What About Hope?

By Mo Vear 09/29/16

What happens when there’s no hope of changing the past and no word to describe the future?

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What About Hope?
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I know of a man that died last week. He was three months shy of turning 101. He was an alcoholic. 

Born in 1915 after the advent of the First World War, he lived through the Depression, the Second World War, and the terrorists’ attacks on September 11, 2001. 

The man who died, lived one full century of the 21 centuries we’ve lived on this earth. 

He outlived two wives, and in more recent years I thought he might outlive his 10 children, but only one preceded him in death - my twin brother, Mark. The man who died was my father and all that history stuff, is what one writes in reference to an un-lived life.

Like many families, we grew up talking about everything but what was really going on. I wanted to have a relationship with my father, but it had to be based on the truth. I decided it was time to clear the air, to address his alcoholism and the abuse that it manifested. It didn’t go well; he wanted nothing to do with me from that point forward, but it was cathartic. I thought my problems were over.

Little did I know, they were just beginning. 

I had a couple more years of my own drinking to do; more bottoms to hit. As disjointed memories continued to whittle away my spirit, my drinking got progressively worse. Dreams for a better life, one that wishes to find inner peace and contentment and the simplicity that an authentic life can bring, faded further into the shadows. 

I was just like my father - at least in my drinking. I wasn’t living; I was barely surviving, and the more I reached outside of myself to find what I thought I was missing, the more I drank. I couldn’t bear the thought of admitting that I was just like him.

For so long, alcohol had been a great way to cover up the pain that I had passively endured in my life, but when the alcohol wore off, the pain was still there. With each episode, the pain felt more acute and impenetrable; the repercussions of my behavior more irreparable.

I didn’t understand that drinking was merely a symptom of what was going on. It was my thinking that was the problem and the behavior that followed my thinking. It was my thinking that brought me to this dark place and dictated the choices I made. The alcohol just made me forget everything - temporarily. 

I would never understand it, until it became a matter of life and death.

Fortunately, after years in recovery, I’ve learned the true meaning of forgiveness and compassion and that making amends is a gift - given without the expectation of receiving anything, including acceptance, in return. 

The last time I spoke to my father was almost 20 years ago. While I left nothing unsaid in that 20-year-old conversation with my father, I had been able to tell him on that now-distant day that I loved him; that we all missed out as a family, and that I wished him peace in his life. He never reached out.

I ended up living only 10 minutes away from him. Strange and surreal, I’d occasionally see him at the local grocery store. I even tailed him once a few years ago; heart pumping, hands shaking, I followed him around the store taking out-of-focus pictures. I didn’t know what I was going to do with them, but proceeded with great fervor. 

I even held the door open as he left the store, but there was no acknowledgment. I could see it in his eyes; I still didn’t exist as a daughter, but I didn’t exist as a polite stranger either.

Surviving this encounter with my father, however, was painless by comparison, but the feeling of never belonging in the world was still an intricate part of my everyday life. Feeling undeserving was ingrained into my cells, infused into my fibers, but surviving this experience? It just meant deleting out-of-focus photos from the memory of my phone. 

It was symbolic, I like to think. 

But all I could think when I heard the news of his passing, was Stephen Hawking’s quote: “Where there is life, there is hope” and the sliver that I must have secretly held onto was gone. As hard as I had worked to heal, hope was gone for good. Like a carpet being snatched from underneath me, hope was being snatched from within me, but this time - the void and self-loathing that felt so colossal most of my life, was as thin as the sliver of hope that dissipated in his death.

I’m oddly impressed by his stubbornness and pray that his soul is finally resting. 

One of my brothers, who spoke at the wake invited anyone who wanted to speak, to do so.

I wondered.

How could my siblings, or I, reconcile our individual identities and come together to stand with the family we were born into?

My brother was bravely and publicly acknowledging the dark side of my family - my father’s alcoholism. I was shocked.

He was opening up a world of vulnerabilities, a world of possibilities; building a bridge that might somehow be strong enough to support all of us in our healing at any access point, and, for generations to come. 

Was it a glimmer of hope? The invitation I didn’t know I’d been waiting for? 

I became more determined to send this guy off without a single regret. Instead of jumping out of my skin, I jumped out of my seat like a heat-seeking missile and found myself standing at the front of the room.

I would find my voice.

In the end, it’s not about obligation, it’s about inspiration, so I let love be the last word, blaming him for nothing and thanking him for everything.

What else is there, if not gratitude?

I guess I understand more as a parent now how we can only teach what we know; how we can only do the best we can with the information we have, and love our kids through everything, no matter what.

Love is the only thing absolute.  

But what about hope? 

That’s a word I’ve only used to describe the future.

What happens when there’s no hope of changing the past and no word to describe the future? When the sliver of hope that you didn’t even know you had, slips away.

Does hope spring eternal, or is it just a fairytale? 

What happens next, is wildly uncertain.

I have faith…

...and my sobriety.

THAT gives me hope, one day at a time.

After spending her professional career in Hollywood, California where she worked with some of the best writers in film and television, Mo moved back to her hometown of Chicago, Illinois to get her Master of Arts in Writing from DePaul University. Married with two boys, she is currently a freelance writer with clients in the United States, Australia, Germany, and Japan, and the founder and creator of her website: humormewithmo.com, writing about day-to-day life with a humorous twist. Humor, she says, is the weapon against all of life’s absurdities, and, the best medicine for anything that ails her. 

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Mo Vear is a freelance writer who, after spending her professional career in Hollywood, California where she worked with some of the best writers in film and television, moved back to her hometown of Chicago, Illinois to get her Master of Arts in Writing from DePaul University. She says writing is the weapon against all of life’s absurdities, and, the best medicine for anything that ails her. You can find her on Linkedin and Twitter.

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