Art = Hope Practice

hopeThis morning I sat in bed with watercolors and worked on a mandala.

I can hear my dad now, “Didn’t you have anything better to do?”

Or darling Tracey, “Time. So Much Time. Offspring derail that for a while.”

Or my favorite client, “During tax season?!”

Yes, I take Time off. Yes, Time with a capital T (so much of it). And, no, I can’t think of much else better to do than making art.

As I held the paint brush and moved tinted water down the page, it occurred to me that I was feeling hopeful.

Usually, when I stop and think about what “hope” means, it makes me angry. Who hopes? The powerless. Why sit passively hoping if you can take action to improve things? Why have hope when you can have solutions? Why hope when you can repair? Oh my god, I sound like a republican. Do republicans paint in bed?

I think it all became muddled for me when my dear friend died a couple years ago. I know I write about it often like it’s the event that changed everything.

It is.

When he was suddenly and permanently gone, what was left to hope for? Healing from grief? I didn’t want healing, I wanted him back.

Hope? Impotent sentiment.

Fuck hope.*

Lately, though, I’m growing less intense in my resistance. Without ever wanting it, I have healed considerably in recent months.

Doing a word search for “hope” here proves that I entertain some form of it pretty regularly:

“I hope cashmere isn’t the fiber equivalent of veal . . . ” (Feb. 26th)

“Feeling energetic, happy & hopeful.” (Feb. 2nd)

“I just really hope there’s not an earthquake before I take a shower.” (Jan. 20th)

” . . .Thanksgiving getaway. I hope to have more time to write from there.(Nov. 21st)

“I hope this is a one way street; I’m on the left side of the road.” (Nov. 15th)

“I hope you like it.” (Nov.8th)

“Hopefully he’ll take out the recycling, too.” (Nov. 1st)

See? Simple hopes (unless you’re a goat).

That’s how it was today.

The hopes I had were simple: that the aquamarine saturation would diminish with every stroke, that the color wouldn’t cross over the boundaries, that I would lift the brush in time before playing cats shook the bed.

I didn’t have to wait to find out.

I didn’t have to hold on through months of nausea and blood tests.

I didn’t have to leave my body and walk towards the light.

I didn’t have to click my heels three or twenty times. I didn’t have to give a hoot or jump through hoops or shoe a hoof or arch or stretch or yawn or retch or cough.

Plus, if I failed, I could try again. Simple.

When I realized I was feeling hopeful, I thought, perhaps optimism is a muscle that can be strengthened. If so, I need to bring out the paints more often.

What do you think? Is there anything you do deliberately to increase your belief in a good outcome?



*Just because George Carlin said it first, doesn’t mean I can’t feel it.


8 thoughts on “Art = Hope Practice

  1. As sarcastic and snarky as I can be, I have to admit that it has often concealed a pretty devout optimist. How do I encourage that optimism? I have no idea. I suppose I go easy on myself. I recognize that I barely made it out of my teens and, even luckier, I made it out with some brain cells still intact. I take things (and even appreciate them some days) for what they are rather than I want them to be. That also goes for enjoying what I’m doing rather than thinking about what I should be doing. I’m actively thankful every single day that life isn’t fair, since I don’t know anybody THAT good–and I’m perhaps furthest from being that good. I guess I simply do my best. And, most days, it’s good enough because I’ve done something.

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Dalyn. Funny, I wrote round and round about this today, and at one point, during the writing, I came to a similar thought – that perhaps I need to go easier on myself.

      1. Eh. I feel like it’s a bunch of cliches, but I do think that appreciating people, places, and things for what they are is the biggest for me. I always tended to see potential more than reality, which inevitably lead to disappointment.

        1. You’re reminding me why the concept of hope annoys me. Hope is about expectation & desire. Appreciating things for what they are is much more zen. I’m going back to my original intent w/ art…. not hope, just breathing & exploring. Yeah, fuck hope. :)

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