Since I gave up hope, I feel a lot better

“Life unwinds like a cheap sweater
But since I gave up hope, I feel a lot better
And the truth gets blurred like a wet letter
But since I gave up hope, I feel a lot better”

– Steven Taylor, “Since I gave up hope I feel a lot better”

I discovered Steve Taylor (not to be confused with Steven Tyler) during the mid-90s, when I was living in Florida and in the throes of one of my many attempts to fit in with the rest of the evangelical Christian subculture.  It wasn’t working particularly well.  Taylor’s snarky, subversive music–lobbed like lyrical stinkbombs at the self-righteous within that camp–was a welcome change of pace.

After picking up his album Squint, I decided that regardless of the whole burial or cremation thing, when I died I wanted someone to read the lyrics to “The Finish Line” at my funeral.  That still stands.  In fact, the years have made me only more aware of how much truth Taylor packed into a pop song with those lyrics.

I have no intention of becoming a theology blogger.  For one thing, the actual theologians would rip me to shreds.   But mostly, because I’m not particularly interested in turning my relationship with the Almighty into a scientific study.  I did that already–turned a human relationship into a psych lab project.

For all my good intentions and completely understandable motivations, in the end it was an attempt to control a bunch of things I have no honest authority over. Things like another person’s behavior, feelings, outcomes, circumstances.   My books and resources and programs and efforts mostly left me exhausted and my situation unchanged.  To a certain extent, theology can be the same thing.  An attempt to control that which isn’t really controllable, in order to manage your own anxiety.  It can be an attempt to measure, lock down and quantify the immeasurable, wild and unknowable.

At its basest level, the gospel is good news.  Despite entirely reasonable justification otherwise, the ultimate being whose lovely creation we continually bork up royally isn’t holding that against us.  See?  Good news.  For me, following Christ should be less “march of the conquistador” and more “as I wander through the world, can I pay forward that kindness?”

I am not often remarkably good at that, either.  So following for me is less like a long trek across country (which would imply actual progress) as it is like a really exhausting daily commute, to be repeated ad infinitum, and which I manage better or worse depending on the day, the circumstances  and my attitude.  My attitude varies largely depending how much I’m attending to maintaining the relationship.

Speaking of attitude, that takes us neatly back around to the title of this post, and the lyric that inspired it.  I try to have a positive attitude, in life, relationships, work, etc.  I also tend to jump in to things with both feet and all my heart.

As an INFP, I care deeply about things.  It’s sort of a defining trait.

It’s also kind of a hassle, and not always a great idea.

Over the last couple of days, I was struggling with an issue, not because the logic of what the right choice was, but because of the emotional weight of the decision.  From a logical standpoint, it’s a really, really simple choice.  It’s only complicated at the emotional level.

Interestingly, the key to unlocking that emotional stalemate was … more emotion.  I got angry.  Angry enough to let me emotionally detach from the situation.  It was like holding a heavy iron skillet.  No matter how painful or tired my arm got, I kept holding on.  Getting mad was like actually getting burned–it freed me to do the sane thing and let go.

I’m handling the situation much better now that I don’t care about it so much.

Hope and care are good things, most of the time.  But when a specific hope  or desire goes unsatisfied for a long time, they can turn toxic.  They turn into resentment.  The only way to fix it is to give it up.

Once you feel better, you’ll see clearer.  And once you see clearer, you might just find cause for hope that will become a reality.

6 Comments


  1. ·

    I know exactly what you mean. I get emotionally committed to a particular solution or resolution and when it doesn’t happen I really get in a turmoil. It’s only after I burn out my anger that I can detach and look at the situation more critically — and honestly.

    My therapist and I often talk about the logical and emotional disconnect. Don’t concern yourself with some of this seeming Sisyphean. Eventually you’ll get the rock rolled over the top of the hill.
    .-= Charles Robinson´s last blog ..Gone fishing =-.

    Reply

  2. ·
  3. Kat
    ·

    Charles: Yep. That’s the thing–getting too attached to a specific outcome can drive you nuts.

    Reply

  4. ·

    Kat,

    I was profoundly moved as I read your inciteful post. I stubbled across it by doing a search for “Since I gave up hope, I feel a lot better”; looking for Taylor's lyrics. I have found several occasions when the premise of this song spoke directly to my situation (here's a humorous one http://www.tangle.com/view_video?viewkey=8b97aa…). Recently, a family situation has brought myself and others to a similar state of mind/heart – I'm done. I give up.

    What I just read in your post was so 'just what I needed to hear', it has momentarily derailed my quest to find Steve's lyrics while I digest this.

    I'm glad you took the time to type this up and post it. It was a blessing to me.

    Joe in SC
    http://JoesLittleWorld.com
    ps … I never heard of INFP before; I looked it up. Apparently I am one too! 🙂

    Reply
  5. KatFrench
    ·

    Joe,

    The hope that my oddball little stories and essays can be a blessing to others is pretty much why I do this. (Well, that and the fact that writing things out is how I process life, and unprocessed life gives me spiritual indigestion). I'm so glad to hear you found it helpful.

    The video was pretty cute–at some point, it's better to just give up and say “maybe tomorrow.” Also, we were once an AF family in Japan as well, although not Okinawa (we were at Yokota). Sorry to hear about the family situation. But you know how it goes–often the point at which we give up trying to change things through our own heroic efforts is the point at which greater powers can work on it without us and our egos in the way.

    – Kat

    Reply
  6. Jim
    ·

    thanks for writing this. excellant points!

    Reply

Leave a Reply