Hopelessness – a gift?

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This, here, post is another one about the book I read called “Learning from the Heart” by Dr. Gottlieb, a Temple University graduate of Psychology. He is a psychologist who specializes in family therapy and addiction and was the director of a program in Philadelphia.   His book is a book of lessons learned in his life. 

Dr. Gottlieb was in a tragic accident when he was 33 years old. His life was going very well, he was married with two little girls and a great therapy practice going when one morning he got into his car and saw a black object flying into his windshield.   He later woke up in a hospital to find that he is paralyzed for the rest of his life. He was in that hospital for one year.   He struggles with quadriplegia. People with this condition suffer with recurrent and permanent infections as a result of the paralysis. He is permanently paralyzed at the chest and down.

Dr. Gottlieb, at first, had much difficulty accepting his condition and wanted to die by suicide. 

This experience taught him how to view Hopelessness in a different way than we usually think of “hopelessness.”. What do you think of when you hear the word “hopeless?”. Desperation? Despair? Giving up?, Misery, …

There is another way to look at a “hopeless” situation. As a gift. Hopelessness itself can be a true gift.  It can give us the liberty to move on or move forward with the life we currently have instead of desperately clinging to something we do not currently have and may never have and missing out on right now lusting after or longing for something else.

Shortly after this accident, Dr. Gottlieb made the decision to live for two years and then see if he were able to go on living. He hoped that something would change dramatically.

It may sound good & pleasant that he had hope. But this false hope was actually a hindrance to him. It was imprisoning him,not allowing him to live in the now, in the present moment, it would not allow him to embrace his current life. All he could do was “hope” for things that would never happen, then he would be happy.

He hoped he would walk again.   With quadriplegia that’s not possible, ever. He hoped his infections would cease to exist. With quadriplegia, that’s not possible.

Dr. Gottlieb is Jewish but he seems, by what I read, to be somewhat secular or a free-thinker and doesn’t really have a definite concept of any sort of god. 

He wrote this “At the end of two years, I took myself into the bedroom and I had a deep, reflective conversation with…well, I don’t know.  God?  My god? My own truth? Anyway, the conversation went something like this: ‘Okay, I will live with it if you give me hope that one day I’ll walk.’   And what I heard back was, ‘Nope. No hope. Live or die. Make your choice.’.   So I said, ‘Give me hope that I won’t be so sick.’. (My health was so fragile – I just wanted some assurance that I would feel stronger and be able to fight off infections.). And I got the same answer. ‘Either live with it or don’t.   It’s not going to change.’ For every request, I got the same answer.”

After the two years was up, Dr. Gottlieb had to make a choice. Live or die. He lost hope that he would ever walk again. He lost hope that he would stop getting sick with infections.

And he chose life.

If he kept up the hope that something physical would change, he would have missed out on this life now in hopes of a “better” tomorrow.

But he chose now. Hopelessness gave him the gift of Now.

This is a very different and very beautiful way of looking at hopelessness. When we become hopeless about something we want, we let go. Not let go of life. But let go of lusting after what may or may not come in the future. Embrace now. Cherish now.   Love now.

Dr. Gottlieb still struggles, he writes, but he realizes how beautiful life is now and he loves his beautiful life.

There have been so many days I have lost, hoping for something better, wishing for more in the future and I let now slip away. But when I let go, I make room in my heart for this life I live Now.

Is there anything you are holding onto? A hope for something that you’re clinging to that is not letting you live now?

“I’ll be happy when I lose 5 pounds….”
“I’ll be happy when I find the love of my life…”
“I’ll be happy when I have a better job….”
“I’ll be happy when I become rich….”
“I’ll be happy when I have kids, when I get married, when I don’t have to work anymore, when I graduate college, when…”

Why not be happy now?! You can still work for things but it’s best not to let it destroy your serenity and love right now.

“Normal day, let me be aware
of the treasure that you are.
let me learn from you, love you,
bless you before we depart.
Let me not pass you by in quest
of some rare and perfect tomorrow.
let me hold you while I may,
for it may not be always so. One day
I shall dig my nails into the earth,
or bury my face in the pillow,
or stretch myself tart,
or raise my hands
to the sky and want, more
than all the world, your return.” ~ Mary Jean Irion 

“You know the future’s lookin’ brighter
Every morning’ when i get up
Don’t be thinkin’ ’bout what’s not enough,now baby
Just be thinkin’ ’bout what we got
think of all my love, now
I’m gonna give you all I got” ~ Eddie Money (Baby Hold On)

“It’s not that I don’t want a lot
Or hope for more, or dream of more
But giving thanks for what I’ve got
Makes me so much happier than keeping score

In a world that can bring pain
I will still take each chance
For I believe that whatever the terrain
Our feet can learn to dance
Whatever stone life may sling
We can moan or we can sing

Grateful, grateful
Truly grateful I am
Grateful, grateful
Truly blessed
And duly grateful” ~ John Bucchino. (Grateful)

“So the sidewalk is crowded, the city goes by 
And I rush through another day 
And a world full of strangers turn their eyes to me 
But I just look the other way 

They roll by just like water 
And I guess we never learn 
Go through life parched and empty 
Standing knee deep in a river and dying of thirst” ~ Joe Cocker (and other singers) 

Xoxo Kim

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2 thoughts on “Hopelessness – a gift?

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