Thursday, November 24, 2011

luck and gratitude

walking out of our temporary apartment building yesterday to pick up our gluten-free jalapeno cornbread, i spotted a shiny penny on the carpet.

i picked it up. "hurray!" i smiled at rara, "i am SO lucky!"

she said, "it was face down, that's not lucky. you shouldn't have picked it up."

me: "i don't believe that. i pick up ALL pennies, they are all lucky!"

she giggled, "maybe that's why you have such bad luck."

me: "i don't have bad luck! i am one of the luckiest people!"

she said, "you have the worst luck of anyone - you got cancer, you lost your apartment, you got hit by a taxi, your new apartment got flooded, your car was eaten by rats - mama, you are NOT lucky!"

i started laughing myself: "i got cancer and i got well, we have another apartment in the same neighborhood, i survived the taxi accident with just a few scars, we're staying in temporary apartment on the 47th floor with the most beautiful views ever, the insurance fixed my car. my exhusband sued me and realized he had to drop the case, i do work i love. i have great friends and i have three smart and pretty daughters -"

rara interrupted, laughing, too: "ok, at least, you have ONE smart pretty daughter."

it made me think about tennessee williams' quote: "luck is believing you are lucky." there's a theory that luck is a psychological state rather than a psychic one. lucky people see the positive side to every situation.

and lucky people are grateful ones. as ariana huffington says, we should also "occupy gratitude."

there is so much i am grateful for. apart from all the things i already told rara, it's the pleasure of sitting in a stream of sunlight in the morning as i drink my tea. it's the ability to fill my lungs with air and exhale a satisfying breath. i am so grateful for breathing.

and there's the elasticity in my muscles when i swim laps - oh how delicious to be able to swim after my months of chemo - to be weightless and cocooned in the water and free of ivs and wires. and being able to walk around on my own, to think clearly, to remember. i love being able to sleep. sinking into a pillow at night and drifting off or the luxury of occasionally being able to sleep late into the morning.

and the surprising, painful joy of waking early enough to see the sunrise. that magical moment when anything is possible.

i am grateful that my children always have fresh, abundant food and clean beds to sleep in and more clothes than they know what to do with. they have lots of shoes and our apartment is warm and watertight. i am grateful that they know they are loved by their parents (even if their parents don't love each other). i am grateful that when it's raining or snowing, i can pick them up in a car and we can all drive warm and dry in the car, unlike so many people who must walk or sleep or live outside.

i am grateful that i am not frightened anyone will hurt me or that bombs will explode outside my home or the school. that my daughters all made it up to adolescence with all their limbs intact and without being hurt or molested or abused.

i am grateful for the small unexpected moments of luck that seem to show up on my doorstep - a shiny penny! the elevator right there when i walk out! the subway arriving just as i get to the platform! problems that find solutions (with a lot of persistence)! a new project that fills me with the thrill of an intellectual challenge as i rush to solve it.

finding white roses with pink edges in the supermarket and being able to afford to bring them home. having the vision to see them, oh they are so beautiful and alive! and the world is filled with so many beautiful things to drink in with your eyes.

how lucky, how lucky to be able to see.

five years ago, in november, i drove down the pacific coast highway from san francisco to santa cruz, california to visit my college friends. i was so struck by the incredible, brutal beauty of the cliffs and the sea that i had to keep stopping the car to gaze at it. the 2-hour drive took me 4. i kept thinking that those views were the reason i had eyes. that in some sense, i existed in order to witness that beauty.

two years ago, i spent thanksgiving in the emergency room at memorial sloan kettering and when i got home i was too sick to eat anything. but i am still grateful for my cousin noor who sat with me for hours and my friend and healer, penney leyshon, who appeared like an angel in my curtained cubicle and made the bleeding stop with her energy. my brother who baked a pumpkin pie with no dairy or sugar or wheat.

i am grateful for my skin, my hair, my body. that i regained all the nerve sensation in my fingers and i touch and feel so many lovely things.

i breathed a sigh of gratitude upon hearing that my friend mona eltahawy, the courageous egyptian-american journalist, was set free after being beaten and detained by the egyptian police.

the dog licking my toes under the table...

thank YOU to the Divine, God, Allah, Jesus, Brahma, Intelligence, the Universe, for all the pleasures of the flesh as well as the soul.
Each one of my particles called out with its own voice,
"All praise be to God and thanksgiving!"

— Jalaluddin Rumi
how lucky we are.


  1. Dear Ameena,

    Really enjoyed reading your post...beautifully said and also inspirational...Hope your daughters read it and I'll make sure that my two muchkins read it as well... Really enjoyed our phone chat on Wednesday and I look forward to us working together...Happy Thanksgiving! karim

  2. beautiful post. please don't forget your gratitude for the decisions made by your ancestors that allowed you to be where you are.