The other day I got into a debate with someone who believes that rich people are smarter than poor people, which is a myth rich people would like to propagate much as I would like to spread the news that writers are all frickin’ geniuses. Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, the argument goes something like…”you don’t get to be a billionaire if you’re an idiot.”
My boyfriend explained that rich people have to believe they deserve their wealth or poor people wouldn’t deserve poverty. In order to deserve something we need to earn it, so they convince themselves they earned it—even if their wealth was handed to them or stolen from the poor.
Mind boggling, right? I have a boyfriend, which brings me to my point; it’s all about luck. Say you’re in the .0001% wealthwise. Chances are you were born in the United States or a palace. You can’t really argue there was any shrewd business calculus on your part. Likewise, five decades in I found my bookend, the one who makes me happy, my soul mate. Believe me, I have tried everything known to humankind to ferret out Mr. Right including dating (and occasionally marrying) every Mr. Wrong I could get my hands on including a man in California whom a mutual friend dubbed “the most inappropriate man in L.A.” (I can only assume Mary Knox-Sitley meant L.A. proper with its population of 4,000,000 and not Los Angeles County, which would have made the odds 1 in 13,000,000 that I’d snared the most unsuitable mate in the world’s fifth largest economy. I mean, come on!)
After years of dates with Satan, men with eating disorders, mother issues, addictions, predilections, poor taste in music and hairy wens, the man who takes my breath away landed right in my lap. I hadn’t set out to find him. I wasn’t smart about it and I am not the most deserving by a long shot. I did pretty well on my own, truth be told. I liked the quiet. So what gives? Luck, my friends. Pure luck.
In fairness there were some really cool guys along the way, but for whatever reason either the timing was bad: “Will you wait for me until, a) I get out of the joint, b) my divorce is final, c) the drugs kick in?” or there was no chemistry. I wouldn’t say I gave up as much as I deferred the love search for some future time when I’d be even more aged and there’d be even fewer men from which to choose. And then it happened.
Two people in the same place at the same time—literally and figuratively. It was July 4, so the fireworks were more than a cheesy metaphor. He was funny, engaging, and really smart and I noticed him watching me when he didn’t think I was looking. Maybe these sound like normal things to you, but for me…I’m kind of a bull in a china shop when it comes to dating so trust me when I say it was pure luck that I was paying attention on this occasion. The chemistry was palpable; right beneath it, like a strong current in black water, luck was pulling me under.
There is a question I ponder every day: are there things we can do to increase luck?—the basic premise of Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale. I’m still in research mode so I do not have a definitive answer, but I have discovered a few strategies along the way.
1. Eyes open.
My grandma used to say you won’t find a penny on the floor if a bird poops on your face. I’m sure it was more lyrical in her native Czech, but what I think she was trying to tell me was that you need to be on the lookout for real treasure, not pie-in-the-sky dreams. What if luck was right there under your nose, for example, but you were too busy obsessing about having eaten a 2lb. Toblerone bar for lunch? (I’m sure in Czech that would also sound prettier, less gluttonesque.)
Put down your phone, book or chocolate bar and look around. Listen. Watch. Worst case scenario you will see some beautiful stuff and you might just find a lucky penny on the floor. On any given day it is also possible that sitting right next to you, inches away, is someone who could take your breath away (in a good way, not as in strangulation as a form of sex play, which leads me to #2).
2. Be specific.
If there is anything I’ve learned it is to be specific. My friend Ashami pointed this out in the wee hours after a big party at my house. As “Barry” skulked down the driveway with a lumpy pillowcase that looked like it might contain candlesticks and a Blu-Ray player, Ashami sipped her wine and said, “You really need to be more specific when you say you want a man.”
It’s not like I recently said ‘please bring me an incredibly sexy artist with a big brain, beautiful hands and a tender heart,” but when I did put it out there that I was open to at least chatting with Mr. Right, I asked the universe and goddesses to stop lobbing Barrys at me. That sort of specificity is the key to the whole operation.
3. Raise your standards.
In the search for a mate, whether we have been accused of being too picky or we have single girlfriends who’ve been labeled such, the reality is that we are not nearly picky enough. Traits and vices that we would never tolerate in a million years from a friend or even a family member somehow become “quirky” or “eccentric” in the host body of a man with a job and a perfunctory knowledge of the English language.
Conventional dating wisdom tells us that we will broaden our horizons if we lower our standards. It may be a mathematical equation, but it’s horseshit. There is nothing lonelier than being with the wrong person even if it is for the right reasons. Seriously. We have one life.
4. Be yourself.
I wasted a lot of time trying to be a version of myself that I thought men would find alluring. The mishaps were legion. I ended up attracting men who were so uninteresting to me that I’d have to sabotage things just to make a clean getaway, and what the hell kind of crap is that when I could have just stayed home and read?
I am not easy. I’m not a bargain. But at this point in my life what you see is what you get. Jeez, I wish I’d have been her years ago, because luck—that indefinable thing that carries to us treasure on a silver platter—only happens when we are our authentic selves, otherwise the universe and goddesses get confused and they send George Clooney to that Amal woman, who judging from everything I have seen has had her share, and more, of all the luck on earth.
Mates of any description do not complete us. Perhaps the thing about luck—really good luck—is that we are the prize, and they are the lucky ones.
It’s probably safe to say that most of us aspire to be loving creatures. We spend a lot of time figuring out how to love others, but everything we understand and know about love pretty much begins with how well we love…us. Wow. That’s a tough one for a lot of people, but what can we possibly know about loving someone else if we aren’t intimately familiar with the concept of loving ourselves?
We have stigmatized “loving thyself” with the fear that we will be labeled egomaniacal or narcissistic, but those are traits that describe humans who don’t so much love themselves as hold themselves to a lesser standard than they hold the rest of humanity.
A politician who espouses family values literally gets caught with his pants down in a public toilet in the company of a meth addict transsexual prostitute and he begs our forgiveness. (I’d find it comical if it weren’t so, so ironic that he asks to be pardoned for having sex with a drug dealer/hooker rather than for signing legislation that limits other people’s rights to have sex with whomever they please, marry whomever they love and use whichever bathroom matches their sexual identity.) But I digress.
We end up forgiving the scumbag because…why? He cried on television. We eat an extra piece of cake and can’t forgive ourselves. Sheesh.
As a nation we are on a mission to end bullying in schools and yet we bully ourselves every single day. I was loading groceries into my trunk earlier this week when a woman pulled into the spot beside me, got out of her car, dug around in her bag and then smacked herself, hard, across the forehead. You know me. I had to ask.
“I forgot my grocery list,” she explained, a red welt forming above her nose. “My kids will kill me if I get the wrong cereal.” I automatically despised her children and wanted to take the woman home with me—to pamper her and drink wine with her, but instead I suggested she not be so hard on herself and she tell her brats to get their own damn cereal. “They’re three and five,” she said, retreating into her car as I tried to hug her. I’m not sure how toddlers could kill an adult, but I still disliked them for making a perfectly lovely woman hit herself in the face. “Love yourself!” I shouted as she peeled out of the parking lot. (To self-soothe I gave myself a hug.)
I’ve consulted the pros about self love, you know, Oprah and Deepak, and they say identifying the sources of our inner pain—fear, anxiety, jealousy, stress, abuse, etc. and then learning how to let those things go is the key to truly loving ourselves. Bah. There, I said it. Bah! How about we identify the things that bring us joy and peace and we focus on those?
Do I love myself more when I’m zoomed in on my political anger or when I hug it out with an old friend? I can tell you that stress, anger and anxiety do not make me exactly lovable. In fact, I’ve been told in some circumstances that I actually have an evil face. There’s definitely a time and a place for dealing with our inner issues and learning how to get past them, but in terms of learning to love ourselves to the extent that we can better love others…nothing beats lightness, and joy.
Walking my dogs this morning I stumbled upon a small patch of wildflowers just off the road. When I got closer I saw they were abuzz with great big bumblebees. A little rabbit hopped out of the thicket and into the woods. The clouds were those big, dense white cotton balls that seem to explode off the blueness of the sky. My dogs were smiling. I was overcome with such joy that I wanted to cry.
I stood there, grateful for this moment on this day. I looked inward. I had nothing but love in my heart—love for other people, sure. But I felt good about myself because gratitude does that.
In that moment, had anyone seen me, I promise you they would have found me lovable, and for the rest of today I feel like I could wrap my arms around the whole world.
Maybe it’s too simple. I’m not a psychiatrist or self help guru. Hell, half the time I can’t find my ass with both hands. I am an astute observer however, which is the basis for building fictional characters who seem real. I look at people whom I consider extremely loving and they are always without exception very lovable. They hold their heads high. They take care of themselves. They love themselves. Then they go out into the world…and they love everybody else.
I wanna be that.
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