About a year and a half ago, my world shattered. Today is not the day for those details. Just know that I don’t use the word “shattered” lightly. I lost people, places, calling. I used the word “decimated” a lot.
I walked around in a fog of grief: The heaviness that weights you, making every single task a deliberating, exhausting undertaking. I wasn’t even sure of how I was spending my days. Time got away from me a lot as I sat in my thoughts and memories and questions.
At the beginning, right when everything shattered, a friend sent me a quote from George Matheson that has kept me going like a light at the end of a very very long, very very dark tunnel: “Waiting with hope is very difficult, but true patience is expressed when we must even wait for hope. I will have reached the point of greatest strength once I have learned to wait for hope.”
This has been a season of waiting for hope. When the word “decimated” describes your life, it’s hard to have hope. I didn’t. I was hopeful for hope. And that’s a hard distinction to make, and a hard thing to admit.
This is part of a poem I wrote on January 29, 2013 in the midst of my heavy, empty season.
…Yearning for a new life, a new land, for some hope.
I can see it on the horizon, but the horizon is far away.
I hope I’ll someday get there, but it won’t be today.
I want the joy of healing, i just haven’t found it yet.
Today I’m still alone, my companions heartache and regret.
Soon I’ll trade them in, trade them new, for hope of better things,
But today I’m lost. I cry. I grieve.
Here are some lines from a bit later in the journey:
I want to have hope
right now I have none
(I want to be done).
But I am hopeful for hope
— I believe it will come.
I have not known hope in 19 months. That is, until a few weeks ago.
The logic in my head said that things would progress in life. That I could rebuild. That in time, with effort, it wouldn’t always be like this. But my heart could not feel it, could not believe it.
But after 19 months of my heart being earnestly on the lookout for hope, I found it.
I’m like Kevin in Home Alone, having the revelation and yelling at the furnace “I’m not afraid anymore!”
DO YOU HEAR ME? I HAVE HOPE!! I FOUND IT!
My soul feels like a broken jar that leaks, but enough has run into my broken heart for long enough that what is being poured in is overcompensating for what the cracks are leaking out. It’s taken a while to fill up because of those cracks. But I’m full again, and filling still.
And I believe part the reason is that in the last few months I’ve begun to take the hard, painful, intimidating step of telling my story — to people I have known for my whole life, to people who I’m just meeting. I’m telling my painful story, again and again, and in the telling, I feel myself getting fuller. I feel the cracks in my heart and my life decreasing in their gaping size.
I believe this is the stage of grief that they call “acceptance.” I had accepted it for myself a while back. But this step of accepting my loss, accepting my story out loud, is different. It is scary and powerful and freeing. And, it turns out, in the breathing out of the painful story, hope is breathed in.
Last week, I found myself thinking, unfiltered, “I love my life” as I went to bed. And it was true. It’s not even a great life. But I love it and the people in it. And it’s because I’m in love with life again. I’m full of hope again. I’m excited again.
Like walking down a dark tunnel toward the light at the end, I could see hope ahead of me this whole journey. My eyes were on it. My focus was toward it. But that night last week was that moment when you finally realize, you not just see the light, you are in the light. Under it. Surrounded by it. You may still be in the tunnel, but you are engulfed in the light of day ahead.
I laugh easily now. Often too loud. The loss doesn’t seem as heavy on most days. The broken pieces don’t feel so “decimated” anymore. The effort it takes to breathe is unnoticeable, as it’s meant to be. I know how I spend my days, and I spend them doing things I love, things that bring me back to life.
I am engulfed in hope.
And I’m giddy like a little kid on Christmas about the whole thing.
And to you who have walked with me through the tunnel, who have assured me that the light of day at the end is real when it felt like it was just an illusion — thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Let’s celebrate. You were right!
Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.
Other places are
instagram: @jrolicious twitter: @jrohanlon