The world is not made out of sugar. There are no mountains whose bodies are crafted from chocolate candy or corners of the earth that are filled with strawberry popsicles. We come to know this as fact as the years pile up on our bodies and our minds grasp the threads that explain what it means to be a human being. It is sticky and hot and cold and hard and beautiful – everything rolled into one.
And yet, despite this shocking realisation that in this human life sugar is not always a given, there is a song for all the moments when our heart is filled with it, when it is dripping with sweetness. A song for all the times when the heart refuses to give up and die.
Because the opposite of sugar is often something very painful. Even when it lingers in the middle, it is something unbearable. There is a going back and unfolding of all the pain and brokenness, tears and shattered pieces that collect in a pool at the feet. I think this is done so the heart can see, really see the extent of the knots life creates because what follows next is a mystery even the heart itself can never unravel: the heart gets up on its feet, steadies itself and decides to try again. Even with the evidence lying in the open there is a relentless compelling to walk again.
There is a song for those moments. A song whose lyrics weave across and fall in and out of each other. The richness of rhythms that pour courage into the loins and make one more time possible and within reach. It becomes a place the hand can extend to grab and pull back into its body.
In my mother tongue we have a name for this song: Icicitekelo. In saying it the tongue rolls over the syllables as if pulling them in, drawing breath from them even as they become defined.
In English it is called hope.
When our hearts are broken, it is the thing that makes us believe that healing will come, and that we will love again. When we fall flat on our face and the way is dark before us, it is the thing that helps us up and illuminates the way.
It is hard to talk about hope without talking about expectations, for hope is constructed with the same threads. We live in perpetual fear of expectations because we know we are fallible as humans – we cannot possibly meet each other’s expectations perfectly. But there is also something else that fuels this – our fear of responsibility, the kind that demands we hold up other people. We have never truly learned this. To be expected to be there for someone else means to be responsible for showing up for that person. It is hard. It is scary.
Expectations mean vulnerability and vulnerability means open hearted feeling. And so hope is not a shy little thing that lives in the secret corners of our minds. It is a big, bold thing that dares consume the whole being – mind, body and soul. It can steer a life into a new direction, pulling it from the ever-encroaching pits of despair.
Hope doesn’t mean everything is going perfectly accordingly to plan. It means being centred whole-heartedly in the knowing that everything works for good in the purpose for which it is created and woven together whether it is life journeys or relationships.
Hope pulls the strings of life together and gathers it back to us; back to the centre of knowing. It is not incidental but coursing right at the core. It is a thing based in trust. This is why it cannot be disassembled from expectations. When we trust someone or a process we expect it to function a particular way. We expect the someone or process to show up in a way that is equivalent to the very trust we hold. It is that simple and that difficult. We hope in what we trust. And to trust requires vulnerability – a tenderness of heart. Hope works in the same way. It softens our outlook on life, caressing all the rough edges, aligning them. It is the foundation of faith, and it is what makes us believe that everything, everything will be alright.
We each decide where we lodge our hope, in which compartment or corner. It matters that we know because when its beautiful melody comes floating through our house we recognise it and are not afraid to grab its rhythms tight and embrace it because in actuality the end of this thing called hope is the beginning of all other things.