Luck and good fortune are just as distinct as fate and destiny. We don't always recognize the difference, either in ourselves or in others. We attribute the good fortune of others to luck, just as we attribute our own circumstances to fate. They get all the unfair advantages, while we are subject to all the crises and disasters. Only when we learn to recognize the hidden patterns and choice points and systems followed by the Fortunate Ones do we discover that we have the power to join their ranks.
Let's all pause and lift a glass to the memory of our medieval ancestors. Most of their children died before age seven. Almost all of them were stunted and wizened from early fevers and malnutrition. This can clearly be seen when visiting historic buildings, with their tiny low door frames. However we may feel about our own situation, we can grudgingly admit that we are unlikely to be enslaved, forced to build roads, put in the stocks, starved in a siege, or dead of an epidemic like the bubonic plague. If we were living a thousand years ago, we would probably each be illiterate, smelly, and sleeping on a bed of straw at night, waking up to intermittent toothache. In this context we can feel a sense of our good fortune. The 21st century is a fabulous time to be alive.
Extreme poverty has been cut roughly in half in the past 25 years. Many of us may see the total elimination of extreme poverty in our lifetimes. When we consider our own good fortune, it increases our sense of abundance, from which the wellspring of charity arises. I have been sponsoring a student in Zambia for the past 4-5 years on what I used to spend on soda: a dollar a day. I am fortunate to be able to do this, just as my chosen student is lucky that I saw her photo instead of someone else's.
It was good fortune that gave me access to an excellent public education; it was luck that assigned me to certain teachers rather than others.
It is good fortune that I am employable; it was luck that placed me in the temp assignment where I met my future husband, rather than the real estate gig across the hall. (Where, three years later, the housing crisis would have certainly impacted my job, if I had still been working there).
It is good fortune that I have full use of all my limbs and faculties; it's luck when I find money on the sidewalk or cross paths with someone I know. These lucky incidents happen more often, because I spend comparatively more time walking outside, because I choose not to own a car.
I'm lucky that I have survived various accidents and routine trips without permanent injury. I create my own good fortune by eating a nutritious diet and constantly increasing my fitness level.
It was bad luck that the IRS erroneously billed me for $8000. I created my own good fortune by disputing the claim successfully, by avoiding consumer debt, and by pushing to expand my career opportunities and income. What I do to earn and manage my income over 25 years has far more impact than a random expense.
Fate gives us one family heritage instead of another; destiny is what we create through our own actions. We can mangle a good reputation, burn through a trust fund, or develop an addiction no matter how grand a family we were born into. We can rise from poverty and dysfunction to any height based on how we shape our character around the events that befall us.
I was unlucky one day, and I fell over backward in my office chair and got up with a dislocated hip. That accident seems to have been the triggering event that led to my developing fibromyalgia. Bad luck! What those years of pain and fatigue and general suffering did was to give me an endlessly burning motivating force to maintain a higher level of health and fitness. Because I know how bad it can be to wake up in a broken body, I will never stop pushing for something better. I wasn't lucky to run a marathon; I was fortunate that I could (and did) plan and save and train for it for four years.
Adversity teaches us either gratitude or helplessness. Shared adversity both builds and destroys relationships. It's not the event so much as the interpretation of the event, not the timeline but the perspective. Whenever I feel sorry for myself, I think of Stephen Hawking, and how I'll never suffer five percent of what he has, or produce five percent as much that benefits posterity.
I am incredibly fortunate to have an education, to be of sound mind and body, and to be happily married. I'm fortunate because I was able to overcome all the bad luck that came my way. But the happy part of my marriage came about through communication and attitude, not luck. My fitness level came about through a thousand workouts and ten thousand meal choices, not luck. My higher education came about through half a dozen side gigs, dozens of all-nighters, hundreds of pages written, thousands of pages read, and a lot of effort, not luck. Overcome the bad luck, amplify the good luck.
It's part of the human condition to trust untrustworthy people, to get ill, to stumble through collisions and spills and falls and accidents, to incur unanticipated expenses. Strife is mandatory. We are given neither the day nor the hour, and we get one lifespan, length variable. This is why we learn, with imagination, to choose gratitude. Acceptance, at the bare minimum. If we can't accept that we have the power to make things better, at least we can acknowledge that it could always be worse.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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