Around the time that my annus horribilius began to wrap up, I got a call from an old friend. She wanted to let me know that she, too, had driven into a personal hellmouth.
Her problems are far more serious than mine, and they’re way beyond anyone’s ability to just get it fixed. I’m generally a person who can offer advice and a plan, who can be a sounding board to identify issues, etc. In other words, I can help you build narratives that anticipate consequences of proposed actions. Hey, writer’s brain, right? It’s good for something.
But these problems are way beyond me and my tale-spinning, and the best I’ve been able to offer is the occasional distraction. And since I can talk the leg off the proverbial donkey, I’ve tried to distract my friend with conversation.
Epic life problems, I’ve found, do lead to interesting discussions about what the f*ck we’re supposed to be doing with our lives, about powerlessness and free will and fate and purpose – all that good, mid-life-crisis stuff, where life and death and the stuff in between all stops being an academic exercise over beer and starts being painfully, scarily real. Wait, what? Death? I thought that was something that only happened to guys in red shirts!
Turns out, not.
We’re not there yet, either of us, but we have talked about it. We’ve talked about being lightning rods for suckage, too, and about how elusive control is, about randomness vs Some Big Plan. As Roger Ebert once observed (and I’m paraphrasing because I can’t source the quote) – people who don’t read think that life is something that just happens to them. People who do read know that it’s all a necessary part of the dramatic narrative.
At one point my friend told me about a theory that she’d heard about, and it’s been stuck in my head ever since.
Apparently you can just tell the universe what you want and BAM! It’ll cough up. It’s like the Secret (no link, I’ll pass on that one), only sanctioned by a major religious group – so I guess you don’t talk to the universe, you talk to god.
“But stuff like ‘good health’ and ‘happiness’ and ‘world peace,’ right? Not ‘hey god, I want a pony,’” I said.
No, you can demand a pony, and god will deliver.
At first I struggled with the idea as a parent. I’m a little appalled that god would reward demands for random stuff and not tell you to remember that kids are starving in Africa, so eat your damned peas. I also had some qualms about the whole ‘gimme’ thing from a theological point of view – my own religious training comes largely from Narnia, Little House on the Prairie, and a bunch of Christmas specials. They all place a fairly heavy emphasis on service rather than entitlement (reinforced with a lot of tear-jerky sentiment, I might add).
But as time passed, I realized there’s a certain logic to it, too. Never mind the pony (except for my friend Lisa B, she can have All The Ponies), and the winning lottery ticket and such. If you decide that you want something, you will tend to create the circumstances to make that thing happen, right? It’s like deciding to be a doctor or an artist (or a writer, ahem). You don’t say ‘okay, now I’m a doctor’ and thus it is so. There are certain steps you have to follow – go to university or buy paint or find a FRIKKIN AWESOME mentor. So if you decide that you want to buy a house, you open an account, you stop with the lattes and you get there.
Fine, I’ll accept the theory.
Next question: what would I ask for? What do I really want?
(Let’s pause for the obvious free-association moment, just get it behind us, shall we?)
First of all, I’d be totally afraid to ‘ask’ for anything. Partly it’s because my own luck has been so utterly shit-tasitcal lately that I’d be afraid to tempt fate with any demands. Partly it’s my own neuroses about being perceived as a selfish, entitled bitch (ah, patriarchy!).
Then I found myself oddly stumped. What do I want? It’s a real question.
I decided it would make an interesting exercise, so I sat down with pen and paper and tried to make a list.
Here’s what I found out.
After all that’s happened, I don’t want much. Because really, life is pretty good.
I want to write full-time, but not so much that I’d demand it from the universe. I want my Kiddo to be happy and healthy, to have a rich life with lots of love and very little pain. I want to be quiet now, after years of drama and upset. I actually do want world peace.
And right now, if I had to put a wish out there? I want my friend to be okay.