Adventures in Wortcunning: Panic Mode

Adventures in Wortcunning: Panic Mode May 6, 2016

Have you ever gone into a panic about a perceived danger only to find out it wasn’t such a big deal after all? Sure it was big and yes, it was terrifying, but somehow it ended up alright. Being a natural empath, I used to do this a lot when I was younger. I would listen to someone’s vision of woe, doom, and gloom and hop right on that train to misery-town without a second thought.

Over the years I’ve learned that no one looks pretty in a panic; it just isn’t attractive. Terribly vain of me to say, I know, but it is the embarrassment afterward that teaches me to take a breath first.

a woman's face digitally altered to appear cracked as if made of glass
geralt /

But more importantly, panic just doesn’t help. Lara Croft cool, however? That shit is hot because she gets the job done. Believe me, if panic got one out of a tough spot more often, it would be more attractive.

And, I should correct myself here because panic is attractive in that Universal magnetic resonance sort of way. Like attracts like, and misery loves company.  Leave a room of people with one loud grump in it and soon everyone else will be grumbling too, clawing the door to get out, or both.

I recently found myself in such a room. Luckily, I was able to find one or two others who agreed with me that the sun still shone and we are reasonably clever monkeys working to good purpose. We decided to figure it out and fix the problem.

Any forward progress stopped until the ones who thought it couldn’t be done left the room. This was because, by believing in a chance of failure, energy was added to its probability, however small, at the moment of belief. That’s how magick works, even negative magick.  Our combined and growing faith adds to the larger probability of success until this probability becomes the singular outcome.

Mark Twain said it best, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t… you’re right.”

And, once we have invested in a vision of probability, even if the outcome is as unknown as the fate of Schrödinger’s Cat, our personal ego becomes invested in seeing that outcome to fruition, even if only on a sub-conscious level. If we believe the cat is dead, we will perhaps shed a tear for Fluffy in anticipation and make preparations for the cadaver. If we think the cat is alive we will get out the kitty treats and welcome the little fur-ball with a hug.

As an odd example, I recall a day—a hot and lazy day in summer a few years ago. The wind picked up a bit in the afternoon, and I smelled a small wood fire, probably a camper’s picnic, wafting through the surrounding forest. A few minutes later a neighbor, a friend of my son’s, called to give us the news:  wildfire!

an aerial photograph of a wildfire burning in a forested area
skeeze /

The wind was driving it our way. If ever one might feel justified to panic, this might be that time. However, I had my teenage son, four cats, two dogs, and a parrot to pack. Not to mention my personal gear, our computers, and the family memorabilia to save!

My husband made it home, and we got everything packed into both cars. Only one member of the family went into a panic. The additional commotion did not help as we coaxed the cats indoors and into their carriers. It also did not help to soothe the squawking parrot, decide what gear to take, or pack the photo albums, but we managed to get out of there in time anyway. And once safely evacuated, I mourned the loss of my wedding dress—the one my mother made for her own wedding to my dad—as it sat momentarily forgotten in the attic.

During the week or more that the Cal Fire crews bravely fought the forest fire a map of the effort was created and published by the local papers. Our home, the one my husband designed and built with his own hands, showed within that line of destruction. Just barely.

Did we have a house to go back to or not? It was so hard to stay hopeful that week, even as we consoled ourselves with the idea that at least the foundation would be stronger, fire-hardened even, and we could rebuild. We sketched an alternate floor plan and began to play with ideas as we would with any client for home design.

It was almost disappointing when we found our home safe and sound, even if there were a few burnt patches in the garden landscape. And, the episode, although it was both dire and terrifying, taught our family a valuable lesson about panic and its opposite. I’m not sure what to call it, but it harnesses that wildly motivating energy and steers it toward faith in the best eventuality. People get annoyed at my optimism, especially in times of trial, but it seems the best way I’ve found to enhance a chance at that positive outcome.

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