"I can't go on. I'll go on." A look at Samuel Beckett's famous declaration offers insights about hope and Healthy Survivorship.
In When Breath Becomes Air Neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi describes slipping toward despair. After thinking to himself, "I can't go on," Beckett's classic follow-up--"I'll go on"--automatically came to Kalanithi's lips. Somehow that 3-word statement motivated him to get out of bed and take steps forward, literally and figuratively. The contradictory dyad--I can't go on. I'll go on--provided a turning point toward hope. How?
'I can't go on" articulated his feeling overwhelmed and defeated. The words, "I'll go on," articulated a dispassionate decision to act. Without hope, Kalanathi took action, which led him to see himself as still living, and not dying. As said in past posts, where there is life, there is hope.
The irony is that Beckett's work usually calls to mind nihilistic pessimism and despair, not hope. Yet the impact of Beckett's words on Kalanithi were to begin a path toward hope.
Generally, hope fuels effective action. The hope that your efforts will make a difference helps you take action. The hope that tomorrow will be better energizes you to do what you need to do.
You may need to act after a new diagnosis, before you've had a chance to find hope. You may need to act during a rough spot, while hope is waning. Healthy Survivorship includes times of taking proper action in the absence of hope. I can't go on. I'll go on.