I am not superstitious.
As far as I can tell, this is a somewhat rare characteristic among the general samples of humans I interact with, despite the fact that I live in the twenty-first century. And anytime I voice my disbelief toward these lamest-version-possible forms of “magical” thinking, I’m treated as though I’ve spoiled Santa Claus for a room full of children (it’s your PARENTS, kids. Your parents LOVE YOU and buy you gifts so that you’ll be filled with joy, and they deserve credit and gratitude! That’s way lovelier than Santa!).
A major example of how this whole not-being-superstitious thing affects me day-to-day is this: I don’t say “bless you” when someone sneezes. You’re probably thinking, “I’m so impressed by how logical and grounded this chick is.” But unfortunately, most people—who are not as cool as you—seem to think this kind of non-superstitious inaction is extremely rude.
It’s as if not participating in this false habitual wizardry makes me directly responsible for all of the bad luck they have ever had, currently have, or will have.
But I wasn’t always this way.
As a child, I was extremely superstitious. I’m pretty sure my current inability to sleep like a normal person—which I have hypochondriac-ly self-diagnosed as Non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder—began with being unable to sleep at night during childhood due to feeling anxious over varying superstitions.
I clearly remember lying in bed for hours in the dark, unable to sleep because of all the terrible things I imagined. My fears didn’t involve normal kid-things like monsters or the Boogie Man. Instead, my brain explored all of the saddest possible situations I could fathom.
In addition to constructing Oscar-worthy tragedies, I also thought a lot about religion, which at the time was a very real part of my life. I was absolutely terrified of general spiritual encounters—which had been presented to me by adults as completely possible—that weren’t supposed to be scary, like, for example, God literally speaking to me.
I was also terrified of encountering “spirits.”
At some point during my childhood, in a heartfelt attempt to help me, my (Mormon) grandmother told me that there were three kinds of spirits that might appear before you in the middle of the night: angels, messengers of God, and evil spirits (I’m not making this up).
In order to figure out which kind of being is standing at the foot of the bed scaring the living shit out of you, you must be brave and use your intelligent human brain to test/trick the spirit. All that this sleuthing requires is to simply invite the spirit to shake your hand.
Outcome #1. The spirit accepts your handshake, and you feel a physical hand grasping your own. This means that the spirit is an angel, since angels used to be people and thus, have bodies.
If the handshake is firm, it means he has positive self esteem. Either way, go ahead and see what he wants! You’re safe.
Outcome #2. The spirit does not accept your handshake. In fact, it darts away every time you try to touch it. Halt all pesky “I’m-not-touching-you” temptations immediately—this guy means serious business. That’s right, a messenger of God has appeared before you, hovering above your dirty clothes pile.
Messengers of God are super high up in the spirit hierarchy. In other words, he’s too good for you. A mere particle of humanness could ruin his whole vibe. Listen to him, and do whatever he says. Be afraid, particularly of failure.
Outcome #3. If the spirit accepts your handshake, but you don’t feel an actual physical hand, despite being able to see yourself shaking it, THE WORST HAS HAPPENED. There is an EVIL FUCKING GHOST in your room.
Evil spirits never got to be humans (because they left heaven to follow their buddy, Lucifer), so they never got to have bodies. HOLY SHIT IT PROBABLY WANTS YOURS. Bring up Jesus, and tell it to GTFO. If that doesn’t work, try every exorcist cliche you can think of.
Now, if you give this plan some thought, I’m sure you’ll be clever enough to discover the obvious flaw which exists in this system, as I did when I was 4–5 years old.
These “evil spirits” have been around since The Beginning. They have had plenty of time to really think this through, and they have had lots of encounters with humans where a simple handshake led to getting doused with a fire extinguisher and chased out of the house (allegedly).
By the year 1996, they probably would have realized that if they reject the handshake, preferably via darting away, the human would assume they were a messenger of God and obey their every word.
The Mormons had severely underestimated the problem-solving capabilities of evil spirits. All the spirits had to do to succeed was ignore the spiritual equivalent of chanting “Swiper No Swiping. ”
This left me terrified of 3 very specific types of ghosts without a reliable system of good/evil detection and no method of self-defense.
I was doomed for life. This pattern of night time anxiety and difficulty falling asleep followed by terrible nightmares and difficulty staying asleep—20 years later—still hasn’t quite gone away (except now I think about real things, like the political state of the US and getting cancer from eating fast food all the time).
To be continued…