Posts Tagged ‘luck’

I spend a lot of time feeling relieved.

For me, relief goes hand in hand with gratitude, so I also spend a lot of time feeling almost absurdly grateful.

I had an ex once who didn’t like it if I said anything about how lucky something was. I think he saw it as tempting fate, that if we spoke about the good things in our lives, that would somehow make them go away. I began to feel the same way, like my noticing and appreciating would be what caused something to be taken from me, snatched so rapidly it would be gone before I realized it. It wasn’t a stretch for me, this attitude, raised in constant vigilance watching for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the next crisis to hit.

But I don’t actually believe in that. I don’t think me noticing goodness, feeling grateful and lucky, means I’m more likely to lose. I think a lot of bad things that happen are kind of random, or else they’re due to choices like being a smoker or spending a lot of time driving too fast or eating nitrates, which I guess increases your risk of getting pancreas cancer. But I don’t think bad things happen because we don’t take the good ones for granted.

As for my vigilance, it’s still present. I can feel it scanning my life the way my laptop looks for a wifi connection. And it doesn’t find anything.

And it doesn’t find anything.

And it doesn’t find anything.

And I am so fucking relieved I don’t even know how to put it into words. It suffuses me until I feel almost giddy.

And my relief turns to gratitude turns to happiness because I don’t take the simplest things for granted.

Sometimes I sit on my couch at night, and I’m reading, and I’m texting, and I’m maybe watching a show. It is quiet. I feel peace steal into my heart, and then I go upstairs to bed, and it’s all simple, so completely un-noteworthy. And I am so happy about all of it. Because everything is okay, and there are no crises I have to deal with, and I can just … be.



I am so happy about dancing, I often don’t want to shut up about it. I stay up too late. My enthusiasm is written plain on my face and body for anyone to see. And I want to take you all by the hand, one by one, and I want to say, “Don’t you see!” Because I couldn’t dance at all–AT ALL-for years. My ankle, my knees, my back, my neck, my body was as twisted up in knots as my life was. And I couldn’t dance, and I couldn’t even afford to think about dancing because the grief would have been too much for me.

And now I get to dance every week, sometimes more, and it feels like an honest-to-God miracle. My bodyworker/trainer hugged me after our session today because he knows. He’s been working with me for five years. He says he’s never seen someone’s body turn around the way mine has. I am so relieved I want to curl up in the corner and bawl my eyes out. I’m so grateful I can hardly contain it.

It’s as if I spent my entire life living in one of those dystopic environments–Robert Silverberg’s city tower or Sondheim’s department store or Ray Bradbury’s Venus–and I’ve finally made it outside. I feel the sun warm my face, and the air tastes like fresh cold water, and everything smells like baked bread and honey. And I’m still in awe that this is even a place that exists, let alone that I get to be here.

I spend a lot of time feeling relieved. I spend more time in simple appreciation.

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I am a very unlucky person:

I had a difficult childhood. I suffer from chronic health problems. My mom died when I was nineteen. I don’t fit in easily with many groups. I attract people to me who take advantage of my over-niceness/over-empathy. Sometimes people have treated me very poorly. There have been many times in my life when I’ve been forced to make hard choices. I’m a little bit accident prone. I’ve had dreams and aspirations that haven’t come true and never will in the future. I get rejected a lot. Sometimes people don’t listen to what I have to say. I have often felt very isolated.

I am a very lucky person: 

I gain immense personal satisfaction from my creative work. None of my medical issues thus far have been life-threatening or impacted my quality of life permanently. Also I have health insurance. I take a great deal of joy from life, both from the small things and the large ones. I have traveled all over the world. I have been able to spend the majority of my life pursuing interests and careers that I deeply care about. I had access to a good education. People have gone out of their way to be helpful and kind to me. I am able to change. My empathy allows me to connect with people on a deeper level.  I have a lot to look forward to. I have plenty of resources and opportunities. I have been able to help and inspire people. I have people (and dogs) who I love deeply.

These are both stories I can tell about myself and my life. Both of them contain statements of truth; both of them contain some statements that have nothing whatsoever to do with luck (and some that do).

I had trouble writing the unlucky one. Not because I was making things up, but because that is not the predominate story I tell myself. It’s the one that creeps up on me when I’m tired or discouraged or in pain. It’s the one that makes me doubt myself. It’s the one that makes me want to choose the easiest way.

The lucky story is what I tell myself every day. It is where I find much of my happiness.

In which story do you spend most of your time?

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I read this fascinating article about luck a few weeks ago, but I’ve been saving my discussion of it until after my luck story came out because I love to be thematic.
The article talks about the research of Dr. Richard Wiseman, who conducted a study comparing “lucky” and “unlucky” people. He found that unlucky people tend to miss chance opportunities because they are so focused on specifics of precisely what they’re looking for, whereas lucky people tend to be more aware of what’s actually going on and are open to different outcomes. Basically, his research supports the idea that we make our own luck by noticing and taking advantage of whatever opportunities happen to present themselves.

We’ve all heard this advice in relation to dating. “You’ll find your future boyfriend/girlfriend when you’re least expecting it.” I don’t think the catch phrase actually covers it. Did I expect to meet my future husband at the specific housewarming party where we first talked to each other? No, of course not. (Is there ever a situation in which one does expect such a thing? Unless, of course, it’s a pre-arranged relationship of some sort.) But I also didn’t think it was impossible. I was open to meeting new people and having a new experience, and I went to that party with the hope that I might make some new friends. And I felt I was ready for a romantic relationship should one present itself to me.

Here’s the kicker. You might say I was lucky to meet my husband that night. He might have decided not to attend that housewarming party. Or he might have had a conflict, or received a phone call and left before I arrived. But because I wasn’t attending the party for the sole purpose of looking for a boyfriend, I think we might have met later on anyway. I would have become better friends with the party’s hostess (who later officiated at our wedding), and she would have held another party, or invited friends to go to a group dinner, or whatever, and I would have met my husband then instead. Or I would have become friends with other mutual acquaintances met at that party, leading to the same results.

It’s very easy to think about luck as relating to one specific outcome. What if, instead, we were to think about luck as more of a continuum that depends upon both our choices and our engagement with the world around us? We have to both notice opportunities as they arise and decide to act on them.

I’ll give you another example of how paying attention can work wonders. In college, I did my senior music recital in composition. I didn’t know any undergrads who had done such a thing, but “luckily” for me, I read the Music Major handbook carefully and learned that it was an option for me. Even better, after I received permission for my recital, I allowed other students to pursue the same opportunity because I had proven it was a possibility. Was I lucky? Sure. The composition professors could have decided they didn’t want the hassle of advising an undergrad composer (or been too busy to do so) and found a reason to reject my application. But I also proved the veracity of the quotation about diligence being the mother of good luck. I had formed positive relationships with the relevant faculty members; I had pulled together a decent proposal with a realistic timeline; I had thoroughly researched my major. I would never have been the recipient of this good luck if I hadn’t thought outside of the box (in this case, that all undergrad recitals were given by instrumentalists and vocalists, not composers).

What do you think? Do we create our own luck? Do you consider yourself to be lucky or unlucky (or neither)?

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