I never “win” anything.
Not lottery fortunes.
Not golf tournaments…well, some, but not many.
Although the latter is the result of talent and grit, the lottery simply comes down to dumb luck. And given the law of averages, one would think that at some point you might get lucky.
I mean even a blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time.
As fate would have it, my ship came finally came in. At Christmas time, while shopping at a local jewelers for family presents, the manager announced that my relatively modest purchases had qualified me for the shop’s holiday raffle.
I gave it little thought until months later when I received a voicemail message from the store’s manageress asking me to phone her back.
“You came in second in our raffle drawing,” she said.
“What did I win? I asked expectantly”
“5-Thousand dollars,” she said.
I was as giddy as one of Oprah Winfrey’s fans during her legendary giveaways when the tv host bought every single person in the audience a brand new car, and, on the 25th anniversary of her show, an all-expenses paid, 8 day journey to Australia.
Those lucky prizes are Disney dreams come true. But I was pretty delighted with my little pot of luck as well.
“As a matter of interest,” I asked, “what was first prize?”
“$10-Thousand Dollars,” she said.
I told her that both purses were very generous and commended her company’s commitment to customer service.
“Was it a man or a woman who won first prize,” I asked.
“It was a man, she said. “And he asked for the money.”
Really. Such poor form.
It reminded me of the time a homeless man had asked me for cash and when I gave him some annoyingly said, “Is that all?”
This raffle win was such an unexpected treat. A gift, really.Completely out of the blue. Sheer luck.
And a lovely surprise. Like receiving a card in the mail, for no good reason at all.
Yet it has been many months since I received word of my windfall and still I have purchased nothing as a mystifying sense of guilt battles against my highly developed streak of selfishness.
“Do you want me to buy us both something,” I asked my husband.
“No, you won it, you get something for yourself,” he said.
But I feel guilt. A lot people do I found when they experience even the smallest or largest of victories.
“ The term “Pyrrhic Victory,” writes Dr Joseph M Carver, PhD, is often given to guilt and shame following a victory — based on the battle of Asculum in 279 BC in which overwhelming forces won a battle against the Romans only to find that no Roman soldier had a wound in his back — nobody ran. The winning army also sustained staggering losses to such a small force. While the large army won…they actually lost.”
The victory felt undeserved.
I have a friend who is not only battling cancer but because of a weakened immune system is susceptible to other illnesses which is exactly what landed her in the hospital for an unrelated condition.
She feels awful so I offered to bring her lunch.
“You can’t get to my house,” she said. “They are asphalting the entire road and it’s closed between 8.30 to 4.30.”
What’s more, her partner is away and she has to pack and get ready to travel while trying to cure her raging fever.
The heavens conspire against her it seems. She would welcome a little luck in her life. She deserves it. I don’t.
Published reports suggest many “lucky” people have similar feelings of unworthiness. “Up to 80% of the lottery winners in this country file bankruptcy within five years.” And two of the reasons included (are),
1) I don’t deserve this
2) I feel guilty because it happened to me and not (so and so).”
Maybe if we understood the science of “luck” we would see that it is not as arbitrary as you think and thus, not as undeserved as you might predict.
American President Thomas Jefferson is remembered for this wise line. “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
Richard Wiseman, an English psychologist, might agree. He conducted a ten year study to see “why some people seem to live charmed lives full of lucky breaks and chance encounters, while others experience one disaster after another.”
“I asked lucky and unlucky people to imagine that they were waiting to be served in a bank,” Wiseman said. “Suddenly, an armed robber enters the bank, fires a shot, and the bullet hits them in the arm. Would this event be lucky or unlucky?”
According to Wiseman, unlucky people said it was definitely their bad luck to have been in the bank that day.
“In contrast, said Wiseman, “lucky people viewed the scenario as being far luckier, and often spontaneously commented on how the situation could have been far worse. As one lucky participant commented, “It’s lucky because you could have been shot in the head.”
“Psychologists refer to our ability to imagine what might have happened, rather than what actually did happen, as “counterfactual.” And it can be a valuable trait.
This experiment proved that “’lucky” people might be using counter-factual thinking to soften the emotional impact of the ill fortune that they experienced in their lives.”
It’s just one of the psychological tools experts say people can use to change their luck.
I wondered about the “unlucky” fella who had won my Christmas raffle and his disappointment with the prize-$10,000.00 in jewelry rather than what he would have preferred-$10,000.00 in cash. A lucky person would have thought, “Hey, I won a prize. I could have won nothing!”
I’m going shopping.
Guilt free and grateful.