"I wish" is a unicorn

Good morning, dear Sugar Shells,

Recently I've seen several t-shirts, hashtags, and various other media with an instruction that goes something like this:  "Don't wish for it. WORK FOR IT!!!"  Have you seen this anywhere?

Usually this exhortation seems located in the context of exercise.  So, I get it, and it's mildly motivating.  But mostly what I hear in my own head is more like:  "Put down that ice cream bucket and GO FOR A F*#*$^*% RUN ALREADY!!!"  Which doesn't work out so great.  (This kind of underhanded cruelty generally results in an outcome of little to zero running and increasing amounts of ice cream.  But that's a letter for another day.) 

This phrase has been circling around in my awareness lately because I have been hearing a lot of sentences that begin with the phrase "I wish."  Sometimes these happen inside my own head.  Like, I wish I could just have more time in a day!  Or, I wish these shoes were actually comfortable.  I wish it would rain.  I wish she'd just be happy.  Et cetera, et cetera.

Full confession:  this former English major cares passionately about language.  When I learned the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis in a college Anthropology class, I practically fell out of my chair with glee.  (True fact.)  Because, language matters!!  The words we say to others AND the silent words inside our heads matter!!!  Our words shape our experience, whether or not we are conscious of it.  Right?!

So, whenever I hear someone say I wish, unfortunately, I can't seem to stop myself from cringing outwardly...which is often embarrassing.  And today, finally (!), the reason clicked into place:

I wish says, "I won't."  I wish says, "I would if only I could."  I wish says, "I can't." 


And this is a crafty, insidious way of discarding one's own power. 

I wish I could just have more time, for example, is another way of saying, "I won't ever get more time, because that's impossible, so I hereby resign myself to a miserable existence. I'm powerless to change my daily experience.  Where is the ice cream?"

UGH.  Just writing these words makes me cringe.  Because they are simply not true!

What if, instead, that language got adjusted?  It might sound something like this:

Clearly I have more things to do than time in the day, so I'M GOING TO reflect on my priorities and take something(s) off my to-do list.

There.  Now I can breathe again - whew!  We've arrived safely in the land of capacity, of self-efficacy, of POWER. 


Instead of I wish, it's "I'M GOING TO." 

This linguistic choice reflects the cold, hard, awe-inducing reality that each of us is in charge of our own experience.  Yes, wildfires will rage, refugees will suffer, and our loved ones will inevitably disappoint us, but our job is not to escape into the land of magical thinking where unicorns graze and our absurd wish for a 27-hour day comes true.  Nope.  The way I see it, our job is to root ourselves down into reality, identify what we really want, and decide what we're going to do about it.  And then say THAT.

Fervently, and with much love,
Julie