Hope in the heart of Kilauea Iki

Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay.
– Maya Angelou

When I visited Hawaii in 2010, I took a hike across the Kilauea crater. Kilauea Iki last erupted in 1959 for 36 days. It took 36 years for the lava lake to harden. While the ground is now solid, the core is still hot and you can see and feel steam rising through cracks in the ground.


Hiking across what initially appeared to be a barren landscape, it surprised me to see small green buds, bushes, and plants scattered about growing somehow between fractures in the rock floor. How had those roots managed to take hold in what seemed such an inhospitable place?


Those tiny pieces of foliage have been on my mind lately. I’m currently starting my mornings with a meditation practice, with help from Deepak Chopra and a 21-day meditation challenge. The focus is on hope in uncertain times. Quite apropos for right now on many levels, especially a personal one.

Nearing half a century in age this year, I find myself at another fork in the road. Because I’ve spent much of my outer life either doing what I was told or what was expected of me, my inner spirit has experienced its own form of volcanic activity in the form of anger and depression. As much as I like to think of myself as a positive person, when I sink into my heart each morning during that meditation, it feels a lot like that barren crater of Kilauea Iki.


Essentially, I’ve still no clue what to do with my life. I’ve spent the majority of my adult years making a living at work that has never been a passion or given me much joy outside of a regular paycheck. Though I’ve luckily always had the pleasure and good fortune to work with terrific people, that does not a fulfilling life make.

It’s added a few extra cracks to my already broken heart to meet myself each day doing this exercise and sense how unhappy I’ve been for so long and how hard my heart has become, as if a steel trap door has been clamped shut across my chest and vacuum-sealed for good measure. I went in looking for hope only to find fear had set up shop long ago and built itself a sprawling estate.


See, here’s the thing: I am the queen of cheerleaders for other people. I’ve had people roll their eyes and tease me about my sometimes Pollyanna-esque persona. I can find encouraging words and a silver lining in just about anything –- when it’s about someone else. I’ve been able to do it for myself at times too, though not nearly as well or as easily. When it comes to me, I’m usually just annoyed with myself. But I get over it and move on, right?

Sure, I knew insecurity and anxiety had been constant companions. And yes, battles with depression, disease, and a host of other disappointments have had years to spill out and leave behind a sea of destruction. But I could have sworn I’d overcome so much of that. I did not know there could still be this much hurt or how deep the damage went. How have I managed to deceive myself for so long?

And most importantly, how do I even begin to invite hope in again?

I’m purposely taking time in my life now to sift through the embers and decide on a new course heading and do some healing. So I’m thinking about those signs of life I saw all across Kilauea’s rocky crater. If they can find a way in a place that seems so hostile, is there a way for hope to open the door and take root in the cracks and crevices of my heart?

Dare I say it? I’m hoping so.


In the meantime….

You are love(d).