Category Archives: confusion

Hope: A Limited Commodity?

Yesterday I did not work out, do my laundry or wash the dishes. I ate something I shouldn’t have eaten and used Uber instead of taking the bus. As a result, I felt like crap at the end of the day. There are several life changes I want to make and I’m good for about a week, then…fail. This pattern makes me feel sort of hopeless. Which made me wonder, “Is hope a limited commodity?”


It also made me wonder about the ways that we chip away at our own capacity for hope. WE do this ourselves. Or maybe only some of us do. I know there are folks who are able to say, “I had a crappy day. I’ll do better tomorrow.” However, this only works when you actually DO BETTER tomorrow. It doesn’t work when you keep making the same dumb mistakes over and over. And over.

In recovery, there is a lot of self-esteem work that needs to happen, and the most useful way to build self-esteem is by doing “esteemable,” or rather, estimable acts. Does the same hold true for hope?

If so, how do we go about performing hopeful acts? How do we build our stores of hope?

What chips away at YOUR stores of hope, and how do you build them up? Please share!

William Stafford’s quietly encouraging poem below goes a long way to helping us think about this question.

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

By William Stafford, from The Way It Is, 1998



Filed under confusion, hope, lent

“Piss on a bunch of hope:” The Day Before the Beginning: The Confusion of Hope (Lenten Explorations 2017)

I have this friend who always says, “Piss on a bunch of hope.” I think this is because he suspects that hope is a delusion, masking, somehow, the deeper and more interesting and useful reality of any given situation.

Hope, as it is defined, is not a given. It is to live in the expectation or wish that something we desire will occur. Now, to be honest, that does sound a little delusional, does it not?

Or IS hope a given, meaning is it intrinsic to us, that we always have it, that we are we born with it? Do we have it until something takes it away? Do we strengthen it when we are tested?

Or do we choose hope, at some point so early in our lives that we don’t remember doing so?

And do we give up on hope, for whatever reasons? Or does hope simply drain away from us, as we watch its disappearance in utter despair?


That is what we will be exploring here during the next 40 days. I invite you to join me and to share your thoughts, because this is a really important question. Your replies will allow others to learn from you, so please don’t be shy.

How glorious it will be to reach Easter Sunday with a true, heart-felt answer to this question, and how amazing you will all be for your willingness to fight your way to such an important declaration: “I know what hope is!”

A poem for today from the utterly fabulous Naomi Shihab Nye, about fretting, and worry, and in the end, simple reassurance.

300 Goats

In icy fields.
Is water flowing in the tank?
Will they huddle together, warm bodies pressing?
(Is it the year of the goat or the sheep?
Scholars debating Chinese zodiac,
follower or leader.)
O lead them to a warm corner,
little ones toward bulkier bodies.
Lead them to the brush, which cuts the icy wind.
Another frigid night swooping down —
Aren’t you worried about them? I ask my friend,
who lives by herself on the ranch of goats,
far from here near the town of Ozona.
She shrugs, “Not really,
they know what to do. They’re goats.”
Image result for goats


Filed under confusion, hope, lent

Confusion Endurance

On the same day that I was thinking about confusion and how often I feel plagued by it–on the exact same day–I read this following passage.  It’s from a book I’m using for a creativity class I’m teaching this semester.  “‘Confusion endurance’ is the most distinctive trait of highly creative people, and Leonardo probably possessed more of that trait than anyone who has ever lived.  Principle number four–Sfumato [Italian for “nuance”]–guides you to be more at home with the unknown, to make friends with paradox” (Michael J. Gelb, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, 10-11).

I don’t really get confused by large life unknowns, but small things confuse me more and more, and I’m worried that it’s a sign of deteriorating mental capacity.  The irony of this is that I am becoming more physically fit than I’ve ever been in my life, and I have very fast reflexes.  But I sometimes forget how to spell words like peave peeve.  The other day, I had to read the word “speach” three or four times before I was completely sure that it was spelled incorrectly.  Maybe you only get one or the other–you can be mentally sharp and physically sluggish, or confused and athletic.  I don’t know, and I’ll probably forget that I wondered about it by the time I finish writing this sentence.

Below, random observations on the issue of confusion:

  • If you are confused by your own skin care regime, something has to go.
  • Many people often do not know the date.
  • Perhaps you can remember EITHER your child’s principal name OR that she buys her shoes at Talbots, not both.
  • I’m never sure which set of lights will come on when I press the light switches in the kitchen.  
  • It’s okay to respond “I don’t know” to your child’s question, even if you do know but lack the mental stamina to answer.
  • My kids and I continue to go to the Baskin Robbins “drive-thru” even though they never get our order right.  Ever.

    The doors that lead to my classroom. Does anyone understand this?

I understand the value of embracing ambiguity and paradox.  In fact, I appreciate it and find it very liberating.  But not when it has to do with forgetting where I stored my $700 anti-teeth-grinding device.

Is it aging?  Hormones?  Stress?  A brain tumor?  Something I thought about this morning on my way from the car to my office but can’t think of now?  Do other people experience the sensation of your brain being about a nanosecond behind the rest of your body?

It would be so kind of you to let me know if you do.  But if you don’t, and really think this is the sign of a brain tumor, please don’t write to me.

The poet Rumi understood confusion, which is fine if you are a Sufi mystic who twirls around in circles reciting poems, but not so great if you are a middle-aged woman trying to remember the location of your son’s track meet.  But, as Rumi reminds us, on the other side of uncertainty is kindness, tenderness, compassion.  And also, I would assume, remembering Michael Gelb’s quotation, creativity.  Potential.  “So, it’s okay, my poor overtaxed brain.  I’ll try hard to love you anyway.  Just please remember to pay the mortgage because that really sucked last month when you didn’t.”

What confuses you?

Zero Circle 

Be helpless, dumbfounded,
Unable to say yes or no.
Then a stretcher will come from grace
     to gather us up.

We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty.
If we say we can, we’re lying.
If we say No, we don’t see it,
That No will behead us
And shut tight our window onto spirit.

So let us rather not be sure of anything,
Beside ourselves, and only that, so
Miraculous beings come running to help.
Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,
We shall be saying finally,
With tremendous eloquence, Lead us.
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,
We shall be a mighty kindness.



Filed under confusion, creativity, humor