I just finished Molly Harper’s hilarious new novel, Where the Wild Things Bite. Another laugh out loud experience with the denizens of Half Moon Hollow, Kentucky, a fictional southern town I’d love to visit, right after I get to Bon Temps, Louisiana. The vast majority of the book takes place in a wilderness with just two people, Anna, a human and Finn, a vampire. They’ve been in a plane crash and they are trying to get back to civilization. What makes this book work so well—especially for me—is the absolute accuracy with which Ms. Harper has captured the behaviors and thinking patterns of the human sub-species called homo neurotico. Anna is such a familiar character to me that I’m sure I need to worry about my mental health. More than I already do, that is.
Anna is the product of a highly controlling mother and an absent father. Sound familiar? As a result of the fear Anna learns at her mother’s feet, the world is a very, very scary place for Anna, and she hardly gets out. After all, when we engage in the world, we risk germs that lead to disease, rape and assault, getting ripped off or having our identities stolen, getting into an accident involving an automobile, train, boat or plane, coming down with food poisoning, or getting attacked by rabid bats. We must always be prepared for worst-case scenarios, including having a section of the bridge we’re on collapse under us, the walls of the tunnel we’re traversing come crashing down on top of us, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes and stadium stampedes. We need to know what to do if the elevator cable snaps, or we contract gangrene from a rusty nail, or giardia from contaminated water. We must be ready for sudden catastrophe around every corner and know the statistical risks of something going wrong in every conceivable situation. Forewarned is forearmed.
Who thinks like this, you may wonder? Well, Anna, for starters. And me for seconds. And I have at least one friend who’s worse than I am with the catastrophizing. And as amusing as it is to read about, it’s not all that fun to live with.
But beyond the private misery that such thoughts produce for the thinker and anyone with whom she shares them, is the concept of the law of attraction. The law of attraction states that like attracts like, and by focusing on positive or negative thoughts we attract those kinds of experiences into our lives. You may think this is a load of shit, but I’m a believer. There is something to be said for the power of positive thinking and the nonsense of negative thinking. Mike Dooley, who created a popular subscription service called “Notes from the Universe” says, “Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones.” Good thinking.
Unfortunately, there was a time I could relate to Anna 1.0 (before she came through her harrowing experience with flying colors) to an uncomfortable degree. Thankfully, I now have more in common with Anna 2.0, after she survives her own personal worst case scenario and realizes she is much stronger than she thought. Which of course reminds me of my very favorite A.A. Milne quote from Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh, “you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” This is largely true, but we are not aware of our own reality.
We are often made of sterner stuff than we previously thought, but we have no idea about it because we avoid situations where our true colors can come shining through. It’s kind of like the Army putting its soldiers through the hell of basic training; it makes men and women out of boys and girls when they are able to accomplish great feats of mental and physical difficulty—and know what they are capable of achieving. If we never put ourselves in situations that stretch us and demonstrate our ability to move beyond our comfort zones, we may believe our own press that we aren’t capable of doing much of anything. We might end up like Anna 1.0, hiding out in our houses and interacting with the world only through the safety of a computer screen.
As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” So, if you think you will end up as fodder for mass shooters, or the victim of the many con artists out there just waiting to take advantage, you might be right. If you think you can meet whatever challenges life has in store without assuming a fetal position on the floor of a darkened room, then you probably can. Jus
After all, what’s the worst that could happen?