I was driving to South Park Mall one day this week to run a quick errand, when I realized that the driver in front of me was not using his/her turn signal. As I followed the car I was wishing that he/she (couldn’t tell which) would let me know what was going to happen, so that I could anticipate the change in direction. How many times a day do I wish for something: that losing weight were easier (that wishing for it would make it happen!), that I didn’t have to vacuum, that my CD’s would sell, yadda, yadda, yadda.
This topic is so trivial that I can’t believe I’m writing about it, but adding up how many wishes arise in my mind daily shows how much I want life to meet my expectations—yet I know how infrequently that happens. I wish that my grandchildren had better manners. I wish that there were better/safer merging onto freeways here in Charlotte. I wish I were spending more time on the fabric art I do. I wish one of my sons would return phone calls or emails. I wish, I wish, I wish….
These wishes really express my preferences and, for the most part, they are trivial in nature. But there are the big important ones, too: I wish my husband had lived, I wish that the economy would recover. I wish that there were no more wars. Et cetera. These wishes all would make my own life so much better, and maybe help some others, too.
One of the big lessons of my life has been that life rarely meets my expectations. In fact the sooner I am able to let a preference of mine go, the happier I am. If I hang on to “my way” past the moment it arises, already I am living in the past. The longer I insist on it happening, the unhappier I get. Conversely, the sooner I let go of my insistence on my way, the more content I am.
That’s one of the great paradoxes of life: the sooner we adapt to the thing or event in our lives that we did not want
to happen, the happier we are. And it’s in that adaptation, in the letting go, that we develop the resilience we need to deal with life’s small and huge challenges.
Wishing and clinging to our own expectations is different from hoping. Our wishes keep us clinging to the small circle of our own desires, while hope is a positive expectation for the future. Hope is not airy-fairy, or pie in the sky, it is grounded in the knowledge that life has its challenges. The more that one holds a positive view of the future, however, the more one has hope, the more one moves forward with a positive attitude. The more hope is expressed in one’s life, the happier and more joyful we are.
I know where my wishes arise—in my ego, but from where does hope arise? I think that it accompanies faith in God and faith in God’s providence. along with Julian of Norwich, with great faith we can say, “All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”