Looking back on the first 20 days of my 100 Day Challenge, I can see that I have been in a time of consolidating my motivation. I began this process of changing my habits out of an intuition that it would be vital to have a new relationship with the media to keep bright the best of my spiritual gifts, my optimism.
I call my optimism a spiritual gift because I have no idea why I possess this personality trait. I am well read, I have scientific training and perhaps most damning to optimism, I had a painful childhood.
I say painful as opposed to abusive because I remember every long day alone on that mountain, every intense migraine, and every mocking taunt of unkind children as at least as painful as every open slap of my mother’s hand. The adults in my life were not the only or often even the most unkind things that I experienced that might have taught me not to hope things would work out better than logic says they should.
In those formative nights, however, tucked under down blankets proof against the sharpest draft of an unheated room, a light would flare inside of me that I could not suppress. Yes, I was unloveable, and disobedient, and clearly very strange, but if Jane Eyre taught me anything, it taught me that I was willful enough to keep walking.
One of my favorite songs is Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine.
If there was a better way to go then it would find me
I can’t help it the road just rolls out behind me
Be kind to me or treat me mean
I’ll make the most of it I’m an extraordinary machine
I have a gift. I don’t know where it came from. It should have died years ago, all the times that I wanted to die, but it didn’t. I used to think it was innocence because I couldn’t see how so much hope could survive in the face of truly knowing how people are, how they proved themselves to be. Now I know that it is a tower of fire above me that lights my way, not something so pale as mere inexperience.
So, in spite of the historically obvious reasons why I should not be hopeful, why I sincerely am deeply frightened of the manipulate and abusive behavior of the adults who believe they are responsible for us, as citizens, I still feel that my optimism is a valuable tool for survival that I must protect. I can’t put this fire out, it isn’t mine, but I can turn my back and stare into the darkness instead of being warmed by the light of my hope.
20 days in and I can better explain. I cannot go to the desert to pray, at least today. My family needs me, my students, colleagues and friends need me to show up. But I can wrap a dark desert sky around me and build the Ardent Monastery here, in the habits of my everyday life.
No pattern today, just the memory of the Milky Way as it wheeled across the sky and I felt the spinning of the earth, for the first time, press me down into the earth. The memory of laying on my grandparents lawn in the company of my 7 cousins, each as strange as me. Maybe this was how my hope was born.