A Catalog of Hopes and Sins

By Kellie Purcill

Some things I hope are true:

1. That I will always have my sense of humor.
2. That when I visit America, my Australian accent will be happily accepted and understood.
3. That my divorce will help my sons have stronger marriages.

Divorce messes with your head. I have spent a depressing chunk of the past two years looking back on the past 13 years of my life, trying to work out just how this steaming mess of effluent ended up all over me. For most of the first six months after separation, I couldn’t even trust that I would make it through each day – I just prayed fervently that I would, because my sons needed me, because I was the only parent left, because I wanted to be able to function for them, but had no idea how I was going to do so.

The only hope I had glimmering far off amid the muck was a blessing I received the day my husband left, the blessing promising that “all this will work out for you and your sons.” I had no idea how that would happen, when it would happen, what would come to pass to bring such an obviously far-fetched miracle to fruition, but I had faith that the blessing would be true. Believed that somehow and eventually, the words would find form and substance in my every day and not just be a mantra muttered under my breath, or phrases scattered through my prayers like dropped beads.

Of course having hope didn’t stop the emotional rubbish from piling up, didn’t keep me from drafting savage letters in my head or asking God just how He could let such tragedy occur to me of all people. I hoped I would survive, but I also cut people off in traffic, forgot or chose not to study the scriptures every day and certainly didn’t pray for my enemies when and like I should have. I was hurting, and hope couldn’t wipe all the pain and imperfection away.

In the latest issue of Segullah, Emily Inouye shares some of her own experiences in A Catalog of Hopes and Sins. She begins with hopes:

1. That people are basically good.
2. That frozen yogurt is as healthy as regular.
3. That Amy P. has forgiven me for failing to stand up for her the day Trevor and Sam made fun of her on the playground, next to the red tunnel slide.

What struck me with Emily’s essay the first time I read it was the optimism, the positivity in each list. Which is odd and unexpected, since lurking under each story is a powerful, negative emotion like fear or guilt. Emily catalogues her own self-assessed sins, where she has been at fault, selfish, has lied, or simply done nothing:

“…I wondered if I should say something. If friends don’t let friends drive drunk, what about letting total strangers rock climb? I settled on a simple, “Have a safe climb,” as we walked by. I hope they didn’t fall. But if they did, would it be my fault?”

I’m not sure I’m brave enough to catalogue my sins, let alone those situations I have been at fault. When I first read the essay, I thought my cowardice was the itch that kept bringing me back to reread Emily’s words. It wasn’t. Then I thought it was the fun of making lists of hopeful truths – partly, but not quite. My attraction, my interest in the catalogue is that even with the relating of errors, of lamented choices, Emily has catalogued her hopes (and sins) according to the positive, not in relation to the negative. She has used hope as the focus, not fear.

I can quite easily rewrite my initial list of hopes as negative hopes or fears:

1. I hope I won’t lose my sense of humor.
2. I hope people will understand me when I visit America.
3. I hope my divorce won’t damage my sons’ marriages.

The lists are still the same, still holding the same intent – they are just aimed in opposite directions. I can write my lists negatively – but I don’t want to. It’s the aim towards the hopeful happy answer that draws me to Emily’s words, the lists that one day will be more than hope; they will truly be fact and reality.

“And so it goes. I sift the past, cataloging questions and regrets, then seeking answers. Hoping for redemption.”


What are three pieces in your own catalogue of hopes? Is it easy for you to make a list of hopes? What does sifting the past do for you?

About Kellie Purcill

lives way on the other side of the planet in her native Australia and gives thanks for the internet regularly. She loves books, her boys, panna cotta, collecting words, being a redhead and not putting things in order of importance when listing items. She credits writing as a major contributing factor to surviving her life with sanity mostly intact, though her (in)sanity level is subject to change without warning.

17 thoughts on “A Catalog of Hopes and Sins”

  1. Sifting the past makes me happy that I don't have to do it again. HAPPY! I've been remembering embarrassing moments lately, and I'm especially happy that those are behind me, altho' I'm sure there will be more… it's how I roll.
    1. I hope people don't misinterpret my laugher–it helps me get beyond uncomforable moments.
    2. I hope I will always listen to and act upon the promptings I receive from that inner voice (the spirit).
    3. I hope to always find an overwhelmingly larger portion of good in the world, than bad.
    Good, thoughtful post – thanks.

  2. I have a lot of cringing throughout my sifting. 🙂 Mostly the "oh-that-was-so-awkward" cringe followed by "glad-that-is-over" relief. My hope list is a little difficult to put together – there are so many things to be hopeful for.
    1. I hope our legislature makes choices that are beneficial to the country, whatever those choices may be.
    2. I hope to always have a sense of humor even when those around me do not.
    3. I hope my son grows up understanding how much I love him, that sacrificing things I wanted for him were more than worth it, and how great he can become – it's amazing the hopes and dreams one can have for their child.

    Thanks for that Kel – it was very though provoking. The most I've thought in a while about what I really want.

  3. Now that my children are getting older and starting to leave the nest, I've been examining my mothering, trying to look at all of it—the good, the bad, and the ugly. And most of my hopes lately center on this one: Despite my many weaknesses and my oh-so-imperfect mothering, I hope my children will make good choices, live happy and devout lives, form strong families of their own, and reach their potentials.
    That about sums it up.

    Loved this post, Kellie!

  4. Kellie,
    I really liked this post. I (obviously) don't even know you, but I always like reading your comments and posts, and always hope for the best for you and your sons. Thank you for your honest sharing. I find it refreshing and inspiring.
    It has been a top priority goal of mine for the last several years to shift nearly every aspect of my life to the more positive view and take on things. I like what you point out: that the lists are still the same. It's SO true! But it feels much better to live them out in the positive form rather than the negative. It also never ceases to amaze me (I don't know why) how quickly things can change; in the blink of an eye, something that was once SO important, quickly slides to the back burner as you must focus on the new, and pressing… (um, positive light?…)experience. And so, my list of hopes today is different from last week:
    1. That I will always have my sense of humor.
    2. That the mass displacing my carotid artery and jugular vein in my neck is benign, and the surgeons who remove it will be precise, careful, and successful.
    3. That my family (especially my children) will be blessed by this "experience."

    For the record, I think making a list of hopes is an excellent exercise. Thanks~

  5. 1. I hope I can always, if at least eventually, choose Us over Me, wherever I am.
    2. I hope we have years together as happy newlyweds.
    3. I hope I give my self an education I've always wanted, traditionally or not.

    This was hard, and cleansing. Thank you for the post and all the comments!

  6. Jenny 1 – "it's how I roll" made me laugh, as I'm the same.

    Tay – getting to the relief is so much sweeter after the cringe, don't you think?

    Melissa – it's amazing how so many hopes focus on one overall hope, particularly with/for our kids. That's a great summing it up you made!

    Jenny 2 – I hope your hopes 2 & 3 in particular are true! *Hugs*

    Traci – I hope I will always read all of your comments, I always appreciate them.

  7. Thank you for this post. I'm slow to comment because you've made me think…

    1. I hope my children know how much I love them.

    2. I hope I can always hear the whisperings of the Spirit.

    3. I hope my dad can make good decisions.

  8. I love that Emily Inouye essay, but I don't think I could have said so clearly why.

    Some things I hope are true:

    1. That carrots and apples are a vegetable.
    2. That my no-show at church this week didn't unstaff the nursery.
    3. That my husband travels safely, again.

  9. I've been thinking about this one too. Now I've got some to share-
    1. I hope that my children will use the atonement to heal from the negatives in their life (especially those negatives stemming from my imperfections).
    2. I hope that my depression never comes back. (This one is stronger than hope as I put so much effort into it.)
    3. I hope that life continues to trend up despite the episodic downs.

  10. Though provoking, an well-timed for me in this period of transition.

    1. I hope that my husband finds a good job sometime soon. I know that whatever happens will be the best for our family in the end. Still, I hold out hope that soon will be the day he gets that phone call, and accepts that job offer, not later.

    2. I hope those here will not forget me. I know I will never forget them. I have been so impressed with the outpouring of love I have received these past days–with everyone wanting to say goodbye. It is so bittersweet for me. I hope they have a happy rest of their lives, of course. i don't want them sad over this forever! But I hope they remember me occasionally. I won't be forgetting them anytime soon!

    3. As always, I hope my children will be okay. I moved many times as a child, and I always found it traumatic. Still, I know I turned out (almost) normal. And yet, as their mother, I wish I could take all their pain away. I suppose, however, that God loves them more than I do, and even at their young ages he puts obstacles into their lives to make them stronger. So my hope is they will eventually feel okay.

  11. Michelle L – I hope that too.

    Johnna – I'm willing to hope the same if it means vegetable pie = apple pie!

    Sharlee – it's fun having such a big list of hopes, though not as fun trying to condense or distill it. Good luck!

    Jendoop – "This one is stronger than hope as I put so much effort into it." Love it.

    DeniMarie – I hope your transition goes well, settles quickly and works brilliantly for you all!

  12. I hope I never stop trying to find and maintain peace in my life.

    I hope my children understand how and where to find happiness.

    I hope our family continues to love and support one another always.


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