That Thirteen Something

I don’t have a lot of superstitions. I find black cats adorable, broken mirrors are just a mess to clean up, and I could step on a sidewalk’s worth of cracks without screwing up my family’s spines any worse than they already are.

But I have to admit, I’m getting a little edgy about the number 13. Or to be more accurate, about 2013.

Something in this year has it in for us.

Granted, Heather and I have gone in for long streaks of bizarre luck at times. Our honeymoon, for example, was marked by a torrential downpour that washed every “Just Married” inscription from the car, a Mexican restaurant that left us both ill, and a local bird population that repeatedly mistook my wife for a bombing range. You know, the usual.

But this last January … well, where do I begin?

There’s the back I strained (though thankfully not outright pulled) while helping my sister-in-law move to Lakewood. Naturally, work was missed.

There’s the flu that bombed Heather and Missy just as I recovered from the back strain. Naturally, more work was missed.

Then, of course, the flu jumped to me after three straight days of caring for Heather and Missy. Naturally … ah, you’ve heard that one.

Having the bathroom pipes leak through the kitchen ceiling added a bit of spice to my own bout with the flu. (Rain on the kitchen table gives a home such atmosphere, don’t you think?) And I shouldn’t leave out the joys of getting Missy the antibiotic she needed to speed her own recovery … only to discover she was brilliantly allergic to the medicine in question.

Have you ever seen a young woman turn into a human strawberry? I really don’t recommend it.

The irony is that I used to dread Februaries, the half-forgotten tail end of the winter season. Now, I’m leaping into the month like a welcoming bath after a long day.

It’s got to get better – right?

The funny thing is, the belief that “it’s got to get better” can be a big part of making it better. There’s been a few studies of lucky or unlucky people over the years and they seem to reach the same conclusion: more often than not, the lucky make their luck.

“Lucky people are certain that the future is going to be full of good fortune,” said writer Eric Barker, himself citing researcher Richard Wiseman. “These expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies by helping lucky people persist in the face of failure, and shape their interactions with others in a positive way.”

In other words, people who look for the best, even while undergoing the worst, tend to find it. They don’t give up.

The idea reminded me of the Lloyd Alexander fantasy novels I read as a child, where the character Llonio the Lucky kept his nets on the river and his eyes on his surroundings and was able to reclaim all sorts of odd objects as a result – all of which proved to be useful, once a little imagination was applied.

“Trust your luck, Taran Wanderer,” he tells the main character at one point. “But don’t forget to put out your nets!”

My own nets have caught a lot of wonderful things over the years – a good family, a good job, friends I love and value. (Still no $3 million dollar fortune, alas, but I suppose you can’t have everything.) And if there’s been one good thing about this latest streak of trouble, it’s been that it let me spend more time with Heather and Missy, maybe even catch some quiet in the midst of chaos.

After all, nothing that hit us was irreparable. Nothing happened that couldn’t get better. And that’s pretty lucky, too, now that I think about it.

Even so, I may keep a careful eye out this year. Just to be thirteen – uh, I mean, certain.

Sigh.

Well, there goes February.

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