What makes a mind its own? Scientists may say the cells, psychologists may say the neurons. But the truth, the truth if you ask me, is that they're looking in the wrong place. The mind can't be something made from strings and meat, otherwise the same strings and meat would make up every mind and there wouldn't be any difference between your sister Mary and Bob with the shovel down the road. I'm sure someone could come along and say otherwise but really they pick apart flesh and when one thinks and speaks and imagines, it's not flesh that's made. If all our flesh is the same how does a dream burn brighter than another or a voice lull one to sleep whilst scratching other ears. How do we know what's right and wrong? It's the mind. So this story now that I have for you, it is about the mind, the mind especially of a girl, who has, like everyone else, a rather extraordinary mind.
She knows she has a sister, one year older than her and quite slimmer. She likes her spritsy brown curls but doesn't think they're spritsy. When she was younger she described herself as average height and the teacher peered down at her with a mixture of disapproval and laugher. She's always described herself as small since then.
Today she put on the same blue skirt with navy tinges and the same white blouse and got on the same bus as yesterday. But today isn't yesterday. Today is the day, thought she does not know it, where she'll get off the bus, walk down the stairs and round the bend where some things change. People like to use the expression everything changes but really there are many things, like the colour of hair, the height of ears, that do not change. So only some things change on this day.
She is 15 and at that age it is hard to see what doesn't matter. She has tests today, and the tomorrow and some more the next day, which she thinks matters and she worries like she does. In amongst her thoughts it slips, a wonder, a curiosity, a hope.
She thinks the words she wants to overcome, I wish to do well on my tests.
Now there is something that she knows, prior knowledge if you will, which is a very important point. A while ago, perhaps a few months, she developed a theory you may say. One that all ridiculousness should not be true but she can't shake it from her mind. She believes, what is presumed others don't believe, that if she wishes for something the opposite will happen. The theory is still at its early stages and she doesn't like the idea of it and wants it gone. And the way she thinks she can get rid of it is by wishing for things and if the opposite doesn't happen she need not believe. It sounds quite reasonable in her head which is already believing the unreasonable. It is hard for her thought to fins things she can wish for where she doesn't mind the opposite happening.
Why she is risking it now she does not know, nor I, but she is and I'm afraid to say we must head over four months to see the outcome.
Today there is no one home, none except her and she is in her room. Things are bad in her head, that's how she thinks of it, and she's sitting with her head on the floor as if praying fervently. But it's not prayers that rush through her head.
"I don't want to wish, I don't." She says it quickly, thinks it again wants to scream it a third. She's past the stage where there's a moment when she thinks that after her necessary three times her head will be at peace, and as the last one passes through her head another wish slips in and off she goes again. She wants to scream to pull it out, to throw it where it can never be touched, to bury it where it will no longer exist. But she can't. She can't stop the wishes slipping into her head and she needs, she needs to repeat through words so that bad doesn't happen. So she doesn't wish by her will, she can't, and she longs for the day when her mind forgets the word wish ever existed.
Some days are quite fine, like tomorrow it will not be too bad, but there are times when her mind twists and turns and she cries for it to be gone. She knows it's foolish to believe but she can't risk it, she risked it once and it hurt her, she cannot take that chance again.
Now it's time to go to another today, a day in a month, where she's determined for it to be gone. She tries to find things that she can wish for and then let them be, but as soon as she does another wish slips into her mind, something that she can't risk leaving. She's never thought of it as a strange concept, not being able to control her thoughts, her mind. This thing that's her, that's only hers, she can't stop what happens in it. It's not a concept she realises to think about, her mind is too full of other things. She wants it gone, but she doesn't try often.
Let's skip forward a year, though really it's 16 days off a complete year. Her hair has grown longer but her ears have not and when she looks in the mirror she's still the same person. The only way she could be someone different is if she first lost herself, and she's never done that. It's a part of her now, so much so that she thinks of it as an it. It's not something different to her, it is her, but it's an it. And the idea of it being gone… nothing, non-existence. She can't imagine it gone. Not because she's forgotten what it's like for her mind to be free, though she cannot remember, or because it seems like such an impossible thing, though it does. It's because deep down, in that little inkling which she knows has a lot more impact on her mind than she thinks, doesn't want it gone. This thing this thing which causes her pain and strife and distress, is what makes her different in a world where she's never noticed. She's not special or extraordinary but she's unique, because of this. The day she loses it she'll be normal, average and just another person in the world. She hates it, but she's proud.
Now to end this story, this one that has been going on for three years we must head to a day that is quite fair in the sky and her hopes are elated. Just like the thought that wishes could mean something slipped into her head on a whim, now another thought slips into her head on a whim. It's time for it to go. Her head is not in a swirl, she is not close to tears, her mind is actually quite well in this moment. But she's done. And she is, though she does not know it right now and will only find out in the morning when she wakes, all intact, all in peace. One day she'll laugh at how simple it was to get rid of it, to just wish and wish and wish and leave it. The wishes stop slipping and her mind smiles.
So that is the story of this girl who still has the spritsy brown curls. Of course there are many stories that could be told of this girl's mind, of how the peace did not last, of how she found other things to churn through her head, but those stories are still going and if it was written now there would not be an end. I know that one day she will be free, and though she doubts it at times she knows all she has to do is wish. She wonders why it is her mind that curls like her hair, and she knows that people could peer into it and find answers. But they wouldn't be answers that would help. People with cells and neurons, strings and meat fix cells and neurons, strings and meat, but only people with minds can fix a mind. Minds are made from different things, things that I cannot name, but things which make this girl smile at Bob and love Mary. So there is this girl's story, of an extraordinary mind. Every time I see this girl in the mirror I smile at her, because I will know more of her mind today and I know that whatever happens it will not be everything, and I can always wish.