7 March, 2011
19 December, 2009
2009 was ushered in on the tails of a Collective Hope – we, as a nation, had spent a huge portion of our energy on ensuring that Barack “Hope” Obama was elected to office, and the celebration that followed his victory in early November lasted roughly 10 weeks, through to his inauguration on that frigid day in January. We felt the pressure of the world on our shoulders, and suddenly, it wasn’t enough just to vote, but we expended a great deal of mental and emotional and sometimes physical energy hoping so damn hard that this one moment would be the change in history that we, as individuals, as a country, as members of the world, so desperately needed. It was the biggest Care Bear Stare in history, as we all gathered to concentrate our Hoping on putting Barack in office.
And then, we were exhausted.
Last night, at annual holiday dinner party, my friends and I each volunteered what we were thankful for in our lives right now, and what our high points of 2009 had been. No one had very inspired answers; the best being “when I got laid off,” and the worst being “nothing; nothing good has happened in 2009.” It seemed low-points were far more plentiful and easier to conjure.
It got me thinking that maybe what we were missing last year around this time was the hope for ourselves. We were so fixated on the political hope that perhaps we invested too much in that; for although we all believed heartily that Obama’s election would change all of our lives for the better, his message of Hope did not apply to us on a personal level. Hope for the nation, Hope for the world, but what about for us?
I can’t help but wonder if, recession notwithstanding (I realize I’m asking a lot there), we just didn’t have the time or energy to position ourselves in the metaphysical space needed to enter 2009 positively, with optimism for our personal futures, with the knowledge that the ability to make our lives better begins and ends with us. We readily became proud citizens of the country for the first time in eight years, and our energies went towards hoping for better things for the group we belonged to – citizens – rather than for just ourselves, not simply as citizens, but as individuals, as unique snowflakes in this global blizzard.
By beginning the year neglecting our own need for hope (without which we’re pretty much doomed), we all started the year on less stable footing. For some of us, the ground was already fairly shaky and became increasingly worse. For others, the cracks in the once-solid ground came out of nowhere. Either way, as the country sunk into recession, we as individuals descended into depression, realizing that no one was there to hold our hand through these hard times, and despite friendships built on newly available unemployment time, we all had to learn what it was like to be a little more alone. There was an emptiness that grew more vapid as the months wore on, and I’m starting to believe that the void was created by our wearing out our energies too early, on causes other than ourselves.
Going in to 2010, a new decade that couldn’t have come too soon, we are too weary, too jaded, too afraid to invest much faith in anything – but placing faith in the greater picture just seems futile. 2009 was proof of that. Don’t get me wrong – despite the frustrations and disappointments, there’s no other person who should be in office right now other than Obama, and I believe that we did cause that change – but we’ve learned that entrusting so much of our hope in an entity so far out of our hands does not yield a fair exchange. Our Hope Portfolios need more diversification than we were willing to undertake last year; but the safest investment, the one most likely to grant the most returns, is putting our hope for the future in ourselves. Sure, we bear the brunt of the responsibility for it (call me a romantic, but I refuse to take all responsibility for what happens in my life. See “The Traumatic Bike Theft of 2009” for proof), but our accountability is more real, and thus, our rewards are that much greater, that much more fulfilling, that much more meaningful. And that works to renew our hope for another day, another month, another year. 2009 flew by, but each day was a chore, no matter how it was filled. I want 2010 to snowball – whatever hope we can muster to start the year off, as long as its a personal hope, as long as its genuine, to make January better than December, which will make our approach to February that much more positive, which will make it that much easier to wake up in the morning and face the life that awaits us.
On my way home from the dinner party, I sighed to my friend Elaine that 2010 simply had to be better than 2009. She smiled her comforting smile, patted my knee, and said “It already is.”