Hope isn’t the same thing as wishes.
You can wish for whatever you want, and there are a million stories about why you shouldn’t–stories of wishing for things done to be undone, for the dead to be with us again, for all the things that are beyond our reach to be here, now. And some of those stories are frankly asshole stories–some of those stories are about not getting above yourself. Stretch, friends. Climb. Get the heck above yourselves, and then get above that. Do it all you want. Do it more. But some of those stories are saying: don’t batter your heart against the impossible when you could be spending that energy looking for a climbing route. And…finding that line between can be hard.
That hard line is some of my job, as a science fiction and fantasy writer: what’s hopeful, what’s unrooted, a soap bubble dream. If we tell each other that we can dream of a better world, but the only better worlds we can dream of require humans to not react like humans–require the past not to have happened–require invented interventions we can’t summon–we’re telling people that nothing will ever be better. So we need to do a little better than that, even when the worlds we’ve dreamed up are three doors over and can’t happen–we need not to people them exclusively with shapes of hope that can’t.
It’s also some of my job this year as a family member. Trying to figure out shapes of hope that can join up with the reality that we have: the conditions, the diagnoses, the treatment plans. Because “I wish all this would go away” is not hope, it’s not support, it’s not caring. I can say it to myself anyway, and sometimes I need to; the emotions aren’t wrong. But saying it to the family members who are most struggling is of limited use compared to doing the work of helping, of making things a tiny bit better in some direction for their actual lives. Of getting them fed with something special, of getting some candles lit for them if I can, one day and then another day if I can, literally or metaphorically.
This is not a writing post. This is the one about the bread. Because good morning. It’s Santa Lucia Day. And when we’re making the lussekatter, when we’re lighting the wreath, those actions ground us. They keep us here in the real. The real smell of the yeast and the saffron, the feel of the dough stretching in our hands. It reminds us that sometimes the hopes we build for each other need to be built on something solid–and sometimes those are the very things we wanted to look away from in the present. But we have to reach out and feed and warm each other now, as we are, not as we wanted to be, and we have to recognize that we’re going to have to do this some more in a minute. It’s not going to be a quick job. I fed my neighbor, and my neighbor was still hungry: yes, that’s the job, friends, it’s more than one day’s worth. I lit my neighbor’s path, and my neighbor still stumbled. I still stumbled–well, yes. Because we’ve got a lot of light yet to shed before we have anything like a clear path here. We have to remember that we are in the darkest of days, and if we’re lucky we get the most perfect saffron we’ve ever worked with–oh, you would not believe how perfect, it crumbled at the first touch of the pestle and scented the entire house–but no matter what size batch we bake, we’re going to be done with them while it’s still getting darker. And we’re going to have to turn our hand to the next task that feeds and warms us through the darkness, and the next. But we know that, we know that’s the work, and we’re ready. We’ve got this. And some mornings, the work is delicious.
Happy Santa Lucia Day.
2007: https://mrissa.dreamwidth.org/2007/12/12/ and https://mrissa.dreamwidth.org/502729.html
2006: https://mrissa.dreamwidth.org/380798.html — the post that started it all! Lots more about the process and my own personal lussekatt philosophy here!