Tuesday, January 3, 2012

31 Writers, 31 Lessons-Lesson 3: There Is Power In Wishing

I am so excited to have Noelle Oxenhandler appear on this blog. Have you read any of her amazing books? On my 40th birthday, my co-worker, who also happens to be Noelle's good friend, gave me The Wishing Year: A House, A Man, My Soul. I absolutely loved this book and completely believe in the power of wishing and setting intentions. You best buy that one soon because the book starts at the beginning of a new year and I think that's the best time to read it! It may even help you to form your own life wishes!

And now, please welcome Noelle Oxenhandler:

At a major turning-point in my life, I decided to launch a year’s experiment in making three wishes come true: the wish for a house, the wish for a new love, and the wish for spiritual healing. A skeptic by nature, I did not find the process easy. But I persisted--and in doing so, I learned so much! As, one by one, my wishes really did come true, I had to acknowledge that there is indeed a very real power in wishing. And sometimes this power is scary….

When we make a wish, we open ourselves to the unknown. This is why many people are afraid to wish: they’d rather stay with the safe predictability of the known, however confining, than take the risk of actively wishing for something new. They’d rather complain about things as they are than usher in a different reality. A committed act of wishing always brings about a change—and that’s unsettling. But it’s also exciting and it is truly creative. Something always happens when we actually dare to articulate a wish and set about working to make it come true. That “something” may turn out to be different from what we imagined--but it always brings some form of valuable information with it, information that might not have come to us in any other way. For instance, one woman I know had been convinced for years that she had made a mistake in becoming a lawyer because she was truly meant to be an artist. When at last she dared to articulate her wish, she gave herself a six month’s leave to enroll in art school. And then she discovered that--lo and behold--she really couldn’t stand the chaos and uncertainty of the artist’s life! Though she was disappointed, she was also liberated from years of clinging to an unrealistic dream. As a wise young friend of mine said, “We don’t always get exactly, literally, the thing we wished for. But then we learn to wish better.” And as the great German poet Goethe wrote, “Destiny grants our wishes—but in its own way, in order to give us something beyond our wishes.” If we didn’t find the courage to launch a wish in the first place, how could we discover this beyond--?

NOELLE OXENHANDLER is the author of three non-fiction books: The Wishing Year: A House, A Man, My Soul; The Eros of Parenthood; and A Grief Out of Season. Her essays have appeared in many national and literary magazines, including: The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, VOGUE, “O” The Oprah Magazine, and TRICYCLE. She lives in northern California, where she teaches Creative Writing at Sonoma State University. She can be reached at NoelleOxenhandler.com


  1. My wish was to be able to survive from writing. Not to get rich by writing, or famous, or popular, just to be able to write for a living. I was told that in Serbia it was impossible to achieve, and yet, for seven years, I did write for a living (it ended a year ago), I had my wish fulfilled.

    So I can say from my own experience that there's a lot of power in a wish.

  2. Hi Angel-Amazing that you fulfilled your wish against all odds! I too can say that there is tremendous power in wishing (as long as there one puts foundations under that wish!) I love this post by Noelle!

  3. Noelle,
    Thanks so much for appearing here on this blog and writing about the power of wishing. I have found everything you write about here to also be true from my own experience. Peace to you!

  4. What amazing post. I also believe in the intense and beautiful power of intentions. I ask my students to consider setting one at the beginning of every yoga class as a place to send their energy and love.

    My wish for this year is to work on Compass Yoga full-time. And the wheels are in motion already to make this one come true.

    I just had Noelle's book sent to my Kindle. Can't wait to dig in!

  5. “I've often wished that I had clear,
    For life, six hundred pounds a year,
    A handsome house to lodge a friend,
    A river at my garden's end,
    A terrace walk, and half a rood
    Of land, set out to plant a wood.”
    -- Jonathan Swift

    Did Swift get all of those things?

    "We must work hard to make a wish come true,
    And that is why I labored to find you."

    Very interesting post.

  6. Dear Anonymous,

    Beautiful words! Thanks for sharing and for reading!

  7. Hi Katherine,

    I am Anonymous. I rushing to read and comment on some of 2012's guest posts, I forget to enter my name. The final couplet is an invention of mine, constructed just for this post.

    Now I must return to helping my relatives, which will take at least 3-4 hours today. Have a great day!