A handful of years ago, some teacher friends invited me out for dinner and drinks and a little Christmas shopping. I drug my feet. Not because I didn’t like the group, but I felt particularly alone at this time of the year and the thought of wandering around the crowded town center under twinkling lights amid happy couples and adorable families was too much, even in the company of these friends.
But this group was persuasive, and my excuses were flimsy. A few hours later, I found myself in the middle of Restoration Hardware laughing my head off about something I can’t exactly recall and nearly spilling my peppermint mocha all over the faux fur throws. By the time we made our way to a little store going out of business, I was so caught up in the holiday spirit I bought an ornament. One with the word, HOPE, stamped into the ceramic.
It didn’t matter that I had no plans for a Christmas tree inside my studio apartment, no plans even for any decorations.
This past weekend, we had family visiting from out of town and were inside that same Restoration Hardware, down the way from where I bought that ornament. I was standing next to my husband, and we were both trying to steer our toddler away from pulling down a display of stocking stuffers—thank goodness, he didn’t have a peppermint mocha—when I remembered that shopping trip from a lifetime ago. Sometimes I forget just how hard it was to hold out hope for something that now seems like it was always there. I barely remember the pain of wanting to be a mom, which, I suppose, is equal parts miraculous and sad.
Hope is one of those innocuous words without much meaning until we’re actually hoping for something outside of our control—a spouse, a child, our health, the health of someone we love, a home, a job, a friend. Most of our wants can be obtained without much waiting. The big things, though, require hope, and that takes time; it is a fragile thing, easily crushed by that practical voice that says, “Be realistic.”
As I was writing this, I sat with that HOPE ornament balanced on my knee, wondering what it was that I hoped for now. It took a few minutes until the thing came rumbling up to the surface, skittish and gaunt like a feral cat accustomed to being unfed. But when I sat with it, I knew it was writing. Not just writing, but writing a story that means something to someone, changes them somehow, as a handful of books have done for me, embedding parts of themselves into my thoughts, my vision, my tongue.
It is a lofty goal.
I’ve written two books, and agents have rejected them both. Hope is not my default. But in this season of Advent—of waiting and hoping and revelation—I am remembering that some of the sweetest gifts seem like total long shots.
CLAIRE CAREY DEERING believes less is more, in writing and in life.