Lucky Ticket

When you get a lottery ticket and scratch it off to see if you won, the odds are not in your favor. Most of the time you will come out a loser.

Some days I feel that if you scratch just beneath my surface, you will find a losing lottery ticket and finally, see that I am just that, a loser.  I know I am not but there is nothing rational about shame, and when it hijacks me, I bump into that awkward, embarrassing teenager I once was, and it is hard to get back on my feet. 

Yesterday was off to a good start. I took the dogs for a walk, and I was excited at 2 PM for a meeting about a potential job. I was feeling confident, and then it started slipping out from under me. I was running a little behind because my walk took longer than I thought. I was planning to pull off a second day of not washing my hair, but when I looked in the mirror with not a lot of time to spare, I regretted that decision. 

I was determined not to let the rush to get out the door or my bad hair day get me down. I pulled myself together and made it to the meeting on time. I started off strong but I quickly felt the itching and knew rising to the surface was the feeling of being an unlucky lottery ticket. 

I recall my second or third date with Jay when he told me he was a recovering gambling addict. Although this may have been a red flag to some, I relaxed a little knowing that even when he saw me at my unluckiest, he understood and would not judge or leave me. He must have seen the same in me. 

Junebug would never forget her first day at her new all girls school in 8th grade. She took her anti-depressant along with her asthma medication in the morning, and she must have taken too much of something. As she sat in first period, she started feeling off, and that was confirmed when she burped out loud. Her mom came to pick her up and she went home humiliated. When you begin a new school year with a burp, it is unfortunate, but with undiagnosed learning issues, she never felt lucky in school.

She felt weird at her new school. You could say she was ahead of her time being on medication and living in her neighborhood because both are trendy now but hindsight does not bridge the differences she felt.  It was not cool to brag about her "spring break", a.k.a two week stay in a psychiatric hospital the spring preceding 8th grade. She knew many parents probably did not consider her a first choice friend for their daughter.

Junebug's house was nice and practical but not fancy. She was embarrassed by her bedroom carpet which was stained with grape juice, and her comforter was not Laura Ashley like she wanted, but rather a blue plaid design from LL Bean. She did not think she looked cute in her plaid skirt and oxford shirt like the other girls. The anti-depressant she took made her gain weight, and when she looked in the mirror on most days, she regretted  midnight refrigerator visits washed down by grape juice she would spill on her carpet. She did not have the cute long braids of other girls but flat straight hair that she had no idea how to style.

Her mom worked full-time, and on many days, she stayed as late as the janitors waiting for a ride home. Once a week, a green checker taxi cab would pick her up from school to take her to the psychiatrist. She sat in his waiting room listening to public radio, and when she saw him, his eyes would roll back in his head as he nodded off because he was tired at the end of the day. Being a very insecure, teen girl, she did not know what to say to this older, reserved man, and she did not know how to express it was not helping her.

She came home on many evenings to her math tutor who always smelled of cigarettes and the lesson I remember most was about his daughter's gas tank and how when it was almost empty but not quite, she would fill it up with gas. I have no idea how this relates to math, but it stuck with me, although not enough since I have run out of gas and many days, I run low on steam. Self-esteem.

If you knew me in high school, you might not have any idea how I felt just below the surface. I recovered from my first day of my 8th-grade incident and made many friends and looked like I was having fun but if you looked closer, you might have seen I was white knuckling it. My trouble-making personalty was a charades, and I was holding on for dear life.  

I was so afraid of someone finding out the real truth under my surface. I felt like maybe they could see my lip tremble or they would know how much I needed the Wild Turkey I stole from my parents' liquor cabinet that gave me courage on the weekends. I kept looking outside of myself to figure out where I fit. I did not realize that only I held the winning lottery ticket.

As I was taking my dogs for a walk yesterday, I remembered a Little Golden Classics book that I read to my kids when they were young called Mister Dog. I don't remember many of the books I read to my kids, but this one stuck with me. It starts: Once upon a time there was a funny dog named Crispin Crispian. He was named Crispin Crispian because he belonged to himself.

Every time I read those words to my kids, I paused and tried to soak them in knowing I was exhausted from spending most of my life trying to belong to everyone but myself. I am writing my way to a deeper sense of who I am because underneath the surface; I will find where I belong.

she belonged to herself

Shovels & Rope, After the Storm - Me & my lucky dog, Lucky