When I was 14, I glued my face onto the picture of a cheerleader’s body. Not just any old cheerleader, but one who had pom pons featured prominently with her in the photo. That was the key. This wasn’t an art project. It was much more like witchcraft. I was conjuring my deepest ambition. I even wrote my wish at the bottom of the page and let it become a daily mantra. “Ruth (last name – it had to include my last name, lest any other Ruth get my wish) is a member of the Frederick Douglass Pom Pon squad.”
My mom and her new Mary Kay friends had told me about positive visualization. One lady, they said, had planned to win a fur coat in a raffle. Days before the drawing, she’d point to the display of the prizes and tell people, “That’s my coat!” Sure enough, she won. I could see it working. Back in those days, I listened to “Hour of Power” on TV most Sunday mornings while I was getting ready for church. Robert Schuller’s sermons about Possibility Thinking said the same thing. If you can believe it, you can achieve it. The law of attraction, life maps, “The Secret” — all the same idea from what I gather.
But this was 1984 and I didn’t care one iota about harnessing my mental energy; all I wanted was to become a pom pon girl. I never thought about not making the squad. That idea simply didn’t exist in my brain. Instead, I spent time with my one friend who was a pom and enlisted her to train me. I was awful. My kicks were low. Never could do the splits. But we were told at try outs to “Sparkle” (Translation: smile like Bob Barker just told you you’re next. If you’re thinking,”Bob who?” recall this season’s How Cute Are These Boots Gap commercial. Specifically, that one girl who’s totally losing it – man, I love her – think of her and dial it back two clicks. That’s sparkling.) I had that down. Later, our coach would say publicly that I couldn’t dance, kick or split, but that she wanted to bottle my head. She meant it as a compliment.
So, yeah, it worked. I made the squad. The day I found out, Mom gave me a coffee mug decorated with the words, “If it’s gonna be, it’s up to me.” From then on, I’ve known my intentions matter.
Years earlier, during a game of “General Hospital,” after I convinced my playmates to let me be the bedridden patient, one of my girlfriends brought her voice to a cautionary whisper when she told us, “My mother says to watch what you think about.” “So?” “What you think about happens.” Which brought out my bossiness,”This is make-believe, Casey. Now are you going to do the operation or what?”
Surely, if it were possible to list every thought or vision, fantasy or worry that one person has ever had in one column, and then list everything they’ve ever experienced, accomplished or endured in another column, there are bound to be some overlaps.
When I take my own inventory, I see that a lot of my childhood fantasies have come to fruition already. It’s comical, really, because although the facts are solid – I have appeared in a national magazine and on television in front of over 10 million viewers week after week with a variety of celebrities – these events were nothing like I day-dreamed they would be. Rather than real accomplishments, it’s more like my chips got cashed in.
For example, my morning as a model involved first spending my entire late 20’s as an overweight lonely woman in the city where physical beauty is paramount:
Okay, being fat had a happy ending but FITNESS didn’t even print my essay about the weight loss. Instead, they put me through a series of exhaustive interviews and STILL misquoted me. “Sheath dress”? I didn’t even know what the word sheath was until they quoted me as having said it. And for the record, I never refer to pizza as “pie”. In fairness, I will say that the photographer & stylist for the shoot were amazingly kind. A motionless bundle of nerves, I couldn’t have been easy to work with that day. Modeling is hard.
Later, making it on to the little screen was really just a matter of saying, “Hi” to a client at the right moment. He happened to be directing that night and I quickly learned that when a director jokingly says, “Put her in this shot,” there are suddenly seven people moving with military precision – snapping polaroids, putting a pen in your hand over a line on a release form and herding you through wardrobe. It was the 2007 ESPN’s Monday Night Football Opener. That’s me in the brown vest.
A new celebrity would come out of the crowd each week to pick up the transformative football helmet. Of course, I wasn’t on set when the stars performed but by the time the scene made it to your living room, there I was, walking past Jack Black and Spike Lee. Magic.
On the downside, my little Let’s Pretend We’re in General Hospital companion might have been right. I have spent 20 days in the hospital. 10 for my head & 10 for my heart. Did I manifest these things? Probably not.
Still I don’t discount Wayne Dyer entirely when he says, “Whatever you focus your thoughts on expands.”
The problem with fixating on specific outcomes is that my most enchanting and life-affirming adventures have been things I didn’t know to ask for. Walking a 26.2 mile marathon was not my idea. But doing it was probably the happiest day of my life. I didn’t even know there were mountains in Wyoming until I was invited to vacation there. If left to my own devices, I can’t imagine the wonder and delight I’d miss out on.
So I’m going to be clever when crafting my new year. I’ll listen to Dr. Dyer and adjust my focus to shape a blissful attitude. But as for the practicalities, I’m going to trust that there’s something far greater than I would envision for myself available. If I can glue my head onto it, it’s probably too small of a dream.
This post selected by a panel of readers for “Best of Holidialies ’09“.
Wow! Thanks, panel!