Tell Me It Gets Better
The question begins in their hearts long before it finds shape on their lips.
Serpentine, it slips itself into their pulse. It fills their eyes and bears down heavy on their shoulders. It agitates their minds and makes restless their hands. Things that were sure became shaky. Things that were simple become hard. And the way forward becomes overgrown and unmarked.
Weary and scared, they make an appointment to see me. It’s nothing less than an act of great courage. For when visibility is poor, every step is tenuous. And in those first moments of meeting, I hear their unspoken question. I hear it because I’ve asked it myself. I hear it because, if we’re honest, isn’t it the question anyone who’s ever been through something painful asks?
“Tell me it gets better?”
And when you’re there, in that place, the place you haven’t chosen but that’s chosen you, you don’t want platitudes or unseasoned words or someone else’s experiences. You want something real. Something to hold onto. Something to keep you going.
Perhaps my greatest priority as a psychologist is to give people hope. I could not do my work without it.
Hope. Confident trust with the expectation of fulfilment.
Put like that, it sounds robust. It is. There’s a substance to hope. If it were possible to hold, I imagine it feeling like electricity in my hands. Powerful. Energised. Alive.
It isn’t whimsy. If you don’t believe me, try living without it. And whilst it’s never false, it can be misapplied.
But it doesn’t always feel robust. In the early days of finding it, it can seem flimsy and unreliable. Or when you’ve walked with it for a long time, but nothing appears to have changed, it can seem unwieldy and uncooperative.
Truth is, it’s rare that we can hope for what is guaranteed. Known things are known, not hoped for.
But life – is it more known or unknown? And so – hope? Optional, or essential?
What I know is that all of us will know this: we recruit hope and move towards a desired outcome, only to find it doesn’t work out. Here, it seems hope hands us disappointment.
We might despise hope. Rage against it. Protest its effectiveness. Curse ourselves for having it.
And then – despair. Hope existed as we knew it on the path to the thing that hasn’t happened. Where is hope now?
Someone once said, “where there’s life, there’s hope”. I’ve decided I agree.
For this to be true, when we cannot find hope, it must be elsewhere. Somewhere we’ve simply not yet looked. Perhaps somewhere unlikely. From what I’ve observed, unexpected hope revives us in ways expected hope cannot.
And for when it takes a little while to find, it’s okay. Hope waits to be found. It wants to be found.
Which is perhaps the point, because hoped-for things that don’t work out don’t discredit hope. For if we hadn’t hoped for them, would we have moved towards them at all?
And living is in moving, not in staying still. When light stops moving, it ceases to be light. Perhaps it is the same with us.
Hope is flexible. It can be redirected. It welcomes adjustments. It’s not a singular path. And it knows we can’t see very far ahead.
But it’s always expectant. Always forward-focussed. Always believing in possibility.
And with it, so are we.