“Despair and deception, love‘s ugly little twins
Came a-knocking on my door, I let them in”I Let Love InNick Cave
These lines of this old fave song (and artist) of mine has been running in my brain recently. It seems to sum up a pervading feeling I’m hearing a lot:
‘It feels like what we’re doing is meaningless. Look around at the world? Does it even matter?’
‘How do I keep going when we don’t seem to be getting any traction, and in fact it seems like we are worse off now than 5 years ago?’
‘How do I keep the organisation thriving when I’m not sure we’re winning?’
‘It’s too late to do anything that will change things. It’s all so hopeless. It’s over. I might as well just enjoy my life while I can.’
Sound familiar to you?
I have a view on this that might be helpful.
Underpinning this is a tussle between 2 extremes: hope – that something better might be possible/ can happen/ is worth striving for – and despair – feeling that there’s no point/ all hope is lost/ worry that we’re wasting time and effort for something that probably won’t work.
Despair is losing hope that anything can change – and feeling powerless about it. In fact, the etymology of despair comes from the Latin and means without hope, to lose all hope. (And the deception part from the song? We are in denial about the level of despair we are feeling. We deceive ourselves that ignoring this will somehow make it better. Spoiler alert: it won’t.)
One way I approach this tussle is by noticing and working with the unexamined mindset that things should always be on the upswing – and more than this – we need to know that it’s going to turn out ok before we even try.
This mindset that things should always be moving in a progression toward better days is ingrained in our culture, and hooking into it is incredibly naive. It creates an entitlement that does not prepare us for difficulties and setbacks. Nothing is linear.
Added to this a mindset of needing some guarantee or proof that it’s going to work out before we commit to keep going – no wonder we hesitate! But addressing complex problems do not come with a guarantee.
Just noticing these 2 assumptions: that life should be always improving – and – if I’m to work on something important I need to know it’s actually going to turn out otherwise why bother – gives us a chance to choose, and recommit to:
- Put my shoulder to the wheel and add my energy to create something momentous.
- Show up in spite of the ambiguity and lack of certainty.
- Not let my attachment to an outcome distort the effort I give.
- Be an adult with eyes wide open – and still choose to plunge into the fray.
Because what is the alternative? Giving up? Bunkering into our own life and making that as pleasant as possible? Pretending to do something while only being a drag on the efforts of others?
This might work for a bit, but it is ultimately unfulfilling and can cause even more despair. As Viktor Frankl observed “for people who lose hope and purpose toward their future, their present becomes unmanageable.”
So no. Despair and deception truly are love’s ugly twins. They come “knocking on your door” because you actually love and care so much. Don’t be deceived by messages that it doesn’t matter or there’s no hope. Know that a search for proof that the ending is a good one won’t help you. Don’t let this deep care and solicitude and empathy incapacitate you.
Instead, feel into the love – for this planet, this mission, this life – and the anguish and uncertainty this brings.
Let love in!
Till next week,
My love to you