Let me introduce you to a pair of my acquaintances: Hope and Fear. I got acquainted with them decades ago and they visit me often. The two have a marriage of sorts and I cannot help but wonder whether one could exist without the other. They appear, mostly uninvited, and leave abruptly, always changing my existence in an inexplicable way. With a new year about to start, they showed up just the other day, fighting one another for an opportunity to secure priority in my 2024 forecast.
Fear is a bit more dominant, with an edgy kind of unease and a dour expression. Despite this, he nevertheless sports a rugged, almost irresistible appeal. He is the reason I sometimes live in a state of inertia, powerless to move forward, worried about loss and pain, exacerbating the disharmony between my body and mind, triggering my propensity to focus on all that is negative. During his latest visit, he was eager to affirm that my trepidation over the state of the environment, the demise of democracy, and the ever-increasing violence of man was not only warranted but also likely understated. He had the audacity to remind me that I needed to think more personally as well. What about my increasing age? Will it mean declining health, loss of mental acuity, worse eyesight? Have I thought about what will happen when I lose my family and friends? Isn’t it a little insane on my part to expect to be loved at this stage of life? Then what about my income—surely it will not last, and I need to face the fact that a nursing home or cancer or death is but a whisper away. He affirms it is best to just accept that I cannot escape him, that he is an integral part of a dismal future, and just as I have done years ago, I should just let my imagination run rampant. I will be much better off expecting the worst and he will be around to help me wallow in it. I pride myself on keeping friends, so I just take his hand, nod, and turn to his partner Hope to continue the conversation.
Hope has the most serene smile and an almost musical cadence to her voice. She swings her arms as she saunters across the lawn to inspect the colorful leaves. She reminds Fear that he was wrong about so much over the years and invites me to tell her what I hope to do in the next year. It takes a few moments to shake Fear’s admonitions, but I admit I’d like to have a reunion with all my siblings, something we have not done since before the pandemic. I envision time with my grandchildren, a few trips with lifelong friends, losing another twenty-five pounds, sticking to an exercise habit, and editing and publishing my second novel. I want to continue to love and be loved, to have more fun than ever, to discover new and interesting ideas to enrich my life. I want to welcome more books, music, and laughter into my life. How incredible it would be to confidently perform one perfectly choreographed dance and witness a lovely waterfall and take a carriage ride and attend a Broadway play and enjoy a river cruise. Those are my selfish hopes, but there are others as well. I hope my Naborforce clients find more joy and comfort in their lives, that my hundreds of former students continue their awe-inspiring journeys, that more good people find that their efforts matter in this complicated world.
As Hope and Fear packed up their suitcases to continue their odyssey, each left me a memento. Fear, with a smirk and a shrug, handed me a dark storm cloud and let me know he would see me soon. Hope put a bright ray of sunshine on top of the cloud, smiled, and assured me that the sun, despite Fear’s predictions, had more power. I hope she’s right, I really do, but have just enough innate fear not to be too confident.
Janet Call is a loving grandmother, avid reader, storyteller, and retired educator. After nearly 50 years in the classroom, she published her first novel Empty Desk and continues to search for writing inspiration daily.