Yesterday, on a whim, I took a friend’s advice and bought some lottery tickets. I’m a former math teacher, and understanding the odds, I had absolutely no hope anything would come of my purchase. I did have hope of feeling something different than the nearly ever-present grief I have been feeling. Even if for a moment, I could feel the bit of excitement that comes from a scratch off ticket or waiting to see if your numbers show up. Armed with grocery store sushi, strawberry shortcake from the bakery, two cherry coke zeroes, and a box of key lime cake bites, I got in line to use the lottery machine. Just my food alone was evidence of my emotional state last night. Each item unnecessary and meant to smother any true feelings with fullness, displayed for all to see like a name tag saying “Hi, My name is Stressed. Please don’t talk to me. I might start crying or yelling if you do, so it’s best to look the other way and pretend I’m not here.” As I waited, more and more people got into line, both behind me to use the automated machine and beside me to interact with cashiers. Deep down, I believe every person in these two lines knew their money was not coming back to them, but that small percentage chance is powerful and real. Like a 90% rainy day, there’s still a one in 10 chance you’ll stay dry. We all want to hope that for once, we might be special, that the proverbial odds are for us and not against us, that life isn’t entirely and mercilessly random. I think we buy these tickets and we plan picnics on days that might have rain, because if we lived our lives based on the likelihood of negative things happening instead of the positive things, many of us would never try anything. We buy these tickets because this is a risk we can take to feel like we’re trying to be even somewhat hopeful that things will end up ok. It’s significantly more vulnerable to take a risk on a relationship, on a big life purchase, on monumental career decisions, on yourself. But we can stand in line, buy a ticket, and have some manufactured faith for a few fleeting moments, and we can handle the letdown when the odds, once again, prove to be contrary. This is a letdown we subconsciously are already expecting. We channel our real pain, our true disappointments, into these controlled experiences with mostly known variables. Feeling our real hurts is unsettling, can cause instability, it breaks us and leaves us out of control. Though we know we’re not really in control, we sure prefer to feel like we are. Lottery tickets are moments to suspend disbelief, to let go of the control we need to survive our minds and what they do to us, and for a moment, hope in something without remembering reality.
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