Hope and Fear

Photo by Audrey Jensen

A nasty kink has been terrorizing the back of my neck for weeks. 

Writing from the wingback chair in my room with a board laid over the arms to hold the computer has been forcing my neck into an awkward position. After almost two years of this sort of abuse, my neck is rebelling. 

The neck controls the territory between body and mind so I’m sort of at her mercy. Although I do feel bad about all the extra skin she has to deal with. It’s as if my forehead relocated?

I’m now a refugee in the dining room writing at an unfamiliar table, with a view of both the kitchen and the wine bar. Yeah, the struggle is real. 

I jest only because I realize we’re all reeling from an influx of horrific news, living in unprecedented times, and yet finding humor in the midst of a tragedy can be an act of optimism.

My hope of touching on a weighty subject such as the war in Ukraine has been silenced by my ignorance of foreign politics, powerful dictators, and the struggle for world dominance.

I do not mean to dispose of the agony experienced by the people of Ukraine who are fighting for their lives because they’ve become sitting ducks in a precarious position.

From the safety of my home, I find it almost impossible to comprehend the intensity of their suffering. Families displaced from their homes, huddled in crowded shelters, nothing familiar except the fear they’ve been forced to carry, and the intense trauma created by a ruthless regime. 

As Martin Luther King Jr. penned about justice from a Birmingham jail in 1963, we now understand suffering anywhere is suffering everywhere. 

I read a post today from Allison Marie Conway, who recently embarked on a sober lifestyle, and has been sharing her journey in her blog (linked here). Today I was intrigued by her explanation of hope and fear.

Conway claims your hopes and fears are at war, immersed in an engaging battle between what you desperately wish could be true for you, and what you are most afraid could be true for you. For example, her desire for sobriety has been wrestling with her fear of living without alcohol. And in that conflict, we are forced to realize the truth beyond truth, our hopes and fears are two sides of the same coin.

What we want most for ourselves, for our world is what we are most afraid to go out and get.

This struck me as an extraordinary insight.

Of course, it had me thinking about my hopes and fears and I couldn’t come up with a single scenario where this wasn’t true. I want to be healthy but I have an unreasonable fear of doctors. I want to publish a book but my fear of failure holds me hostage. My desire to share resources is masked by a fear of scarcity. My fear of rejection cripples my desire to meet new people. Sometimes I’m silenced for fear of saying the wrong thing. It goes on and on. 

This especially happens when our desire for strong relationships clash with our fear of courageous conversations. 

Last week a dear friend from my writing group showed up to our weekly call completely naked. I mean that metaphorically of course because what she did is model for us what a courageous conversation entails. She confronted us with honesty, vulnerability, and trust concerning an issue that had come up within the group that was hurtful to her, one that shut her down and made her feel invisible. 

The most important thing she said, and I’m paraphrasing, “I would not be able to stay in this relationship if I buried these feelings and did not share how I honestly felt.”

I sat with that for a while.

The thing is we all have relationships that are tarnished with buried pain and unresolved conflicts. These conflicts will not go away on their own. They will continue to fester as if a redwood sliver under your skin until the relationship is so infected, it’s incapable of sustaining or nourishing the growth of either party. And this appears to be the reality for Russia and Ukraine.

We want strong relationships but we are deathly afraid to come to the table naked, exposed, and vulnerable, ready to speak our deepest truth. It’s much easier to condemn one another than to explain how you’ve been hurt by the behavior of someone you dearly love. 

Hello, if we find it difficult to maintain a peaceful environment in our own homes, or with our closest friends, how in the hell do we expect this to happen on the world front? 

Like most people, I’ve been horrified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Not only the severity of the attacks but the senseless brutality, destruction, and unconscionable death of civilians (especially the children). I see it as Putin’s lust for power and sovereignty.

Admittedly, I remain naive to the underlying politics, and genuine motives of the Russian forces, but I wonder if this is true for others?

I just learned that the letter ‘Z’ has become a symbol for Russians who support the invasion of Ukraine. This “Z” drew public attention several weeks ago when it was painted on the sides of the thousands of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other military vehicles traveling along the Russian border with Ukraine according to The New York Times.

As you would expect, there is an army of propagandists paid to spread the meme on social media to give it the false appearance of popularity but this is actually a lie. I’m filled with revulsion and disgust when I compare this to Hitler’s use of the swastika to identify his supporters. 

I learned that the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that the “Z” came from the preposition “Za,” the first word in the Russian phrase “Za pobedu,” or “For victory.” 

Which is ludicrous, in war, no one wins.

The idea of world peace is not only convoluted with fear, but dishonesty, corruption, and abuse of power which is embedded in the intricate layers of modern society. It’s rampant in governments, corporations, religious institutions, educational systems, welfare departments, medical associations, department of housing, and our public policies. You find it nestled in the hierarchies of organizations, foundations, even charities. 

Trust is as rare as a white crow. 

The thing is dishonesty has a trickle-down effect, infiltrating our most sacred relationships and traditions. Can you imagine what a world it would be if our leaders were able to come to the table naked, ready to communicate their deepest truth, their most sanguine hope for the world? 

It teeters back to the ongoing battle between hope and fear which is now barreling down on Ukraine.

If I was honest I would say I fear this assault on Ukraine will lead to world war because Putin is not going to back down, gather his tanks, and go home with his tail between his legs. He has too much pride. I worry that the entire world will suffer drastic shortages of basic necessities not only because of this invasion but the corresponding sanctions. Gasoline is currently at $6 a gallon in my area and the forecasts say it’s going to get worse. I’m concerned about becoming embroiled in a massive recession, where the value of the dollar plummets, and unfortunately, many of us do not have the time in which to recover. And here we thought the pandemic was bad.

My deepest hopes and deepest fears are for my grandchildren. If I had the courage to speak the truth beyond the truth I would say I don’t think we have the courage, intelligence, or capacity to create a future where our successors will be able to prosper as we did. My greatest fear is that my generation will leave our descendants enmeshed in conflict, scarcity, and a world that is becoming less inhabitable by the minute.

But not all is doom and gloom.

Francesco Malavolta/AP

I also see extraordinary acts of optimism in the midst of all this suffering. Polish moms leaving their baby strollers at the train station for Ukrainian moms who carried their children across the border. Numerous charities are raising money to help support and advocate for the Ukrainian people. I heard about an individual who raised $100,000 and then traveled to Poland so she could hand out cash to the refugees as they crossed the border. Medical and humanitarian supplies are being donated, people are spreading awareness, and peaceful protests are springing up all over the world.

The list of opportunities to aid and support Ukraine is vast and readily available to the general public.

Today, I watched a video of a young Ukrainian girl singing a heartwrenching rendition of Let It Go to those gathered in a crowded bomb shelter. It was innocent, lovely, and ever so hopeful. (I’ve attached the clip below) 

As I reach around to massage the pain in the back of my neck I realize I’ve severely underestimated the opposing forces of hope and fear. As Brene Brown claims, it begins with a strong back, soft front, wild heart. Maybe what we want most; peace in our hearts, peace in our homes, and peace in the world are what we’re most afraid to go out and get. 

I’m Living in the Gap, alone we can do so little, together we can change the world. Join me in the comments. What are your hopes and fears?

Anecdotes:

PS I survived the 50-mile ride in Solvang although the temperature stayed in the low 50s along with horrendous wind and pockets of rain.

PSS No one accused me of Not Pedaling! Not one.

PSSS A woman hunted us down at the rest stop in Solvang and invited Larry and me to join a tandem biking group on Facebook. Oh yeah, my fear and hope went into a total collision.

PSSSS Larry signed us up for a 65-mile ride in Death Valley to celebrate our anniversary in November. Should I be worried?

34 Comments

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  1. You certainly have given me a lot to think about with this powerful post. FYI, my neck is bothering me too. It’s from gathering all the tax info for the CPA. Second, my husband said when the cost of oil doubles in one year, historically we end in a recession.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was afraid to enter into a discussion on the war in Ukraine because of my ignorance but it’s unavoidable in some ways and my hope was to allow the voices that have been silenced by their own fears to come to the table. I like the way Mr. Rogers looked at tragedy, he said, “look for the helpers, you can always find people who are helping.” I see this in the strollers, the singer, the ones donating supplies, money, and medicine to those in need. My aching neck drew me into the pain and from there I couldn’t shut my eyes. I think your husband is right, buckle up, we’re in for a rough ride! Hugs, C

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      1. I watched Mr. Rogers every day into my teens. I’m ignorant about international politics too. I also saw the uplifting video of the young singer. So much for my brain and simple life to process. Thank you for being bold to tackle it.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m just trying to live today and not go to the places in the dark corners of my mind. I am keeping busy, donating where I think it will do the most good, trying to laugh and take care of others. My older grandchildren are scared, so I’m working on keeping them occupied and trying to put things in as much perspective as I can for them.
    Now, I’m going to go bake some bread and put on some lovely music.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I hear you Dorothy, I hate it when I get lost in the dark recesses of the mind, I much prefer the light. And staying busy, being charitable, offering a hand to those in need are healthy ways of managing in these difficult times. The nice thing about age is people appreciate your perspective on things, we’ve lived long enough to see things go full circle, so we don’t get caught up in dire scenarios, things will eventually come around. Dancing in the kitchen while baking bread, I’m going to hold onto that sweet image! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Keep biking. The effort will take you mind off of what is going on. If only for 65 miles.

    Get a proper office chair with adjustable arms, headrest, and height. I have been sitting blogging in one for years, and nothing hurts as a result.

    The world situation is complex, but remember the golden rule of life.
    “Follow the money”. See who really profits from the war. The answer may surprise you, or it might be glaringly obvious.

    I hope your neck feels better soon.

    Best wishes from $11.21 a gallon Beetley.
    Pete. x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Pete, I love your clarity and wisdom. “Keep biking,” it’s a worthy distraction every painstaking mile! I think it’s time to invest in a proper chair as you say and avoid any future injuries from sitting in a unsustainable position. The neck is doing much better since I’ve relocated. I’ve heard many times how money is the true dictator of most situations but it seems so irrelevant when you hold it up to the death of a child. Power and money can be deadly influences when they fall into the wrong hands. Oh my, I shan’t complain about the price of gas again ~ $11.21 would keep me on a bike permanently! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Whenever you expose yourself, no matter what the format, someone will take who you are and say something about it. Which is just human nature…we attack what threatens us. We also read into things and make everything about us…we see someone’s statement as direct criticism. That too is a defense mechanism and human nature to protect ourselves. We also have a habit of saying what people want us to say. Again…self preservation. I know I’m spitballing and veering away from your post…but this is what it made me think of. Sorry for the hijack….but excellent post as always

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi LA, I love when you “spitball” as you say. And I agree, people are harsh judges of each other especially when you expose yourself. When you say “we attack what threatens us,” I think that is most potent when I hold myself up to someone else and find myself lacking. That’s when I naturally want to dismantle the image any way I can. And you are right, we make everything about us! If I were to consider the evolution of this defense mechanism I have to wonder if our predecessors fought over the size of each others cave? I find myself parroting others especially when I feel unsafe, what a hack that is, at my age I should never say what I don’t mean. But I do…hugs, C

      Liked by 2 people

  5. “if we find it difficult to maintain a peaceful environment in our own homes, or with our closest friends, how in the hell do we expect this to happen on the world front?” YES to this thought. I oftentimes wonder how we can expect any change at all, when we are not willing to first look at and change ourselves.

    Thanks for this, Cheryl ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kathy, I think you drilled right down to the crux of this blog, it starts with our own hearts, which filters into our homes, and from there spreads out into the world. It’s never easy to hold up a mirror to ourselves and alter the reflection. If you really trust someone you can do this for each other! Thanks for joining me in the comments! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh Cheryl, your mastery of words always amazes me. You have summed up so well the things my heart has wanted to express over recent events. The paragraphs about vulnerability – definitely one of my weaknesses, yet without it, we cannot truly connect. SOOO glad you survived the bike trip and YES, I would be worried about the “Death Valley” trip! LOLOLOL Your husband must be a “hoot”! Best Wishes Always! Leigh

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    1. Hi Leigh, your words are always a pleasure to wade into as if a child splashing around in a puddle pool. You give me so much joy. I’ve been treading lightly through the current events now confronting our world, worried I would expose my ignorance. But I’m finding we’re all a little confused, overwhelmed, and struggling with what to do. I just figured I’d dive in and see if anyone else was feeling the same. And yes, surviving another ride feels like an enormous accomplishment but now Larry’s on a “roll” so to speak, signing us up for an event every month. Pray for me! Death Valley? Seems a little daunting. Sending love and hugs your way, C

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow Cheryl!. Great post, and so many thoughtful and thought-provoking comments.

    “I want to publish a book but my fear of failure holds me hostage.” Hummm. . . How can YOU possibly fail, neighbor when you have already succeeded with your beautiful essays. At this point, you are simply repacking them for wider consumption. 😉

    “Know God, Know Peace; No God? No Peace”. I’ll circle back, promise.

    This is what is so maddening about the condition of this planet. Our whole intended purpose on this planet (according to the Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth) is to prove our character to the creator of the universe. Here just below is the shortest version of our instructions that I could come up with on short notice on accomplishing this mission in the affirmative. I think you’ll recognize it 😉

    “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The Law and the Prophets hang on these.”

    That’s Matthew’s version,(22:37-40 (or 41??). But ‘how’, how exactly do we “LOVE” the creator of the Universe? Fortunately the answer is conveniently provided in part two of the quoted verse: By Loving your neighbor as yourself.

    If your life is focused on doing this you can not possibly fail the purpose of your life here. . . Ever, at all. Stumble? Yup, Fail? Nope, never. Not if you stay focused and do your best to keep practicing what it means to Love God. . . Simple as that.

    Oh, the situation in Ukraine. . . That was brave of you to broach. To do justice in response would take a while. Very complicated and not at all what it seems. The suffering of the Ukrainian people is real and tragic to say the least. But, it is just a part of a much larger tragedy.

    Cheers, C.T.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Chris, I love the way you simplify the purpose of life down to the very basics, not that Matthew is basic, just direct, love one another, and in doing so love God. I guess Putin hasn’t seen that verse. And thank you for the encouraging words to amend my fears of publishing, I need that sort of calm before the storm. Breathe! I agree, the Ukrainian situation is complicated, it’s why I’ve been avoiding the entire horrible situation. But it was my hope to enter into a discussion without political expertise just humanitarian compassion. Life is simple, love our neighbors…hugs, C

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    1. Hi Lauren, thank you, it is truly a “sad time.” I feel as if we’ve lost our humanity. I appreciate your good wishes on the upcoming ride. With each one I gain confidence, I suppose that true for most things. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t truly understand why war is waging. It is so senseless and the refugees will be displaced for many years to come. Heartbreaking. Pete is right, follow the money. It just isn’t clear right now. Dorothy’s suggestions of baking and doing simple, loving things are nurturing. Your words resonate, Cheryl. If we can’t be open and risk vulnerability in our relationships, how the heck can we expect it out in the world? ❤ for you both and your cycling. ❤ Healing energy for your neck. xXx

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  9. The situation in Ukraine is definitely very sad. To be honest, my heart breaks for all the wars currently going on because the majority of the people harmed are always innocent civilians. I truly hope that it doesn’t escalate further than it already has but as you mentioned Putin has too much pride to back down and I agree.

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  10. C, this is so beautiful. You captured every feeling (including the neck pain) I had at this time, and still do. Yes, if peace isn’t in our own homes, community, and most importantly, our hearts, how do we expect it from the world. My feathers get ruffled just viewing how our own government officials bicker and fight. It’s horribly embarrassing. Putin is pure evil. If anything, the Ukrainian people are giving us hope and a lesson! May we have their resolve! Here we worry about our “first world problems”…It makes me even more thankful than what I already am! I’m
    Beyond blessed! C, don’t let fear grip you. Look at what you’ve accomplished! And that 65 mile bike ride will be another success! We’re all standing in the gap with you! About your neck~I understand. Do you have a tens unit? I have degenerative disc disease and desperately need surgery. BUT I’m avoiding it as long as possible. My neurosurgeon can “fix” it but I’m afraid I’ll lose the movement I have now. Stretching is so vital for me. I use Deep Blue essential oil rub, rub with CBD oil, massages, and Tylenol as necessary. I have a stand up desk (I ordered it on Amazon) just like I had in schools and it forces me to keep my head at eye level with the computer. When I’m sitting I stop frequently to stretch my neck (literally I have a neck “stretcher” that hooks to a door frame. You should see me in it. It looks like torture). The pain is moving down and I may have to let go of my own fears and just have the operation. But there’s this thing called money…ok, enough about me! I FEEL for you and understand! Please have the best time possible!! Stay safe and BREATHE in every glorious morning! Sending you much love and hugs! 💛♥️❤️🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Karla, I had an open day and thought I would browse back on a few old posts and make sure I didn’t miss any comments! I missed like 50 comments! How did that happen? So today, I taking my time to reread old posts and respond to the kindness and generosity of those who took the time to read and join me in the comments. It’s my favorite part of blogging. Thank you and I apologize for my blatantly late response. I believe that many of us are suffering from neck injuries due to COVID and our new dependence on computers to work, teach, and communicate with each other. Writers have it even worse because we use the computers for our work! I never thought of using CBD oil? I have some from an old rib injury. I too found putting the computer at eye level alleviated much of the pain in my neck! Too often it’s the simple solution that works. I didn’t realize you needed surgery for your neck problem. That’s a whole new level of discomfort, not to mention the expense, and the resulting loss of movement. I’m so sorry Karla. Don’t let it go too long, because sometimes that creates even more complications. Hugs and love to you my friend, I’ll be holding you in prayer as I have been for quite some time. xxoo, C

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      1. Aw, C, how sweet! Never worry on late responses because I will always understand! I had a motorcycle accident at 36 and then another head injury that left me with many challenges. But I have overcome a lot and many more grace it worse. Nevertheless my faith has sustained me after near death experiences. Prayers are definitely appreciated and I’m doing a good job of taking care of myself~reducing stress as needed, stretching, meditation, yoga moves~I’m just trying to live a simple and enjoyable life! I’m so glad you’re getting time to read and comment. It gets difficult at times! My schedule has picked up pace again and my afternoon will be spent with my precious adult special group. I serve on the board and we’re hosting interviews for a new position. In a couple of hours, my youngest will be flying to Germany for a 5 month deployment. My daughter-in-law and granddaughter temporarily moved in with her Mom in beautiful Wenatchee, WA while Jay is gone. Im sure he will get to see some beautiful things while doing his service! Love and hugs my dear friend! 💛❤️🤗💕

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