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I’ve got a pocket full of sunshine. It’s Winter, but the sunshine inside me shines bright, lighting even the darkest day with a spark of hope. Hope that all is not yet lost, that a new day will dawn.

You see, hope has been in my mind lately. I’ll tell you a secret, one that is very, very hard for me to say even to myself. The truth is that, even though it was probably the best one for the girls, ever, this holiday season was one of the hardest for me personally. I love Christmas with a passion, I get excited about it in Sept and buy the first gift on my birthday, the 1st of October. In years past, even if life was throwing me a curve ball, I was able to let it go and immerse myself in the joy of Christmas instead. It seemed that nothing was going to interfere with my love of, and participation in, Christmas. This year was the same—and yet not.

A pervading sense of loneliness and a year ripe with traumatizing challenges kept crowding my brain, bringing a vague but definite sense of hopelessness. Denial is my middle name so I worked extra hard to ignore and combat the feeling of sadness. I went to the Christmas services at church. We went caroling even though I didn’t want to. We made cards for the neighbors, whom we do not know, and hand delivered them, we passed out gifts to the children’s hospital. Even though fire fills me with a sense of foreboding, I lit one in our fireplace every night.

We didn’t have a thousand gifts each but it really was one of the sweetest, and best, Christmases we’ve ever had. I didn’t feel the same amount of magic and wonder that I usually do this season–my heart was heavy–but I worked hard to inspire wonder and thanksgiving in our home.

My point is that hope is hard work.

I used to believe that there was nothing I could control in life. Nothing. I couldn’t alter reality, only fiction. The world might blow up tomorrow, or I might win the lottery. Life was just a big luck of the draw. But when I was an adolescent, I had some trouble with some bullies and my mother told me that I could choose to be the bigger person by handling it with grace. What I heard was that I could control how I reacted to events that were otherwise outside the realm of my influence. In other words, I could control whether or not I moved from the class I shared with the bullies or I could choose to stay in the class and stay silent through the attacks. I hoped that, while it wouldn’t change the bullying, I was the better person for taking it without ever once insulting the bullies.

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I used to think that hope was something kind of like pixie dust–it would just float down from the heavens and land on my head and I would then receive a thunderbolt of energy and would no longer have to work so hard at optimism. But what got me through the bullying, and my dysfunctional childhood, wasn’t pixie dust. Instead, it was the grace of God that allowed me to cultivate a spirit of hope in the midst of the storm. It was gritting my teeth, and curling my hands into fists, focusing on the next 60 seconds instead of the second in which I was currently in.

Hope is a conscious exercise to see beyond the moment. Hope isn’t a thunderbolt at all, instead it’s a habit. Mine was born out of necessity; without it, I would have died a long time ago. If I had not believed that anger would only last an hour, then I would have drowned in the panic. If I had not believed in the “someday”, the loneliness would have smothered the last of my optimism. Hope was remembering the daily reminder that all things pass, nothing ever stays the same. The instability and chaos of my life taught me that. Even at my lowest point, I never truly had a conscious desire to die because, since things are always changing, I couldn’t be sure that a life changing event wouldn’t take place five minutes after my dying. That convinced me to live, so that I could be here for the wonderful pixie-dust-from-Heaven that might come.

Hope is not a rescuer. Hope is not a get out of jail free card. Hope does not mean troubles disappear–it means you make it to see the moment when something good outweighs the troubles.

I’ve got a pocket full of sunshine. Just a pocket full, not a purse full, not even two pockets. Just one. I reach into it and pull out a tiny bit of its pixie dust every time I talk to a friend. I sprinkle a bit of sunshiney hope on my heart every time I make my girls laugh out loud. I touch the sunshine when I see such a masterpiece as a flower. My pocket of sunshine isn’t light–I can feel its weight everywhere I go. But that’s a good thing; if it were too light, I’d forget it was within reach when I need it most.

Hopelessness is the despair you feel when you think nothing will change. Hopelessness steals the sunshine, and makes each day a fight. But only if you choose to believe it. Me, I fight it by getting up early when I’m dying to hide under the blankets. It’s a bit of the sunshiney hope I’ve sprinkled on my life. Me, I fight it by going out to play in public rather than watching TV. It’s a bit of the sunshiney hope I’ve sprinkled on my life. Me, I fight it by writing more when I think there’s no way I can write another word. It’s a bit of the sunshiney hope I’ve sprinkled on my life.

I cooked spaghetti the other night and used the last of the sauce. I started to throw away the glass jar but then paused. I remembered seeing on Facebook the idea of writing notes of everything good that happens in a year and then reviewing them next New Years Eve. I washed the jar instead of throwing it away. And then I got the other sauce jar I had that was half full and emptied its contents into Tupperware, then washed that jar out too — because 365 days is a lot of opportunities for something good to happen, I bet one jar won’t hold all the notes. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking. But the sparkle from pixie dust used to start those jars sure was pretty.

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