I half-expected I’d be rich by this point in my life. That’s what I supposed back when I was a smartish kid, and I never totally shook the notion. College and marriage and life and a hundred thousand separate choices–both foolish and wise–have filled up the intervening forty years or so, and now I’m pretty sure that the rich thing isn’t going to happen. Most of the routes to wealth went dark a long time ago.
Only a handful of options remain, and they’re not great: bank robbery… buried treasure… a generous Nigerian prince…
And the lottery.
Problem is, I don’t play the lottery. Not quite never–I’ve had three or four tickets in my life, I think all as gifts–but I don’t buy them myself. It’s neither laziness nor a political statement. It’s just that I understand the odds. Still, once in awhile, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to win a big payday.
The electronic billboard along the I-10 in downtown Phoenix tells me every day what the Powerball is up to. It’s always a number in the millions, except when it hit a billion. And since I’m on my way to work, and not always happy about it, the thought of being too rich to care is attractive. Somebody’s gotta win, amiright?
I put too much on work, maybe. I mean, my battle with the evil twins isn’t work’s fault. I encountered depression and anxiety on my own. Some bullshit alchemical process turns the sugar water in one’s brain to vinegar; it’s not disappointment or weariness or some other work-related emotional excess that does it.
Besides, in many ways, I still like my job, especially the creative parts. But work makes it harder to find the time I need (most people need) to heal and recharge. It makes its demands on all of us, relentlessly, mercilessly, indifferent to our wishes, like the weather, or a really bad SNL episode.
My job is probably like yours; it gives me a paycheck in exchange for most of my hours on most of my days for most of my life. That’s the deal, and I signed up like everyone else. I would take a better deal if one came along, but I don’t see that on the horizon.
So on work days, I do what I’ve gotta do. Then, on my days off, I look to maximize serenity.
Evenings are too short, with too many other responsibilities, to even attempt the zen thing. But weekends are my chance. And vacations are the best chance. That’s when I aim for calm, and tranquil, and slow. That’s where relief lives.
The other day, as my spring break got started, and I was somewhat more cheerful than usual, my daughter said, without intending or giving offense, “I like spring-break dad.”
You and me both, kid. You and me both.
That’s when I think I’d like to win the lottery. A rest-of-your-life vacation. I could be spring-break dad all of the time. Better me, better dad, better husband, better life. Maybe, if I bought a ticket, I could win, and do what I want to do forever, like the best Saturdays, except it never gets over. I could take a deep breath without being reminded again and again of the thousand jobs I have to finish before Monday’s classes.
Dammit. It feels like cheating. Undeserved. A shortcut that would heap guilt onto the end of all the zeros on the check. Nobody’s happiness should depend on one-in-a-million (or billion) luck. Whatever happiness I’m gonna get, I’ve gotta get on my own. Or at least that’s how it feels like it should be.
So, no, lottery, I’m not gonna win you. You almost got me. I say no.
As if it was ever gonna happen, anyway…