Fresh Ideas: Be careful what you wish for
December 20, 2016
We've all heard the warning, "Be careful what you wish for."
This lesson hit home with me years ago, as a new patient convalescing in a facility. I felt frightened, frazzled, and disheveled. Besides my medical problems, my long hair was wild. When I asked the visiting hairdresser for a haircut, I emphasized my wishes with an ironic sigh, brushed the straggles from my eyes, and said, "I've just got to get rid of this!"
A jokey little exaggeration, right? Well, several days later I woke up to a pillow covered with quite a lot of my hair. A shower left a thick clump atop the drain, and my comb removed handfuls more. My medical regimen hadn't changed and I was relaxing as my condition improved. Then I remembered my conversation with the beautician. Horror and shock gripped me. Had my impulsive words caused this tragic event?
Dismayed, I began silently apologizing to whatever inner force had interpreted my words so literally: "Oh no," I thought, "I'm so sorry — please, I love my hair, and I don't want it to leave forever!" And imagine this: the rapid shedding stopped.
Clearly, my body had heard both of my comments and provided suitable action. My heartfelt wishes were heard by my subconscious mind, which chose its most expedient way to answer them.
Body and mind register emotions, memories, fears and joys. They control mind-numbing numbers of complex networks, interacting in exact sequences with speed-of-light timing. They turn energy into purpose and action. We use this energy in work and play, to argue, flirt, stress out. But our woes and troubles, sense of humor, witticisms, exaggeration, emotions, and irony, simply don't exist for them, so the most expedient answer was literal.
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A more positive incident from my past could have taught me this, but I didn't put it together at first. Some companions and I had made a pit stop in the Forty Mile Desert, east of Fernley. My gaze followed the broad, sandy expanse stretching south. At least five separate purple-blue mountain ranges saw-toothed along its edges. The beauty amazed me and an aching desire to experience it swelled up. I burst out, "Oh, how I wish I had a job where I could just take off and walk into the desert!"
Life went on. At home, I applied at the Nevada State Museum's Archaeological Survey for a job washing artifacts. On the application I checked 'yes' at the question,"Can you type?" adding "60 wpm" — and was hired on as a typist. After a year preparing reports, I knew the professional jargon and artifact styles. They even let me do a little excavating. Then the Museum's survey program closed, and I was out of a job.
This was the 1970s, and an international oil embargo had brought rationing and a chaos of endless lines at gas stations. To boost domestic production the government opened huge tracts of western lands to gas and oil exploration. However, all ground disturbing activity had to be preceded by an archaeological survey. On foot.
Coincidentally, my neighbor was a UNR archaeologist swamped with field projects. He showed me how to read a map, and offered me a 200 mile long project near Wells — my long-ago wish come true. With eventual advanced education, I enjoyed more than 20 years of "just walking into the desert."
I think since we can't control the body's performance and this submerged part doesn't verbalize, we assume it doesn't hear us.
Not true. Heartfelt wishes get heard. And here's a safe one — Have a joyous Christmas!
Susan Stornetta is a retired archaeologist and a long-time Comstock resident.