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Monday, January 23, 2017


Growing up, I often heard my Grandmother say about my Dad, “If he fell into a bucket of scheisse, he’d find a diamond ring.”  I also heard my Father tell anyone who would listen, “All of my life I’ve had good luck.”  Now, in a chicken and egg scenario, I cannot tell you which actually came first:  Dad having extraordinary good fortune, or Dad being told that he had good fortune, but the end result was the same.  He always got the big half of the wishbone, and he counted that blessing daily.

I, on the other hand, never considered myself to be particularly lucky.  I wasn’t athletic or naturally competitive, so “winning” was not really part of my skill set.  I was the most physically delicate and emotionally fragile of my siblings, so I suffered both injury and insult at their hands.  I never had difficulty making new friends, but I was also never what you would describe as “popular”.  Unlike my Dad, I didn’t have an intrinsic sense of being fortunate; I believed hard work, academic achievement and living according to my morals would be the road to a successful and happy life.
However, in spite of graduating from an excellent college and continuing to conduct myself in business and relationships in a way I felt proud of, my streak of not-such-great-luck continued into adulthood.  Mountains of effort produced very little achievement (or so it felt to me) and things that seemed to come so easily for most presented virtually insurmountable obstacles.  In spite of this, I would never have described myself as an unhappy person.  I genuinely liked being me (still true) and I had a lot of wonderful relationships that reflected the idea of my value and lovability back to me. 

One thing that I did occasionally experience was what I call grace, but for the sake of this discussion I will call supernatural level-luck.  That is to say, although my day-to-day existence often felt bumpy and filled with disappointments, I had moments in my life that could only be described as “divine intervention”.  Like when I left my Filofax (remember those?) containing my driver’s license, bank card, money and all of my personal contacts in a phone booth (remember those?) on my way to work, and when I got home that night found it waiting for me because a stranger had driven an HOUR to return it.  I have a whole series of stories like that, and they never fail to amaze my listeners.  And although my professional life failed to yield any breakthroughs, I did finally have my dreamed of (and worked for) child.
Life was good.  But I still didn’t consider myself lucky.  And then, the scheisse hit the fan.

I have written before about how heart-wrenching and continuously challenging the four years following the birth of my son were; they sort of epitomized the adage, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all”.  There was personal loss, job loss, upheaval and a little person depending on me who needed more care, attention and intervention than most children.  I spent four years putting out fires in my super hero cape, and a lot of the hopes and dreams I had for myself simply fell by the wayside. 
Surviving, not thriving was the order of the day.

When the dust finally settled and I looked around, I saw that not only had I survived, but I was raising a happy, healthy kid who had inherited my Dad’s “lucky” gene; the butterflies always landed on him.  And crawling out of my self-imposed emotional bomb shelter, I started forming friendships and connections that felt healthy and supportive.  In this new reality, I started to revisit some of my own hopes and dreams.
In this new reality, I started to realize that “All of my life, I’ve had good luck.”

In viewing my life story as a retrospective, I began to marvel at how the pieces of this intricate puzzle all fit together irrevocably…you can’t pull even one of them out without distorting the picture.  During those difficult years, I started saying, “Today’s bad experience is tomorrow’s funny story”, a somewhat diminishing way of voicing this essential truth.  Every loss, every disappointment, every challenge somehow became a building block to a more authentic existence.
Recently a young Pastor at my church gave a beautiful sermon about his early days in ministry; he was assigned to a parish in a very economically depressed community.  During his first visit to the church, he noticed what he thought was an unusual stockpile of communion bread.  When he asked about it, he was informed that many of the families in the congregation were so poor they counted on that food for their Sunday meal.

Shortly after his arrival, he was called upon to write a sermon about how “The Lord Provides”; in looking at the poverty of his parishioners, he felt uncomfortable preaching such a lesson.  He struggled with the message all week, and entered church that Sunday uninspired.  It was the habit at that particular parish to start each service with petitions, so before he spoke, he let his congregants offer their prayers for intercession and give thanks for blessings.
Aristotle wrote, “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.” A woman stood up, a woman the Pastor knew to have very little financially, and gave praise to God for her tremendous good fortune.  She was thankful for the air she breathes; she was thankful for her community; she was thankful for the knees she got down on to pray.  Her litany of gratitude was so extensive that the young man realized on that day that he was her follower.  She had taught him that “The Lord Provides”, not the other way around.

In thinking on this, I have decided that this thing we call “luck” is actually just our normal day-to-day experience.  Most of the time we have air to breathe, community to engage with and knees.  We have a beating heart and a thinking brain.  We have the capacity to learn and grow and most importantly, love.  Most of the time, we are not engaged in the tragic, the earth shattering, the soul rendering. 
Most of the time, we are lucky.

I believe now that my Dad understood this to his very core, and that was the message he was trying to teach.  Misfortune is the anomaly, but even misfortune is often simply a stepping stone to greater success or enlightenment.  Another thing my father was fond of saying was “Every day is a good day”; so I will now pass his wisdom on to you in this form:  “Every day is your lucky day”.
Every day you have a beating heart, a thinking brain, more to learn and love to give is your lucky day!  You decide what comes first, the chicken or the egg?  Will you decide you are lucky and then gather the evidence to support this truth, or will you have the experience and then bless it as lucky? 

Because the end result is the same:  Today is your lucky day!

Monday, January 9, 2017


I like to think I am fairly normal in that the very idea of change has always exhausted me.  Seriously, I don’t even like to change into my pajamas at the end of a long day and have been known to sleep wearing the same sweater and scarf I was sporting earlier at the Stop and Shop.  I enjoy my personal routines and get ruffled when they are interfered with in any way.  I hate surprises.

No, really.  Don’t test that.  It won’t go well.
That all having been said with emphatic self-awareness, I also realize, with the pristine 20/20 vision of hindsight, that my resistance to change has more often than not meant it has to be thrust upon me in a chaotic, uncontrolled manner.  Because I don’t frequently CHOOSE change and because change is inevitable, I have unfortunately found myself in a sh*tstorm that was not of my own making on too many occasions for it to be a coincidence. 

My takeaway on all of this is:  if you don’t embrace change, change will try its damndest to CRUSH you like an Acme anvil.
So here I am, gently (HA!) rolling down the other side of the hill and finally starting to learn that change is really a GOOD thing.  Because my resistance in the past has frequently caused change to be an unpleasant experience, what I had rolling down that hill was a virtual snowball of fear…the more I resisted change, the bigger that snowball got and the faster it moved.  So my indecision (fear of doing what I want to do rather than what I “should” do or what I have been doing) had me so off kilter that all of the systems in my life started crashing all at once. 

Recently, circumstances have pushed me over so many virtual cliffs that I have lost count, and in my free fall I am realizing that I had been teetering on the brink for so long I no longer even understood what “solid ground” felt like.  I have been living with one foot in the way things are and one foot poised over the way I want things to be.  I have been having an understandably difficult time finding balance in such a posture.
Okay, sidebar:  a friend and I were recently laughing about how growing up in the era we did and watching films and TV, you might have thought that being swallowed by quicksand was a top ten cause of death.  An epidemic of mythic proportions.  An imminent threat.

I don’t know when exactly the “quicksand” era ended in filmmaking, but it occurs to me that quicksand IS actually a top ten cause of death…meaning psychic quicksand and psychic death.
The older I get, the more I recognize we do have a tendency to get ourselves stuck into situations that suck the life and hope out of us; and like those old heroes of film, we believe that struggling against it will only make it worse.  Best to bear up and face our impending doom bravely.  As we nobly, slowly sink into the morass we have created; the proverbial captain going down with his ship.

But I’ll tell you the truth:  I have always thought nobility might be a little overrated.  I remember being scandalized by the fact that Cordelia put her personal aspirations to noble martyrdom over the well-being of her kingdom in King Lear.  And it turns out it’s a good thing I didn’t put much stock in it, because it’s damned hard to be noble when life has become Roadrunner to your Wile E. Coyote and all of your plans have backfired in your face.

“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans” said a really smart guy whose classic wisdom would henceforth be misattributed to John Lennon because that’s just how it goes sometimes, ironically.  Change is what happens to us whether we make plans or not.  So I guess the bottom line here is that we may do better for ourselves if we plan to change.
My life has been forcing me to make all kinds of changes at gun(cannon)point recently, and while I wish I had been brave enough to take action before I was threatened, now that I am making the moves they feel pretty good.  Instead of feeling scared or overwhelmed, I feel invigorated and free.  Oh, and maybe a little overwhelmed, who am I kidding?

And as I am starting to embrace change, I am also totally starting to embody that old, totally un-P.C. expression “Ain’t nothing worse than a reformed drunk”.  Because I see people I care about who think they are stuck in situations that aren’t serving them and I feel a little giddily drunk myself, wanting to remind them they are free to make another choice.   And how much better would it be to make that choice rather than be forced into it?
The dust has not yet settled on my personal journey and more changes are currently in the works.  But I no longer fear the piano dropping out of the sky on my head because I am on the move.  The literal and the virtual are starting to work in tandem as I am clearing space in both my physical world and my mental one.

"Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change," said Stephen Hawking, a fellow who knew a thing or two about adapting to change.  A change’ll do you good.  Without change, there is no growth; even if you have to take the proverbial two steps back, the person who makes the one step forward is more evolved and equipped than ever before.  That is what change always teaches us, ultimately:  we are capable of so much more than we imagine, if only we give ourselves a chance to try.