Go with me on this for a minute or five. Picture yourself talking to your doctor, and they give you some news. It’s not great news. In fact, it borders on awful, but then they say that it’s a 50/50 split. We don’t know which way this will go or how it will turn out. Everything could be fine, and you’ll make a full recovery. Or, you know, not recover at all.
I know it isn’t an image you want in your head. If it makes you feel better, picture a cartoon character and put them inside an imaginary television. They can be the unfortunate soul in this position, not you. All you have to do is push play so, push the button and watch the story play out.
You— or the cartoon character— are sitting there, stomach contents inching up your esophagus, and for a moment, you forget how to breathe. It’s almost like you can see the cogs in your brain working. Tiny neurological elves are typing away on their calculators. They’re crunching the numbers, slips of paper are flying everywhere, and working the angles.
It’s sheer chaos, and if we’re being honest, it’s closer to madness. It’s a furious attempt to process new information and make sense of some weighted news. Come on, think Chicken Little, think. What’s going to happen? Is the sky really falling? What do we do? Think, damn it.
And then a whistle blows.
Everything stops. Time. Thought. The cogs come to a grinding halt. Even those tiny elves look up, their fingers hovering over the numbers, with wide-eyed anticipation. The data has been processed. A conclusion has been reached. We have a consensus.
So, what will it be? 50% hope or 50% doom? Maybe it’s just me, and I’m projecting here, but we all lean one way or the other. It’s our base instinct. A knee jerk reaction. Do we have any control over what we’ll choose? I don’t think we do. At least, not our initial response because that comes out like a slap across the face.
We can process, rationalize, and come back with counterpoints. I think we can get ourselves to believe one over the other eventually. But what about those first five minutes? After we’ve swallowed the bile and remembered how to breathe, there’s an initial reaction.
Forgive me, I’m going to be vague because I need to protect and respect the privacy of the people I love. I’m struggling to find a way to do that while exploring these brain worms. These fanciful ideas and questions that won’t leave me alone. How much do I say? How little can I get away with? It’s a delicate balance, and I’m sure I’m doing a mediocre job.
But this thing that shall not be named— so mysterious— culminated in a horrible day last week. It was just awful. I can’t remember the last time I cried that much or felt such intense desperation. When someone you love is going through something horrific, and there’s nothing you can do to help? It’s a gut punch that’s on repeat. I’d rather take the punch than watch them hurting any day.
I think I’d handle it better than sitting on the sidelines watching helplessly. Actually, I know I would because I’ve been in their position. It’s easier to be a patient than sitting out here, unable to do a damn thing. And the pandemic doesn’t help. Visitations are limited so, I can’t even go in and hold a hand.
This whole thing sucks, and I’m not handling it well at all. Someone kindly asked me how I was doing, and I had to walk away before I had a complete breakdown. There was no explanation. I just turned around and walked off. It was incredibly rude, and I need to apologize or explain myself.
I’m sorry, I’m not doing that great. I’m a mess, but I appreciate your thoughtfulness. Thank you for taking the time to ask. Next time, I’ll try to answer you with words instead of tears.
Oh, but then it got worse. We received a call late in the evening, and we were given the odds. 50/50. It could go either way. They didn’t sound confident, and there were decisions we had to make. I desperately wanted to be hopeful. 50% is still 50%. The scale hasn’t been tipped. It’s not a done deal. There’s a reason to hold on to hope so, for the love of God, have hope.
That’s what I told myself to do over and over again. Have hope. Hold on to hope. There’s still a chance so, don’t give up yet. Just hold onto the positive, but that felt like I was setting myself up to get hurt. As if giving in to the other half would’ve lessened the pain.
That’s a silly thought, isn’t it? If I expect the worst, then the worst can’t hurt me. Except, it doesn’t matter how much you prepare your head. You can’t prepare the heart. It will still feel the pain, grief, and whatever emotion it chooses. In this case, preparation is a fool’s errand at best, and at worst, it’s a make-work project. It keeps me busy, and I can pretend that I’m doing something fruitful. In reality, I’m just hurting myself more and prolonging the torment.
Why do I do this to myself? Isn’t hope a better place to sit and wait? If choosing the negative only prolongs the pain? Isn’t it better to go with the reprieve offered in a moment of hopelessness than dwell in the misery?
I don’t think I slept for three days straight. I spent every waking second praying as hard as I could. To be truthful, I’m not all that sure that God and I are on speaking terms these days. Well, I talk, and then there’s silence. A long, drawn-out, heavy stillness. Somedays, I wonder why I even pray, but then I have days like this one, and it’s the only thing I can do.
Which felt absolutely useless, hopeless, and pitiful but there it was, and so it went.
Despite my logical mind telling me that there was a reason to hope, that the odds were evenly split, I couldn’t hold on to it. It felt wrong. It felt like I was lying to myself and putting on a brave face. Smile so they don’t see you cry. You’re so much prettier when you smile. Even when it’s a mask hiding my scars, bruises, and a breaking heart?
Yeah, some people prefer the mask to the real deal, but I just can’t deal with that. It’s exhausting, pointless, and I’m way too tired. The truth is so much easier when you’re too tired to give a damn so, I let my mask fall.
After a few days of panic and sleepless nights, things levelled out a bit. The journey is long, and we’re at the beginning. I want to write that there’s room to hope, more than there was a few days ago, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I’m so scared that I’ll say the wrong thing and jinx the progress that’s been made.
I’m choosing my words carefully because I don’t want to tickle the fates and piss them off. They get mean when they’re angry, and they don’t care who they hurt. They lash out with lightning bolts, strong winds, and indiscriminate tides. If they aimed it at me? Well, that’s okay, but their aim is notoriously bad. Collateral damage is not an option.
Do I believe in the fates and saying the wrong thing? No, not really. And if this was any other time, I would laugh at the idea. Not to poopoo on anyone’s beliefs. You do you and all of that. I’m simply a natural-born cynic so, I respectfully chuckle at ideas that sound fanciful. Is that better?
At any other time, I wouldn’t give those ideas room to grow. They’d be an interesting curiosity, but they wouldn’t go further than that. But we’re here now, and right now, I don’t want to risk it. I don’t want to give the mythical a chance to prove they exist. Not when the what-if vultures are circling and looking for a tasty meal.
Wow, I’m just covering the spectrum of beliefs, myths, and fairytales. Desperately clutching at anything that just might help. Putting my faith in an invisible God while trying not to anger mythical forces.
But why not? What do I have to lose? I want to believe that everything will be okay. I’m looking for signs, and I don’t care how small they are. Everything means something, even if they don’t mean a damn thing. Did that sentence make any sense? I’m seeing rose buds through the thorns because I desperately want everything to be okay. It has to be okay because if it isn’t… I can’t let myself finish that sentence.
This is a strange kind of limbo that’s neither here nor there. I’m too afraid to hope in case hope is futile. I desperately need to place my faith in a wide range of fantastical philosophies because doing nothing will drive me insane. Also, I can’t help but wonder why this is even a choice? Shouldn’t I go with the thing I need instead of worrying about the one that might let me crash and burn?
Why, when faced with an even split, is it easier to go with the negative and abandon hope? More than that, I bypassed it entirely. It took a great deal of effort and a reminder from a friend that there’s another option. It’s not all bad or all good. As long as we’re sitting in that limbo? Well, there’s a reason to hope, even though it feels counterproductive.
I don’t normally ask for favours, but if you believe in prayer? Could you spare a minute for someone I love? If you believe in good vibes, could you send it their way? Positive energy will do wonders. They need all the love they can get.
Thanks so much, and hug the people you love just because you can.