Can't you see the sunshine
Can't you just feel the moonshine
Ain’t it just like a friend of mine
To hit me from behind
Yes I’m goin’ to Carolina in my mind…”
Aahh…the poetic lyrics of James Taylor, someone whose music I’ve come to know and appreciate more and more in recent years. His relaxing tones, easy voice and entertaining storytelling are something that I find I am able to appreciate as the years go on, especially in a time where most songs on the radio contain lyrics that consist of about five words, and are only intelligent enough to be able to describe some variation of sex using phrases I’ve never even heard of. Although I really don’t know what Mr. Taylor was imagining when he wrote this song, I can tell you that for me, this song represents my present…and my future.
My life in the last ten years has been anything but what I imagined it to be when I was young. I suffered through a divorce, I was a single parent for several years and then married a good man that came in a package deal with two children…plus an ex-wife who had trouble finding stability in her life, and a family that was mostly wonderful, but with problems of their own that unfortunately sometimes stemmed out to us. He was a painting contractor…the “finishing guy”…and although he had a business that was a well-oiled machine, he was never going to be in the six-figure income bracket, no matter what he did.
I had baggage of my own with two kids with Tourette syndrome…and the ADHD that goes hand in hand with that (we suffered through many screams and tears just to get homework done in two hours that should’ve taken 20 minutes). I also had an ex-husband who could be very unstable himself. Although I had returned to school in my early 20’s to major in art, I did not have the opportunity to finish because my mom had passed away, and my dad needed to sell our house. Shortly thereafter, I married and had children. After my divorce, I found myself floating from job to job just to find something enjoyable, lucrative, and that allowed me to leave at 3:00 so I could be home for my kids in the afternoons. I eventually ended up with two out of three (lucrative, part-time jobs that require no former schooling are a rarity on Long Island, and I imagine just about everywhere else as well). Still, I am not where I feel that I'm supposed to be forever.
Enter the power of positive thinking, and the ability to “dream”.
I admit that in my past, I had a tendency to be a “defeatist”—you know, the person whose personal dictionary features the words “I can’t”, “I’ll never” and “If only”, amongst other negative catch-phrases. The culmination of negativity inside of me surfaced after my mother had died. Hadn’t I spent years praying to God every night to “please never let anyone in my family get cancer, have a heart attack, acquire any fatal diseases”, and basically never, ever die? Why didn’t God hear me? I was so twisted in my thinking, that I felt as if everything was useless, and that maybe there just wasn’t a God after all, and we really were a cosmic accident. How could He let her die?
I realized after her funeral that one of my very dear friends, Ann, did not show up to the wake, nor did she even bother to call me at this heartbreaking time. When I brought this fact up to my best friend, she told me that Ann couldn’t come because she was in the hospital having surgery for…cancer. I remember thinking, “Cancer?!? But she’s only 22!” Ann eventually had to have three surgeries (the first initial one to remove an ovary, the second one where she was opened and closed immediately because the hospital was not equipped to handle the severity of her case, and the third time to remove all of her female organs—a complete hysterectomy before she even turned 23). I found it amazing, however, that during her chemotherapy, losing all of her hair, feeling sick as a dog—she was able to keep an upbeat attitude, and only believed for the best. She kept her sense of humor, even if it was self-deprecating, and tried to keep everyone around her thinking positive. I believe one of her biggest tools was a book called, “Love, Medicine and Miracles”, by Dr. Bernie Siegel. She gave me the book and insisted that I read it...telling me it would help me, even though my mom was not around anymore to benefit from it herself.
Reading this book opened my eyes to the power of positive thinking. I started to see how a negative attitude could prevent even the strongest of people from attaining health and vitality. Dr. Siegel describes how people can “will” away something as simple as a cold—how a child who was very sick one day could miraculously feel better the next day if they knew that they were going to do something enjoyable, such as go on a field trip. I started to understand what happened to my mother—she heard the word “cancer” and immediately gave herself a death sentence. There was no positive thinking on her part, except that she was “positively” going to die! Even though we, her family, begged her to go to Sloane Kettering (one of the most prominent cancer hospitals around, and located a mere 40 minutes away from us), she refused to go, saying it was “too much” for her. I don’t know about you, but I would go to the ends of the earth if it meant that I might have a chance to live a quality life and have a brighter future. I’m only sad that my mother wasn’t able to benefit from Dr. Siegel’s positive beliefs while she was still alive, especially since she had one of the most “curable” forms of female cancers.
Through the years, I tried to read more “self-help” books and tried to get rid of the negative framework in my brain. I found that for me, the secret to thinking positive was to have hope for the future, or a “dream”. When I went through my divorce, I got through it by thinking that God felt that I deserved to be treated better, and that there was someone else out there for me who would appreciate me. And I was right…I met a man who seemed to have positive thinking ingrained in his genes, which only helped me more. But imagine where I would be today if I stayed bitter and negative…if I didn’t allow myself to “dream” for a better future. It frightens me to even think about it.
With our situation being what it is, my husband and I have had our share of ups and downs—not with each other, but with those around us. Because we refuse to feel defeated—and there have been times when we were unsteady and almost fell into that pit—we are usually able to handle everything that comes our way, and trust me, there have been some “doozies”. Throughout it all, however, we have been able to overcome the negative with positive thoughts about our future. A future which seems to encompass the peace and tranquility that we desire in our lives right now, but because of our obligations, are unable to attain at this time. Occasionally, I'll do something as simple as placing an inspirational picture or decorative piece strategically in our home...something I'll pass often that will remind me of things that are yet to come, such as the "Dream" sign that rests upon my fireplace mantel. Sometimes the simple things really do count.
One of our dreams is to own a home in the country. A nice, big place with plenty of property so our kids can visit with their families and have room to “run around”. A place where we look out our window and can’t help but feel positive because the view will allow nothing less than a sense of wonder an awe at the miraculous beauty of nature. A place where our friends and family can go to escape the negativity of their own lives, even if it’s only for a day or two. In my dream, I’m cooking breakfast for the multitudes and making them my famous pancakes, bacon, eggs, and coffee. The snow could be falling outside on the evergreens, with my Christmas tree twinkling in the corner of the family room…or the summer sun could allow us to sit on the deck and soak up the view of mountains rising majestically over a lake, blooming flowers and wild birds gathering around the birdfeeder located just outside of my vegetable garden. There’s soft music playing in the background, and everyone is relaxed, de-stressed and un-pressured. However, since this is but a dream right now, I decided that I can not allow myself to wait until we own said country home to feel the pleasures of what I long for.
This morning I decided to make my pancake breakfast for the gaggle of teens that slept over last night. I put on James Taylor, and listened intently as “Carolina in My Mind” played in the background:
“In my mind, I’m goin’ to Carolina…can’t you see the sunshine…can’t you just feel the moonshine…”
In reality, I know that I’m in my crowded house full of teens that come with all of their teen stressors. I know that today is Sunday, and another stressful week of work awaits me tomorrow. I realize that there are family issues that are a long way off from being ironed out at this time. But I’ve “...up and gone to Carolina in my mind”. In my thoughts, I imagined myself in the country, cooking over my old stove in a kitchen at least twice the size of the tangible one I was standing in. I did “see the sunshine”, and I felt happy, as though I did have a taste of “moonshine”. Yes, right now that country home—which will most likely not be anywhere near a Carolina—is all “in my mind”. However, I believe with all of my heart that someday, somewhere—if we continue to think positively—our dream will come to fruition. My proverbial “Carolina” will finally be my reality.
Footnote: Ann is currently 44, has been married for almost 20 years, and has two beautiful adopted daughters.
For further insight on positive thinking, I invite you to visit Carine at http://www.carine-whatscooking.blogspot.com/ and read her most recent post. And for proof positive that a peaceful life in the country can be attained, pop on over to Matty’s post "Never Say Never" at http://runningonempty-matty.blogspot.com/.