Here’s to 2016 – without magic

Our two new kittens.

Our two new kittens.

Cape Town – If conventional wisdom is anything to go by, 2016 is going to be a bad year for me.

The year is only two weeks old and already our family has been hit by irritating, unforeseen or worrying events.

On a visit to the beach, our venerable travelling backpack was stolen while we were in the water, and along with it my purse (complete with driver’s licence, ID book and bank cards) and cellphone. (I know, I know, dear reader. What was I thinking? I was thinking I had two children with me who wanted mochas after the swim and the coffee shop was at the other end of the parking lot, and just this once I would take it all to the beach with me. Self-evident moral: never let your guard down). 

So a good part of the first month is going to be taken up with reconstituting my life, standing in queues and sitting on the phone to call centres.

Jack came back from a wonderfully adventurous holiday on the Wild Coast feeling unwell. That turns out to be tick bite fever, severely putting a crimp in the start of his Grade 7 year.

I’ve been working hard to put these things in perspective: no one is dead, it’s just paperwork, this too will pass (though I will always miss that red backpack, which has been our family “go out” bag on holidays overseas and at home for several years now).

But in my 3am musings, I can’t shake the feeling that these are somehow omens of a bad year ahead.

At the turn of 2015 into 2016, many of my friends turned to Facebook to summarise the year behind them, and to hope for better things in the coming 365 days. I didn’t join in, mostly from lack of energy as I waited for my actual holiday to begin on January 1. But I have been thinking about all those posts, and the oddness of thinking that somehow a new year will mean that things happen differently for people.

The idea that somehow the sunset and sunrise on a particular day in our Western calendar have any bearing on the flow of life is what psychologists call magical thinking – defined in the online Sceptic’s Dictionary  thus: “magical thinking involves several elements, including a belief in the interconnectedness of all things through forces and powers that transcend both physical and spiritual connections. Magical thinking invests special powers and forces in many things that are seen as symbols”.

In magical thinking, things come in threes. So will the stolen bag and the tick bite fever will be followed by another disaster? I will keep my sceptic’s hat on and choose to think not.

But at 3am, if I am plagued by non-reasonable fears, I will wonder if my unfortunate start to 2016 can perhaps be balanced out by the other major family event of the new year: the acquisition of two adorable kittens.Surely cat power outweighs all else? Can the entire Internet be wrong?

Bring it on, 2016!

This was first published on IOL Lifestyle.

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