You know what makes me sad? Not profoundly sad like children living in poverty or devastation from an earthquake upending people’s lives. More like everyday sad for what some accept as part of living.
Almost like clockwork, people I love, like or am simply acquainted with write things on Twitter and Facebook like this: “Ugh, Monday is almost here” or “Counting the minutes until Friday.” Meanwhile, the latter is written on a Tuesday and the person is essentially, unwittingly, wishing her life away. Like there is no choice in the matter and they have to let life take them instead of the other way around.
Then there are those -- again, these are often people I treasure -- who report that the airline or the salesperson “of course” screwed up their reservation/order/purchase because it is their lot in life that things will go wrong or people are just naturally trying to rip them off. As if world view or disposition play no part in these events, ever.
It is exhausting to live in that space. Almost a fulltime job. I know because my default used to be anger and frustration.
I don’t know how to be that anymore. Some years ago I became aware of it and worked hard to turn it around. Now, blessedly, there’s an energetic disconnect between me and that way of being. I’m not exactly Susie Sunshine. My glass half-full self does occasionally find the miserable-looking guy at the post office unnerving and also is prone to shoot a leveling look at a driver who gets too close when I’m a pedestrian in the crosswalk. And, OK, there might even be some salty language muttered.
But for the most part, I expect that things will go well the majority of the time. What I find fascinating is that when they do go well -- let’s say a number of things in a row -- a lot of folks will remark on my run of good luck. Have you ever noticed that in your own life? While on its surface that appears to be an innocent and cheerful observation, at its base it’s an inference that we’ve played no part in what’s happening to and for us.
Not so. I would love if one person reading this suddenly got that we have more control of our perspectives, our expectations, and our outcomes than we often think. Luck? Not so much. Unless you (like me) buy into that infamous backstory on luck: it is what happens when opportunity meets a prepared mind.
Case in point: I was offered the chance to write for this website four years ago because I was in the right place at the right time. True enough. But it’s not like the gentleman who made the offer was walking around this social event ready to reward a writing assignment to the next person who crossed his path. He knew my work and ability to build a following.
Let’s look at a simpler example. You find a $100 bill on the ground. That lights people up and they marvel at your luck. Here’s what I see. Yes, luck played into it. But 10 or 50 or 100 people may have walked by that same money on the ground. You’re not “luckier” than them. The difference is you were aware, paying attention to what’s around you.
In the past few years I have found a $20 bill on the pavement while power walking in the park, a $20 bill on the floor of a department store, and a pair of crumpled up $20 bills on the sidewalk of the main drag in my town. I tend to pick up pennies as well because I read somewhere once that they represent an appreciation of all things, even small.
Let’s be clear. Surely there are those times when I’m stomping all over $20 bills on the ground and breezing right by. I’m not unlucky. I’m just distracted.
I remember a minister at a church I attended a few years ago talking about getting hit by a truck. She was a pedestrian in a crosswalk and she was pretty banged up by the experience. In her sermon about it, she observed that even though legally and technically it was not her “fault” she also didn’t see it as bad luck. What she saw was a sign that she needed to pay better attention.
Recently I read a blog post by Sabina Ptacin of Preneur about her recent fall on a New York City sidewalk. It was a doozy and really shook her up for a while because she landed on her head. She saw it as a wakeup call to stop rushing around so much in her vibrant but often harried entrepreneurial life.
“Oh the things that COULD have happened to me!” Ptacin writes. “My taxi driver home recited a list of things that I avoided (concussions, missing eyes, stitches, falling into traffic – he was creative and quite excited about this topic) and his list really drove the point(s) home – I was lucky, not just because I escaped major injury but because I had finally received a message about rushing that sank in.”
Now there’s a use of the “lucky” concept I can get on board with. Feeling fortunate and blessed because we get it. If we’re really living well, we absorb and learn from the people around us. It gives us a chance to go within and ask ourselves how we see things.
How about you? Do you expect life to trip you up?
I’ve recently begun taking yoga classes. During my third class last week, while doing a pose, I felt a twinge in my back. The next day the pain escalated until almost any movement was difficult. In the past, I would have taken this as a sign to stop taking yoga. I would have been ticked off that this injury flew in the face of my attempt at self- are.
Here’s how I see it now. My body was bringing forth something that I was supposed to pay attention to. This incident was a very deep, albeit painful, form of self-care coming through the yoga. I nurtured it, stretched it, awakened to it. It feels better now. I will be back in yoga class this week without skipping a beat.
It feels good to have chosen that perspective.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.