Monday, June 10, 2013


A while ago, I wrote a post entitled, "Winning the Lottery," about rape culture in the US and its psychological impact. Today, I'd like to put a new - and rather literal, I'm afraid - spin on those words.

Anyone who knows me might say that I've already won the lottery of life. I married a wonderful man, someone who makes me laugh and holds me when I'm down and eats everything I cook, even when it's mostly vegetables. I live in a safe, beautiful home, and though we rent instead of own it has truly become our space - our art, our furniture, our ever growing collection of glassware. It's an apartment where we have grown up together, figuring out marriage and finances and fun.

I won the lottery in having an amazing sister, fourteen years my junior, who brought light into a world where I had found so little. In some ways, my sister was the driving force of turning my life around - she taught me simple pleasures that only children know, bubbles in the bath, silly songs from preschool, loving and depending on family without hesitation. That black-haired, purple-eyed infant, once so alien to me, became one of my greatest joys. If that isn't winning the lottery, I don't know what is.

I was a winner, too, in getting treatment for my bipolar disorder. Though it is still a struggle sometimes, I have a support system in my family and my doctor - something not everyone is lucky enough to have. I live a mostly normal life, a life I choose to live through writing and housework and cooking and love. Good luck, most certainly, and hard work, is this business of being healthy.

So why do I buy lottery tickets? Why should I want anything other, anything more?

When I was young, Mom and I used to play the lottery game. We'd buy the tickets and then plan what we would do with the money - a house with a yard and a treehouse out back was a dream we held on to as my mother did her best to raise me and feed me, clothe me, house me. The lottery game was an outlet for the desires made difficult by our financial situation.

There's something in me which will never get over those parts of my childhood touched by having too many dreams and too little money.

I'm not trying to be negative about the way my mother raised me - not at all. She magnificently succeeded at taking care of a growing girl, providing me with a capacity for enjoyment wholly unsullied by our lack of wealth. She gave me a place in her faith, and though she was singing in the choir at church rather than sitting beside me in the pews, I always felt a sense of wonder as she shared her belief in a compassionate God. We spent summers going to concerts, having picnics, and we spent winters sledding, building snowmen, mixing ice and sugar to make snow candy and ice cream. Mostly, she provided me with love. Though money was tight, that love was another way in which I won the lottery.

My life was and is full of love - my stepmother was a blessing, my stepfather a stroke of luck too good to believe. I didn't go wanting when it came to affection - from all four of my parents, from my grandparents, from family friends.

Six dollars a week, now, go towards the lottery. What am I looking for that I don't already have?

Most people probably don't think about the lotto in these terms - I can see it being a whim, a hint of delight at the possibility (but without any expectations). I can also see the lottery as someone's last chance at finally having enough on which to get by. But for me, both of those impulses are inextricably caught up with those days when Mom and I planned our treehouse. It's a legacy of not quite having enough that I can't seem to shake.

My husband and I are embarking on that complicated voyage which is buying a house. The housing market in Columbia is a lot more intense than we anticipated - I think we expected the demand to be quite low, but Columbia, being in Howard County, benefiting from a top notch school system, positioned perfectly between Baltimore and DC, is a hot market where properties are sold as soon as they are listed. Finding a house which fits our budget and other criteria has been quite a challenge. We've just found something we like, which is exciting; even so, we are trying to be as financially smart and safe as possible. Without several factors going our way, this house could slip out of reach. Not a big deal, in some ways - as I said, we love where we are living now.

But I've got two tickets in my wallet, and sometimes I pray to that compassionate God - who could chide me, maybe, for my apparent materialism and greediness - that He might spin the numbers my way. I whisper all the things I would do, from fixing up my grandmother's house, to restoring the organ at church in my grandfather's name, to helping my stepmother with rent; I will do it all, I think, and keep only what is needful. I will follow Christ's teachings and give to not only my family but to those in need. Whatever you want, God, I will do.

When I was little, I hoped that someday money would be abolished, and that everyone would have what they needed without those dirty, crumpled bills. No bank accounts, no credit cards, just freedom from wealth and debt.

I'm realizing now that I've gone on and on about money, which is one of those things you are definitely not supposed to do. Forgive me - I tend to write here about all things impolite. My takeaway message is not about needing more money, or about worshipping at the altar of consumerism, or about a childhood lived well but without enough. This is what I mean to say -

I have so, so much. And I am grateful. Old habits might die hard - but new habits, mindfulness, peace in the present, are the stronger foundations of this life I share with my husband, my sister, my mom, my family, my God.

And if that's what it means to win the lottery, I'll take it.

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