Here’s an interesting and stimulating story of a woman I know who did just that. Her name is Thelma Thompson, and she lives in New York City. “During the war,” she said, as she told me of her experience, “my husband was stationed at an army training camp near the Mojave Desert in California. I went to live there in order to be near him. I hated the place. I loathed it. I had never before been so miserable. My husband was ordered out on maneuvers in the Mojave, and I was left alone in a tiny shack. The heat was unbearable – 125 degrees in the shade of a cactus. Not a soul to talk to – the Mexicans and Indians there couldn’t speak English. The wind blew incessantly, and all the food I ate and the very air I breathed were filled with sand, sand, sand.
“I was so utterly wretched, so sorry for myself, that I wrote my parents. I told them I was giving up and coming home. I said I couldn’t stand it one minute longer. I would rather be in jail. My father answered my letter with just two lines – two lines that will always sing in my memory – two lines that completely altered my life:
Two men looked out from prison bars,
One say the mud, the other saw the stars.
“I read those two lines over and over. I was ashamed of myself. I made up my mind I would find out what was good in my present situation; I would look for the stars.
“I made friends with the natives, and their reaction amazed me. When I showed interest in their weaving and pottery, they gave me presents of their favorite pieces which they had refused to sell to tourists. I studied the fascinating forms of the cactus and the yuccas and the Joshua trees. I learned about prairie dogs, watched the desert sunsets and hunted for seashells left there millions of years ago, when the sands of the desert had been an ocean floor.
“What brought about this astonishing change in me? The Mojave Desert hadn’t changed. The Indians hadn’t changed, but I had. I changed my attitude of mind. And by doing so, I transformed a wretched experience into the most exciting adventure of my life. I was stimulated and excited by this new world that I had discovered. I was so excited I wrote a book about it – a novel that was published under the title Bright Ramparts....I had looked out of my self-created prison and found the stars.”
Success Unlimited, “Ramparts of the Mind,” April 1980, page 25