If you’ve ever been to a psychologist’s office or read a self-help book, you’ve probably come across the concept of visualization as a technique for creating change in your life. In the sixth grade, I was very ill. I spent a lot of time in and out of the different hospitals and various doctors’ offices as my family looked for a better opinion. One that didn’t involve blaming the patient. When an adolescent girl is ill and it coincides with drastic weight loss, medical theory goes right to anorexia or bulimia. But I wasn’t one of those patients, I was struggling with Crohn’s Disease. Characterized as inflammation in the intestinal tract, it causes tremendous cramping and pain, and a need to stay close to a bathroom. Needless to say, when you’re a twelve-year-old overachiever, the emotional impact can be devastating. So, my mom set me up with a counselor.
Her office was in a trailer in the parking lot of the Catholic grade school. When I asked her why, she explained that she was employed by the state, so she couldn’t be in the school building owned by the church. Immediately, I felt like I could trust her. I talked to her about everything. How much I liked boys, why I wanted to be a cheerleader and a world leader, what was going on with my family and how terrified I was that I was sick because I had original sin. Pretty typical, Catholic-school-clouded judgment.
She told me I was not possessed by the devil, I could be whatever I wanted, God was what I believed him/her to be and no family was normal. Normal was a made-up word. Illness came in all shapes and sizes. I might not be able to control what was happening in my body, but I could always control what was going on in my mind when I was feel anxious, overwhelmed and scared. She taught me how to meditate by relaxing every part of my body starting with my feet all the way to the top of my head. I can remember trying to explain it to my friends by telling them I could hypnotize myself.
I started seeing images pretty quickly of a healthier me, a grown-up me, a wiser me. I could see myself writing and cheerleading, marching in the parade, getting straight A’s. I could see myself marrying John Taylor from Duran Duran in the Sri Lankan jungle with my family, friends and bejeweled elephants. I started to understand that my recurring nightmare about the bad old man from Scooby Doo was just a dumb cartoon and Godzilla really didn’t smoke cigars while living in the Ford factory.
My imagination is my greatest gift. Visualization is the vehicle to take me anywhere. I make decisions based on whether or not I can see myself doing something. If I can’t see it, I don’t do it. I’ve turned down all sorts of people, places and things based on my ability to see. But sometimes, seeing isn’t everything. I wasn’t always able to visualize the impossible. Mostly because the meaning of the word is so improbable, why bother?
But I can hear my grandmother’s favorite song in my head right now singing “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha and I realize just how much I needed to hear this because I’ve been questioning whether I could visualize the impossible. If I could believe in myself enough to try to reach for the unreachable star. I can hear my answer now. I hope you find your own answer after you’ve read Joe Darion’s lyrics, too.
“To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause
And I know if I’ll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest
And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star.”