Governor Romney, Hope Matters

Let me preface this post by assuring you it is not a political entry, despite being inspired by the words of the current Republican presidential candidate.  I fully realize that the context of Governor Romney’s words pertained to his issues with President Obama’s stance on Mid East turmoil.  I am not writing about Mid East turmoil, or Republicans, or Democrats.  I am not writing about politics.  I am writing about hope, something I do a lot of around here.  Please do not view this post through a political lens.   

Yesterday, as I was prepping dinner, I was listening to NPR.  I turned the radio on mid-story, and heard a clip of Mitt Romney addressing the Virginia Military Institute.  “Hope is not a strategy,” is what I heard.  It was a bit like a slap in the face, as hope is my strategy.  Hope is what gets me through my days, you see.  On the bad days, I hope for better days, and on the good days, I hope for more — more joy, more life, more of the Good Things that keep me going.

Governor Romney, of course, was not discussing Cancer Moms and what they need to get through their day.  He was discussing foreign policy specific to the Middle East.  I know that.  The man is in the midst of the fight of his life and he is doing his best to connect with voters, appear presidential, and do what needs to be done to move in to that Oval Office come next January.  I get it, I do, but still, I was struck.

It made me think about hope and what it means to me, to you, to our world.  Merriam Webster’s online edition defines hope as, “to cherish a desire with anticipation,” or “to desire with expectation of obtainment,” or this, “to expect with confidence.”  Huh.  Not only do I not agree with Governor Romney on this, I don’t agree with Merriam Webster either. does better, “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.”  Still no cigar, but it is closer to my own definition of hope

In the midst of Donna’s illness, in June of her last summer, after we learned of the terminal nature of her cancer, my in-laws sent a book along to us.  Written by Jerome Groopman, M.D., it was called The Anatomy of Hope:  How People Prevail in the Face of Illness.  I picked it up with trepidation.  Self-help books are not my bag, and this looked suspiciously like a self-help book, complete with a single green leaf on the cover.  Yeah, I’m too cynical to do self-help. 

And I am absolutely one of those gals who judges a book by its cover.  I’ll look it over, but if the blurbs and first few paragraphs don’t grab me, I will put that sucker down.  This is the first paragraph of the Introduction to The Anatomy of Hope:

“Hope is one of our central emotions, but we are often at a loss when asked to define it.  Many of us confuse hope with optimism,  a prevailing attitude that “things turn out for the best.”  But hope differs from optimism.  Hope does not arise from being told to “think positively,” or from hearing an overly rosy forecast.  Hope, unlike optimism, is rooted in unalloyed reality.  Although there is no uniform definition of hope, I found one that seemed to capture what my patients had taught me.  Hope is the elevating feeling we experience when we see – in the mind’s eye – a path to a better future.  Hope acknowledges the significant obstacles and deep pitfalls along that path.  True hope has no room for delusion.”

At what, I hope, were the most devastating moments of my life, Dr. Groopman’s words spoke to me.  Choosing hope is not a pie in the sky venture.  It is not all lollipops and tutus and rainbows and ice cream.  It is stone, cold, hard work.  Work, people.  WORK.  Choosing hope, my personal strategy of choosing to be hopeful, does work for me.  Every day it works for me and every day I am grateful that I have hope in my life.  I see parents who have lost children to cancer who do not have hope.  They scare the bejesus out of me.  We bob along in the same ocean, those parents and I, but we are not in the same boat. 

I wrote a Facebook status about Romney’s words last night and one of my friends wrote the most profound response, “Dismissing hope can only be done by people who have never needed it to survive.”  I dare say this friend (yo, Amber) is right.  I will be the first to admit that I need hope.  I need it like I need oxygen, sunlight, and water.  Hope is necessary to my very existence these days and without it, I would be joining those other folks in the sad, bitter, angry boat.  I don’t want that for me, my husband, or my son.  I want better for us.  I want the joy that hope invites into my life, the possibility of a better future, the lightness of love and wonder and peace.  I want hope. 

So to you, Governor Romney, I say, “Hope IS a strategy.  And it works.  And we need more of it, all of us, to see us through these troubling times we find ourselves in.” 

I am Mary Tyler Mom and I approve this message.

Jack Layton is my new hero.

I had never heard of Jack Layton before this morning.  Turns out, he was kind of a big deal.  And certainly the real deal.  Jack Layton was a Canadian pol and leader of the Official Opposition and the New Democratic Party.  But this is not a civics lesson, folks. 

This morning, after his death had been confirmed, his surviving family released a letter he had written to the Canadian public just two days ago.  It’s beautiful and well, he says it best.  Aside from the fact that he is clearly a civil human being, one I wish our own politicians would emulate, the letter spoke to me as a mom. 

His love letter to Canada ends with this:

“My friends, love is better than anger.  Hope is better than fear.  Optimism is better than despair.  So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.  And we’ll change the world.”

If that is not a call to arms of motherhood, one I wish I had written myself, I don’t know what is.  Swap out “my friends” for “moms” and be inspired. 

When we were going through cancer treatment with our daughter, I started clinging to the phrase, “Choose hope.”  It was a conscious choice, every day, to hope and imagine that our dear girl could outlast the beast that was having its way with her.  Later, when we knew Donna surviving her cancer was no longer a hope we could hope for, we hoped for other things:  to not be bitter, to not burden Mary Tyler Son with our grief, to parent more children.  Hope had become a way of life. 

And I know it sounds pie in the sky, head in the sand, but it’s not.  To have hope, I learned, is the only way I can wake up every day.  Hope is better than fear.  Trust me on this one.  Love is better than anger.  Our kids know this.  And we know this too, even when we’re seeing red after they do something so completely stupid or frustrating or asinine that we’re ready to ship them to boarding school (And yes, there is a boarding school for toddlers, two in fact:  PBS Sprout and Nick Jr.).  And finally, optimism is better than despair.  Duh. 

Mr. Layton’s Ode to Canada was just the pep talk I needed.  Mary Tyler Son is embracing being two.  He can be tiresome and tiring.  My dear girl is still dead.  Every day.  Some days, it is harder to choose hope than others.  Today, reading Mr. Layton’s words, it was easy.  So I will say to you what Mr. Layton, may he rest in peace, said to all of Canada this morning:

Moms, love is better than anger.  Hope is better than fear.  Optimism is better than despair.  So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.  And we’ll change the world. 

And we can.  Seriously.  We can.