If you don’t already follow Lisa Bonchek Adams’ blog, you might want to begin. Because she is also a cancer survivor, I usually connect to her ideas every time I read her blog. Her entry on June 28th had such an impact on me, I wanted to respond in my own blog.
The title of her blog that day was “The hidden danger of hope (The Stockdale Paradox and The Good Father).” You’ll have to read it to become informed about the Stockdale paradox if you don’t already know about it, but the idea behind it can be applied to everyone’s life because we all have moments and events that require us to find courage and hope to survive.
Hope is good until it becomes false hope. In The Good Father Noah Hawley says, “Acceptance is the key to happiness.” Admiral Jim Stockdale has said, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end–which you can never afford to lose–with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” Hope is not enough.
One of the reasons I was first drawn to Lisa’s blog was that she often admits she does not believe that all you need is a positive attitude. It’s important to fight as if you will win the battle, but she says that you have to accept that you don’t know the outcome.
Strength and courage are needed but will not guarantee survival. My sister had both strength and courage and her hope was strong, but she died anyway.
I’ve been coping with my mother’s increasing dementia and health issues as she sits every day in the nursing home waiting to go home. I have been afraid to take away her hope. But what I realize now, especially after her phone call to me this morning, is that as long as she believes she will get better and go home, she will continue to be miserable and feel sorry for herself. She will hate every day she has if she continues to believe her life will return to the way it used to be. She considers herself to be a victim, although really that is how she lived her whole life. I know she needs to face the fact that she will not ever be the person she once was, a hope she expresses daily, and she will not be able to go home. Her confusion and her need for nursing care are increasing. I thought I might be able to take her with me on a planned family reunion to Cape Cod at the end of July. I have not been able to tell her she can’t go but that I am still going. It seems cruel to take away her hope, but she needs to face the “brutal facts” of her “current reality” as hard as that may be. It may be too late to help her understand that what she needs to do now is create a new daily routine for herself and seek comforting and enjoyable moments within that routine. I’d like to think she will be able to do that, but I’m not sure. It may be that I am the one who needs to face this first. Only then will I be able to try to help her get through the final months of her life.