We’ve all seen it in one cartoon or another. Good sitting on one shoulder and bad on the other. Or the same scene with an angel and a devil. The variations are many. Hope and Depression deserve such a rendition, though there’s little humor in the situation when you’re the one caught between.
They’re opposites, but there’s a twist.
As someone who’s suffered depression all my life, but has clung to hope for just as long, I’ve seen how much alike they are. They’re both strong, motivational voices. They’re both stubborn. They both seek to rescue you from the other.
Yes, rescue. Hope sets the path before you and urges you to walk it, to head towards the possibilities. Depression tells you Hope is too demanding. Better if you sit and rest where it’s safe. After all, where would you go on Hope’s path? Who wins? Sadly, too often neither does and a person endures a lifetime of torment where they’re tugged one way and then another.
And now we’re back to Hope on one shoulder and Depression on the other and the head caught between is your own. I insist Hope’s message is more inspiring, but Depression’s argument is the easier to make.
Let’s be clear, though. This isn’t about whether you should sit on the couch all day and watch the game or whether you do the laundry. This is about your life’s course and if you’ll have one.
It might seem like I’m giving Depression too much credit, but I never, ever underestimate it, just as I never give up on Hope.
Another way to examine the issue is through a bigger, literary window.
I view Hope as the adventure and Depression as the guarded shelter. Yes, that’s an oversimplification, but it holds up in many works of fiction and runs like a burning river through my writing. It’s the difference between the Bilbo who follows Gandalf in The Hobbit and the Bilbo who hides behind locked doors and grumbles about his greedy relatives.
Any genre can address Hope and Depression (or any of its close cousins), but fantasy is well suited to tackle them against an epic backdrop. What’s Hope’s path but a quest, a journey to new lands and ideas? My heart beats a little faster just thinking about it.
This surfaces in my own writing. My protagonists have every reason to give up on life, to turn their back on the world, to embrace their pain and bitterness, and build a comfortable shelter in which to avoid the passion they deny. Hope recognizes that passion and knows how to make it itch.
Hope and Passion feed off each other.
My passion is speculative writing, it’s the path to places only I can imagine. Here’s hoping your own Hope shows you, not just a path, but the desire to see what’s just beyond the horizon. A quest is always waiting. As a not-so-famous writer once said in a poem, “I realize the most important steps were the ones that led to me.”