Imagination and Pumpkin Water / by Michelle Cowan

Okay, orange water is coming out of my faucets, and loud, vacuum-like sounds vibrate up from my neighbor’s apartment. A small but strong man in jeans and a sweaty tee-shirt keeps walking in and out of her front door, and a rectangular contraption sits just outside the entry with hook-ups that suggest it may have been connected to a water supply of some sort. Without a thorough knowledge of plumbing (or any large-scale household maintenance activity), I can piece together a vague storyline, all of which culminates in tangerine-colored bathwater. Fortunately, only the hot water appears pigmentally afflicted; not all temperatures could hope to be as lucky.

Anyhow, the actual sequence of events probably differs from my invention, but reality doesn’t really matter, as long as my water clears up shortly after the small but strong man finishes his work. Only if the watercolor display continues will I have to investigate the truth. Until then, this scenario and my way of coping with it reflects how I interact with life.

I try to make sense of things. Something happens, and I try to make it work within my ideas of “sense.” If what happens does not fit my beliefs or ideas, my brain tries to frame it in a story that seems rational inside the world my mind creates. All day long, my brain takes in countless amounts of information and processes it in a way that will jive with the world as I see it. It leaves out most of the things that would rock my boat and fits a portion of everything else into spaces that I can digest without going insane.

I can’t help but wonder what I might be missing out on. What am I seeing that does not make it to my consciousness? And how can I open up my mind a little bit more so that I can see opportunities and miracles my brain instinctively closes off from me?

The key, for me, is imagination. I’ve said for quite some time that my greatest potential gift to the world is my thought life. I have wonderful thoughts, but I agonize over my inability or lack of motivation to do anything with them. Thankfully, just having the thoughts might be enough.

Our thoughts shape our reality. And I also believe thoughts are catching. Listen to anything about quantum physics, and you’ll find that science agrees. All of us are passing thoughts, ideas, and information back and forth all the time.

My explanation of the pumpkin-colored water is just as meaningful as the “real” explanation. My theory may not correspond with actual events, but it has value in that it gives me peace and allows me to navigate through my day. For my neighbor, the events as she knows them are enabling her to make choices that help her make it to evening-time as well.

The more I live, the more life appears to be about opening up and admitting that I don’t know. Maybe there are things I think I know and things that help me survive and enjoy life, but unless I stay open to the idea that I could be wrong, I close myself off to infinite numbers of opportunities and experiences.

It can be so hard to admit that I might not know certain things. Letting go of firmly held beliefs can elicit extreme fear and worry; the more tightly held the belief, the higher the emotional intensity of releasing it. But for every belief I have laid down in favor of investigating the world, the spirit, and other people, I have gained multitudes more in adventure, excitement, and peace. At first, letting go of my way and my life feels like ripping away any hope of tranquility. But it has never taken long to see that, really, leaving my expectations behind tears down walls that hide vast, colorful worlds of potential.

I can’t count the number of people I might never have seen, places I may never have visited, ideas I may never have learned, or loves I may never have felt had I not relinquished my expectations. Each experience of letting go paves the way for newness to come in and old habits to fall away.

I return to imagination. For much of my life, my imaginative spirit was shrugged off or patronized as a cute, childlike attribute, but now I see it as an incredible asset. With the ability to imagine life as anything, I have experienced more than anyone could have told me I would. No one can describe all of the different places life could take me, but I can imagine a million. It doesn’t matter if the events as I imagine them could actually occur. By imagining my dreams, I put myself on a path toward realizing them, in whatever form they are able to materialize. I am not hemmed in by the experiences of those before me.

Foster the imagination of children. These days, the world spoon-feeds them so many ideas that they forget how to play and think and conjure possibilities for themselves. Do not shun thinking or dreaming as wastes of time. If we get too caught up in doing, we’ll end up doing the same things over and over again. As humans, we require imagination time to envision other ways of being. Daydreaming is essential.

So, back to the orange water. The noise has stopped. I check my sink. The water is back to normal. Does it matter how it cleared up? Does it matter what changed its hue in the first place? What if I had come home later today, long after the small but strong man left, and never experienced the faucet’s suspiciously rusty output? Mostly, it matters that my water has returned to a drinkable state. I got here, regardless of how.

And my life is the same. I can see where I want to be and perhaps not know how I will get there. But if I open myself up to anything, I’ll see more avenues toward that vision than I would if I walked around with “my way” blinders on.

It’s a pretty general idea, and I apply it to relationships, life goals, work projects, creative endeavors, spirituality, travel, anything! Never devalue imagination; just because what you think of may not match reality doesn’t make your thoughts worthless. Your thoughts carry you to the real things that will transport you to your destiny.