Redefining Luck

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It has been eight years this month since I left the family home I’d made in Sebastopol and moved out to the coast. With little money, a fledgling career, and two daughters still to support, it was a leap of faith greater in magnitude than any I had yet tried to pull off in my life.

The past eight years have been marked by significant losses and hard-won gains. My business crashed in the downturn and I scrambled to build a new one. My father, nephew, and several friends died. As hard as I worked, progress was always slower than I hoped on many fronts.

And yet, I have had tremendous luck. Not the kind of luck that means my worries are over, not the luck that prevents me from having to make hard choices more than once. But a slender thread of luck and serendipity is all we need sometimes to affirm that we are on the right path, doing what we’re supposed to be doing, no matter the risk.

Golden Gate Bridge 75th AnniversarySometimes it’s the small pieces of luck that feel the best, like approaching the Golden Gate Bridge on its 75th Anniversary just as the sun sets behind it. Or catching the most beautiful moonrise by virtue of getting home late after a hard day.

One of the first things I needed in my new life was to rebuild my wardrobe for where I was going, not where I’d been. I had no money for clothes, but sometimes I’d have a sudden urge to visit one or another of my favorite stores. Invariably, the one thing I really needed would be there, in the perfect color and size, at a super cheap price.

Other times my luck was larger and more harrowing, for instance when I had no work for several weeks at a stretch. I was doing everything I could to generate more work, so I took my unwanted time off as a nudge from the Universe to sit down and write that book. Each time, I had just long enough to finish the project before work started flowing in again.

And then there were numerous instances when bad stuff happened in mild ways, or things broke but the damage was minor. At every turn there was something that tested my faith and resolve, and unfailingly the answer came back: Yes. You are on the right path. Keep going.

You don’t pass this kind of luck by. You thank it, accept it, be grateful for it. Gratitude increases both the size and frequency of luck, helping you stay healthy and live longer in the process. It is absolutely my magical tool of choice.

In his memoir, Robert Johnson names this kind of luck “slender threads,” “the mysterious forces that guide us and shape who we are.”

The possibility of the slender threads operating at all times is so staggering that most of us can’t bear it…Life is not meaningless, it is overflowing with meaning, pattern, and connections.

Serendipity, synchronicity, luck, fortune, fate. Call it what you will; it will answer.

I still have grand ideas of the kind of luck I want, and I continually shoot for them. Maybe soon one of those big plays will succeed in a flash of light. Meanwhile, a million little moments of luck glitter on the path all around me, lighting my way down the road no matter what.

2 thoughts on “Redefining Luck

  1. Gail Horvath

    Anne — I appreciate the vulnerability and wisdom in your comments. It is especially tough to trust and follow those threads when your responsibilities are greater than yourself – and yet this is one of the greatest gifts that we can model for our children. One of my favorite poems:

    The Way It Is

    There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
    things that change. But it doesn’t change.
    People wonder about what you are pursuing.
    You have to explain about the thread.
    But it is hard for others to see.
    While you hold it you can’t get lost.
    Tragedies happen; people get hurt
    or die; and you suffer and get old.
    Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
    You don’t ever let go of the thread.

    By William Stafford, from The Way It Is, 1998

    Anne Reply:

    Well said, Gail. Thanks for the poem; William Stafford is one of my favorites.

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