Hope. Without looking it up in Webster’s, my own simple definition is “the belief that what you desire most can happen.” It can be a hard thing to have in the face of adversity…something we all have our own brand of. When you experience disappointment, hardship or tragedy (or all of the above!), the easy choice can be to fall into a trap of despair or of pessimism.
So, because we all experience adversity in our lives, it begs the question, “How do you gain hope?” My answer? By seeing evidence that something is possible.
Something like living your life with a disability creates no shortage of disappointment. Your physical infirmities naturally lead to questions of what might NOT be possible for you…will I drive a car? Will I have a family? Will I ever live on my own? Will I…?
Thinking back on all the questions I’ve asked over the years, especially at this time of year when the magic of the holidays magnifies the beauty in each moment, I can see evidence in all my Christmases past of what more could be possible…
As a little girl, often times I couldn’t imagine how I could ever live outside my parent’s home without them to take care of me. But in 1993, I had my first Christmas in my own apartment at college. Our tree was about three and a half feet tall, and my roommate and I decorated it with ornaments borrowed from our parents. We sat in our living room watching “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” with all the lights out, the Christmas tree lights on and I felt content and proud that I had begun to carve out a place in the world where I figured out answers to my own problems, and was solely responsible for my tomorrow. We were also solely responsible for the decision to leave our Christmas tree up until March.
In high school and college, most of the boys dated the cheerleaders and the dancers. I didn’t know if my life would ever fit with someone else’s. But in 2001, I spent my first Christmas with my husband-to-be. He was a securities broker and owned his own home and I felt so grown-up. I knew he was my soul-mate – he had a seven-foot Christmas tree and boxes of ornaments he dragged into the house for us to put on the tree. Then, when he told me of his plans to put the Christmas lights up outside, I knew I was in love. His only fault was the box-sets of matching ornaments that lacked personal stories and histories, so I went out that afternoon and spent way too much money on a beautiful, hand-painted Christmas tree ornament that came in a red satin box. He still looks at me the same way he did twelve Christmases ago when we uncover that red satin box in our storage boxes each year around this time.
Even as a child playing with dolls, there was a semblance of doubt in my mind around whether I’d ever have a child of my own. But, 2003 brought my first Christmas as a mother. She was five and she had no idea who Santa Claus was. She was so beautiful, it broke my heart. My husband and I read her “The Night Before Christmas” and her smile was even more bright than the lights we’d taught her to string on the tree. The only gift I needed that year was hearing her repeat back “I love you, too.”
My Christmases past hold the chapters of evidence of what else must be possible in my future. When I examine the evidence, it is hard to dispute these dreams that have come true that at one time or another seemed so hopeless. Looking ahead to future Christmases, I am filled with hope for what lies ahead.