Maybe you’ll find one or two to hang onto.
Have you ever been to a butterfly pavilion? I went to the one in Scottsdale, Arizona, years ago. It was just after I’d left a long relationship and the farm where I’d been living for six years. I was full of feelings of transformation, new beginnings, and freedom. I wandered around the pavilion among the gorgeous fluttering butterflies for a couple of hours and thought about what I wanted to do next.
For a while I sat on a bench and watched the other people interacting with the butterflies. Several times, I saw a person approach a big, resplendent beauty and put out their hand, or slowly edge closer to one that was fluttering around. The person was obviously hoping the lovely creature would hop onto their hand or land on their shoulder.
In a couple of cases, the person who was so hopeful, and trying so hard to get the attention of the butterfly, didn’t realize that there was already a beautiful butterfly sitting quietly on top of their head.
Hope is a double-edged sword. Often hope leads people to try so hard, to strive after things painfully — or to wait endlessly, holding onto the hope of something happening or changing. I’ve stayed far too long in more than one unhappy relationship or job, in the desperate hope that it would get better.
Hope can paralyze you, but it’s not always a passive thing. Hope can spur you to activity, too — like the mythical character Sisyphus, who rolls a boulder up a hill over and over, only to see it roll right back down again every time.
In the myth, Sisyphus is trapped in this futile repetition because that’s his punishment for trying to become immortal. But I’ve done the same kind of thing to myself many times, trying to make something happen again and again in the constant hope that eventually, what I’m doing will work.
I can’t think of a single time it ever did. It was just the classic definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over, hoping to get a different result.
There’s a play by Terence Rattigan about a woman who loves a man who doesn’t love her back. She…