Mixed Media – Watercolor, colored pencils, and ballpoint ink pen

As·pi·ra·tionnoun /ˌaspəˈrāSHən/: 1. a hope or ambition of achieving something. [Google definitions]

I have tried to write out a blog post for this art piece ever since I finished it on April 18th. Lord have mercy; there have been a lot of distractions this past month! These distractions led to a much more serious bout of depression than I would like to admit and anxiety that has me questioning my sanity. It’s during times like these that hopelessness sets in, and I struggle to see the good in life due to feelings of despair and negative thinking.

Let me reiterate here that telling a depressed person to “just think happy thoughts” is probably the worst advice ever that someone could give. Not only does it invalidate what the person is feeling, statements like these can cause that negativity to spiral out of control when the person finds that this seemingly simple solution can’t be achieved due to, you guessed it, more negative thoughts. It’s a vicious cycle. A much more productive response, in my opinion, is to remind the depressed person that all of life’s problems are temporary and change is inevitable as nothing ever stays the same.

When my therapist spoke with me about doing a piece of artwork for a mental health publication, I knew I wanted to participate; and the above image is the result. The topic or art prompt he gave me was “Inspiring Hope” or “What gives a person inspiration of hope?” Coincidentally, back in January, I had posed a similar question to this on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

January 15, 2014, on Facebook and Google+:

“I’m going to throw this prompt out all across the board to all of my social media networks: What physical representation means “HOPE” to you? Tell me or draw #hope.

I was considering the thought of creating a drawing series based on responses I receive. In doing a quick Google search I’ve run across the usual symbols: a dove, an anchor, a swallow; but I think it would be more interesting to hear and see individual responses given the personal nature of what hope might represent to others. For me, the first thing I thought of was butterflies (because they are so fragile yet travel such great distances) or maybe, the infinity symbol (because to me, infinity also means all things are possible through time and space – this one’s a little harder for me to explain).

Sorry to be so philosophical, but this thought crossed my mind. My curiosity got the better of me, so I thought I would ask.”

And on Twitter:


Failing to get any responses, I promptly forgot about it and moved onto other things. Yes, my failure to interact with people is as prominent online as it is in real life; and yes, it was also a “look a bunny” kind of thing. I had, however, intended at that time to sort out this concept in my mind to better understand how others experience hope since it is such a hard concept for me to grasp. My struggles with depression and anxiety often leave me with a loss of hope, as I’m sure these types of mental health struggles do for many.

I can’t really make up my mind as to whether hope is an emotion or a belief or something else entirely. “Hopeful” is often listed as an emotion, but I’m confused by “hope.” I could just be over-thinking it, as I often do; but it is my experience that I analyze something to death in order to gain an understanding of it. However, when I think about hope, expectation and disappointment also factor into the mix. One can’t exactly hope for something without a certain amount of expectation that this hope will somehow manifest. If that hope does not, then disappointment is a likely result.

Hopenoun /ˈhōp/: 1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. 2. a feeling of trust. verb: 1. want something to happen or be the case. [Google definitions]

On the day my therapist gave me this prompt, I had the topic of “Inspiring Hope” stuck in my head while I hiked at Burgess Falls after our appointment. Thinking about “what gives me the inspiration of hope,” I spotted a couple of beautiful Eastern Tiger Swallowtails. At that moment, I knew that a butterfly had to be a part of this piece because for me, butterflies are the perfect symbol for “Hope.” I would have preferred a Monarch butterfly to work from, but those are becoming a rare pleasure to see. Instead, I worked from one of my favorite photos I took of an inquisitive swallowtail that I photographed last August.

While working on this art piece, I thought more about the topic and came to the conclusion that I think hope is finding your passion and setting it free. My passions are drawing, painting, photography – creating art – and nature. These are the things that give me the most hope because these are things that I love to do and want to share with the world to inspire others.

What gives you the inspiration of hope?

11 thoughts on “Aspiration

  1. This is a great post. So real. I have so many thoughts after reading it. Mostly, that it helps when you share what your depression and anxiety are like. I know it’s also no help (in addition to “think happy thoughts”) to suggest to a depressed person that they “think about others who are worse off” – as if depression is a choice that you can rationalize your way out of.

    I think depression itself interferes with the natural pathways (whether they be feeling or thought or chemistry) that make us experience “hope” or “love” and other things, too. So, it’s really interesting to me that you wanted to know what “hope” is like for others. I’m sorry you didn’t get any replies! (I’ve learned to not expect answers to queries I pose in my posts, as my queries have gone unanswered so many times!)

    When I read this “What physical representation means “HOPE” to you?” in your post, I immediately imagined what is my visual of eternity. I wouldn’t have had that image when I was younger. But mid-life, I see eternity as the setting free that you talk about. So, I love this passage from your post: “the infinity symbol (because to me, infinity also means all things are possible through time and space” – that captures “hope” for me!!! Thank you for putting it into words for me and for showing me that I’m not alone in that idea!

    Another thought to support your idea that “change is inevitable” –
    When my children were young, say, in Jr. High and High School, I’d tell them, “No matter how low you might feel sometimes, know that better days are ahead. I promise you that. Better days will come.” And I’d tell them to please come to me if ever they felt depressed. There is so much anxiety and depression in my family, I know a fair amount about it. So, your thought that change is inevitable is so wise. (And in a way, that’s hope.)

    Keep writing and sharing! xo, Mary

    1. Mary, thank you so much for your comments. I always look forward to reading what you have to say. I’m glad to hear that this post resonated with you and that I’m not alone in the idea that infinity is a source of hope. Infinite possibilities. 🙂 And I agree about those who say “think about others who are worse off.” When I’ve heard that one in the past, it made me feel so much worse because not only did I feel guilty for feeling depressed, but then, I was also ruminating on all the other people suffering as well.

      I love to hear of parents who encourage their children to share their emotions in the way you describe. It’s so important for healthy emotional development (and relationships). Ugh, Jr. High was the worst! All that awkwardness, LOL. Thanks again for your comment!

      1. I’ve remembered that I had another thought/recollection as I read your post.
        One time I was vacationing on an island off the coast of Maine. Migrating butterflies came through and for a couple of days they were all over the island. I took photos of them and had the leisure of time to study them and their behavior.
        I had previously thought that butterflies flew, wings flapping madly with do or die determination, to their destination. But what I observed is that they are tossed, turned and tumbled, turbulently, by air currents! (I think those two sentences are the best alliteration I’ve ever written! Done not by design – I digress with more…)
        Anyway, I had to rethink decades of characteristic thoughts about butterflies – their physical strength, their sense of direction, their determination. When actually, I think they really “give themselves over,” they surrender to the ways of the order of nature. They instinctively hitch a ride on a current that is controlled by something far greater than they. And in doing so, they get to where they are supposed to be.
        Perhaps in this, there is a lesson in hope.

      2. Wow, that is a beautiful observation, Mary, with a great amount of wisdom in the allegorical nature that it compares so well to life’s struggles and triumphs. Seriously, simply beautiful! Most certainly there is a lesson in hope there.

        In my own life, I find that if I can go with the flow, letting go of any attachment to any particular outcome and accepting experiences as the process of simply gaining wisdom through learning, things go much more smoothly. The struggle comes when my ego gets in the way, fighting that current that’s meant to take me where I’m supposed to be. Hope is in that gentle reminder to ego to just “let go” and enjoy the ride. 🙂

  2. I’ve been as absent from social media as I have been from WP, so I totally missed your question. Not that I have a great answer, though. It’s an elusive thing, hope, for me almost as much for you I suspect. I think for me hope comes when I’m at a certain level of satisfaction with myself and what I’m doing or have done. As such, veeery elusive.

    I like the butterfly!

    1. I like this comment. I know just what you mean – hope almost comes into view, it just shimmers over a horizon, when you you’ve moved close enough to it through satisfaction in yourself or an achievement. “Elusive” – perfect!

    2. Sid, what are those things that have given you that satisfaction with yourself in the past? Do more of those things. Perhaps, hope is a gift or reward for staying true to the things that bring us the most joy.

      1. You’re a wise human. Unfortunately, I don’t have a stockpile of those things – but I may be finally creating such a trove as my changed life progresses in the next few years.

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