Friday, November 15, 2013

On Hope

Flamingo feather from La Camargue, France

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

    *Emily Dickenson


LUCY BURDETTE: One of the remarkable things we saw on our vacation last month were these locks, attached to two bridges that cross the Seine River in Paris. The legend goes that lovers write their names on the lock (or sometimes make another kind of wish), then snap them onto the fence along the bridge and throw away the key. 

   Which reminded me of seeing Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree project in the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art in New York several years ago. Here were the instructions: “Make a wish. Write it down on a piece of paper. Fold it and tie it around a branch of the wish tree. Ask your friend to do the same. Keep wishing.”

  We did not add a lock to the bridge, but I definitely added a paper to the wishing tree. And I say prayers when I remember. And I cross my fingers and knock wood when I need to.


Last week, I came across another interesting article in one of my professional psychology magazines. The subject was research on hopefulness, as distinguished from optimism (a general feeling that good things will happen) and wishing. “Hope is different because it has to do with facing reality,” says Jon G. Allen, PhD, a senior staff psychologist at The Menninger Clinic. “As I see it, hope is motivation to stay in the game.” He went on to explain the three important components of hope: optimism, social support, and setting goals. 

I think I’m a pretty hopeful person, though realistic too. I hope like heck my next book will make it to the New York Times bestseller list (right after Julia’s!), but I’m not sitting around waiting for it to happen. And I’m thinking of a plan in case it doesn’t...But most important of all, I’ve surrounded myself with positive, supportive people--starting with the Jungle Reds!

    How about you guys? Hopeful? Any special tips for keeping that state of mind going?

And PS, after writing this, I heard the news about the disaster in the Philippines. Those folks really need some hope right now. Here are a few places where you can donate money and feel confident that it will get where it's needed: the United Church of Christ, the Red CrossDoctors without Borders.


  1. Hope . . . definitely keeps you going, keeps you confident, keeps the dreams alive . . . .
    As for keeping the hope going, believe in yourself, in what you can do, and pray fervently . . . .

  2. I like thanking my Higher Power each morning for another day above the ground. It reminds me I have power, but not much, and there is ALWAYS hope and great possibility if I stay positive and understand everything isn't really up to ME.

    That Big NYT list is coming for you Roberta. Wait for it.

  3. Attitude is everything, isn't it? You can keep hoping for the best, or you can resign yourself to the worst, and there is not a lot in between. The difference is that having hope keeps the door open for that positive outcome, and I think that's the only way to live.

  4. Thank you, Roberta. There have been times in my life when I did not have hope, and -- as a result? -- I now treasure hope above all else.
    I am in Paris now!!!!

  5. Hope — the last in Pandora's Box, after all the evils were released. Maggie Hope's last name is no accident! : )

  6. Oh Denise, you lucky dog!

    Karen, yes, it keeps the door open...

    Joan, I like your mantra, believe and pray...

    Thank you Jack--and your comment is perfect--you have some power, but not a lot! that is probably true for every one of us!

  7. Just made my donation through the Philippine Red Cross ... so scary. Talk about a place where they need hope. And dollars.

    So interesting, the intersection of HOPE and SUPERSTITION. I can't walk past a penny without picking it up. Or spill salt without throwing it over my shoulder. Warding off poverty and bad luck.

    Right now I'm optimistic that I will **finish writing this book** Hope has nothing to do with it, because it's entirely within my control whether I do or do not.

    As a writer, I cycle between optimism and despair, and have discovered that fear is an excellent good motivator.

  8. I think hope is one of the most important things in our lives.
    I know hope and optimism really are two different things, but I think they walk hand in hand. There are people out there who will suck both right out of the air and those are folks I refuse to give the time of day. ugh.

    I too will pick up a penny off the ground, and grin when I do it. A friend of mine swears when she finds money on the ground it's her husband doing what he can to help her out financially 'cause he sure didn't leave her too well off when he died. His name is Ed, so now when I find a coin, I thank Ed too.

  9. Such a great story Kaye--we can all start thanking Ed:)

    Hallie, you won't be surprised to hear that while I mark a penny on the ground as a lucky thing, I often don't pick it up. You never know where's it been or what else is on that sidewalk...

  10. I have been a writer all my life. Right now things are pretty but haven't always been so. Without hope it would have been impossible to keep writing when I had no promise of a contract.

    I'm now trying to focus on what is wonderful and exciting and good TODAY. When we see disasters and know friends with horrible diseases who knows what tomorrow might bring.

  11. I meant to say "pretty good". It's seven in the morning and trust me, things aren't too pretty until I wake up properly!

  12. What an interesting post, Lucy! I never thought much about the difference between hope and optimism, and I hadn't thought of optimism as one of the three components of hope, but that makes sense to me.

    I tend to be generally optimistic (I know this because I live with someone who always anticipates the worst outcome,) and at the moment I am especially thankful for the strong emotional support I receive from my daughter, my friends, and my terrific Jungle Red buddies.

    Where I must fall down is on the short term goal setting--or I'd have finished the book-in-progress by now!

  13. OH, the penny.

    Two things. Maybe three.

    I will not pick it up if it's tails up. You know you're not supposed to, right?

    USUALLY I will leave the heads up penny on the ground--because I think--I already have luck. Someone else needs it more than I do.

    EXCEPT: at the Malice Banquet in 2007, BY MY CHAIR was a shiny shiny penny. Katherine Hall Page yelped: pick it up, pick it up! I did. And I WON!

    In 2009, THERE WAS ANOTHER PENNY under my chair. I scooped it up, thrilled. But LOUISE *PENNY* won! (I am not kidding.)

    ANd--not kidding: it was a CANADIAN penny.

  14. Yes Debs, the short-term goal thing is so crucial. (so why are we on Facebook instead of writing???)

    Hank, good to know about the "tails-up" penny. I like your reason for leaving lucky pennies for people who might need it more than you do:)

    We'll have to do another post on all of our superstitions....

  15. About those coins on the ground:
    I've always been told is that lost coins on the ground are angel kisses. If you pick up the coin and it's heads up, you can keep it because your guardian angel sent it to you. But if it's heads down, you have to give it away because your angel has entrusted you to share the kiss with someone who needs it at that moment.

  16. I tend to think of hope and optimism as being anticipation of good things happening. Perhaps hope is purer, stronger, more active and optimism is more laid back.

  17. Pat D, what a good way to describe the distinction.

    Joan Emerson, I love the "angel kisses" idea. Going to remember that one.

    Lucy, aackk. But I am at least only checking in every few hours when my brain needs a five minute break:-)

  18. Susan, I had realized the significance of Maggie's name, which I love.

  19. I am hopeful. Our daughter Jeanie was the most hopeful person I've known. She fought with hope. Hope was her weapon for living. She lived well and did much good in the world. She read parts of my book when I began writing it and gave me her thought from her bed Loma Linda's Isolation-ICU. She made me promise to finish it. She passed along her hope to me.

  20. Pat, I like the idea of hope being pure, strong and active...

    and Reine, what a lovely tribute to your daughter. You must miss her like crazy...

  21. I do, Lucy. I "miss her like crazy." That would make her laugh.


  22. I've been thinking about hope, all day. Thank you.