Free from anticipations
Today is my 10th day at this quarantine facility. Unlike yesterday, I am not plagued by the feeling of anticipation anymore. Because I was hoping for a happy ending, which would be me leaving here yesterday, marking the end of an otherwise distasteful week, now that that hope is gone, I feel a sense of relief. It’s as if I’m released from its grip around my neck which was so strong that kept me paralyzed and unable to focus on anything. My mind was filled with images about coming home, about what I was going to do, how I was going to start a new week, and about how a single phone call would have made all of that come true. Of course, such hope was squashed by reality, as hope usually does, either by my limited understanding of the procedure that this facility employs, or a time delay in getting the results that I had not considered.
However, now that I’m forced to discard my false hope, its weight is also lifted off my shoulder. It’s perhaps akin to the feeling someone with terminal cancer has once he’s accepted his mortality. It’s reassuring to know there’s no turning back to a time when a way out was still possible. Similarly, I thought that my situation was going to end perfectly, and now that I know that such a perfect ending is no longer possible. Unlike having terminal cancer, though, my situation is still going to end sooner or later. The common thing between me and a terminal cancer patient is that we are both forced to dispose of false hope.
The absence of hope is not despair
I used to think, just several days ago, that the absence of hope is despair, but I have since reconsidered. The absence of hope is not necessarily equivalent to despair, but instead, it can be a momentary state in which one feels at peace. That is, of course, until the next moment where hope once again appears and permeates every aspect of your existence, unless you have terminal cancer and an overwhelming amount of evidence dictates otherwise. If there’s something you can do about the situation, then I think hope is healthy. But otherwise, hope will grab you by the mind and direct your attention towards the things you want the most, despite you physically being unable to affect the situation. Such captivity leaves the mind with no resources to attend to other matters.
In this albeit impermanent moment, I feel a normal amount of anticipation and a normal amount of awareness that such anticipation may not be met. I feel no need to rationalize or provide justifications as to how my anticipation is grounded in evidence and known information, or how it is reasonable to anticipate.
Of course, I’m not going to deny my reasoning to my anticipation yesterday. It was due to imperfect information and perhaps unexpected events that my anticipation was off the mark, but it doesn’t mean that it was not well-founded. Like I said, a 50/50 odd of leaving home was pretty solid, compared to that of the previous days.
We need to control any situation to a certain extent
Nonetheless, once we hope for something, especially when we’re constrained in terms of information and resources to affect the situation, it’s going to get ahold of our mind. Our physical powerlessness with regard to the situation compels our minds to exert mental control over the situation. We can’t stand being completely vulnerable. This isn’t about being a tough shell or a snowflake either, it’s merely human nature that we seek to control any situation to a certain extent, even if such control occurs only within the mind. Someone commenting on concentration camps once said something similar: a man can be deprived of everything, except for his right to respond to the situation with his own will.
The mind only knows one way to exert control over things, it rationalizes and visualizes. Indeed, because I was unable to affect my situation in any meaningful way, in that I have no control over the test results or the procedure that would lead to my release, my mind was rationalizing and visualizing about what should happen if things were ideal. In doing so, it consumes resources that would otherwise be spent on other more fruitful activities.
Getting retested again unexpectedly
Today I was unexpectedly called out to get a sample again in the morning. I don’t know what it means, but my sister said that it’s possible that my test result was not conclusive and therefore requires another test to make sure. It is her opinion that this test is of a different nature and the result will be available immediately, which means that I’d probably hear about the result of both these tests today.
Despair is when hope is forcefully removed in a way that induces distress
I wonder about despair. What is it? It’s not simply the absence of hope, but the state of things in which hope is forcefully removed and great distress is present. The absence of hope doesn’t immediately imply despair. The absence of hope could be that impermanent state of peace I mentioned earlier, or it could be something else. Maybe you’re in a situation that is not exactly desirable, and you have certain hopes of how things should go. However, due to imperfect information, miscalculations, or unfortunate events, what you hoped for simply didn’t happen, but it also didn’t result in significant distress. That would still qualify as a situation absent of hope, but there’s no despair involved, only slight disappointments.
So despair seems to be that which follows when hope is forcefully taken away in a manner that induces great distress. It’s somewhat circular and I’m still not quite satisfied with this definition, but let’s leave that for later. On a different yet related topic, even as someone who has seen despair, I can’t help but think that sometimes hope is much more dangerous, especially the hope that slowly but surely takes hold of your mind and deprives you of mental resources for anything else. That’s the experience I had yesterday.
Today is not the day
It seems that today is not the day again. Nevertheless, I obtained some valuable information from the guy who lives in the living room. It seems that, if people are allowed to go home on a certain day, they will be informed in the morning to prepare their stuffs. In the evening they will be permitted to leave. This information should mean that the most important time of the day is actually in the morning, whereas I previously assumed that it was in the afternoon because that’s when the old lady who left here received the call to inform her about her departure. However, in retrospect, anticipating the phone call was neglecting the base rate. It might have been that the old lady had a particular connection to someone in the medical staff who would inform her via phone personally. Or it could be that the procedure changed when she left and now announcements are made in the morning only. The information I obtained today was from the old couple who was also allowed to leave today, so it takes more precedence over old information.