Stubborn Hope

Endurance is a passive quality,
transforms nothing, contests nothing,
can change no state to something better
and is worthy of no high esteem;
and so it seems to me my own
deserves, if not contempt, impatience.

Yet somewhere lingers the stubborn hope
thus to endure can be a kind of fight,
preserve some value, assert some faith
and even have a kind of worth.

Dennis Brutus, former prisoner of conscience, South Africa
From Stubborn Hope, c1978 Heinemann Educational Books, Inc., Portsmouth, NH.

I have two sets of tools to use in managing my illness. One set consists of the familiar: support of friends, family, the members of my support group, my psychiatrist, plus therapy, medication, rest, exercise, use of behavioral and cognitive techniques and calm, quiet settings.

The second set is much more personal. These “tools” are experiences in my life that provide comfort when treatment isn’t effective. I list them on a set of index cards that are always ready at hand. When I’m having trouble with obsessive negative thoughts, despair, and grinding hopelessness I read through the cards individually, with care and consideration. Most cards list a single word:

“Music,” stirring music.

“Humor.” I cannot generate humor, but at some level it reaches me.

“Beauty.” Something beautiful must be near at hand. Usually it is light falling on my favorite glass vase, an illustration, or a textured fabric. My eyes and mind are soothed. Vibrant colors stop ruminating thoughts and bring peace, a dramatic although brief period of relief.

“Favorite books.” They are important as reminders of the admiration I have for the author’s intellect and talent. Virtuosity stimulates my constricted mind.

The last index card, however, cuts to the quick; sometimes there is no comfort. This card reads, “And some times, only endurance.” Years ago I wrote that phrase with a bitter heart. But since then, I have come to agree with Dennis Brutus. Endurance has value and relies on faith, albeit unrecognized by me. It reflects a stubborn hope, for tomorrow and the tomorrows to follow.

Greetings to you and to those you love and support.