Dark Angel of Forest Lawn, by L. Liwag
The Loss of Hope (August 5, 2009)
“We have lived our lives in a land of dreams!
How sad it seems.” ~ Oscar Wilde
I have been considering the whole concept of hope and its opposite, hopelessness, and in the considering, I realize that my entire life has been a constant vacillation between the two, a relentless movement of highs and lows, and the harrowing realities that bespeak such an existence.
Please do not pity me. It is not pity that I seek. Rather, I yearn for the type of even existence that seems second-nature to so many. I ache for the idea of normalcy. I crave a life that does not encompass such valleys and zeniths—one that has the steady beat of a second hand on an old, reliable watch.
“We must take the measure of our own days and bear them out with a truthful eye.” ~ Lolita Liwag, “Just Open Your Eyes”
I have tried to pinpoint the exact moment when our lives began this slow descent into a waking nightmare. It’s hard as there is no certainty, and my loss of hope began many years before Corey’s personal crisis.
I have mentioned many times the loss of my daughter Caitlin. And that loss changed everything about me, even the ways in which I allow myself to feel. For a long time, I did not allow myself to feel anything, and then I did, but cautiously. I worked my way back into an existence that I could tolerate and even at times, enjoy.
When Corey and I came together, I was able to feel pure joy for the first time in memory. I found myself daring to hope that the darkness that had cloaked me was finally receding. And it did, in so many ways: I began to have dreams again. I allowed myself to invest myself totally in a relationship that sustained me. I felt within myself the ability to trust life again, and with that trust, came hope.
But then things began to happen, small, seemingly inconsequential things at first. I had a run of bad luck with jobs. Nothing seemed to fit, or perhaps, I did not fit. That I felt like a failure is a vast understatement. Why could I do nothing right? Perhaps it was because I did not believe in myself enough.
Then, I lost my father before Corey and I had shared even our first anniversary, and I was heartbroken. That my father did not live long enough to see me pull myself out of my personal abyss always dismayed me, but now, part of me is glad that he has not been around to watch my slow slide into stagnation.
And then there was a betrayal by Corey, a lie of such consequence. But we were new in our life together, and Corey did not yet know the weight a lie would place on my heart, and I was trying to learn the concept of true forgiveness, something that had eluded me before. So we were willing to work through this major rift as the prospect of what we could have far outweighed the wound to my heart.
A few years after we were married, I lost my left ovary to a tumor, and our dreams of children seemed to be snatched from us with one small cut. Still, we prevailed, never losing hope in the possibilities of things to come. So we coasted through a few more years together, making our way through normal dips and peaks, like the naturally-occurring lines on an EKG.
But somewhere in 2006, something seemed to break somewhere—a subtle shift in the continuum, so subtle, that at first, we did not recognize it for what it was and what it would come to be: a continual struggle with relentless events so injurious to the psyche and diminishing to our existence that it seemed that we had walked under a dark cloud and never moved away from its paralyzing shadow.
“Looming, the Fata Morgana stung my eyes
crept into my dreams
offered only a cruel discordance,
falsehoods in the night where only truth should reside” ~ Lolita Liwag, “These are the only truths I know“
I made a change in my career in September of 2005, a position on which I had stumbled quite by chance, and fate seemed to be on our side. Corey, too, decided that he wanted a change in his career, and made the fateful decision to return to the Coast Guard Reserves.
While trying to retrain in the reserves, Corey had a freak accident that almost demolished his knee, one misstep, and his knee was torn. His hopes for a new, more fulfilling career were gone in one afternoon. The training that he had done so far was for naught as the Coast Guard would never let him work in his desired field.
Our finances also began to crumble as Corey was out of work for several months while he recuperated. But still we rallied.
Then soon after, yet another misstep, and Corey found himself felled by his own carelessness, and this error of judgment affected the entire family for quite a while in several different ways. However, Corey went back to work as a merchant marine, and our lives seemed to be getting better, but this lull was short-lived.
The increasing pain in my back was not responding to ongoing physical therapy and treatment, and so I made the fateful decision to try surgery.
I had a back operation in March of 2007. By July, it was apparent that the operation had not been successful, and I found myself in constant pain. However, I was not willing to stop working. But it was not a decision that I was allowed to make.
In September of the same year, I made a discovery that literally sucked the air from my lungs and left me broken and completely disillusioned. I had been betrayed again, and my emotional pain had reached a point at which it melded with my physical pain. I was so spent as to be completely ineffective.
I left work full time in October 2007. Corey was laid off in January 2008. Our downward spiral has continued unabated to this moment—unpaid bills after working so hard to gain ground with our finances, continuing health problems (emotional and physical), a constant battle to keep the utilities on, sometimes unsuccessfully.
But we have not succumbed.
“ . . . then you would never have to move into that next second when you know for certain that all possibilities have ceased to exist and that the pain—a pain that you have never felt before, are unfamiliar with, are not used to assimilating and reacting to—that pain has only just begun to consume you.” ~ Lolita Liwag, “Last Possible Second”
In the past 20 months, we have become two shells of the people we once were: both of our lives defined greatly by our careers, the loss of first mine and then Corey’s was a full frontal assault on our sense of worth as individuals. We have floundered about, steadily sliding down a precipice leading to an almost numbing loss of hope.
And each time that we rally, something else seems to happen to weaken the already strained fabric of our existence: another bill in the mail demanding full payment, another snide comment from someone on the outside about not trying harder. But worse, the unkind cuts from those who should have more understanding.
And then, in just the past two months, we have come within a hair’s breadth of losing our home, the only place in which I feel safe. We do not answer telephone calls from area codes that are unfamiliar as we never know who will be calling to threaten us because we have not made payments.
First the truck and then the SUV have failed, until the most recent complete breakdown of the Trooper on the side of a mountain in western Maryland.
We have depended upon the kindness of our families and even strangers for help. I have depleted the minuscule amount available to me in my retirement account. There is nowhere left to turn for help, and it both frightens and disgusts me that we have reached this point of hopelessness.
We cling to each other, but there are times when being together is too painful, each of us consumed by our own feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and despair, neither wanting to let proximity cause grief for the other.
I have tried prayer, pleas to anything out there that will listen, and I have cried deep into the night at the injustice of it all in one instance, and then in the next second, I weep tears of hot guilt for failing to live up to everything that I promised my father I would be.
“I think that you’ll understand
if I tell you
that Barber’s Adagio for Strings
makes me weep.” ~ Lolita Liwag, “Finding My Way Through Our Friendship”
And then once in a while, perspective kicks in, as does reality, and I am faced with more truth than I can bear: My uncle, my father’s brother with whom he was very close, is very ill, possibly dying, and another wound has been opened. My uncle is one of my last surviving ties to my father.
Corey’s family is filled with a kind of despair, knowing what we face, and being able to offer only so much solace. My own mother is in denial, moving between blame and worry. The few friends who know offer kindness.
My eldest son wants to begin community college in a few weeks, and I know that this is an impossibility, but I do not know how to face him with this news. And even if somehow he is able to begin classes, we no longer have a vehicle for him to drive.
It’s as if we are caught in a kind of endless mobius strip, chasing our tails, catching up long enough to fix one thing only to have two more crash and burn.
There is a chance of Corey being able to get a job with a shipping company, but we must await his certifications from the Coast Guard for his most recent training.
When we returned from our ill-fated trip to Ohio, Corey received a letter in which all of his certifications were kicked back, prolonging the review process and diminishing the chances of getting a job. Another injustice: the reasons for the denial are all based on incorrect facts, a lack or loss of paperwork by the processing center, as all of the documentation has been submitted at least twice. Yet still they persist in holding out what we so badly need.
We are living a nightmare that will not abate, a living purgatory from which there is no release, and I have to ask: Are we bad people? Did one of us do something, somewhere, at some point in time to warrant this hand that fate has dealt us?
“How did you know that it was time
I didn’t. I still don’t.” ~ Lolita Liwag, “The Final Loss of Hope.”
Is hope not merely a wish, a whim? Do we not invest in hope our deepest, fondest desires to make something that does not exist come into being? And if that is the case, then what is the point of hoping, really, if we know that something is not possible?
How do we continue to hope, to hope for hope when the possibilities now seem impossible?
And in the end, is not hoping for something that is not possible the worst possible betrayal of self, a delusion that can only wound to the very core of our being?
Or is continuing to hope a fool’s errand, that attempt to wish into being something that rests just beyond the reach, futility by its very definition?
Then what purpose, hope?
Peace be with you and yours.