The Power of the Mind
When I was young my best friend and I would sometimes spend the night in her family’s camper. It was one of those pop-up kinds, set in a place no more exotic than her backyard, and even though there were no mountain lions or grizzlies with which to contend, it was still scary and intense because she had an older brother and he loved to frighten us. Part of the intensity came from the scary stories our own minds created before he actually tapped his fingers against the window, or growled softly like a menacing beast. Because my mind was more engaged in anticipating the future, what her brother was going to do before he did it, it did half, if not most, of the work for him. Sometimes we screamed before he even stepped outside.
In much the same way as I drove home on interstate 95, my family in the car with me, I talked myself right into a feeling of claustrophobic panic. I often take the Harbor tunnel outside of Baltimore because the traffic is better than the other tunnel—it’s a tunnel I’ve driven often. This weekend, however, as I started to descend into the tunnel, I asked Tom, my husband, if it went underwater, although I already knew the answer. Later I found out he didn’t answer me because he could see where my mind was headed. And as I kept driving, my mind took off on a creative journey of its own, imagining the tunnel going down, deep underwater, and it didn’t end with that. I imagined a traffic jam causing all of the cars, ours included, to come to a stop. As I drove sixty miles an hour through the yellow-lit tunnel my scary story took over until I felt a need for air, to see the sky, to get out of the car, with such intensity I thought I would black out. Luckily, I’ve done enough meditation practice to know how to stop a counterproductive train of thought. I was able to bring my mind back to the present, to what was actually happening, and soon after I saw the blue of the sky. As I drove out of that tunnel I was relieved and amazed—amazed at the incredible power of my mind to create a vivid visual of something terrifying and the ability to “snap out of it.”
I do believe our minds are a resource as yet vastly untapped. Every time my family travels up the east coast to see our friends and family and back again, every time I get into the car with my husband and two sons on a journey, I do something akin to a blessing, or a prayer. I visualize my family, as individuals and then as a whole, and the car we ride in, surrounded by an unbroken ring of white light. Every time. So far, we’ve been lucky—sometimes unbelievably so. Perhaps our safe arrival and return is due to nothing more than luck. Perhaps it’s fate, or perhaps it’s something more. Who knows?
- Originally from Vermont, I now live in North Carolina. My work can be found in recent issues of REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Jabberwock Review, The Emerson Review, Storyglossia, The MacGuffin, Confrontation, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, wigleaf, and Pank, among others, and forthcoming from Gargoyle #57 and REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters. One of my stories has been translated into Farsi by Asadollah Amraee, and many others by Jalil Jafari, two of which have been published in the Iranian journal, Golestaneh Magazine. For two years I worked as an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. Currently, I serve as a mentor for Dzanc's Creative Writing Sessions. I'm working on two novels and a short story collection. In May, I was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Contributor Scholarship for the 2011 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.