A Witch! A Witch!

Sometimes, I sit around worrying that I might be a witch.

Not like a “real” witch the way we conceive of them in stories, and not like an on-purpose new-age pagan witch, either. My suspicion is much more anxious; it’s not something I would think to proclaim proudly about myself, and when other people do, I have to really focus on not rolling my eyes.

What I’m worried about is that maybe I’m making things move around without realizing it…and that when I do so, it might not be in my own self-interest.

A great part of this suspicion is the fault of the “manifest your dreams” and “law of attraction” zeitgeist of the day. If things are going badly for you, the rule goes, it’s because you’re dwelling on them too much instead of focusing on things going well for you; that is, you’re not giving yourself the feeling in your bones that you already have what you want.

Oh no.

At least by my own logic, this means that worrying about things brings more of the things I’m worrying about into my life. OH NO. STOP! STOP WORRYING ABOUT THINGS SARAH, BEFORE YOU BECOME A MAGNET FOR THEM!

It sounds easy enough to fix, but have you ever tried to actively not think and worry about something…forever? If it were as easy as that, half the people I know wouldn’t currently be dependent on anti-anxiety meds just to get through the day. Talk about blaming the victim.

Here’s me forgetting my worries and focusing on my dreams

So while I outwardly roll my eyes and chuckle uncomfortably about the silliness of magically creating “the life I want” (a catch phrase these days in inspirational texts of all kinds), there’s always the nagging suspicion at the back of my mind that there’s something to it. After all, what do I know?

I can practically hear the universe calling me “Miss Smarty Pants.”

Well, one thing I know is that magical thinking is just the nature of humanity: we see patterns and messages whether they’re there or not; our creative, seeking brains are primed for reading way more deeply into things than we probably should, and for finding deeper meanings that we ourselves have created. I mean, just think about how many Santas and dragons you see in the clouds, and all the weird, angry faces in wood markings.

Sometimes we totally fall for these deeper meanings…how many conspiracies are out there regarding world domination? Even if you think evil people are running the world, it must be very comforting to believe that there is actually some master plan, and that the bad things that happen aren’t just the result of some random cruelty falling on the just and unjust alike.

So the “law of attraction” is basically a different kind of witchcraft. The logical half of me rolls my eyes when I read my horoscope, when I read the tarot on every new and full moon, and when I worry that maybe I’m casting spells here and there that aren’t actually in my best interest.

For my short story this week, my “research” was to look up some witchy characteristics (it’s about a witch who can never quite get her spells right and makes a lot of funny mistakes). This led me down a rabbit hole to all kinds of listicles with titles like “Five Signs You May Really Be a Witch.”

Here are a few of the things that stood out to me, taken from various places:

1) You see patterns everywhere, all the time.

Well, duh. Everyone does, it’s the human condition. Next! BUT…I do always seem to look at the clock right at 4:20; it would be a lot cooler if I were actually a pothead. Still, seeing numbers that appear every day: not impressed.

2) You can feel people’s energy and intentions.

Also, duh. Haven’t we evolved for specifically that? Still, there are certain people who I just do not like for no particular reason, which is strange because I genuinely really love people and love spending time with them.

Of course, maybe it really does have something to do with “chemistry”…like, maybe I just don’t like their smell or something, or am invisibly repelled by them in another way. My much more far-fetched hypothesis is that we were enemies in a past life, and we just keep bumping up against each other in subsequent ones to sneer at one other.

3) You secretly believe in past lives.

Well, you’ve got me there. The logical part of me says “no way.” But the magical thinking part of me says, “well, that would explain why I am so terrified of being inside of cars even though I’ve never been in an accident,” or “maybe my kid has drowned in like 8 past lives and that’s why she’s so inexplicably terrified of large bodies of water.”

4) You don’t think in words, but in images, feelings, and impressions.

This…is 100% true for me (ironically, since I literally earn my living through creating words). But I discovered recently that most people do actually have an ongoing narrative going on in their heads, and that they essentially spend all day talking to themselves.

What?? I thought that was just for dramatic effect in The Wonder Years. Apparently not.

My thoughts, on the other hand, are, like it says, images, feelings, and impressions. It’s rare to hear any kind of voice, even my own, unless I make a conscious decision to tell myself something. Though I’m an extrovert, I’m naturally quiet, and my language is always very intentional. But the quietness isn’t timidity. It’s because the words just don’t appear for me immediately; I need to take the time to conjure and then arrange them.

5) You don’t like crowds; the energy of so many people at once is scary.

Also totally true. I love music, but I hate big concerts. I love parades, but they make me cry every time. I mean, all those people doing and feeling the same thing at the same time? That’s just too scary to be a part of, man.

One thing I am doing in my own witchy self-interest is to meditate, as it’s the one thing that all of my self-help books and half-finished courses advise. It can’t hurt, right? I think of it as kind of like a new-age version of “go ahead and get saved – what have you got to lose?” practice.

A particular method, which I found from a woman who calls herself the “Crappy Childhood Fairy” (I did not, myself, have a crappy childhood, but I do like her material), involves writing down one’s fears and resentments, whichever of them happen to be crowding your mind at the time, and then “releasing” them (also in written form).

I like this because it doesn’t feel like that torturous and possibly damaging “focusing on my fears which will just create more of them,” but rather, as she explains, writing them down to get them out of yourself, to detach from them, like peeling wet leaves off of the windshield in order to see the path before you more clearly. It’s to be followed by a 20-minute meditation, of which I usually do just 10-15 minutes, because apparently, I like to rebel against helpful suggestions.

Perhaps the best state of mind is to simply pretend that I really do have more than my obvious human powers. At the very least, it could make life more fun and sparkly, right?

For now, abracadabra, Sarah: enough navel-gazing.


Lordy Lordy, Look Who’s 40!

I once saw an adorable meme – or maybe comic? The difference between the two mediums is now blurring – of a picture of a hospital nursery filled with identical-looking swaddled newborns with one of them circled in marker. The caption read, “This is my baby. There are many similar babies. But this one is mine.”

That sentiment has stuck with me: “I am a person. There are many similar people, but this is me.”

Tomorrow is my 40th birthday. Tomorrow is also the 40th birthday of approximately 348,030 other people throughout the world, minus those who have already died. Half of them are women. I bet a good number of them are named Sarah.

We live in an individualistic society, but all I can think about is how alike we all are to each other, drops in the same ocean. I wonder how ridiculous we look to aliens or gods who might be watching us fight from afar.

We are very much alike, and also very much isolated, natural naval-gazers wrapped up in our own heads and our own phones. The moments of my life that drive me to the closest points of ecstasy are the ones that remind me that – hey! – almost all of this stuff I spend so much time worrying about and obsessing over are actually much smaller deals than they seem, and getting all worked up about them is a waste of time. Remembering that it’s a waste of time while I’m getting all worked up about them is the tricky part, of course. Oh, how I wish to live with the feeling of having just read a Mary Oliver poem!

Anyway, tomorrow’s the day: it’s when I officially step into my fourth decade, a place that, as a younger person, I was never quite able to imagine. And now I’m here. A nice day is planned: breakfast with my boyfriend, lunch with a tiny group at an outdoor place because we’re still in the midst of an unhinged pandemic, ice cream cake. My daughter.

I face my 40s with excitement…and a drop of dread. The exciting part: how many people have told me that the 40s are the best years of one’s life? A lot. “You’ve still mostly got your youth and hormones, and you’ve also got some wisdom and a generally more relaxed attitude to let yourself enjoy it.” Many authors and other famous personalities I look up to really hit their stride in their 40s. And that happens to be the source of some of that dread: what if I somehow fail to make the most of it?

I remember when my mom turned 40. I remember the t-shirt we got her, which 10-year-old me thought was hilarious: “Lordy, lordy, look who’s 40!” It was purple, the lettering embroidered in playful hot pink cursive.

For my mom, I’m pretty sure her 40s were her best decade. Her daughters were older and liked spending time with her. She got better jobs. She got married again. It was the 90s, a decade in which we had great music, just enough technology to be convenient but not so much that it took over our lives, and where we didn’t spend too much time worrying about all the weird chemicals in our processed food that we enjoyed guilt-free.

I hope my 40s are good, too. If I can get out of my head often enough, I think they will be. Maybe I’ll actually remember to start meditating, praying, and doing other things that are good for me. Maybe I’ll learn to focus on the good things and not take the bad ones too seriously while also not letting myself go to the other extreme and becoming a psychopath who doesn’t worry about anything or anyone at all, ever.

Maybe I’ll let go of my fear toward the whole idea behind the “Secret,” terrified that I’m casting unintentional horrible spells on myself by not being “intentional in my demands of the universe” (if that’s not pressure to control one’s anxiety, then I don’t know what is).

Maybe I’ll stop living month to month wondering if I’ll be able to string together enough gigs from several different non-committed employers to meet the financial obligations that are as steady, consistent, and ever-growing as I wish a job just for me were.

Maybe I’ll stop feeling like the secrets of how the world works are just on the other side of a thin membrane that I’m so close to breaking, but never actually do, either because I realize that it’s unbreakable or because I magically get through.

Maybe I’ll finally get to become that combination of Dolly Parton, Fred Rogers, Marie Forleo, David Sedaris, Lily Tomlin, and Jen Sincero that I’ve always wanted to be.

Maybe I’ll stop disappointing myself.

Maybe I’ll finally relax enough to truly love and accept myself the way others do, and the way I should.

Happy birthday to me, and happy birthday to my 340k+ birthday twins.