"The last to breathe
is the first to drown."
Begin To Hope copyright January, 2007 By Dianne DeVilliers

Some time after the Solstice, when the Christmas chaos is over, the days start getting a
little longer, and I begin to hope.  I see the light at the end of winter.  It’s not that I don’t hope
before then or that I’m ever hopeless.  But there is something about the dark dreariness of
December that saps faith away.  

My 2006 had more than its share of misery.  Mind you, nothing disastrous happened to me
personally.  In fact it seemed that every time I considered complaining, I heard about a real
tragedy someone else was enduring.  In my neck of the woods the past couple of months
there were two small aircraft crashes, a family lost in the snow, climbers stranded in a
mountain storm, and a crabbing craft sink.  I know my work stress, car trouble, financial
woes and health issues weren’t national news worthy, but they still hurt.  It is never just to
compare your troubles with another’s but realizing the pettiness of my own problems wasn’t
helping.  Along about December 31,
I was plain tired of picking myself up, dusting off
the latest depression, and calling a confidant for consolation only to discover a new

My response to this run of bad luck was to retreat.  I forced myself to take care of
necessities like working, banking and shopping.  But that was it.  I pushed those closest to
me away.  I declined invitations.  My tummy was tied up in knots.  I couldn’t sleep.  In short, I
was operating from a place of fear and anxiety.  I chose to spend New Year’s Eve home
alone in bed shivering and shuddering.  It was almost as if I had such an irrational terror of
dying or someone getting hurt that I was not allowing myself to live.  Believe me, that is not a
positive way to exist.

I don’t begrudge myself the indolence of regrouping the past couple of months.  Everyone
needs time for meditation and relaxation even if I whiled away a lot of those hours watching
television or playing on the Internet.  Closing myself off from the world is definitely not a
pattern I want to establish.  I might live longer if I don’t go out at night, but it won’t be as full a

So I began to think.  I began to hope. And I began to think about hoping.  
A quick check
of my worn Webster’s revealed hope has something to do with “trust,”
“expectation of fulfillment” and “promise for the future.

You know all of us are going to die.  But we are only going to die once.  That’s right; no
matter how many near misses we experience there is only one last breath.  There is no way
of knowing when or how that final exhalation will expire.  
The only control we do have is in the choice of how we live our
lives, what we do with the breaths in between birth and death.

If the San Francisco family hadn’t taken a Thanksgiving trip, if the two friends hadn’t soared
in the airplane they built, if the climbers hadn’t challenged Mt. Hood, if the fishermen hadn’t
worked that day….  IF WHAT?  Yep, they might still be alive.  Yep, maybe there was some
misjudgment involved in the risk taking that led to their respective dooms.  But isn’t life is
about chances and experiences?
 How can we move forward if we don’t step and
 My kids’ preschool teacher used always to say, “Mistakes are how we learn.”   
Her point was if we don’t try, we don’t grow.  We become stagnant.  Most of the time we
blunder through the errors of our ways.   Most of the time we are lucky enough to live
through our bungles.   Afterwards we have great stories to tell.  It is hope that gives us the
courage to open ourselves up and move ahead, despite inevitable detours.  Hopefully, then
we come out wiser, even if we are sometimes sadder.  

Hopefully.  Ah ha; key word here.  I spent the last of 2006 so caught up in my mistrust and
expectation for the worst I forgot the promise of  future.  Instead of evaluating events as they
came, I was avoiding experience in order to prepare for the horrible.  I was worrying.  I
forgot to hope.  I overlooked the reality that every day, except for one, I do have assurance
of my future to motivate me onward.  Even when I die, I believe in a future for our children.

Hope is more than wishful thinking.  It is the belief that now, however good (or not so
good) our present may be, it is not as good as it gets.  Each of us can be a little kinder and
wiser.  January, in this very e-magazine, Holly Whitman writes to the topic of happiness
being a choice.  I would like to piggyback on that theme.  Hope is also a choice.  Car
trouble and growing older are facts of life.  After life comes death.  Angst will not change
that certainty.  The only control I have in the matter is how I meet these daily challenges.  I  
began to appreciate that I  do have the power “to trust” that whatever happens has a lesson,
“to expect” I will continue to become more fulfilled, and “to promise” myself I will take life as
it comes and figure out solutions as needed, instead of being ruled by apprehension.

It is hope that gives humans the strength to forge ahead.  Whether our goals
involve reaching for the sky or niche-ing out a more comfortable spot on earth, hope is what
gives us the confidence to attain them.  With hope we can fly airplanes, climb mountains
and take family vacations.  By choosing hope we are saying yes to the future.
is listening to the voice within us all that says, “carry on.”  
The year is
still young and it is time to begin to hope again.

(Dianne is an old college buddy of Women Who Write Editor Holly Whitman.  
Dianne lives on the Oregon Coast and writes an e-column for www.bandon/tv under the name “The Ducque.”  Visit
that site to read more of her work and get a glimpse of the ocean.)

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