I got thinking about magical thinking yesterday when I was reading comments on a blog I like to read about a boy with cerebral palsy. The blogger asked her readers to comment about who was the more emotional parent especially in regards to their special needs kids. One commenter said she does all the specific worrying so bad things won't happen, and I was reminded that my mother does more magical thinking than any other sane person I know. When she was a child she believed if she felt confident about a test she would only get a B but if she worried about failure she would more probably earn the A. She seriously thinks about driving under freeway overpasses and worries about the outcome if an earthquake should occur as she is under all that concrete. If she expects the worst she can be pleasantly surprised when something else happens. When my Dad was diagnosed with colon cancer three years ago, she had dead and buried in her mind immediately, because that was the only way to keep him alive, in her eyes.
Sometimes my own catastrophic magical thinking holds me back, too. I was feeling particularly grateful a few years ago, when I had managed to buy my first house, was single but not unhappily so, and felt like I was really, really blessed. Because of our collective good fortune, my friends and I had a plan to do a sub for Santa that we have done every year since, ultimately raising $1000 - $2000 each year for severely mentally ill adults who live in a county funded group facility. I paid off my car because part of the plan to get into a house involved me having no car payment. I picked up the title at my credit union at 4:00 p.m., and the next morning on my way to Jazzercise a young woman blew through a red light and creamed me, totalling my wee truck and wrecking my neck. The accident happened about three months after I had an allergic reaction to Ibuprofen, so I couldn't take any thing for pain except narcotics and steroids for inflammation. I had to wonder if I set myself up by feeling fortunate. And as it was, since my neck was trashed, I didn't feel quite so fortunate for the next year or so as I had surgery and recuperated.
My mom is suffering while they again wait to see what my Dad's insides are up to. I am eternally grateful that I didn't adopt her way of thinking. I try to see my glass as half full and not half empty, or with a lipstick print or crack in the glass. I often tell my sister "don't borrow trouble" when we talk about our aging parents and their stubborn refusal to pare down their belongings and move to a place more suited to their health concerns. But maybe I am the magical thinker now, assuming that all will work out in the end.