Are You Superstitious?

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A bird flew into my window last week and died.

I’m trying not to overreact about the implications of this tragedy, because I have had a year of crazy and would like to believe I am crawling out of the hole. Or am I? Are we really ever on the other side when things go awry?

Don’t step on a crack. Don’t walk under a ladder. And absolutely don’t cross the path of a black cat. This is the way I was raised. I was in constant fear of the hundreds of cracks on my daily walk to elementary school. And it didn’t stop there. Three decades ago, we were having trouble getting pregnant. Driving in Martha’s Vineyard, we met a black cat on the road. I panicked and begged my husband to turn the car around. I spent weeks fixated on that cat, wondering if it was a sign. Did it mean that no baby would be born to make our family complete?

I called my neighbor (as I hid from the bird carcass) because she knows everyone and I needed a person who specialized in ridding my porch of the bird’s lifeless body. “For god’s sake, I’ll be right over,” she said. Within minutes she arrived, armed with gardening gloves, and proceeded to pick up the remains and place him/her gingerly in the corner of the yard. I was somewhat shocked but mostly impressed. She handled the situation without thinking twice about the bad juju its untimely death could bring to her life.

Why is it that some people embrace superstitious behavior while others simply don’t care?

Is it a genetic thing? Is it cultural? My superstitious mother was southern yet so is my fearless neighbor. I know my mother would have fretted about the meaning of bird’s death for weeks. At least this is what I think would have happened. But I don’t really know.

It’s weird when you lose people who hold the keys to your past. I don’t even know why my mother was so superstitious, or why she imparted these values on me.  Black cats crossing my path still rattle me. So do birds flying into windows. Maybe there is a piece of me that wants to keep her alive. She was smart and beautiful but as I have written before, not the best at being my mother. But she was my mother and she brought me into this world. I have a lot to be grateful for because of her. 

I have fears and worries, just like her. Just ask my children who think I teeter on the straightjacket edge whenever they get on a plane or rent a car or go out until 3 am.

I have to keep my concerns in check so I don’t drive husband or myself mad (especially when one of my texts goes unanswered for hours.) Living in fear is no way to be, and I don’t want to be the girl who avoids ladders and cracks in the sidewalks. However, I am not sure that at this stage in the game, I can just brush off the superstitious signs that were taught to me from a very young age.

Evan Muller of the blog states that the opposite of love is fear. Superstition, by definition, is a fear of that which is unknown.

I often wonder if my mother’s upbringing – steeped in a lack of love – is how she became committed to worrying about what would happen if that black cat ran back and forth in front of her. I wonder if the turmoil that surrounded her childhood led her down a path of fear.  I can question her beliefs, but I will never get an answer. There is no one left to ask.

Later that day, I made a field trip to the corner of the yard in search of the bird. Instead of spending the next few days fixated on what could go wrong, I went to a concert, ate homemade Lebanese food at my girlfriend’s house and had a beach day with someone I love. And I haven’t been run over by a car. Yet.

There is  a sailboat in Falmouth Harbor named “Big Bird.” My daughter clung to a stuffed Big Bird doll when she was young, chewing its nose to the core. She grew up to be a competitive sailor. What do we make of the good signs? The ones that give us hope like a rainbow after a storm? Can’t we just focus on these during our second act?

I know it will be rough again. There will be hard times for me and for those I love most in the world.

I have to believe, however, that it’s all just part of life. And I plan on petting that cute little black cat next time it tries to cross my path. I’ll try love instead of fear and see how it all works out.

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