Thursday, November 17, 2005

Bad Luck: Learning to Laugh in the Face of Irritation

What is it with me and bad luck? Why am I so fixated on it? Is it really so bad? Isn't this just the manifestation of pessimism and negativity in my life?

Generally speaking, one could argue that my bad luck is simply the result of my heightened awareness to negative things - that my ADD is at fault because I have a hard time ignoring distractions and background noise. But bad luck for me transcends distraction and becomes a bit more inconvenient. When I'm the only one I know with wet socks daily, failing electronic devices, bizarre encounters with people, fines from the EPA, etc. it's hard to blame it all on ADD. Hey, I'm the type of guy who needs those extended warranties salesmen are always pushing on people. Apple called me yesterday to upsell me on an Apple Care package for my iBook and I was grateful! Little do they know what a bad investment I am. I've had motherboards and LCD screens replaced under Apple Care. But that's OK. Don't tell them. I'll happily pay $249 to protect my iBook. I bet it's planning on exploding next Friday the day after the warranty expires.

No, I don't think I'm paranoid. I think the Universe just likes to annoy me - as if I'm the best running joke it's seen in a long millenia. Most people feel I'm exaggerating, but friends and family know the real story - and stay very far away. Think I'm kidding? Ask my friend, Quinn, if he'd like me to buy him any electronic equipment.

I thought of writing about bad luck again when I walked smack dab into some spider webbing for the second day in a row last week. You know the feeling? You're minding your own business when suddenly you are entangled with an invisible stickiness that won't come off your face? No? Well, it reminded me of being in seventh grade and racing through the woods on my bike to get to school with my friends. They would all be ahead of me on the same path and I would be the only one collecting spider webs across the face over and over again. I could never figure out how my friends missed the webs, or why I couldn't.

As a child I honestly believed that there was something wrong with me - that it was my fault. Now I know better. What I found interesting was that I thought back on those days with amusement. When did those traumatic days become funny to me? Perhaps my efforts to improve my optimism and outlook on life are paying off.

Take the other night for instance. Dinner was a fiasco. My wife scorched the spaghetti sauce into a blackened tomato potpouri, there was a long strand of hair in a mouthful of chicken I snitched, I stepped in a cold, wet spill on the rug, and my four year old daughter spewed water in my face. All within ten minutes. I have to admit. I wasn't laughing at first. My seven and ten year olds were, however. Even my wife was laughing. I scowled at first but was won over by all the giggling going on around me. The Juicy Lucy was pretty funny.

Life hits us in clusters sometimes. We can ruminate about the terrible things happening to us or we can make the best of it. Maybe even count our blessings. For example, while I kid about the terrible dinner my wife served, I know two guys who don't have a wife. They don't even have prospects. I don't think there's anything wrong with them. They simply aren't lucky in love. Perhaps that was the only thing I was ever lucky in.

A regular reader, Suzanne, commented last Spring that negativity might bring on bad luck:
"I've been thinking about it lately, I'm wondering whether bad luck is to some extent a self-fulfilling prophecy and whether it can be willfully transformed."

It's an interesting premise. I've certainly seen the opposite to be true. I have watched nauseatingly positive people glide through life effortlessly with opportunities practically attacking them from every corner on their way home from work or school. I have wondered if their rosy outlook on life shaped what events life tossed their way. I have wondered if my depression and my ADD had the opposite effect on the string of events around me. It's not to say that bad things don't happen to well-adjusted and happy people, but that bad things happen to the rest of us far more frequently. Perhaps positivity can offset negative events, or at least equip us better for dealing with them.

However, I am a magnet for the bizarre unlike anyone else I know. Bad luck possibly trains me to laugh more at life than I would otherwise do. I used to have a friend who doubted, but he changed his mind when he did a fast food run one day. We told him to check the order because nobody ever gets it right when I'm involved and he dismissed our fears. Smugly, he returned and showed us how each item was made just as we ordered. Then he took a deep bite into his hamburger only to discover they had forgotten to include the meat.