I am a big fan of magical thinking. The technique has carried me through many a rough patch in life.
Recently, I was having a bad day. They say bad events arrive in threes. That day, my bad incidents numbered nine. Nothing truly horrible occurred. However, if I ever wanted to write a country song, the events provided enough material to create four detailed stanzas.
Singing does make me feel better when I’m sad. Recently, I picked up my guitar again, trying to learn how to play the blues. I’ve spent hours watching YouTube videos on The Piedmont Blues, The Delta Blues and Blues Licks That Will Impress Your Friends. After a few months, I’ve mastered five chords: E, E7, A, A7 and B7. I can’t transition between the chords rapidly, nor can I fingerpick. I can belt out a sluggish version of The Folsom Prison Blues, which is a painful experience for my dog, Sadie, who leaves the room when I play.
Back to my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I’d heard about a weekly blues jam in town and had always wanted to visit. On the evening of that bad day, I figured I could chase away my blues by playing the blues with others.
Here’s where my magical thinking came in. Admittedly, I only knew five chords, so I hoped they would only play slow songs in the key of E. I also hoped that someone miraculously would call out the chords during each song. If worse came to worst, I’d just sit in the back of the room, playing air guitar and looking all bluesy.
When I arrived, I found lots of people jamming in the main room. I asked about the blues gathering and someone directed me to a tiny room where two men were tuning up. One of them was the leader and had been singing the blues for decades. The other, who seemed to be new to town, had played in blues bands in other cities. A prudent person would have backed right out the door and bought a nice, cold beer at a local bar. But no. A little thought wafted through my magically-oriented brain: “Maybe my luck is going to change tonight. Maybe they will spontaneously play lots of poky songs in E.”
The two guys could not have been more gracious and kind. And, they did try to accommodate my extremely limited guitar skills. To my credit, I managed to slip in a few strong “E” chords that sounded okay, except for when a song happened to be in G.
After about forty minutes of “jamming”, I realized that I needed to stop torturing these guys. So, I blurted out the first excuse that came to mind. “The sun is setting. I think I have a cataract developing in my right eye. I’ve got to drive home before it gets dark.”
Even I felt stunned by the bizarreness of my excuse. I wasn’t exactly lying. Theoretically, it is possible that any one of us could have a cataract brewing at any time. But still.
In the car, the absurdity of the situation struck me. I laughed all the way home.
To sum up, I played the blues with other jammers (sort of), which helped me feel better (sort of). So, for all you skeptics of magical thinking, I want to point out that sometimes magical thinking can be an effective coping tool.