Late spring of last year I experienced fear like I had never felt before in my life. Me, the one who has braved many uncertain situations, lived in cities where I knew no one, traveled to over 35 countries, bungee jumped off cliffs, spoke in front of large crowds and experienced many other brave moments, felt a crippling fear and lack of hope in humanity.
A few days after my son was born, there seemed to be a barrage of violent and horrific news stories that continued for several months into the summer. The postpartum months can be so isolating, unstructured and discouraging when you stay inside more than usual tending to the needs of a new baby, but it hit me harder than ever this time with the media cascade of shootings and terrorism. One of the national news stories happened in close proximity to our home. All I wanted to do was hide under the blankets and shield my little ones.
I had to change my habits, turn off the TV, put down the phone and get back with community. I discovered that being outdoors was the most replenishing activity to my soul during that new baby season. We live in Southwest Virginia, at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. My husband encouraged us to get out of the house and go on hikes. Each weekend, we set out with our toddler and teeny newborn wrapped against my body and we hiked beautiful trails and landscapes that were a short drive away.
My fear of all the world events diminished and my hope began to rise with each ascending step and small victory reaching the goals on our hikes. Looking across a blanket of trees from up above, I felt so much hope and peace, unlike the tumultuous world painted in the news. None of us can predict or change all the negative events in the world, but I can influence my microcosm, and cultivate hope, kindness and thoughtfulness within my little family. I can strive to teach them to make a difference in other people’s lives and to love well. It’s hard to see that as a significant endeavor right now when they are so little and our conversations revolve around babbling coos, pooping in the potty and sweet I love you’s, but I know there is a great purpose and reward in cultivating their budding hearts, tending to their boo-boos and caring for them with patience and love.
My home state is South Carolina, and our state motto is Dum Spiro, Spero, Latin for While I breathe, I hope. I have always loved that. Like breathing, hope is required to sustain life. We all experience internal and external turmoil in our lives, but as long as we are on this journey, there is hope. There is goodness. There are kind people and better things to come.
Some ways that I have learned to bring hope in our daily routine:
Vitamin D. No matter how bad the weather, I’ve learned that we must go outside for a brief time everyday, even if it’s just a short walk to the mailbox. It’s important to get fresh air, dirty fingernails and a small dose of vitamin D, away from the four walls and routine of being at home.
Do good. Do something to help others. I used to think it was impossible to help anyone else out when I feel like I’m drained by all the work at home as a mom, but I have learned that the most simple things may have a profound impact on other people. In my community there is a large elderly population. My daughter loves to chat with them at our community center and they love to chat with her. It’s one of our favorite things to do together, to find opportunities to slow down and have conversations that really matter.
Living room dance parties. Sometimes if we need to have a better attitude and regain our hope, we dance. For me it is nearly impossible to go to the gym anymore, so we crank up up a positive beat and dance. The great thing about a toddler and a baby is that there is no judgment no matter how silly your dance moves may be!
Community. Community is absolutely vital to our hope. If we are not able to make it out to visit with friends, we video chat with family members that live far away or invite friends who are more capable to travel to come visit us. Just a big pot of coffee and a mess of toys in the living room floor can help us get through the day.
Counting our blessings. We have started a tradition of writing down blessings and putting them in a jar to review at the end of the year. It is important to remember these things because it helps to sustain our hope. We have to remember the small victories and positive moments, because hope builds and only grows stronger with each and every blessing on this path.
I absolutely love the song You Are Good by Nicole Nordeman. The words are such a great reminder in good times and hard times, andI especially cling to these verses:
When it’s dark and it’s cold and I can’t feel my soul
You are so good
When the world is gone gray and the rain is here to stay
You are still good
So with every breath I take in
I’ll tell You I am grateful again
And the storm may swell even then
It is well and You are good
I’ll sing You a love song, it’s all that I have
To tell You I’m grateful for holding my life in Your hands
You are holding my life in Your hands