers, till the kid is out of school and we can move away from here, back to a place where we belong. Or at least until I can take off for the swamp at will and photograph gators, or to the Badlands to catch prairie dogs and mountain goats.

The luxury of that line of thinking is gone, as I confront the reality that five more years are not guaranteed to anyone. They weren’t when I was thirty, either, but it seemed likely enough back then to take for granted. Not now.

So that’s where I’ve been, off assimilating and accepting one of the great, immutable truths of life. Live well, now, and here. Abandon hope.

The traveler in me wants to see what happens.

125 thoughts on “Abandon hope

  1. First of all, I want to say I’m sorry for the layers of loss you’ve had to work through in these past weeks. It’s a lot. Even one would be a lot. And it’s OK to take time to appreciate that loss and reflect and come to some sense of acceptance.

    But mostly I wanted to say “Wow.”

    And that I too have a struggling travel trapped inside here in the Midwest. Trapped for reasons different than yours, but still feeling trapped. And I too think, only x months, x years, maybe eons, until I get to do what I want which is not here.

    But as you are, I am also struggling to find the good in right here right now as well. While I have not totally abandoned the hope that one day I will live life on the road, I have begun to recognize that time is not guaranteed, and even if it were, time is growing shorter for adventures like that.

    The traveler in me is curious about what may happen as well. My best wishes to you and your adventures.

    1. 🙂 I probably should have titled this Abandon Hope (but only to the extent that it keeps you from accepting the now). I’ll say this…I haven’t abandoned the *intent* to live my creative side in five or so years. But I can no longer rely on it.

  2. Jennifer, I just wanted to thank you for the time and effort you’ve put into writing here. You’ve brought tears to my eyes more than once, and that’s not an easy thing to do. Never abandon hope is my recommendation; to a large extent it’s all we really have. When my mother died over a decade ago, I disappeared in the wilds of the Canadian Rockies with my dog for six weeks. It was a welcome break. I thought of her again as I read a previous post of yours and listened to Claire de Luce. You have a talent, girl! I look forward to reading your posts here in the future, and who knows, maybe we’ll meet on the trail somewhere, someday! Life is good, live well!

    1. Thank you, Mike, those are kind words. 🙂 I always like reading comments because they help me further distill my thoughts. I do think my slogan of Abandon Hope should come with a caveat, or a parenthetical: “to the extent you are relying on the future to live a meaningful life.” So, perhaps I’ll let go of that, while still making plans and holding intentions. 🙂

  3. As is always true of my response to your writing, I need to read this again.
    And maybe again.

    I was aware, at least in part, of your loss. And I so understand how such a loss, compounded by such devastating additional news, can cause us to turn inward. We turtle. It’s a human thing.
    So, to my mind, you had “things” going on. Writing sometimes has to shove over and take the backseat for “things”.
    I am guilty of writing the dribble-drabble. It serves, for me, as a sort of smoke break. It satisfies a momentary urge or craving. Sometimes, it puts me on the road to what I really want or need to be writing. So, for me, it works. But it is not for everyone.

    The meat of this speaks very loudly to me. I had a hope, a dream, of living on a farm and waking up every day to the splendid nothingness of the acres surrounding me. To hear birds in the trees in the morning and foxes in the woods at night. To watch the hatch rise on the pond in summer and snowflakes disappear there in winter.
    A very pretty little dream.
    But nothing anywhere near my reality. To achieve that dream, I would need to abandon everything I have now. I’ve been standing at that crossroads for a number of years.

    The struggle to reconcile what you believe you must do and have to survive in this life with what, in reality, is available for you, is a powerfully gut-wrenching thing. It will eat at you daily if you allow it. It will wake you at night and haunt you as you try to sleep. It does the dishes after dinner. It helps with homework.

    But it isn’t really much more than the selfish child suffers when the dolly they dreamed of getting for Christmas wasn’t under the tree after all.

    We get one ride on this big blue ball. Choices have already been made and the consequences of those choices will be faced, like it or not. You take a step and you see what’s ahead of that moment. Then you take another one. There are times when you come to the end of your walk and find yourself exactly where you hoped you’d be. The rest of the time, you make where you end up the place you want to be.

    I would tell you it gets clearer with age. It doesn’t. But, as you’ve been reminded recently, you see the effects of time and realize that you can keep peering into the future for your dream to materialize, or you can get on with living before it’s too damn late.

    1. I wanted to chew on your comment overnight because it reflected a lot of what’s going on underneath all this: choice. It is my choice to stay here so my kid can have a stable existence when so much of his childhood has been destabilized; my choice not to send him places that would be unhealthy for him so I can travel….etc. At the bottom, I’ve made a choice about what *I* can bear and what I cannot. No one is holding me here. Now, it’s true that the failings of others, in many cases, have forced me to this choice. But it’s still my choice, and I have to remember that. And it’s a choice I think it sound.

      Further to that, my experience has been that life — when it sticks you back in a place you wish you could escape over and over and over again — is trying to show you something. It’s best to listen.

      1. I’ve felt that so much in my own life. I think as humans we always crave what is beyond our grasp. It takes a great amount of love to anchor us to the places we wish we could escape. It’s never occured to me that the reason we stay stuck in one place, or return, is for a reason. Looking for the truths we don’t want to hear never comes naturally.

      2. “It takes a great amount of love to anchor us to the places we wish we could escape.”

        That is a potent sentence to me, and a true one. And I do think the universe, or circumstances, or whatever, sometimes redirect us — like a toddler — to the same place or situation over and over again until we get it. 🙂

  4. It’s just the darnedest thing, isn’t it? Not to dwell on the past and not to long for the future. As for hope, isn’t it both the prisoner and the jailer, by turns? So I suppose what’s important is what you allow yourself to hope about. Hope to learn from the now, to carry the knowledge within you and use it well. To take in as much as you can about now, this moment, a link in the chain. And when there are such heavy losses as you have been going through in this young year, not to stay down with it longer than is needed to assimilate the changes. To be grateful for having those people in your life, stronger now, because of them. … Your traveller will continue to carry you along, trust in it.

  5. I feel as though even for those of us who love to write…we can’t write to live as much as we need to LIVE to write. Going through our experiences takes precedence, and when we write about them it doesn’t feel so forced.
    I loved your bit about the future and the way you worded those last couple sentences. Your style of writing really speaks to me, man.

    As much of the world as I want to see for myself, it just isn’t my turn yet. So what do I do until then? In your words, “Grasping for small crumbs of time in nature, for tiny pieces of things to write about and images to capture?”

    Haha, until my situation changes for the better.

    Lovely post!

  6. It’s inescapable: our children limit us.

    That’s not a criticism of children. I’ve loved raising my sons: 30, 19, 16. But there are things I’d love to be doing, things that would be enormously personally fulfilling, if I wasn’t still raising them.

    I’m in the home stretch, the empty nest looms. Yet I wouldn’t trade the experience, or them, for anything.

    But I live in “old suburbia” in my Midwestern city, and am home when they are to provide the boring family stability that, frankly, every kid needs. I’d rather live Downtown and spend more time with a nonprofit I helped found and an inner-city church and neighborhood that seems to have become a calling.

    I’ll miss my youngest when he’s off to college. I’ll sometimes wish for just a simple, quiet night at home with dinner and homework and TV. Yet I’ll launch directly into that next phase of my life and my energy will be renewed for it.

    1. I know just what you mean. There is no way I’d trade having my son. But I do see an awful lot of blooming in those empty nest years.Which is good, right? Eases the transition. Living a meaningful life is critical. It just hits really hard when you realize that some of us won’t make it to that phase.

  7. There are so many excellent points and layers to this piece, and there is beauty in that. I suppose, in starting from the top, I have a hard time agreeing with you more that devotion to the stringing of words together simply to get words on paper (or, in this day and age, on screen) without self-examination, honesty, processing, thoughtfulness… no thank you. For what you do? Thank you (a lot.. and I’m happy to wait). For the rest… I am a big fan of being present. Taking this moment and realizing how extraordinary the ordinary is, or sitting with sadness, despair, confusion). The idea of pushing aside the yearning, or pining, or hoping for ‘what’s next’ is often necessary to truly be ‘present’. You conveyed that beautifully here (if I’m not projecting). I am a big believer in creative souls weaving creativity into everything we do and are, each day, rather than holding it separate, or saying that a creative life is ‘all of this’ and ‘none of that’ (all freedom to create, no obligation to family or friendships or day jobs). A creative life, I think, is the life a creative human lives. Different for everyone, I suppose. No dogma attached. I am grateful for the creativity you share, in fits and starts or in long drawn out segments. Life is full of unexpecteds, and also of lulls. To fill those lulls just to fill them… it doesn’t seem to be honoring the present, the ‘what is’, at all. (See? I loved this piece).

    1. As always, I appreciate your flexibility of worldview, and your openness to the creative needs of others. It may be, more than anything, a need to keep my own counsel for awhile, something I also know you understand. 🙂

  8. Jen, I admire your writing so very much, and I will admit that it felt great to read that someone with your talent does not believe in the need to write endlessly…your “flecked with bullshit” rang so true for me that my head is till bonging from the honesty..I have never whiffed a single fleck of “it” in your work..the thoughtful consideration that you give to such difficult and sad subject matter is just jaw dropping, the reader knows they’re not just reading words, they’re sitting with you, learning, feeling. Abandon hope indeed. My heart goes out to yours as you grieve and contemplate and remember, all gifts of having loved and lived.

  9. Tess, we should never forget that writing comes in all kinds of formats, and I swear, every comment you make is a treat. It’s what keeps me from missing your blog posts too often. “bonging from the honesty” 🙂

  10. Reblogged this on Trail Mix and commented:
    Recent events on a global, local and personal level, including some hard news about an elder family’s member declining health had left me with an uncharacteristic feeling I could not identify. This piece from writer Jennifer Bowman unraveled the darkness and gave it a name. Now I have a reference point for moving forward. On this morning of the Vernal Equinox I am ready to stop postponing life; I intend to start living joy every single day.

  11. Jen, you have just written exactly how I’ve felt the past year, with all the deaths of loved ones and friend, my own health issues, coming to terms with the death of my abuser, and the nothingness I experience when I sit down to write or create artwork. I’ve had bouts of creativity, but each has cycled down to the pit of nothingness. I have faith that my coming move, downsizing and lifestyle change will mark a new beginning, but I also understand that each and every day is a new beginning that I must celebrate by living well, loving without conditions, and appreciating what each day has to offer.

  12. Hello, I read this as a guest post on another blog I follow, and I must say, I love your work. I can relate to this piece. Sometimes you have to spend time living. If you don’t, there will be nothing to write about.

  13. Such an amazing story and narrative!! I completely resonate with your line of thought!!! We spend a lot of time contemplating past events, and fearing what more would be in store for us in the future! Somehow, this seems to me the main reason we never live in the present and we are in the future or are solving the troubles of our past!!

  14. I’ve often thought that really all I can hope to achieve is to show up. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. In the end, just having that grain of hope is sufficiently tantalizing. But I can’t know unless I show up. 😉

  15. I’m in a similar stage of life, having been pretty well knocked down, suddenly, with the fleeing of all hope the instant my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. But, like your friend, until he died my husband’s hope never dissolved, so I’ve struggled to understand his way of thinking. His grace in this life involved not letting go of hope: he knew there was no cure and (a doctor himself) he knew better than most the terrible reality of how he would die, soon. That is, he knew the same things I did–and even more concretely, because such an illness had mercifully been beyond my experience–but was always able to adapt his hopes to whatever shifts life handed him. So where both of us knew he wouldn’t live to see a child turn sixteen, or graduate, or ever live to enjoy the retirement he had saved for (all dissolved in an instant, as you say, like Naomi Shihab Nye’s “salt in a weakened broth”). He could have hope for treatment taken away and shift to hope to be able to get back to work. He lost the ability to eat but kept the simple hope of touching a swab of lemon-water to the roof of his mouth. Ultimately, he hoped only to be able to come home to die, and we made that happen (a battle of its own), and I began to see how my own hopes hadn’t all been dashed but had changed: I could still hope to help him get his last wish, and hope that our children would be able to go on as he wanted them to, and hope that their lives, though rendered so very different by his loss, would still be filled with love. I don’t know what life holds for me, and it will look nothing like what we planned and be without my partner, but if I let go of hope given the ever-changing new reality I feel I’d be lost again. So I’ve tried not to reject hope but to embrace what one can continue to hope for when the facts change. I suppose I see the opposite of hope as adaptation, with grace, given my husband’s example.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. In a way, I think what you and your husband did is exactly what I’m thinking about here: Shifting, adapting, finding meaning in what you are handed, rather than doggedly insisting on a prior plan on which every hope of a meaningful life was pinned. Your comment helps me to further refine my thoughts. Thank you again for sharing this experience.

  16. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. It resonates with me as I suspect it does with many others. And while your title says “abandon hope” – I think your post has given me hope – I am not alone and you are so right we must live in the moment. Thank you.

  17. Always love your thoughts. They encourage reflection . As I read of your loss, I reflected on the loss of my mom and sister to the dreaded disease. But all I have is hope. It keeps me going. Keep writing.

  18. Thank you for sharing. Your post touched me deeply. I felt myself become a little teary reading it, a sign for me that there was enormous truth in it.

  19. What an amazingly insightful post. There really is no such thing as time, is there, when you’re “in the moment” wonderfully. Your post really hit home for me, because I think I am making the mistake of hoping I am moving in the direction of making most moments if not all like that. I wonder if the best thing to do is embrace every moment, wonderful or not. I don’t think I can quite go so far as to “abandon hope” though. I might have to move from a place where I am literally surrounded by Hope, as in Hope Ness, Hope Bay, The Hope Bay Nature Reserve, and the Hope Bay Forest. I’ve kind of taken the position that someone is trying to tell me something. I’m a newcomer to the blog community, and really impressed by the quality of writing and creative, inquiring thinking. And you certainly are a real find, if I can put it that way.

    1. I think for me, the thing is to look for the meaning in every moment, whether wonderful or not. Sometimes its so apparent I don’t need to look. Other times I’m so caught in looking for something meaningful I *want* that I overlook what is in front of me. Hope as an optimistic orientation that still honors the present…I think that’s great. And you wouldn’t want to relocate! 😉

      1. Thanks. Yes. that’s a big part of how I’m hoping to carry on. Best regards.

  20. You are so open….so honest ,,,thanks.
    My mom is not well and the traveller in me wants to run off, vanish into the unknown like I always do, but mommy dearest, if only I knew how long she will be here with us, Is this just a temporary thing or should I stick around? These are my thoughts and I do identify with you, we have to cherish every day on this journey, even if we are not where we want to be as you described app above, we must still value each moment. Wonderfully written…..glad I stumbled upon your blog Jen…..keep it up….

  21. Reblogged this on Holton's Horror and commented:
    An excellent post. It’s both a heart-wrenching testament to a loved one, and a harsh truth about a beloved practice. We all have to take time away from the things we like doing, because giving ourselves room and time to process big events is a critical part of living.

    Be sure to tell someone–anyone–you care about how you feel, and spare no detail. Even if all you do is give your pet an extra treat. Those little, good things you do might just keep someone’s world from falling apart. So, to quote the author, “Live well, now, and here.”

  22. I feel like I found this post at a crucial time in my life where, in my own way, I am going through the struggles you nail so profoundly here. Reading this makes me want to try harder. I feel I owe it to my life to try harder because you have put this so perfectly into the words that I still cannot grab hold of. Thank you for this.

  23. What to do about death, is basically the core problem anyone thoughtful has to struggle with. All this – and then death. We can’t live completely in the present, because in all probability (as the little red hen understood when she spent the summer collecting grain unlike the lazy ant) there is a future. But the present is the only moment we can more or less control. Be as happy as you can now, plan as best you can for next, and like you said, abandon hope! (unless it’s enjoyable – I like to enjoy the future right now in my head).

    1. As do I. I think abandoning hope entirely is a tall order for the human mind. And I will never abandon *intention*. Because as you point out, those who do have a Lazy Ant problem.

  24. I felt this, it is similar to my blog of losing a close friend. I have been withdrawn for over a year and it was necessary for me. Sometimes we face situations that change us forever. It can be painful, but for me, learning how delicate life is, has made me cherish life and myself more. I usually have a saying ‘there is a diamond in every pile of sh*t, but I can not use that now, although I will say, his love is still shining a huge influence over me even though he is no longer here 🙂 I understand some of what you describe and I care. You have to go with the flow and care for yourself on a journey like this. Ange

  25. Now this is my kinda post! Your thought process is very very similar to my own. I would say – don’t belittle your own short comings and pain because there are others who have it worse. Pain is a relative feeling. And either way – what you’ve been through in the past few weeks is awful, so it’s okay to take a moment to breath and accept that.
    Well done you for taking something so positive away from it, this really is a beautiful piece! Can’t wait to see you on your journey x

    1. Agreed. It’s a balance, I think. I don’t ever want to be one of those people who is absolutely convinced that they are the only people to have experienced devastating events and are therefore the Queens of Pain. On the other hand, pain is pain and we all must navigate it, regardless of everyone else, and we have to honor it within ourselves.

  26. As I read each word about Abandoning hope, certain unknown force elevated my inner soul. My body experienced vaccum, as though I was sitting on thin air..
    Our subconscious thought knows what best suits ‘the purpose’ in life. Circumstances make us oblivious, we assume a role that makes us compromise; retreat from taking uncertain decisions.
    I am trying to make peace with self, and only when that is achieved will the door to pure resilient existence open.
    Hope is a catalyst without which ‘a dream’ becomes void. I believe that you will overcome your loss.

  27. Reblogged this on Get Fit / Get Active and commented:
    “There is only now, this very second. And if you cannot, for whatever reason – whether because of money, time, or obligations to others – live the way you desperately want to live, the way that is most meaningful to you, then you better learn to extract the meaning from the way you live now.”

  28. I’m deeply sorry for the personal losses you are encountering and I sympathize with you on how difficult they can be to overcome and process. But this piece is beautifully written and so very full of emotion. You are exactly right that life is better lived when you live and enjoy it, and that solely existing is living in vain. You wrote exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you.

  29. I’ll likely reblog this soon – I hope that is okay with you. Just this week I found out a dear friend has cancer and an employee at my husband’s office went from not feeling too great to dead in 3 days. I too am not in the place I want to be, geographically, physically, spiritually… Etc etc etc. But these are all just stories we tell ourselves. Now is the only moment, and things don’t always happen for a reason. Children get cancer, planes fall out of the sky, some people are humbled away from this earth due to a misstep on the pavement. There is always equal parts joy and pain. ❤️

    1. Yes. That’s absolutely true. And feel free to reblog. Good wishes as you navigate your own road. The ride does get bumpy. I hope you are able to extract the meaning from it.

  30. There is another little saying that goes … since I’ve given up hope I feel so much better !!
    Its not true, but I hope it brings you a chuckle too. Lovely writting.

  31. This is an amazing work! It’s really emotional, I think that everyone should read that and try at the maximum to live the here and now. Really beauiful.
    Hope everything gets better from now on.

  32. Whatever happens, we have to move on with life. Its sad but its the truth.
    That is indeed hard to bear. But what’s harder is to express it and to portray that pain so beautifully with words that leaves the reader moved. Great work trailhead. Looking forward to more of your work.

    1. I don’t think they are mutually exclusive, necessarily. For me it’s an issue of reliance. If you are relying on the future, then you need to turn in your hope card. 🙂 And I think there is often a very thin line between the two.

      And I do believe that some measure of optimism for the future is instrumental to improving the world. Thanks for the link!

  33. “Live well, now and here. Abandon hope” Excellently said!
    I find meditation to be of great help to me to focus on the moment.
    The best times we spend are the times we focus on the present alone.
    Amazing post. I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sure you went out of that stronger as you seem to be writing those words!

  34. This is the first post I’ve read by you, and it is absolutely phenomenal. As a nineteen year old, I find your thoughts on life and the future to be both completely foreign and undeniably relatable, which I believe is a mark of the honesty and intelligence of your voice. It is one of the hardest things to realize that our grandiose imaginings for our future are perhaps nothing more than youthful daydreams. There is a honor in the quiet life, though, as I’m sure you’re discovering.

    John Green once wrote a letter from one character to another in his most famous book that read (in partiality): “Here’s the thing about Hazel: Almost everyone is obsessed with leaving a mark upon the world. Bequeathing a legacy. Outlasting death. We all want to be remembered. I do, too. That’s what bothers me most, is being another unremembered casualty in the ancient and inglorious war against disease.

    I want to leave a mark.

    But Van Houten: The marks humans leave are too often scars.”

    And here he touches upon the idea that we can’t even conceive of in our youth. The idea that not only will be not be gloriously loved by the masses, immortalized in history and forever remember but that path might not even be the good life. That it is perhaps better to be loved deeply than widely, that perhaps we spent years chasing dreams that would never bring us happiness and never had a chance at becoming reality.

    The loss of the delusion of immortality is painful but also beautiful, because once you realize how finite your life is you can start looking at it in a completely new way. You can let it bring purpose to your decisions, cut through the bullshit. I hope in the midst of all this tragedy you can find the things that always accompany it: lessons, strength, a new perspective.

    And keep on writing, when you can.

  35. Zoinks, I enjoyed that, even though I did wince in recognition as the blogger who blogs it all there, post after post of potential future BS as I continue to process towards my own Truth. I, too, am now at a point where I must accept that today may well be all I have. If I leave the tale half spun, at least the threads are somewhat intact for my children. Every day, I can only do that day’s work. But that’s just me…

    Having said that, it’s nice to take a few days contemplation from time to time to fill up the cup or clarify the idea that’s nagging away at the corners of your consciousness. I agree, in terms of counting on the future being the moment of fulfillment, it may be time for me as well to abandon hope and “look to this day, for it is life.” (Forget right now who wrote that!) If it IS the last day, I hope I’m spending it with my children or walking in nature and not staring at WordPress. :/

    Love your writing and looking forward to reading more of your journey.

    1. I think it’s great when people can process by blog, as it’s often interesting to read. It’s not in my skill set, though. 🙂 And I’d take my last day in nature with my kid too. Although I might spend a little time with WordPress to write a brief “see ya” post. 😛

  36. Thanks, the words you spoke hit me… as for the situation you are in, I admire you for your steadfast mind, I wouldn’t be able to see what kind of mindset will I have if I was in your situation, so much as being able to write something, I wouldn’t be in the proper mindset to write anything, so I admire you for that, hope your friends get well…

  37. “Live well” is such a simple reminder of all the things we take for granted and at a same time gentle encouragement to enjoy it and live deeply. Loved your post.

  38. Thank you for this post. Firstly, I’m terribly sorry about your hardships. I can’t imagine what you are going through. I’m a sophomore in college and I’ve been feeling lost recently. I’ve tried planning for the future with friends, family members, trained professionals, etc. and it’s just impossible. I want to focus on the now without feeling guilty that I’m not planning for my future. Your words, “Live well, now, and here. Abandon hope,” will stay with me when all of my friends seem to have their life together and all I have left to do is desperately panic about things I cannot control.

    As a start up blogger, reading your insight about your writing process was so interesting. I’ve been haphazardly just writing and posting without substance because my journalism classes seem to be focusing on quantity over quality, but your post has inspired me to take the time I need to write about the important things.

    1. I get that feeling, and remember it well, in fact. It can be all too easy to rush into a decision or onto a path that is not you, because everyone else seems to have it together and have a plan. Some of us are just a little different, and that’s not bad. Someone once told me her mantra at times like this: “Your life is unfolding as it should.” I’ve found it useful. 🙂

  39. thank you for those touchy words you are good writer and i am sorry for what you have experienced my word to you is that you never abandon hopes its the one thing that keeps us going and determined to get what we want in life but always remember to have trust and faith in GOD these three things go hand in hand

  40. Thank-you. Your piece is really helpful, both in relation to writing and living (with grief).
    I don’t write as much as I think about writing, but learning the reality of the meaning of grief caused me to take the plunge and commit more words to ‘paper’.
    I’m in that stage of life (older parent, committed to life partner’s career path) where people who I have known and loved are dying. Suddenly it hit me that the gravity of these friends, colleagues and associates’ lives ending was what had happened over and over in earlier life, but I just hadn’t noticed it: I’d been too busy hoping something else was true. Like ‘Hope’. Like science fiction, like romance, like all kinds of escapism. Something has lifted off that veil of subtle delusion with the passing of my contemporaries: something like what you call abandoning hope. It was deeply saddening, I fought the black dog for a while, until the necessity of parenting showed me that creative expression of the reality of loss, was much better than so-called Stoicism. I journaled privately. Later as passages started flowing more poetically a few trusted faces were allowed to see where I had been.
    I think I get what you mean in the title.
    If it is embracing a simpler version of being here now, I think I might be getting closer to it, when I re-read your OP again. Writing might become a little easier if I write with hope rather than ‘in hope’.
    May your journey along the trail be flecked by surprise and wonder, by majesty and mystery in/of wild places. Keep your pauses to process and your gentle, wise words coming. Thanks for widening the circle of light.

    1. Thanks for this comment. One of the things I love about comments is how they help me refine my thinking. Yours is one I need to reread and think about. This I know right now though: “creative expression of the reality of loss, was much better than so-called Stoicism.”

      That’s spot on.

  41. Hey thankyou so so so much for letting me understand the meaning of something from which i was suffering badly.
    It is impeccable. Thankyou soo very much 🙂

  42. Yes! That’s it! You’ve nailed it! It sucks though, that it had to be through tough times and friends not being well for us to learn a lesson; but that’s exactly where we need to go, to be, to live.
    There’s no other place than now and we have to enjoy it to the fullest because, as Forrest Gump stated so truly: ” Life is like a box of chocolate; you never know what you gonna get.”
    Chocolate can be delicious but others are significantly unsavory at best, bitter or awful otherwise.
    It’s what you do with it all that matters.
    Abandon hope. Yes… and no. Live now, definitely.
    Have fun, embrace it.
    Wait for your kid to be out of school, but indulge yourself in the little things you love.
    Cheers! Happy now!

  43. Hi there….I’m a tad older then you..lol….59, and today is my first experience reading blogs and following bloggers….You my dear are my 1st and you did not disappoint. You are wise beyond your years and I’m impressed you took the time NOT to write, and live life as unpleasant as it can be, but then alas you shared the experiences and I believe that what this all about right? I feel your pain and I can almost touch your heart as you speak from there….I am truly humbled that you allowed us this peek into a very sensitive place within yourself. Good luck God Bless

  44. I have been thinking about an idea for my next blog called the new normal. I have been tending to my elderly parents for the past 6 months and everything in my life has flipped on its head. I would change my commitment to my parents as you would not give up your responsibilities to your child but it does have you asking, may I have my life back? May I have my hopes and dreams? Thank you for sharing such a thoughtful blog. I enjoyed your message and totally get you when you say to abandon hope. I certainly believe in hopefulness for the future ( I’m a psych nurse) but the emotion pulling you in like concentric pressure to the here and now is sometimes a drag. Peace to you in this moment. Thanks again.

      1. Thank you so much. Blogging has been cathartic for me and I am so glad to have been exposed to such good writing and wonderful philosophies of others. Thanks for checking out my site and giving me encouragement.

  45. Your Writing is truly beautiful. Just reading this got me tearing up a bit it´s just so inspiring and I´m looking forward to reading your other posts too. Keep up the good work 🙂

  46. Wow. You’re post is relatable on SO many levels. I also recently got back from a trip to florida where I had a revelation. I wrote about this in my very first blog post a few days ago called The Tide. I let my mind go. I ignored all of the “bullshit I tell myself while trying to fend off harder truths”. I have been so conflicted on where I should go to medical school next year, or following my new passion, writing and photography. I have always loved nature and its inhabitants more than most things, but until recently I had never even considered anything other than becoming a doctor. I think why I have always been so set on medical school (I kid you not, since I was in 4th grade), is because the future doesn’t seem so scary that way. When I think of setting off on an escapade as an independent trying to document the complexity and perfection that lies right before us in nature, suddenly my future is not so comforting. It is, a hell of a lot more exciting. I get butterflies in my stomach and it’s like a whole new world has opened before my eyes.

    But that’s the beauty of it right?

    Thank you so much for your exemplary post. Well done.

    1. Have you read Paul Kalinithi’s book “When Breath Becomes Air”? Ostensibly the book is about a neurosurgeon coming to grips with his terminal illness, but there is so much more there, including his pull between the medical profession and his love of words and nature. It was an interesting tension he held between those two things.

  47. I can’t say I’ve dealt with the death or impending death of a loved one before, but I can say that I’ve had to face the heartbreaking reality that the future is not guaranteed. Even so, I haven’t yet handed the future over to chance yet. Perhaps it is only the deafening roar of death that can make the present truly real to people like me. People who are still clinging to hope. Thank you for sharing this post. I have only this one more thing to add.
    You mentioned that not everything happens for a reason, but have you considered that your struggles have somehow changed many other lives. You’ve discovered an important truth and posted it where virtually anyone can see it. Maybe all of this happened to you so that someone else would see your struggle and how you’ve pulled through;thus, restoring their vision, allowing them to see past the pain the way that you have.

    1. I hope not. 🙂 Here’s why: Because when we say that, what we’re really saying is that these guys got painful and deadly illnesses so others could learn to live well. Yikes. I don’t think I’d be comfortable telling them the universe made them sick for that. And I wouldn’t be very happy with a universe that did so. But what I AM comfortable saying is that out of my friend’s experience with a terrifying illness, he gave me an extraordinary gift, which I tried to pass on to others. I can agree on that. But not as causation. 🙂

  48. WOW! This is so powerful and raw. Thank you for sharing what so many of us feel and are unable to find just the right words to express. I think throughout life there are many situations that make us rethink what we value in life, re-examine the things that are most important to us, and rejoice in the moments we have. I am so excited for you to have the opportunity to do just that. Instead of abandoning hope, rejoice in the moment, wherever it may be!

  49. I’m amazed at how many times in my life I have figured out the perfect recipe for fulfillment and happiness only to then watch that fall apart and I’m back to square one again. It used to really get to me in those times of disintegration.

    The older I get the less displaced I become when life knocks over my Jenga tower and I have to start over with another perspective. I have never given up hope, however, just altered how affected I get when my perceptions eventually are proven wrong. Again and again.

    Now I am a master at adaptability and reconfiguration. Somewhere in the hairline cracks of struggle lies the fulfillment I was after all along. Now I simply ebb and flow through life with a halfway smile and a much richer sense of humor and calm.

    I won’t chalk this all up to age, as I know many older people who lose their minds on a daily basis. Their addiction to victimization coupled with zero coping mechanisms does fascinate me a little. From a distance of course.

    The meaning of life is to stop starting sentences with “The meaning of life is…”.

    Live well!

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