Remember in grammar school when you learned the difference between a noun and verb? I can still hear my teacher saying that nouns are people, places or things and verbs are action words! My business is called H.O.P.E. which stands for Helping Others Purposely Evolve, but of course, my intention is to have it inspire, not just appear as a cute acronym. I chose the word HOPE because it’s a significant one to me. I had an orange cat named Hope, Mr. Hope technically; Bob when he was in trouble. I lost him when he got hit by a car and I felt terribly guilty for not keeping him inside and not being there to protect him. In my grief, which lasted a long time, I learned about Hope and how it will come again. People around me tried to soothe me and said things like: “Everything happens as it should,” but I had a lot of trouble accepting that. I felt anything but hopeful and I certainly didn’t understand that hope wasn’t just going to arrive at my door-step, I had to actively seek it. Because he was an orange cat I began surrounding myself with orange things to hold on to any part of him. There were orange candles, art supplies, I even planted orange roses (I’m nothing if not compulsive). Eventually people started to notice that I always wore an orange pony tail holder (still do). They asked. I had to come up with some answer that sounded better than: “I had an orange cat that died and I can’t deal with it so I wear a lot of orange now.” I began telling people orange was my HOPE color. That seemed to go over well. At the facility I worked at clients began repeating this back to me. “Orange is the color of hope,” like I’d let them in on a secret code that only other orange lovers would know. The funny thing was, it did start to create more of a feeling of hope. Words are indeed powerful. We can speak things into being and saying orange is the color of Hope started to manifest in the most unexpected ways. Co-workers started to come to me for hopeful advice, or they would introduce me to someone who is full of Hope. Everyone gave me orange things from pens to stress balls. Positivity, like all things energetic, is contagious.
After Hope passed a series of events occurred that convinced me he was watching over me and trying to help me move on. I will share a few of them with you. I was in a lamp store looking for a reading lamp when instead, I stumbled into an orange and cream cat shaped light, of which there was only one. It looked exactly like him. That light stays on, always. It used to be in my home, where I needed it, but now it’s in the studio to help bring the message of hope to others who are suffering. I swore that no other cat could replace Hope. A few months later, while in a pet store getting food to feed the others, I saw a small ad for a litter of kittens that needed a home. There was one left. An orange boy. I named him Arthur, after my Grandfather, who was my hero. Arthur is not at all like Hope, who was very gregarious, he’s got a very different personality. He’s precious and he reminds me every day that there is a cycle in life, it’s not our job to orchestrate it, but instead to flow with it. When I began adopting this type of thinking my life began to change.
This is where HOPE became a verb to me. At a very deep level I understood that more really would be revealed, but not necessarily in my time. Spirit works in mysterious ways. The action of having hope starts when you stop fighting what is and wishing for it to be different. The Buddhists say all suffering comes from attachment. We are attached to how we think things should happen, how we should look, how much money or things we’ve acquired, and who comes and goes in our lives. Isn’t it ironic that we’ve decided as a culture that we are large and in charge of what SHOULD happen, but completely a victim when it doesn’t? If we are that powerful why don’t we just change it? We chose to be self-empowered when it suits us, so why not choose Hope as a way of life.
Let me be clear, I am not suggesting a “turn that frown upside down” solution here. Frankly, that’s insulting. I am saying that we can learn to respond to life differently. When Hope died my Hope died with him, I hit a bottom. This eventually led me to believe in a power greater than myself and in a spiritual connection that would make my life worth living, maybe for the first time. Because he died, I began to live. I was in so much pain at the time I was willing to try anything, even God, and, every time I turned around there was confirmation that his death was not in vain, it very much had a purpose. I’d already been a Music Therapist for some time, but I didn’t know that I was supposed to bring Hope to others. It took time. It took a lot of time, and tears, and yoga and meetings and meditation and coffee. It took a lot of coffee. Eventually I began to live as if Hope was a verb. It was an action I took in my belief system, when I trusted what was happening around me was divine and stopped trying to change it. I began to live as if I had a purpose and that purpose involved not giving up Hope and supporting others to do the same.
In 2005 I went to Music Therapy school, on a whim. I was at another historical bottom in my young life at that time and I had to find something to do. I already had a music degree and it was faster than law school. Professor Ron Borczon, I love you for letting me in, and for telling me I could do this. I remember telling you then that I thought it would be cool to have a place where people could come heal and take part in various arts and wellness opportunities. You said this: “Great. Do it.” Professor B. was often a man of few words, especially in email format, but I never forgot his willingness to support my crazy idea. It’s almost 2018 and my studio will officially be opening. I wasn’t ready for this until now. I hadn’t yet learned that I could use Hope as a verb, but now that I have I intend to carry the message to the best of my ability. Part of that message is simply this: You CAN recover, from whatever it is that holds you back or down, from whatever has happened to you in this life. You can, but first you have to believe that it’s possible. If you need some Hope you can borrow some of my mine, until you cultivate your own.
Alright, so I believe that it’s possible. Is that enough? It is for now, but it’s an active process. What did you do today to create Hope in the world? Smile at a stranger, listen without judgement, offer encouragement? What have you done to create Hope in your personal experience? Try again? Pray? Ask for some honest advice? There are endless roads to creating HOPE, but I offer to you that it begins and ends with service to others. HOPE is not synonymous with easy, nor is it a cure-all quick fix. HOPE is the action of believing that your learning and your growth are more important than your perceived plan and that it all leads somewhere beyond what you can understand or feel in the moment! HOPE requires trust that there is something more. It really is the light at the end of the tunnel that says: hang on, you’ll be glad you did.