I’d like to bring back the word “lucky.” Not casino lucky. When you flip a coin, the chances are 50/50 every time. Standing next to the craps table last December, I knew no one would really go “on a streak.” Especially not me. It’s just random, random, random, and your brain loves to see patterns. It loves to make stories.
I knew that, and so I walked on to the nickel slots and had $15 and half an hour of fun watching cartoon animals dance until my balance read “O.”
This famous singer, Whitney Houston, died yesterday, because she was unlucky. She was born with a brain that told her she needed dangerous drugs in her body, more than she needed food or oxygen. It wasn’t about what kind of person she was, or how hard she tried. She was as unlucky as someone with cancer that doesn’t respond to treatment. Her addiction didn’t respond to treatment. My panic attacks did. Mental illness is mental illness. I was lucky. She was unlucky. To quote “The Princess Bride,” “People who try to tell you otherwise are selling something.”
I was innocently listening to this fluffy podcast, one of those ear binkies I use to nap. They were talking about taking a bus, and someone said, “Well, you might not want to be with some of the people who take the bus.” It reminded me of the time I recently spent at the water department, and my various trips to the DMV. People often joke about how horrible these places are, how the people there are gross and horrible. I don’t know why they think it’s okay to talk smack about poor people. Of course that’s who they mean, although they never say it.
Fearing taking a bus, or going to the DMV, is like being afraid of spiders. You’re the big person. They’re the ones who should be afraid of you, with your credit cards and your lawyers and your bank accounts and your cars and your prudish righteousness that tells you the reason you are different is because you are better, not lucky.
Jesus messed with this whole system in two ways. First, he said the people who look lucky are actually unlucky. Being poor is actually good, he said. Which has been twisted a lot of ways, but I appreciate the idea that vulnerability and openness are goals, gifts, not something to be feared. And Jesus jumped in an healed people who had been unlucky just because I guess he was just that kind of guy.
“Lucky” doesn’t mean you rubbed anyone’s belly or nailed up a horseshoe. It means acknowledging that the world crashes around full of random events. When you leave team Everything Happens For A Reason, it sucks, because it means God isn’t a puppetmaster, and you can’t nod your head at everything that happens, like, well, God wanted that kid in the Congo to die. I found that difficult.
The good news is, you can stop beating yourself up for not making your life perfect. You can’t. It’s a big damn lovely mess no one is in charge of. I still feel God is in it, woven all through it. Not because I’m a particularly pious person. I’m just lucky. My brain was made that way.