I can’t help it, sometimes I’m susceptible to a little bit of magical thinking. Supposedly, this isn’t a bad thing. It’s not unusual, at any rate. Human beings are wired to see patterns, connections, to create narrative and ritual out of the raw material of our lives. We can’t help but seek meaning. In fact, a neuropsychologist in Zurich has actually linked a lack of magical ideation to a reduced capacity to experience pleasure. People who don’t exhibit any signs of magical thinking are more likely to be depressed. So, a little magic in the heart of a Chicago winter may not be a terrible thing. It’s cold, it’s dark, the holiday hullabaloo is a distant memory, and all that remains are slushy, grey streets and long, long nights. The twinkly lights have been put away and those of us in the northern hemisphere are in for thirty-one of the coldest days and longest nights of the year. The world is crying loss, loss, loss. At least, that seems to be my January lot: loss. Jobs, relationships, pets – for two years running, January has appeared determined to kick my ass. (I know it’s February now. Believe me, I’ve been counting the days.)
This past weekend I was having one of those moments when you simply cannot take any more. I was scoured out by worry and sorrow, bone-weary and trying to get out the door to meet a friend – and I couldn’t find my cell phone. As a consequence, I was walking around my apartment yelling, “It’s not fair!” (My poor neighbors – I hate to think what they overhear. I sing to the dog to get him psyched for dinnertime or walktime – never mind the fact that, being a dog, he’s already pretty psyched about those things; I howl like a banshee because the world is not going according to my plan.) Anyway, there I was, desperately seeking my cell phone, when I heard music mysteriously coming from the bedroom. I investigated. My phone, buried under a quilt, was singing “All of my love, all of my love, oh, all of my love to you now.” Hm. I was relieved to find my phone, but it was a touch eerie. I mean, it’s a haunted sounding song. A tad melancholy, a little mournful. But still – all of my love. All of my love to you. That’s a nice thing. I realize there’s some reason why this happened, like one of the cats walked on the phone that was under the quilt and somehow managed to step on the “songs” icon, and “All My Love” is the first one on there alphabetically, but still it’s a pretty odd thing to happen. I thought in that moment, that were I prone to magical thinking, I would likely infer that the universe was saying via Led Zeppelin and my cell phone that I am beloved. So there, January! The universe has my back! And it sends me messages. In song!
Naturally, this incident made me think about love. I thought about how good it feels to be in love and how that can shift the way a person sees everything and make every hard thing easier to take and then I started thinking about “Be in love with yr life,” one of Jack Kerouac’s 30 rules for spontaneous prose. There are lots of good ones on the list. I often tell my students #29: “Yr a genius all the time.” I used to know how to sign it in ASL. (Hey Amanda! Hey Alexander Graham Bell Elementary School!) I also like #19, “Accept loss forever” and #10, “No time for poetry but exactly what is.” But, as I said, the one that came to mind when my phone played Led Zeppelin was #4: “Be in love with yr life.” Yes. Be in love with it. In all of it’s maddening messiness, massive imperfection, in all of its awkwardness. Be in love with the gray slush outside, with the black cat on the windowsill watching the twilit snowfall. Be in love with your own heart brimming over with sorrow or hope or a winter mix. Be in love with your life.
In this dark season, I’m raising my proverbial lighter. “All of my love to, to you and you and you and yeah…”