A ladybug on your shoulder.
A face-up penny on the ground.
A parking space in a crowded lot.
A text after a month of no contact.

I am one of those creative, dreamy people who is very susceptible to the seduction of magical thinking, especially at low points in my life. When dealing with a breakup, job disappointment, or other challenge I would turn inward, isolate myself even further, and drive myself mad searching for a solution. I would scour the internet seeking validation for what I hoped would be true, that I would find a secret phrase that would turn my luck around and take away the pain. Maybe things will go my way if I stand on my head and recite the right prayer three times while burning a rosemary candle. There are a lot of hurt, scared, angry people looking for answers and afraid that the answer will be “no.” Desperate hope can masquerade as optimism, and like Lenny in “Of Mice and Men,” desperate hope can suffocate the very thing it loves.

It was really just thinly veiled bargaining, a sad attempt to use reverse psychology on God.

When I went back to taekwondo magical thinking didn’t seem that appealing anymore. Maybe it was because I had something outside my little fortress of solitude to occupy my time. It helped break the spell of false promises or quick fixes and showed me that I had enough strength, courage, and creativity to fight my own battles without relying on Yahoo Answers.

I’m not as angry or anxious anymore. Now that I know how to fight I’m not looking for a fight. My partner and I went through a mini-breakup around Christmas. I was crushed but not as psychologically annihilated as I had been over breakups with much less significant partners. I hadn’t let my self-worth get dragged down into the mud with my broken heart. After two days of lying motionless on the couch watching “Dexter” on Netflix I picked myself up and went right back to taekwondo class. I didn’t force the issue, didn’t search for a magical love spell or breakup-makeup success story, and we ended up living happily ever after. He still doesn’t get out of having to go to long boring belt tests.

I do believe in the law of attraction although I can’t watch “The Secret” with a straight face. Positive thinking has resulted in positive outcomes. Good fortune is all about loosening the grip of fear. The “magic” of martial arts is that through physical and mental discipline you naturally begin to focus less on those things you can’t control. The “indomitable spirit” of taekwondo replaces good luck charms and rock-bottom wishes.