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At the speed of imagination

By Heather Oman

Our alarm clock went off at 3:51 am this morning.   I turned it off as DH dragged himself out of bed.  He was going home teaching.

Normally, families are not eager to welcome their home teachers at the crack of dawn, or, in this case, before, but this was an exception.  DH had volunteered to give his home teachee a ride to the airport to catch a 6am flight so his wife didn’t have to drag their two little kids out of bed at 4am.    DH is a swell guy.  He is currently napping.

At 6:45am this morning, our family, sans DH, purred to life.  The baby needed nursing, the dog needed to be let out, and the kindergartener needed breakfast and a reminder not to pee on the toilet seat.

At 7:00am, I called DH’s cell phone to see why he wasn’t home from the airport yet.  No answer.

At 7:15am, I called DH’s work, thinking that he might have headed to the office after dropping off our friend without telling me he was going straight there from the the airport.

No answer. 

At 7:30am,  I was calculating where between our home and the airport he could have had his horrendous car accident, and exactly how much more time I should let elapse before I started calling hospitals, as well as what I would tell our children about their father they never really knew.

At 7:35am, DH phoned and said that he was on his way home, he had just stopped by the office to check on some things.  I thanked him for calling, and he said, “So how long have you been worried that my guts were spilled all over the Interstate?”

“About a half an hour”, I told him.

DH knows me very well.

And so it comes as no surprise that I related to this article, Imagination Catastrophe,where the author describes herself as a Catastrophist.  It’s a term I’ve never heard before, but boy howdy, does it describe me.  Planning imaginary funerals, imagining evil happenings, concocting elaborate catastrophic events–I’ve done it all.

Frankly, I don’t think God approves.

2 Tim 1:7 states: For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

I’d like to think that God would have me put my vivid imagination to much better use than coming up with fearful scenarios about life, like finishing that novel that’s been perculating for years,  telling my son a fantastic story, or coming up with a creative, environmentally friendly, non toxic method  for getting rid of the moles in my front yard that does not consist of the use of hand grenades. (I’ve heard snake poop works wonders.  I’m seriously considering that one.)

Better yet, I’m sure God would have me use my imagination to conjure up an image of the person He would have me be, and then taking steps to make that image a reality.

At General Conference last week, we heard a lot of counsel about becoming a more Christ-like people.  Being told to be better (or “the best” –ahem) always makes me a feel slightly overwhelmed.  Shocking, I know.  And yet reading that article about the power of imagination made me wonder what would happen if I shifted my time spent imagining catastrophes to time spent imagining myself being more charitable towards others, more patient with my children, and (ahem again) more successful with my homemaking.

It’s quite a powerful image, actually. 

Justine wrote a lovely post about her experience reading “Left to Tell”, a memoir about a survivor of the Rwandan Holocaust.  After the Holocaust, as the author struggles to pull her life back together, she talks about the positive imagining she does for her life, picturing in her head the goals she wants to accomplish.  Not surprisingly, she manages to make those images a reality.   Rather than dwelling on the pain and horror that could destroy her, she chooses to imagine good.   And the good comes.

I am going to try this.  Instead of imagining the scary, I will imagine the good, the hopeful, and the happy.  Instead of imagining the catastrophic, I will imagine the positive, the easy, and the successful.  I will imagine what it is I can do, instead of what it is I can’t.  

And the next time DH is late, I will imagine him coming home with chocolate, flowers, and a gift certificate to a day spa.

Well, can’t hurt, right?


About Heather Oman

(Prose Board) lives in the south with her husband, her two kids, and her wiggly black lab. She is a licensed speech language pathologist, but spends most of her days trying to teach her own kids how to say please and thank you. She is a member of the Segullah Editorial Board, and is the founding member of the blog Mormon Mommy Wars.

14 thoughts on “At the speed of imagination”

  1. GREAT post, Heather! And the catastrophe article was fantastic.

    I've thought a lot about some of this, but not really applied it to some of the catastrophising I do. I will be thinking more about this.

    I do think there is great power in thinking faithful instead of fearful thoughts. Also, the mental and physical energy I have when I am faithful, rather than fearful, is noticeably better.

    Hm…. A great thing to ponder this early in the week.

  2. My family knows that I will wig, so they're good to let me know what's going on if they're late. I will call the cops!

    The real story here is your husband. He's more than a swell guy. He's what the gospel is all about.

  3. I imagine these sorts of things too. Great post. What a great home teacher! Not to get off the subject, (well ok I will,) our home teacher wants to come on Monday night (yeah–FHE is tonight). I am wishing I had a more obliging one. Though, since he's never come a-visitin' before, I'd be uncomfortable to ask him for a 4 AM ride to the airport.

  4. As a lifetime worrier, this article and your post is so timely for me. Thank you. Not only will I continue to squash the internal worry dialogue that sometimes gets me, I will start to use my vivid imagination for "good" too.


    p.s. I can't wait to read the book. I've it on hold at the library alreaday.

  5. I always think up worst case scenarios, maybe not to the extent in "Imagination Catastrophe," but still, I envision what if so-and-so died, what if I became really sick. There's something paralyzing about it though–the overplanning and dread prevents me from living now.

    I like the new late-DH scenario, though–I should try that too. 🙂

  6. I call this 'headline-itis." I translate trials into the worst headlines possible, certain that I will be the exception that everyone talks about for years to come.

    I love how much peace I find with the 'replace fear with faith' principle. Easier said than done, to be sure, but when I feel faith-filled, life is so much easier.

  7. I am sort of a catastrophist. Except that I usually know I'm full of it, and I'm just imagining things because it's entertaining or a release. But I really liked this idea, and this post. I don't know if I will stop imagining funerals and such, but it sure couldn't hurt to try.

  8. Thank you so much for this post. "Horriblizing" is what my mom calls it, and I do it far too often. Someone once told me that it is an attempt to protect myself and feel more in control: if I imagine the worst, it won't catch me by surprise if it happens. Of course, it doesn't work! I've gotten better at squelching the catastrophic predictions, but haven't really thought about trying to replace them with positive images. I am definitely going to try to do that the next time those thoughts come, and keep that beautiful passage from 2 Timothy in mind. Thanks again!

  9. I agree — your DH is a swell guy and a great home teacher!

    I often think worst case scenario. I like the idea of replacing the "worst that can happen" fear with faith and imagining "better" and "best."

    For most of the past 10 years, my DH traveled with his job. He called frequently to ease my worries. He doesn't travel any more, but he still calls during the day to check in. It's really nice to know he's thinking of me during his work day!

  10. Hi everyone,

    I'm new here. And it feels like a sweet place.

    I just wanted to give a friendly hello to all of you here.




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