Hope For the Wrong Thing


I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope,
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing…
–T.S. Eliot

I have been waiting for inspiration. I’ve been waiting for Not This Song to feel like my home again. I’ve been waiting for clever post ideas and juicy metaphors and words that make me feel special; words that remind me why I do this and why it’s worth doing even though I don’t have the time and energy to be a Blogger with a capital B.

I need to stop waiting and just exist. I’ve been ill in body and mind, and improvement is slow. I can’t put off writing until I feel like something approaching myself again, or I’ll lose the habit even more than I have during these last couple of months.

Having patience is hard for me when the thing I’m waiting for is myself. I want to cudgel my brain and soul into a different place, and wake up whatever is sleeping. Now. Yesterday.

Recently, when doing a volunteer speaking gig at a detox, I found myself giving advice I’ve given before, and will again, about the need for patience in early recovery. This advice whispers to me lately, because I need to follow it just as much as I did nearly four years ago.

Now that we’ve taken this step, we want to get started changing our lives, I sometimes say to those who are listening. We want to know, now, how we’re going to be able to do it. We want to know, now, how it could be possible to live without our substances of choice. We want to know when and how we’ll get our lives, our loved ones, our jobs back.

What’s hard to accept is that we can’t know. We can’t know, because the brain we have in early recovery is not the brain we’ll have in six months, or a year, or two years. We have to wait, and work our recovery program, and let time heal us.

So, when I talk with people who are trying to figure everything out while still in the acute detox phase, I try to encourage patience as much as I can. I tell them I wanted the same things, and found out I needed to wait. I tell them about my first stint in treatment and how I obsessed about my need to get back to my career, and how that didn’t turn out well for me. I tell them I needed to accept that I wasn’t equipped, yet, for much besides staying clean and doing my best to cope with everything else after that–and I share about how much of a difference it made when I got that scrap of humility.

I believe the things I say about this subject–and it annoys me to no end when I need to follow this advice even after years away from drugs. Thanks to mental health issues, I must often wait out a tough biochemical stage and try to practice the kind of patience I talk about.

Lately, I follow the steps of daily life as if they were a prescription. I take the medicine and hope it starts to work soon. I do non-productive things and consider them occupational therapy. I walk outdoors, even for five minutes, because I know it’s a good idea. My brain is foggy, and I try to accept that. I try to be “without hope” in the sense of hoping for specific things, but it’s challenging. My mind skitters up and down a list of things that need to be done, or fixed, or improved.

But I need Not This Song no less than I ever have, so I pray for the humility to start writing more frequently again. My ego only gets in the way here;  it is my enemy when it tells me to wait and only express a future version of myself.

2 responses to “Hope For the Wrong Thing

  1. You express yourself so beautifully and your words are so powerful. I totally relate to having patience being challenging. I am that way myself. I’m also a writer and what I’ve learned is twofold:

    1. Sometimes, you have to just let go of the need to create something amazing. Whether that is a brilliant blogpost, story, article or poem. If you are anything like me, I tend to put too much pressure on myself to create which in the end smothers all inspiration. Which inevitably brings doubt and I don’t write.
    2. I need to write. It is a definitive part of who I am, so I’ve learned to do just that. Even if I don’t get something post or submission worthy, flexing my writing muscles will always bring me peace.

    The beauty of it all is that as long as you express yourself honestly and from your heart, you will be encouraging others to do the same. There will at least one person moved and encouraged by your words.
    Keep writing. There is wisdom in keeping moving.

  2. Thank you for that, Phoenix. I agree with it all, but sometimes I believe it more from someone else. Or from my past self–I look at previous pieces, and the theme of moving away from a meritocracy-oriented take on creativity comes up again and again.

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