Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of joking that I have a charmed life. It can certainly seem that way, with my healthy family, good, steady income, comfortable house and the achievement of my lifelong dream of being a traditionally published author.
But “charmed” has many suggestions built into it that are probably setting me up for disappointment down the road. “Charmed” suggests that someone or something is doing the charming. “Charmed” says that luck or skill picked me out for special privileges, that good things happen to me above others.
I began thinking about just how lucky my life seemed to get in the last few years. I did so to contrast these great years from just how desperately UNlucky my early life felt. Poverty, abuse, fear about my uncertain immigration status… I definitely felt like a cartoon character walking around under my own individual storm cloud. I’ll be honest: when life got good I felt like someone finally realized it was my turn. And picked me. Finally charmed my life.
But here’s the trouble with that thought: it turns life into a false meritocracy. We’ve all struggled since we were children to understand why tragedies happen to innocents. Believing that we’ve suffered enough and that this is finally out reward is as bad as thinking that you’re going through tough times because you deserve to be punished. Neither of those are true. I’ll stop short of calling the universe arbitrary and without organizing structure (although so often the evidence seems to point to that conclusion). But even if there is a broader meaning, it’s not handing out charmed lives like candy to obedient kindergarteners. Good and bad times are random and not a referendum on our merits and our shortcomings.
Why does this matter? Does it hurt to be optimistic, to tell yourself that things are going your way? I’d say it doesn’t, for the most part. But it’s important to go a step beyond and look at what you do control – your choices, your actions – and acknowledge that some of your luck is in your hands. When we know that, we rely much more on ourselves and count less on our lives being charmed. And that makes us ready for whatever life puts in our path.
I was inspired to this line of thinking by a piece by a Christian man about the habit of saying “feeling blessed.” I don’t believe everything he believes but I do resonate with his ideas of why it’s important not to put value judgements on luck. Click here to check it out: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4868963