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Magical Thinking

 

Up until a few years ago, I was a very hopeful person. It wasn’t necessarily reasonable hope; some of it was fantasy-like, and full of magical thinking, but it got me through. The hopefulness started to recede as my health got worse, and as rejections piled up for my writing. And as the hope seeped away, I started to realize how necessary it had been.

"I believe there will be chicken in my future."

“There will be chicken in my future, right?”

Hope doesn’t have to be reasonable or rational. Hope is like a dream: it can defy gravity and space and time. I think it takes some amount of magical thinking to be a writer, or to remain in therapy, or to even plan ahead and imagine that things can be different in the future, instead of continuing as they are now, indefinitely.

"If I dream about a walk, it will come."

“If I dream about a walk, it will come.”

Butterfly gives me hope, because of how sweet she is, despite eight years of being used and abused at a puppy mill. I believe that Butterfly survived her ordeal by believing in magic, and dreaming of a place, far away, where she could run and play and eat as much as she ever wanted. Even if that fantasy had never come true, the dreaming of it still would have made her days easier to bear.

Butterfly's first day home

Butterfly’s first day home

Dogs are role models for hopefulness. They wake up in the morning believing there will be walks and cuddles and food and excitement. They give us hope that life can be good even if its parameters are small; even if the gifts available are small. They give us hope that a life filled with love might be enough.

"I have Mommy's sock and that means I have Mommy."

“I have Mommy’s sock and that means I have Mommy.”

Dogs are trying so hard to teach us happiness, and we are stubbornly resisting the lessons and holding on to our pessimism. They must be so frustrated with us.

"Treats?!"

“Treats?!”

Magical thinking is supposedly bad for me, like chocolate cream pie, or fried chicken. It’s a vice, a drug, a crutch that has deleterious effects on my mental health. But magical thinking is also where my hope comes from, when reality can’t supply it. If my life had been lucky, and most of my efforts had paid off in success, and most of my dreams and goals had been realized, maybe I wouldn’t need magical thinking. But I don’t know anyone whose life is like that.

Even under the worst circumstances, it’s the hopelessness that will destroy you. Being too realistic, too practical, too down to earth, can kill a person.

"What's next?"

“Treats?”

Cricket always believes that she will get a plateful of whatever we are eating for dinner, and that she could eat a whole rotisserie chicken on her own without any bad after effects. There’s something about magical thinking that is vital to our well being. It’s what allows us to believe in things that don’t yet exist. It allows us to go beyond what we’ve been told in school, or by our parents, and imagine something different for ourselves.

"Yummy!"

“It’s my turn next, right?”

Maybe I haven’t lost my hopefulness after all.

Sweet dreams.

Sweet dreams.

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

187 responses »

  1. sooo smart to sleep by the shoes, because you can’t leave for a walk ,without her knowing

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  2. Your blog is a bright spot in my Sundays at work xx

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  3. Beautiful.

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  4. Never lose hope; it is actually your VISION of a parallel reality that you CAN manifest!! Cricket knows that…Your title here is inspiring me to write about the same notion this Friday (Tuesday’s post is written already). I’m focussing on Future Realities or the law of manifestation…and “magical thinking” is not such a bad approach so long as it is tempered by practical intention and maybe a little sleight of hand?

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  5. what a beautiful and uplifting post. We can learn so much about truth, hope and ourselves from the animals in our lives. Feel good my friend, and I hope you can continue to think “magically”

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  6. What would our lives be without dogs?

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  7. I am hopeful that you are hopeful and happy your babies give you hope! Be well Rachel and keep kissing those sweeties! xoxoxox

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  8. Dogs make me hopeful. Great piece, Rachel!

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  9. Magical thinking a drug, a vice a crutch? Then we are all doomed. This was almost heartbreaking in its beauty, Rachel. May we all live long and magical lives filled with hopefulness. Dogs, cats–all pets–play such a huge part, too. I loved this.

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  10. I am a proud believer in ‘magical thinking’, except I call it hope. And as long as there is life, there is hope. And love.

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  11. I loved this post. You are so right that writers must be magical thinkers to “make it” in this industry. Either that or we are all a little nuts. Personally, the dream of being successful and having people love my stories is what sustains me. I believe our dogs feel it, too. When an especially hard rejection hits home there is nothing better than a snuggle with your K9 baby to chase the blues away. Their loving hearts fill us up and give us the push we need to continue.

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  12. Lovely. I’ve a pie-eyed optimist (I always believe there will be pie) and it has seen me through the darkest of times. Thanks for your blog!

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    • Cricket’s particular favorite is pumpkin pie, and she works very hard to teach me that there will be pie, if I get it for her, which I will, if she keeps scratching my face. She knows how to make good things happen!

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  13. This may be one of your very best posts ever, Rachel. It brought tears to my eyes. But I would wish you didn’t equate hope with magical thinking. Being a writer, or staying in therapy, or enjoying the warm love of your two darling little girls doesn’t require magic. It’s here now. Hope for the moon, or Brad Pitt’s arms around you, or the Nobel prize may be magical thinking. But you’ve already got what untold numbers of hearts are yearning for — the admiration and love of hundreds, thousands?, of readers, and you earned it all yourself. Besides, one thing always leads to another. Who knows what wonderful thing will fall from the sky, or come down the pike, tomorrow? Something good will; I’m sure of it. When you least expect it. Because you deserve it, because I’m a Polyanna, and because you should be too. Isn’t that what Cricket and Butterfly are telling you?

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  14. Beautifully written and uplifting. 🙂

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  15. I love your “hope and magic” equation, along with the lessons from Cricket and Butterfly – and so glad that you have found hope after all!

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  16. You are quite right… we are only as strong as our faith, or our hope.

    Aren’t dogs wonderful emotional pillows?

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  17. This is a courageous post Rachel. I think that it’s important to clarify success. I have a dear friend who started life’s race with many challenges. She criticizes herself for not being well on her way into a career as a writer. And yet she is a very fine writer. Publication credits don’t equate to success. My friend has survived cancer and polio and life-threatening health problems and competitive toxic parents. I say she has succeeded because she is kind and smart and persevering and honest and self-aware. She now has just one publication credit, but she doesn’t stop writing. And her writing gets better and better and better.

    Persevere. You are kind and generous and courageous. I read your posts from beginning to end every time.

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  18. When I was 12, my father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. That was almost 30 years ago. I find it very hard to remember him before the diganosis, but I distinctly remember my teenage years being full of my confusion and his fury at what life had dealt him. He’s much calmer now (much older too!), but I would say that he never felt he had hope. I don’t know what your condition is, but from the way you write and the things you write about, I would say you perhaps do still have a hopeful outlook, maybe it’s just that it’s a different flavour of hopefulness.

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  19. Hope and magic are wonderful things. Don’t ever stop believing, dogs don’t 🙂

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  20. Rachel, we need magical thinking to get us through the hard times. Hope is a gift. Our pups are so much wiser than us. They have faith that what they need will be met. We can learn so much from our dogs.

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  21. There is beauty in simplicity and the sweetness of our pets. Each morning one of our cats, our youngest is eager to go outdoors in our backyard. I know she hopes that I will open that door for her. Cling to hope Rachel, it is there for us. to hope to dream is free… To imagine, to believe for good or for wellness..

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  22. Dogs will always inspire hope. As the humorist Dave Barry wrote, “You can say any fool thing to a dog, and the dog will give you this look that says, My God, you’re RIGHT I NEVER would’ve thought of that.” How can you not feel uplifted with such eternally positive support?

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  23. I am a great proponent of magical thinking. And dogs.

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  24. Just when you think things can’t get worse, they get better.

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  25. Sweet post about your doggies. I always felt God uses dogs to show us His love and compassion for us. See, dog spelt backwards is God. Have a great day.

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  26. Hope is magical, never give up. The dogs know.

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  27. Moving and true words. I think that sometimes dogs teach us what’s important in life.

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  28. Beautiful post. I can relate to it in many ways, even my dog looks similar :-). Your words reminds my that we were all born creative artists and that’s how children are, but then we suppressed it because of what we heard from adults. It still can be recreated though, and that’s where hope and love live.

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    • The world would be a much better place of adults would stop telling children to be more realistic. Imagine the amazing array of solutions we could come up with to the world’s problems if we only believed in magic for a few years longer.

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  29. You write so beautifully about your girls. Mollie sends you a big Labrador cuddle.

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  30. Lovely! Keep believing in the magic Rachel!
    And my Poppy is obsessed with our socks too!

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  31. Hmmm, “magical” connotes someone doing tricks to make me believe something occured, which did not. I prefer the work, “mystery” which suggests the events happen which I cannot explain by my current knowledge and understanding. But, this is just playing with words. Maybe dogs understand magic and mystery because they do not both themselves with word-games.
    Oscar

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    • There are so many good words related to what I think of as magic: mystery, synchronicity, coincidence, God, love, hope… I just prefer magic because it makes me think of fairy dust and sparkles.

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  32. I agree with you, we can learn a lot from our dogs… when we listen…. :o)

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  33. I have had a very lucky life, but I cling to my magical thinking anyway. If I see a shooting star, I will get that wish that I hold in my heart. A four leaf clover- the best good news will come! Perfect timing for this post, too. I just looked up a quote for my students, by Roald Dahl.
    “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

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    • One of my favorite things about the books I read as a child was that even the most tragic stories had a bit of magic flowing through them. Even on the worst days there were magical things in the air, like fireflies, and rain drops and whispering wind. Children know that magic is real.

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  34. You have written a beautiful expression of an important truth. We need hope. I was taught where there is life there is hope but I believe that is backwards. Where there is hope we find a will to live, to continue and the so called “magical” thinking does that. Is truly is magic in a very special way. And it’s true too that it takes an enormous amount of misfortune to take the hope out of a dog. Thank you for the wonderful post.

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  35. Reblogged this on Haley the Wonderdog and commented:
    “Dogs are role models for hopefulness. They wake up in the morning believing there will be walks and cuddles and food and excitement. They give us hope that life can be good even if its parameters are small; even if the gifts available are small. They give us hope that a life filled with love might be enough.”

    – Rachel Mankowitz

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  36. So well said, Rachel. Dogs are such great guides in helping us to be hopeful.

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  37. Oh rachel, what a beautiful post…(again!). It made me a little teary! I am somebody that struggles to see the hope sometimes and others my thoughts and ideas are 10x themselves… and you’re right! Those are the things that keeping you moving through the drudge and disappointments of the day-to-day!
    I firmly believe we should all try to be a little more ‘dog’.
    Thanks for the great post, don’t ever give up because your writing is astounding.
    Hugs, Carrie and Pups x

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  38. Dogs are forever hopeful, satisfied with the little things in life and give so much more than they get. Humans can learn a lot from dogs. If you measure your success by publishing your writing or being physically fit, you may be disappointed now. However, if you measure your success by how well you take care of your dogs and how much pleasure you give to people who read your blogs then you don’t need magical thinking to be happy. You should be happy already. You are a treasure just like your dogs are :-).

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  39. Such lucky and happy puppies! 🙂

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  40. Agree with Nena up there. What a lovely post and how marvelous you have created this site that gives hope through your stories. Just plain wonderful.

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  41. I so love your posts and the love you have for both Butterfly and Cricket and theirs for you is wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

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  42. What a beautiful, awesome post. Inspiring and speaks to my heart. Here’s to hope. Thank you so much for this.
    Jill

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  43. So many of us love our dogs to the point that we obsessively chronicle their antics and daily lives! It’s a treat for humankind!

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  44. P.S. to comment above: If you have time, go take a look at Steve Morris’s latest post at BlogBloggerBloggest.com. It’s called “Life As Fiction” and was posted today, October 12. Just read “heroine” for “hero.” Maybe that will help Cricket and Butterfly cheer you up. 🙂

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  45. What a lovely post! I do understand where you are coming from. My cat Woozle has taught me a lot. I know she has dreams, but I can’t imagine they are any more ambitious than successful hunting. She is happy just to be, and I have learned a lot from just being with her and noticing her peaceful serene joy. She smiles, and wants for nothing. I try to copy her. X

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  46. Great post, Rachel! Loved it.

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  47. Great post. Just what I needed to read right now. It reminds me of a quote by Emily Dickinson printed on fabric that my mother had hanging on her kitchen wall. “Hope perches in the soul and sings and sings and never stops at all” I’ve never forgotten it.

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  48. Thank you so much, this is so true. Just what I needed right now.

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  49. Magical thinking is what keeps the world going around. Have you ever heard the Carly Simon song, “Anticipation”? It says the same thing in different words

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  50. I love the comments under the pictures. So cute. Dogs don’t really need to talk as they communicate everything through their faces and their bodies, but it’s so fun to interpret. I love it when you say something and they look quizzically at me. I can almost see a big question mark on Frank’s forehead!!!

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