"Many of us spend half of our time wishing for things
we could have if we didn't spend half of our time wishing."
Do you wish? I do. I wish on stars. I wish on eyelashes. I wish when the clasp of a necklace collides with the charm hanging from the chain. I wish when the numerals on the clock read 11:11. I wish when I pluck a dandelion from the grass and blow its seeds into the wind. I wish when I blow out birthday candles each year. I wish when I say "I wish..." or "I hope..." or "I want..." Without knowing it, without even saying the word "wish," I am wishing. A lot. What am I wishing for? I'm wishing for things I want. I'm wishing for things I don't want. I'm wishing for things for other people. I'm wishing for small things ("Please don't rain today!") and I'm wishing for big things ("Please let there be peace in the world."). I'm wishing, wishing, wishing... but is anything happening? Does anything happen when YOU wish?
My mind is divided when I read the questions I just wrote. Part of me thinks, "Of course nothing happens when you wish. Wishes are just thoughts!" and the other part of me thinks, "Wishes can come true. Sure, we have to take action most of the time, but they do serve a purpose -- to motivate us." The first part of my mind is the old me (the loudest part of me), reminding me that things are negative. It's the part of me that, as a child, wrote countless times in her journal, "Dreams don't come true." (Yes, I know, it's terribly said that I wrote that over and over again and, even sadder, I really believed it back then.) The new me is in the part of my mind that counteracts those negative thoughts and insists that dreams and wishes can come true, but they aren't going to happen without work. To be honest, I think the old me got caught up in the logistics of a wish. After all, it doesn't make much sense to think that you can wish for something (often not even speaking the wish aloud for fear that it won't come true) and it will happen. I can understand how that idea seems less than plausible. However, the new me sees things differently. The new me realizes that, while wishes aren't necessarily logical, they do serve a purpose.
The Purpose of a Wish
Comedian and actor Wanda Sykes said, "If you feel like there's something out there that you're supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it." [Emphasis my own]I couldn't agree with that statement more, which is why I have some difficulty overcoming the idea that wishing isn't a fruitless exercise. What I've come to realize after reading Sykes' quote over and over again is that we have to have that wish in the first place -- that desire to do or have something -- in order to make it happen. A wish is the foundation for action. In my life, when I wish for something -- when I really want it -- I take that wish and turn it into action. Now, I don't always do this and I should do it more often, but a lot of the time I wish for something and then I find a way to get it. Wishing makes me want. Wanting makes me do. Is that the case for everyone? No. Is that the case for every situation? No. But it can be for a lot of situations. It can be a start, a push in the right direction.
"To a resolute mind, wishing to do is the first step toward doing. But if we do not wish to do a thing, it becomes impossible," said Robert Southey. If you don't have a wish in place, how can you ever know what it is that you're working towards? If you don't, for example, say, "I wish to publish a novel," how are you ever going to work towards that goal? If the wish, the desire, is not there, the dream or goal becomes impossible. It is impossible because it is not thought about. It is impossible because it is not desired. The purpose of a wish is to (1) decide what it is that you want and (2) begin contemplating how you might go about getting it. Wishing, by itself, might seem silly and childish but, when coupled with action, it is actually very useful.
Why We Need Wishes
Wishes are actually pretty important if you think about it. Notice how many people pause before blowing out their birthday candles. Why the pause? They're thinking. They're thinking about what they will wish for because, deep down, they know that wish says something about who they are and what they want. I agree with George Eliot, who said, "It seems to me that we can never give up longing and wishing with we are thoroughly alive." While we are here on this earth, living and breathing and doing and being, it's pretty hard not to wish. It's hard not to want things, to dream about things. For everyone these wishes are different. Everyone is unique in what s/he wishes for, but the idea behind the wish is the same. We want something other than what we have. A longing, a wish, can be a problem. It can, at times, consume us. However, we have the power to control this. We have the power to take a wish and use it to our advantage.
Why do we need wishes? We need them to motivate us, to spur us on into action. We need them to define who we are and what we want from ourselves, our lives, and the people around us. Wishes, as I'm sure you know, aren't very present-focused. When we're wishing, we're thinking about what we want to have/do/be in the future, not what we have or are right now. For this reason, I look at wishes with a raised eyebrow. Are they causing us to live in a moment that is not real? Are they causing us to look to something else, something we think will be better, as a solution for what we are faced with right now?
This issue has come up a lot for me lately. As I was carefully applying mascara the other day, an eyelash fell on to my cheek. I pinched it off my skin and looked closely at it resting on my fingertip. I put my lips together and was about to blow it -- wish and all -- when I stopped and thought to myself, "What's the point of this? What is this really doing for me? What happens, really, when I send that wish off into the world (along with my eyelash, which, let's be serious, is kinda gross when you think about it)?" The first answer that came to my mind for all three of those questions was, "Nothing." There is no point, I don't get any immediate benefit from wishing, and nothing happens when I wish. So why do I do it?
I do it because I need it (that, and I'm pretty much in the habit of it at this point in my life.) I need to believe that I can wish for things, and, even more so, I need to believe that I have the power to make my wishes come true. When I wish for something, I believe that it's something I can work towards. I can remember, years ago, looking up at a blue-black sky in winter, shivering and crying and feeling sorry for myself. I can remember spotting a star winking at me from far, far away and I remember closing my eyes, tear-wet eyelashes resting on my cheeks, and saying aloud, "I wish I could be happy. I wish I could just be happy someday." In that moment, that cold, dark, sad moment, that's all I wanted -- to be happy.
I didn't realize it at the time, but it was a wish I would someday make come true for myself. Along the way things and people and places (oh, California, how I miss you!) have made me happy, but ultimately it was me who made that wish come true. It was me who grabbed my life by the front of its shirt and said, "Hey you! You better get it together! You better snap out of it!" I was the one who wished for happiness and I was the one who made that wish come true. I probably didn't realize it then, but that act of wishing put into perspective what was important to me. That wish set the stage for what I really wanted in my life -- happiness. I needed that wish to drive my actions. I needed that wish to tell me what it was that I really needed.
Wishes To Watch Out For
"Let us take things as we find them. Let us not attempt to distort them into what they are not. We cannot make facts. All our wishing cannot change them. We must use them," said John Henry Newman. After lots of mentions from readers, I've finally started reading Loving What Is by Bryon Katie and though I'm just at the beginning of the book, it's definitely drawing my attention to the statement Newman makes here: wishing will not change things. Wishing, on its own, is pretty pointless. The wish has to have a purpose, it has to push you, in order for it to come true. Some wishes are not realistic. Some wishes, you know deep down inside, in your heart, won't ever come true. You cannot wish someone back from the dead. You cannot wish to recover from a permanent injury. (Okay, you can wish for these things, but it's not productive to do so.) Wishing for things that are unrealistic is dangerous. It messes with your mind and gives you a false sense of hope.
These are the wishes -- the wishes you know can't come true -- that are the wishes to watch out for. When I find myself wishing to go back to the past, I know I'm in a danger zone. There is no going back. When I say, "I wish I hadn't done that," I am wishing for something that has already happened to un-happen and we all know that's not the case. However, if I make a mistake and say, "I wish I could make it better," that's a different story because there is a chance that I can make the situation better. In that case, the wish is something that I might have control over. That is a real wish. The other kinds of wishes are the ones we cannot control, and there are a lot of those.
It's important to remember that, while we cannot control everything in life, we can control how we think about it. We can change "I wish he wasn't so sad" to "I wish there was something I could do to make him feel better." We can change "I wish someone would publish my book" to "I wish I could find a way to get published." In both cases we're taking control when we change the wish. We can't change what other people say or do or think, but we can change what we say and do and think. We have the ability to wish how we want to wish. No one in the world can tell you what you can and cannot wish about, but you should think about your wishes. Are they pushing you in a positive direction? Are they giving you hope? Are they realistic?
The more I think about wishing, the more I realize that it can be useful. It has been for me. When I wish for things, I realize that I really want them. When I realize what I want, I can be proactive and go after my desires. What about you? What do you think about wishes? Are you like the old me, saying "dreams never come true," or are you like the me I am now, who realizes that wishes can come true because we have the power to make them come true? It's hard for me, at times, not to think that wishes are frivolous things, things belonging to eight-year-old girls and Disney movies, not to someone like me. But then I think about a life without wishes and I realize that isn't a life I want to be living. Wishes may be future-focused, but, when I wish, I'm realizing, in that moment, what it is that's truly important to me. Wishes, oddly enough, keep me in the present, thinking hopefully, positively, about the future.
What do wishes mean to you?
Do you think they are silly, childish?
Do you think they serve a purpose?