Magical Thinking, The Secret and Wishing Really, Really Hard

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Sorry for the re-post – but I wanted to put this guest post on my own site as well. And if you didn’t read it – well here is your second chance.

I wrote it for my friend Christy’s blog, so she figures prominently – and it’s a little different from my usual style – but my mom said it was the best mothers day present I could give her, so that was nice!

Magical Thinking, The Secret and Wishing Really, Really Hard
May 7, 2009

When I first met Christy – I was almost bowled over by her enthusiasm. The Christy experience is one you never forget. Her excitement for life is truly a force to be reckoned with.

And she’s a good woman to have in your corner. I often call her my own personal cheerleader. If it were up to Christy, I’d have an agent and a book deal tomorrow, all based on the haphazard scribblings in my personal blog. I have no real writing experience, but Christy sees no hindrance there. She doesn’t waste time worrying about obstacles – she sees only infinite possibility. This ability to focus all of her energy on “making things happen” has served her well. She found her dream husband, her dream career and became the mother of a baby who looks to have sprung directly from a Botticelli painting of angels. She knows how to live life to the fullest and does so every day. And it’s all due to the fact that this girl keeps her eye on the prize.

Everyone has heard of “The Secret” by now, and Christy is in fact, a success story for this Oprah-approved method for finding happiness in life. In one of our recent conversations she told me that when she was single and feeling ready to meet Mr. Right, she thought about everything she would want in a husband and always kept that in the periphery of her thoughts. She went on plenty of bad to so-so dates, but never doubted that this perfect man was out there. She could picture him clearly and knew that she would recognize him the minute he appeared.
And apparently she did, because they’ve been married for five years.

And when they were ready to have the as of then unknown Ms. Foo…the same rules applied. As it did for the dream job. While direct routes may not have been available to her, Christy always knew what her final destination would be be. This complete confidence comes from knowing what you want. And now, thanks to a wildly popular self help book endorsed by talk show hosts everywhere, anyone can be a Christy.

I’m not mocking The Secret of course, but it just strikes me as funny that people need a manual for something that boils down to common sense and a positive attitude. It’s all so simple, or at least it can be if you let it.

So it’s no wonder that a seasoned professional in self-doubt like me would find inspiration here. And not just because it sounds so logical and attainable. For me, this approach to life also sounds very familiar…

While she may not engender Christy’s particular brand of zest for life, my mother is another force to be reckoned with. Jo Coveny is a firm believer in taking responsibility for your own happiness. She didn’t “see the light” as early on as Christy did – but hey, better late than never right?

It all started when I was in elementary school and found myself making frequent trips with her to the Georgetown new age bookstore, “YES! Books” (if you read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, this may sound familiar – Anna Brashares grew up in the DC area and actually featured this blast from my past in her book). Crystal healing and meditation became common topics of discussion in my house and I believe there were “workshops” involved as well…

Since we were children, my brother and I didn’t actually meditate or read up on what crystals would best absorb the negative energy causing a recurring nightmare, but we were “exposed” to my mother’s new interests. A story that mom loves to tell involves my seven year old brother answering the phone while she was meditating and telling the caller that his mother wasn’t available at that time since she was not to be disturbed while she “levitated.”

But long after the crystals became fewer and far between, the self actualization tactics held strong. And my mother was a firm believer in the laws of attraction that The Secret explains. For YEARS I’ve been hearing that if I visualize good things coming my way, they eventually will.

I’ll admit that I’ve always battled a tendency to sit back and let life happen “to” me. Playing it safe and accepting what is offered is just so much easier than asking for more. But with Jo Coveny behind me, I’ve managed to expect more when it really mattered. I have a wonderful husband and beautiful children and my friends inspire me and make me laugh every day. But there is always that one tough spot. The one that doesn’t come clean with just one scrubbing. For me it’s a lack of confidence in my ability to “be something.” And it seems to be a stain made with permanent marker.

Or maybe not.

I recently read Magical Thinking by Augustine Burroughs, and was rather taken with his attitude that he can cause things to happen simply through sheer force of will. And he had this his whole life, even while he was “running with scissors” through his outrageous childhood. I love that he just decided one day that he would write a book that would be on the New York Times best seller list – and then DID.

Magical thinking is pretty much the same concept that the The Secret outlines. That you can make things happen for yourself. And I believe this – because I’ve seen it first hand.

My mother has cancer. She has for years. It began ten years ago as breast cancer, and after a long remission, came back as lung tumors and then brain tumors. So you might wonder how this secret magical thinking BS could be working for her. And I don’t blame you, because I’ve often wondered the same thing.

But that’s just not how life works. You can never dream up a perfect life and then get it. Nothing will ever be perfect – but it can still be wonderful. And the parts that aren’t so wonderful are always subject to change. The Secret proposes that “The Universe” is always listening. If you say “hey, Universe – how about sending me a life without any problems?” – you won’t get much of a response. It seems The Universe is more of a short order cook and not quite equipped to cater to requests on that large a scale. But if you ask for something specific, then you may get better results.

My mother realized many of her dreams. She and my father moved to Key West and opened a home furnishings store. They’ve faced floods and recessions – but they’re still there. In fact their current store is even more beautiful than the first location, and they now have a new business partner and best friend to share this dream. Mom wasn’t handed a perfect situation, but she has never doubted that everything would work out in the end. She knew what she needed, knew it would happen – and then it just did.

She never dreamed of getting cancer – but she did believe that she would find the treatment necessary to get her through it. The year that she developed tumors in her brain – a condition once only treatable through radiation and with a life expectancy of a few months to a few years – the FDA approved a new chemotherapy that specifically targets brain tumors. Almost a year later, my mother’s body is almost entirely cancer free. Was this just luck – or the laws of attraction?

Who knows. Maybe both. But we’ll take it.

There was a show on TV a long time ago (one that didn’t last more than a season or two) with a character named Annie who was kind of a flake. She lost her apartment and ended up secretly living in her sister’s garage where she was storing all of her furniture. A snarky friend discovered this arrangement and responded to her claims to have “tried everything” to find a new place to live by asking, “really Annie? Have you tried wishing really really hard?” Of course her deadpan “yes Brian, I have,” was supposed to be funny. But isn’t that what the laws of attraction and magical thinking are based on? That you start with a picture of what you want? A dream. A hope. A wish.

I don’t know if I believe that wishing is enough – but I do wholeheartedly believe in Jo Coveny. And I believe in Christy. And Augustine Burroughs. And everything that they have achieved started with a wish.

Of course you have to take action to make things happen, but first you have to know what you want.

So that’s where I am now. Figuring out what I want. I already have so much – but I want more. As I should. As we all should. So I’m going to make things happen for myself. I’m going to find a career that I love. Like Christy and like my mother (and of course Augustine) I’m going to picture this and believe in it. I’m going to believe that it’s all possible and that it’s never too late. And I’m going to start by wishing really really hard.

9 thoughts on “Magical Thinking, The Secret and Wishing Really, Really Hard

  1. Christy

    I wholeheartedly believe in you Kate! I’m so glad your mom is doing better, and this post brought tears to my eyes a third time. I’m such a sap, but I’m so thankful we’re friends!

  2. Heidi

    This is beautiful. What a good friend and role model you have in Christy and your mom.

    I loved this post.

  3. Gwen

    I could get down with this theory when it results in good things for good people. But does the converse also have to be true? Because it kind of implies, then, that people for whom dreams do not come true are doing something wrong. And I don’t know that I can buy that. In the Evangelical Christian missionary world in which I was raised, this notion of The Secret was similar to the idea of faith. The underlying principle is that bad things happen because one doesn’t have enough faith. I remember when this family I knew tangentially was losing their toddler son’s battle with cancer. He had been sick for so long and the end was obvious and near and these people, who had done everything, every possible thing they could think of to save their beloved son’s life, they finally released him, made peace with his inevitable passing. And then Christians, ostensibly their friends or family, accused these poor, desperate, heartsick parents of not having enough faith. The reason their son was dying, you see, was because they didn’t believe (or wish) hard enough.

    You see my dilemma? My friend did not die of breast cancer at 43 because she didn’t wish hard enough. My friend’s daughter was not molested at the park district because she didn’t wish hard enough. Bad shit happens. To lovely, decent, planning and wishing people.

    I guess this is why I prefer to think I am very lucky to have the life I do. I don’t feel I deserve it any more than I believe those who are struggling deserve their pain. And in a way, perhpas that’s more difficult to deal with, because it takes a rational reason out of the picture; it implies we really don’t have any control. Except, of course, the control over what we do with what we are given.

    Sorry to ramble. I obviously think about this a little, eh?

  4. Dana's Brain

    I know I’m late to this but wanted to respond.

    I want to feel like this – or be inspired like this to make things better in my life for myself, my husband, my kids. Like you said, I tend to let life happen to me. It’s like I just keep waiting for some kind of epiphany to push me into action. I wonder if I will ever just take the first step, or if I will someday realize I’ve spent all this time just waiting?

  5. BananaBlueberry

    I totally believe in the secret…

    My dad has had a brain tumor for 8 years now-

    and is doing pretty well :)


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