In Part 1 of our mini-series, Jessica and I shared our experiences with anxieties and challenges from this past season of uncertainty. Although there were similarities, namely stress, our experiences and struggles varied. In contrast, as we each began working on our Part 2 Seasons of Hope posts, I was struck by the similarities in our perspectives and experiences (even choosing similar sun-themed pictures as symbolic of our emotions). I found it intriguing how hope has shown up in similar ways for both of us. Hope has brought opportunities to reconnect in-person with family and friends, to participate in activities and events that had to be put on hold the past year. Hope has brought a renewed promise of getting to enjoy life and make memories beyond pandemic-restrictions, and fresh chances to leave the lonely routines of COVID uncertainty and create new rhythms of joy and hope.
While we haven’t fully entered into this next season of hope, the transition is palpable. The possibility of vaccinations ushered in a surprising sense of relief; I was actually caught off guard by how encouraging it was to simply entertain the idea of getting to make plans for future get-togethers with family and friends. The very notion of a new season with different routines and more frequent social interactions sparked an optimistic sense of hope.
I wish that this spark of hope has been enough to jump me out of my pandemic-induced funk; I wish I could say that I’m now running around in rapturous joy, having shed the heaviness of the past season’s cumulative anxious uncertainty. I am just not there yet. Similar to what Jessica shared in her Part 2 post, the hope I’ve felt has been tenuous, cautious, almost skeptical. But, it feels like a much needed start.
As I began to contemplate what it might mean to transition to a season of hope, my thoughts wandered back to the past season of uncertainty. I realized that despite the stress that permeated daily life this past year, there have been moments of hope woven throughout. However, looking ahead to a season of hope feels very different from reflecting on past moments of hope. The idea of a hope-centered season feels like a sunrise after a week of cloudy days. It feels like an open window filling the living room with a warm, spring breeze after a winter’s season of a closed-up house. It feels like the happy ache from an unexpected belly-laugh after weeks of not cracking a smile. A season of hope feels life-giving.
As I continued to contemplate what a hope-filled season entails, I was struck by several unexpected aspects that this time of transition offers. For example, an opportunity to more fully process the past season of uncertainty. Additionally, I have discovered a renewed space to identify moments of hope that were whispered in the background throughout this past year. This hope-filled season brings fresh opportunities for new routines, certainly, but it also provides space to simply take a deep breath, step back, and reflect. In many ways, it feels similar to the experience of parenting. For example, there are some days, or weeks, where everything has seemingly gone wrong and the exhaustion of parenting has been overwhelming. In those days, it is impossible to truly appreciate the joy and abundant life kids offer. But, once the challenge of the difficult day has passed, there is often a fresh space to look back and appreciate just how amazing kids are. During the darkest parts of this past year, I was unable to recognize, acknowledge, or appreciate all the moments of hope that were woven throughout. It wasn’t until I had begun the transition to a different season that I could reflect on and notice the hope that often accompanied the past year’s experiences and emotions.
Of course, in the thick of the uncertainty, there was no reasonable way to discern the presence of hope or cling to the idea that things might eventually get better. There were weeks, even months, when I could not have honestly acknowledged the presence of any positivity, the fog of anxiety, stress, and uncertainty was too dense. The notion of an entire season of hope was too far off for me to conceptualize, so the reality that life would eventually change offered no consolation during the darkest periods of this past season. However, as the transition has unfolded, one of the most life-giving aspects has been that I have found some soul space, mental bandwidth, and emotional capacity to truly reflect on the hopeful moments that have been present. This in turn has given me an opportunity to begin to shift my focus from anxious uncertainty to hopeful anticipation.
In my Part 1 post, I shared some of the vulnerable rawness that I experienced over this past unexpectedly challenging season of uncertainty. However, like all things in life, there has been another side to the story. For example, although I was often paralyzed and overwhelmed by the wide-open free time in my daily routine, the unstructured days also provided opportunities to take time to intentionally enjoy small moments, to appreciate the comfort from an increased awareness of all that still is, to return time and again to the truth that even in the depths of loneliness, I was never alone.
Of course, not everything will be easy from here on out. Life, whether pre- or post-pandemic, is just not that simple. But, as we slowly begin a transition, I’ve come to accept that entering a season of hope doesn’t mean we dismiss the past, ignore the suffering, disregard the despair. Hope doesn’t erase anxious uncertainty or completely quell skepticism. Rather, this new season will provide space for continuing to feel and process the depth of loss. A season of hope won’t forget the past difficulties, anxieties, stresses, and uncertainties, but it will offer renewed opportunities to grieve, to reflect, to grow, to regain resilience, to reclaim hope as we move forward together in this journey of life.
Wendi, her husband, and their two kids live in Minnesota and are currently perfecting their best “ya sure you betcha” accents. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters and a member of the podcast Moms Who Wine.
*photo credit: personal photo*