How To Lose Hope (And How To Find It in a Sandwich)

At some time or another, you will lose hope.

Life will get hard, there will be tragedy. A lover will move away, a brother will die. You will hear bad news. You will lose your job. You will be dealt a heavy blow.

Around your house, the surface of everything will feel the same to touch, but it will not give you the same pleasure, the old satisfaction. Sunny Sunday mornings will find you unable to rouse yourself, or you will only rouse yourself, testily, to snap down the blind.

Because, darkness. Because, emptiness. Because, no one understands what you are feeling or how to make it right again.

And without quite knowing it, hope will be lost.

It will leave you, quite purposefully, on the subway or sitting on a park bench. It will slip away from you sneakily—out through the open window of your car, while you are flying down the I-96 expressway.  You won’t know it is completely disappeared, until you need to find it again, of course. There will be frantic accusations to your wife: Have you seen it?  Did you move it? WHAT DID YOU DO WITH IT? And then, you will begin the angry search under the cushions of your couch, in the medicine cabinet, in the pocket of your jackets.  Retrace, rewind, where could hope be?

But you will not find it, it won’t be there, it won’t be anywhere.

Hope, when it is lost, is very hard to find again.

What to do, what to do? You can only do what the nothingness tells you.

Wait until everyone leaves in the morning, walk the dog. Pull down the window shade in your bedroom permanently and take off all your clothes, piece by dreary piece. If it is the dark slush of wintertime, throw your sweater down, heavy jeans on the ground.  Socks wet from the snow. Play Frank Sinatra, his sad songs are enough to split your rib cage in two. But you like the feeling, now that hope is gone. What’ll I do, when you are far away, and I am blue. What’ll I do? Lay in bed, under the comforter, curled on your side. Don’t answer texts, if someone calls, they know you won’t answer anymore anyway.  Any-more, any way. When hope is gone, any message sounds like a dreary monologue.

Or maybe, you just drive right to the bar right on the city’s edge, the one where the neon sign reads B_R.  Old men sit smoking on faux leather stools and drinking Pabst from cans, oblivious to laws or cancers or daytime decorum. Sit at the counter, ask for the beer special. Drown your losses in a smudgy glass. Inhale the late morning bar room mustiness, a pastiche of all the marriages that died there, the addictions that bloomed and flowered, the emptiness that remains, whole and staid, in a place that time tries to forget.

These are my people now. Say this out loud, to yourself and to them, it won’t matter much if they hear you.  These are my people. Peer at the man in the next barstool down, the one in the gigantic sombrero and the DARE TO SAY NO TO DRUGS t-shirt, nod your head conspiratorially. He raises his glass, to you.

That man knows about losing hope.  He lost it a long time ago and never found it again. This makes your stomach hurt.

Drive home from the B_R, windows cracked, zipping carelessly down the same expressway that hope flew out upon. Drive through the neighborhood streets, hear the church bells ringing at the corner of town.

2:21 in the afternoon, what time are they marking? Who the hell cares about 2:21? Who the hell cares at all?

Rest your head on the steering wheel, Thursday afternoon in your own driveway.  The snow clings, in muddy clumps, to the edge of the pavement, the grass is brown but there are strands of new growth poking through. March is dying and spring is growing, mossy and greening. You would have loved this day, before.

Before.  Before you were sad. Before hope left.

There is no one home, when you open the garage door, and you are glad.

There is no one home, but there’s a note on the fridge, under the souvenir Key West magnet. Turkey sandwich on the second shelf—thought we might take a walk tonight if the weather stays nice–Just a thought. XO, ME. Punctuation like a telegram, low caps and high caps, all mismatched in her churlish, childish script.  This is how your wife’s mind works, one long runon sentence of thoughts.

Run on: thoughts. Run. On.

She was there with a piece of notepaper, writing scrawled upon it, in the kitchen, all alone.

There are men in sombreros and 80’s t-shirts, drinking beer at noon on Thursdays. There are babies being made in e very part of the world and babies being born.  There are grandmothers knitting sweaters and grandmothers dying. Church bells sound out times of little consequence, in the steeple across town. There are drug deals in fast food bathrooms and vows being made in Vegas chapels, with Elvis as officiant. All in this minute, there is all the hope and no hope in the world, weighing down and setting free the balance of possibility.  There are wives writing notes with broken crayons, slicing sandwiches with dulling knives from the butcher block. Biting their lip as they hunch over, words forming out of speech bubbles hovering over a fuzzy-haired head. Just a thought.

There are sandwiches in the fridge and prospects in the gutters.  There is a walk, if the weather stays nice.

You weren’t expecting anything today. You were ready to climb back into bed, back to the business of  waiting out the afternoon. But you pull open the handle of the fridge and it is there. On the second shelf, there is a promise.

Between the pieces of bread, you know you will find one small sliver of hope. In a sandwich.

Not the hope you lost, not the one that was missing. But something better and easier to hold on to, between two hands.

Blessed be the hope that is given, with the only purpose of being found.








  1. I love this. Thank you. Hope left me quite a while ago. Even as things got better. I’m not the same person I was 7 years ago when my world fell apart. I’m not the same person whose world came back together and then fell apart again. I’ve risen from those ashes a couple of times now, but trying to develop another incarnation of my survivor self has been hard. I still feel somewhat lost. It’s a struggle to not want to stay lost. Thank you for letting me word vomit here in a safe place, where I no one I know will see this. It’s safe here. Thank you

    • It IS a struggle not to want to stay lost. Oh, this is heartbreaking and so close to the bone for me right now. You are in good company, my beautiful friend and hardly alone. You say it so perfectly. It gets better, even if it’s all a big mess right now. I have no idea how most of the time, I just know that on the other side, it is always better. Thinking of you, wishing you wonderful times and hope, hope, hope to come. Thank you for being here with me. xo

    • Needed this. Inspiring to read during hard times. Believe, hope, and faith keep me focused. My son gives me the strength to keep moving. Just when you think you really know someone and are shocked by discovering who the person really is that you planned to share your life with. I’m grateful for family and friends during this difficult time. Thanks for sharing.

      • It’s funny how the things we need to see arrive just when we need to see them. I guess that’s true for the little gifts of hope as much as it’s true for stumbling on a piece that reminds you to look for hoe in the smallest places. Thank you so much for reading, Grace. I’m so grateful you’re here—truly. <3

    • I think you are so wonderful, Tamara. How blessed am I to have made friends with someone like you just through the process of writing. Thank you so much.

  2. “Church bells sound out times of little consequence, in the steeple across town.”

    The entire paragraph in which this sentence appears is extraordinary. If you do nothing else in your life (and you have done and will do MUCH), you have written that paragraph. For me, it would be enough. To have written that.

    • You inspire me to want to keep writing. It’s really been an awful summer for me, for so many reasons. But comments like these, from a writer whose work seems far above my own, is the perfect buoy to keep on swimming, keep on swimming Nicole…keep…on…swimming. Thank you so so so much, friend.

  3. Nicole, you are such an awesome writer and bring joy to many, including me. I wait with anticipation to read your next post, for so many reasons. Not just the beautiful writing, truly talented writing, but the depth of emotion expressed and the humour – I adore your sense of humour! I laugh out loud and it brightens my day! Lately hope has been elusive but I may have just found it in a beautifully written post!

    • Lorna, your comment brightened MY day so much. I can’t tell you! <3 <3 <3 Over and over again, I feel overwhelmed with the powerful connections I have made with people (like YOU) through WORDS---it's just breathtaking to me. Thank you so much for this---for reading, for taking time out of your day to comment and for encouraging me. I love knowing I make you laugh! Cheers, my friend. <3

  4. Needed this. A truly inspiring piece. Holding onto hope and faith. My son gives me the strength to keep moving. You think you know someone and then all of sudden you are faced with a shock of your life and your world is turned upside down. My heart goes out to the five children that are involved. May we all see the light sooner than later.

  5. Nicole, I love the cadence and flow to your work! The content and biting humor is wonderful and seems multi-layered to me. I just randomly happened across this. I was looking for something to change the direction of heartache that I was moving to. The best way to get out of a hole is to stop digging, right?

    • Greg…woke up to your wonderful thoughts this morning and it brightened my day. Are you a writer? I feel like you must be—you seemed to understand what I wanted to express even more clearly than I thought I could express it. I love that so much. I move in and out of heartache a lot, I guess that’s the way I’m built, heavily. The next time I’m in that hole, I’m going to think about your words. How can a person find a way out if they only are falling in deeper? Love this so much.

  6. You mentioned to someone in the comments above that it’s funny how we read or see things RIGHT when we’re supposed to. I am in the beginning stages of separation/divorce and I’ve been sucked into and spit out by addiction. I’m very chatty, sometimes I even speak eloquently. But there are times when what I’m feeling cannot be put into words. You have done that FOR me today. Thank you for reminding me that I’m not alone, and slivers of hope will come, as needed. I just need to search for my own turkey sandwich.


Leave a Reply