I often catch myself doffing my hat to solitary magpies, not able to take the chance that they won’t otherwise find a way to let their sorrow seep into my life. No-one’s yet picked me up on it, stopped and enquired exactly what it is I think I’m doing, and if they did I’m not entirely sure what I’d say.
It’s not the only superstition I buy into. Unless I absolutely have to, I’m really not fond of walking under ladders. I try to convince myself that I’m being ridiculous, that it’s no big deal if the pavement and scaffolding are configured in such a way that avoiding it’s impossible. But I can’t ignore the fact that my heart quickens slightly and I apologise silently to whoever or whatever it is that might be offended by my actions. For ages I had a thing with drain covers too, adjusting my path to avoid walking over three in a row. That was pretty tricky to keep up in London, though not as tricky as avoiding stepping on the cracks between the slabs, something which I have felt compelled to try to adhere to during the more anxious periods in my life.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, exams have always been a bit of a magnifier for this irrational behaviour. I can’t remember the exact details of the little rituals I’d enact to maximise my chances of success, but I still have the tiny, intricately decorated wooden elephant my Granny gave me as I was about to sit my GCSEs. It became an essential addition to my exam pencil case, watching me from the corner of my desk. I didn’t dare to see what would happen if it wasn’t there, though I knew deep down that any power it held was all in my mind.
I find it strange that I get sucked into this kind of superstitious behaviour, as on the whole I’d consider myself to be pretty rational. I’m not religious, feeling no presence of a greater being beyond humanity. And yet there must be something in my core that fears that the universe may one day turn on me, may decide that my luck has finally run out.
Because I know that I’m insanely lucky. Even on the days when I feel like everything is going wrong – maybe especially then – I cannot help but reflect on all the things that I am blessed with. If I did believe in a god, perhaps it would be him who I would thank. But as it is I’ll just go on making my little deals with the universe and trying to make the very best I can of this wonderful life I’ve been given.
Thank you to Sara at Mum turned Mom for inspiring this post with her prompt: Calvin: You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help (Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes)