For many years, my closest friend at work appeared, by all accounts, to be a wise, pragmatic and altogether unsuperstitious gentleman, afraid of nothing. With one exception. He always took a vacation day or a sick day every Friday the thirteenth. More than that; at the beginning of the year, once new vacation time was available, the first thing he'd do would be to consult the calendar, look for any Friday the thirteenths in that year, and book those vacation days up right away, before anything else. (I believe there's alweays at least one every year, and there can be as many as three, like in 2009). It turns out he'd had a bad experience on one such occurrence; on his way to work, several bizarre and unusual events had marked his journey, culminating in a piece of lawn furniture flying over a garden wall and hitting his windshield while he waited at a stop light. After that, no more. No risking journeying to work on the fateful day. Friggatriskaidekaphobia, indeed. To be rational about it one might suggest that, were any bad luck to occur to him on that day, it could happen to him around the house, perhaps a misplaced roller-skate on the stairs, or accidentally leaving a spoon in a bowl reheating in the microwave; but the argument does not hold water; he took his day off work, whether his boss liked it or not. Lat year, an emergency got him called in on one of the fated days. He came, but on one condition – someone who had already made it safely to work, thus somehow proving they were exempt from the curse, would have to drive out to his house and pick him up.
For us, plans for this weekend were nothing special; it's the weekend where I'm gritting my teeth waiting for the next paycheck; it's the weekend that C has to work, so there would be no extravagances; a bit of housework here and there, a few simple heat-and-eat meals to get me through, perhaps a bit of blogging, a bit of messing around on the computer. The first weekend of the English Premier League, that would be something. A bit of reading. Nothing too exciting, and sometimes, no excitement is a good thing. It's been obvious for quite a few days that things weren't going to turn out that way. Two of C's sisters were in hospital; all the other sisters are scattered all over the country, and keeping in touch at times like this requires more than Facebook, but real words, real comfort, with a real voice on the other end of a 'phone. My father went for a check-up as well, an MRA, I hadn't heard of that before, but it's A for angiogram, another word I've added to my dictionary of words I need to know since my father's seizure. Some little things; a little embarrassment at the gym yesterday; later on, dropping chocolate-covered acai berries all over the floor at the checkout at the grocery store. Shaking off the small things as part of life's rich tapestry; taking care of the important things, the health of our families, the things that matter. Perhaps the little mishaps stumble upon us as we're preoccupied with the larger ones. Then this morning, discovering that I need to be 2000 miles away for legal reasons. In four days' time. No excuses. It's enlightening to see how the two of us handle this news. I panic, I throw my hands up in desperation, I surrender. She is deliberate, clear-thinking, absolute, focused. She's what I need. Somehow, she manages to see a way to get me there. I can't even imagine how I've managed the past almost forty years on this planet without this person. I now know for certain, I wouldn't be able to make it a single day on my own.
Is Friday the thirteenth really unlucky? Surely, to admit to that, you have to at least accept that a concept such as luck exists at all; otherwise, good luck and bad luck likewise can't possibly exist. The analytical sides of our brains surely tell us that luck is just an artifact of our brains attempting to find patterns in the patternless; it's not that things like trouble happen in threes; they happen in ones, with a couple of short gaps between them. Even the most hardwired scientific of us though will close our eyes when rolling the dice during that big backgammon finish, where, while we're quite happy to attribute our wins to skill, our losses are "bad luck". We try to encourage ourselves with glib soundbites, claiming that "we make our own luck", refusing to let ourselves be drawn into possibilities that the cards have been decided upfront, that we have complete free will, and more control than we actually do. We can't, for instance, blame ourselves, or blame luck, for the action or inaction of others. The world is a chaotic system, in the new-agey-cagey, fashionable-mathematical-scientific, hand-wavey-obscure sense of the word, the sort of thing that Jeff Goldblum can explain in 30 seconds in Jurassic Park. There are just too many moving parts; as a result, the outcomes are far from predictable. That's what we live and breathe for, after all. If we knew where we were all going, we wouldn't be so thrilled by the journey.
A few days ago, a commenter told me that I was coming up smelling like a rose, to keep my chin up, and all would be fine. We weather life's ups and downs, and should strive to make sure that the ups are as up as we can make them, while the downs are shallow and short-lived. I'm reminded of something my partner told me, shortly after we met. We made promises to each other, including that we would stick by each other, even when things are difficult, I said. I was quickly corrected. Especially when things are difficult, C told me. Indeed, we have already been through difficulties which would seem insurmountable to many, and have had each other to lean on to get through them. This is just another one of those. Normal service will be resumed shortly.