Like many people, I am acutely aware of the things people say. Words have always been a big part of my life (journaling); work (workshops, reports, articles) and avocational pursuits (songwriting, comedy). I love words! Words have so much power to inform, educate and entertain us. They offer inspiration, hope, enlightenment, and reflection. They can help and heal.
But words can also do harm. They can be used intentionally as weapons of anger, intimidation, humiliation, guilt and shame. And they can also be used awkwardly, ignorantly, and insensitively – perhaps not to intentionally hurt another, but all the same, they can contribute to another’s distress and despair.
But I’m here to talk about luck, not words…..well……not really…….and yes really!
I am one of those highly sensitive people (they have a name for this too apparently), who can be easily triggered by another’s comments – or in some cases, a lack thereof. A few comments that have been made to me recently have been stewing in my ‘mind pot’ and now they are bubbling over and I need to comment on the comments. Of course, this opens up the filing cabinet in my brain, whereas I am reflecting and reviewing all those comments in the past that have ever affected me in a potent way. However, for the benefit of those who are reading this, as well as my own sanity, I don’t think I’ll declare all those now, or here! 🙂
So, just what WERE these comments that started this discourse? Well first of all, I can tell you that they all had a theme, and that is, they all began with the words: “You are lucky that……”.
I suppose one would wonder why someone telling me I’m lucky would be such a provocation. Well, I shall explain.
When someone says to me: “You are lucky that…..”, and the item or situation of which they are referring to has little to do with luck, but more to do with effort – my effort – then I feel belittled and disempowered.
Here are a few examples, and ones that I’ve heard several times:
• Within the context of a financial situation: “You are lucky to have a husband who makes a decent income.”
• Within the context of not living alone: “You are lucky to have a man to help you with that”
• Within the context of living in Vancouver: “You are lucky you live on the West side.”
• Within the context of my vocation: “You are lucky you have work you love to do.”
When I hear these comments, I have to wonder what people think – or assume – is really going on in my life that I am blessed with such fairy dust. Do they think I don’t make a living, and that I’m lying on the couch eating bon-bons while my husband makes the bacon (or in our case tofu), and does all the chores and fixit jobs? Do they think I just walked through the magic door and my dream job appeared? Do they think I make a million dollars a year and therefore can afford to live on the West side of Vancouver?
I cannot, and will not try to understand what people really think, but what I would appreciate people doing more often, is thinking before they speak! If one were to consider how a comment like that could sound to another person, especially a person like me who is sensitive and who’s had many challenges to overcome in order to have certain things in life which are not associated with luck, they may (hopefully) realize it’s a put-down. These things that I am ‘lucky’ to have are the result of thinking, researching, planning, and lots of blood, sweat and tears – literally!
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
One of the things that pushes my buttons (and yes, we all get triggered by stuff, no matter how much therapy we participate in 🙂 ) is anyone, anything and any comment which jabs at my self-concept. I have spent a lot of time, money and energy trying to develop myself into a reliant, independent, self-sustaining, kind, industrious and interesting human being. I feel I have worked very hard at finding some form of contentment and peace, overcoming health issues, helping others and contributing to society. Yes, there is ALWAYS room for improvement and development, and so I don’t want to sound all preachy and self-righteous here. It’s just that those things that people are perhaps trying to give me credit for, come out in words that make me feel that it was all chance, that all I did was roll out of the womb like a pair of lucky dice, and voila…I had those things.
But that’s not how my life has been. Like many people, my life has (and still is) woven with threads of adversity. I have experienced violence and bullying. I’ve escaped one world of abuse, only to find myself in another. I’ve been attacked, sexually assaulted and robbed. I’ve been homeless, unemployed and alienated. I have been exposed to sick, depraved and troubled individuals and have had to run from jobs, people and places in order to find emotional and/or physical safety. I’ve been displaced, and lived on the street and in my car.
I have struggled with identity, self-esteem and destructive behaviours. I’ve had to start my life over many times. I’ve had acute and chronic health conditions that have rendered me unable to function. I’ve lost relationships, and possessions. I have known sorrow, discomfort and the feeling of being completely ALONE in the world! I have tried to die…more than once.
And in this age of disclosure, we are learning that many people have also been challenged with similar situations and experiences. We hear of the ‘survivors’ and the ‘success stories’. They show up on Ted Talks and Oprah. They write books. They blog. They go out into the community and share their story, because EVERYONE has a story. Even me! So please don’t say: “you’re lucky…”, because, if you can really see luck in where I’ve been and what I’ve had to do to be who I am and have what I have in my life, you may not call me so lucky.
And yes, of course there have been situations and things that I would claim as being associated with luck – good and bad – on some level. But there are always the factors of having done something, or being somewhere in order for these events to occur. Maybe it’s more about that word (luck) for me, as I tend to prefer fortunate; serendipitous and coincidence as better words to explain those events that don’t fall into an obvious cause and effect scenario.
I also try to learn and understand people and their situations; to go beyond what ‘appears’ to be their so-called lucky or successful life. Most times, I have been humbled and awed when I find out how they’ve overcome and managed their obstacles and pushed forward with their passions, plans and goals. These people are MY inspiration to be a better person and to keep going on, even when I am plagued by issues and challenges (as I am currently experiencing again!)
These people fill me with hope and gratitude. At times, there is a part of me that almost slips to THAT place – the place I am referring to in this article: “Well, you’re lucky because……..or…”it must be nice…..”, but then I stop and catch myself, because I KNOW that these thoughts and words are not a sincere compliment to their efforts, nor are they empowering for them…………or for me!