The Best of Intentions
My husband and I have a running debate about an individual’s ability to control certain aspects of his or her life. Since he is an optimistic, glass-is-half-full kind of guy, he believes that we are able to make good things happen by setting the intention for them to happen. He believes, and I quote, that “what you think about expands.”Conversely, I am what I refer to as a realist, or what others may call a pessimist, a glass-is-half-empty-and-what’s-left-has-a-fly-in-it kind of girl. I also like to play devil’s advocate with my husband for the simple reason that it makes him nuts. When he says, “What you think about expands,” I say, “Well, then, I must be thinking a lot about my butt!”
He doesn’t find it amusing, but it cracks me up every time. Then again, I don’t find it amusing that every single time we go to the grocery store together he finds a parking spot up front, merely, he says, by setting the intent.
He also knows it would help me in many areas of my life to believe this stuff and that I’m running out of reasons not to.
It isn’t because I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of being right, although that sometimes is the best motivation. Rather, I’m afraid of the responsibility involved: If I truly do have the power to make good things happen, and they don’t happen, then I have no one to blame but myself. And that’s just depressing on so many levels.
Ironically, I do believe the opposite is true—that we can make bad things happen by thinking about them too much.
When my daughter was 3, she fell in the toilet once. It was no one’s fault, really; her little bottom was just too, well, little and she went right through. She felt a complicated mix of horror, terror and embarrassment. It was traumatic for her, and it probably set our already marathon-like potty-training efforts back by several months.
After that unfortunate incident, conscious of her concern about “falling in,” I took particular care in making sure she felt safe and secure up on the throne. I bought her the latest and greatest high-tech potty seats, one in each bathroom, in different colors and pretty patterns. There were stepstools galore and various and sundry other potty aids. (Please, don’t ask. You’ll be glad you didn’t.)
And then one day, she was in a particular hurry to get to the bathroom. I scooped her up and threw her over my shoulder, and then I threw off her little panties as I ran down the hall, and then I threw open the bathroom door, and then I threw her in the toilet. Not on it, as I had intended, but in it, because there was no potty seat to catch her (prompting a subsequent discussion with the boy king as to why he needs to put the seat down when he’s done).
So now, not only was she traumatized a second time by a landing-in-the-potty experience, this time she had the added benefit of her mommy—her hero, her protector, her safety net in the cold, harsh world—actually dumping her in. The one thing I tried to avoid, and I did it.
There are those who would say I had set the intent. There are others who would call it simple fate—kismet, if you will. And there is my daughter, who I’m sure will call it many other things in therapy someday. But whatever one calls it, it can’t be denied that the thing I was thinking about the most was the thing that happened.
So maybe my husband’s onto something after all. Maybe we can make good things happen by believing that they can. Maybe the road that’s paved with good intentions has a nicer destination after all. And glancing backward at my expanding behind, I only have one thing to say.
I intend to find out.
Maggie Simone is an award-winning writer and mother of two living in Baldwinsville. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.