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.
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?