November 16, 2010

No More Wishes

Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars? I could really use a wish right now. --B.O.B.

There is something about the song "Airplanes" that gets to me everytime I hear it on the radio. As a kid, I really believed in wishes, and would make a wish whenever I could: when blowing out birthday candles, breaking a wishbone, when I happened to see 11:11 on a digital clock, or if someone found an eyelash on my cheek. In high school, a friend told me that you should make a wish if the clasp on your necklace made its way all the way around and touched the charm, so I wished then too.

I would wish for all kinds of things, like "Please let me do well on my math test," or "Please let this boy like me." I'm not sure why, but always directed my wishes toward someone. It wasn't toward God, as I didn't think that God, if one existed, would take interest in such little things in my life. I guess I was addressing my wishes to some sort of cosmic wish-granter, part god, part genie-in-a-bottle. I also worded my wishes as precisely as I could, having seen enough television to know that if you aren't very careful, you could mess up your wish in a potentially disastrous way.

One time, I opened a fortune cookie and my fortune said "Your dearest wish will come true." I carefully taped this fortune to my clock radio, saving it for when I knew what my dearest wish would be. A couple of years later, my brother got sick. By then I was in college, but a little bit of my childhood superstition (as well as my alarm clock) traveled with me to Berkeley, and I knew I had my dearest wish. I wished every night "Please, please let my brother live a long, happy, healthy life." For a while, it seemed like that might come true. But in the end, science and reality and plain old bad luck got in the way of my wishes, leaving my family heartbroken, my parents without a son, and me without my only sibling.

And now, having cashed in my dearest wish to no avail, I've stopped wishing altogether. Maybe I somehow offended the cosmic wish-granter. Or maybe this is what the TV shows were telling me all along: wishes don't come true. But I really could use a wish right now. Like so many others, I'm facing life with an autistic child, unsure of what the future may hold. My son is only three. We have no way to know his eventual level of function, and I am still stubbornly unwilling to let go of all that I want for him.

So I've ditched the wish and have opted for hope. Hoping isn't like wishing. Hope isn't directed at anyone and is rooted firmly in reality. Hope requires hard work, long days and exhausting nights (something we have no shortage of around here). Hope admits that success isn't granted, it is earned. Hope knows that achievement comes with a few battle scars. It is optimistic without being flighty. Hope gets up even when it's been knocked down a few times. Hope knows that sometimes it will lose, but it tries anyway.

When I hear "Airplanes" on the radio I get a little nostalgic for the days when I really believed my wishes could come true. But I don't wish anymore. I don't need to; I have hope.

Originally published at Hopeful Parents, where I contribute a post on the 14th of every month.


1 comment:

  1. Hope is the way to go and if we ever lose it we are so screwed. You're right that hope requires doing the work of it, whereas wishing is like just wiggling your nose and having it come true. I'm totally willing to put in the work and see what comes out the other side.


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