"Quick! Hide! They're coming!" I couldn't keep the smile off my face as my two young adult children acted like much younger children, scrambling through the kitchen and living room, giggling and squealing and looking for a place to hide in order to jump out and surprise their brother and his wife who were arriving for the Thanksgiving holiday. All of us joined in the conspiracy as the newly married couple walked through the front door. "Hello? Anybody home?" they shouted into the silence. Then, just as they stepped into the kitchen, the conspirators jumped into the open with shouts of "Surprise!" and squeals and laughter erupted as all of us exchanged hugs and celebrated this holiday focused around homecoming and gratitude and food.
Admittedly, going into this particular Thanksgiving, following on the heels of the recent presidential election, I was struggling to shake myself out of a pervading sense of despair and despondency even as I cleaned and put up holiday decorations. However, as our tribe began arriving via planes, trains and automobiles, coming through our front door loaded with suitcases and their favorite pies as contributions to the feast, the voices of loved ones ushered me into the archetypal world of Hestia. The despair and dread that seemed to have hung like a thick cloud in the air after the election, slowly started lifting even as smells of homemade ravioli and champagne basted turkey permeated our home.
As the Thanksgiving weekend wound to a close and I packed tupperware containers full of leftover turkey, stuffing and desserts to send home with our kids, I put a smile on my face to hide the bittersweet goodbyes of seeing them off to their respective parts of the country. While it was difficult to see them go, I knew there was something waiting for me to unpack even as I helped them pack their overstuffed suitcases. Later, that evening as I drank a cup of tea by the woodstove and tried to reacclimate to a home now, strangely silent, I was able to get still enough to listen to what was knocking at the door. I opened my e-mail and read the poignant words of women from all around the country traumatized by this election and asking what can we do, where do we start?
We start by feeding ourselves, the deepest part of ourselves. We start by making time to do what feeds our souls. Whatever that may be. Putting on our favorite pair of PJs or threadbare sweatpants. Going for walks in the mountains or by the ocean. Curling up in a chair by the fireplace. Letting ourselves grieve and mourn and at the same time, digging deep, deeply enough to hear her. That deepest part of ourselves that connects us to something greater than ourselves. She is still here. She is not silent and she can not be voted out of office.
She is calling us to radical hope as defined by Jonathan Lear when he writes:
"What makes this hope radical is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is. Radical hope anticipates a good for which those who have the hope as yet lack the appropriate concepts with which to understand it." Here is where Lear echoes what Rebecca Solnit writes so eloquently about in her book, Hope in the Dark: "Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act."
This is not an ephemeral hope based on fluff. It is not a manic defense. This is a hope that mandates courage because it is a hope that calls us to act, to engage with the messiness of humanity, to be honest with all the ways in which we "other" others and to have the fortitude to see those places where we "other" ourselves. Radical hope lives in the margins, on the fringes, outside of the easily travelled highways of popular opinion. It is radical because it dares to imagine possibilities not yet seen let alone embraced. It calls for courage because it will ask things of us we have not yet brought to the table.
This radical hope lives in the creative unconscious. To the degree that I am able to pay attention to the imagistic language of my creative unconscious, I will be connected to a psychic reality that is able to disrupt the despair and despondency of this post-election climate with new possibilities and new pathways forward. These are times of challenge and uncertainty and as Rebecca Solnit reminds us: "in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act." The answer to the question so many of us are asking: "What can I do?" will not come from outside ourselves. The answer is waiting for us to make space for her. She is here. She is waiting for us to open the door and make room at the table.