For the longest time, my husband and I had a running joke about me losing my car in mall parking lots.
Of course, rather than admitting to a poor-to-middling sense of direction, I decided that I was cursed. Then one evening, I was wandering through the parking garage of the Galleria in Houston with a coworker looking for my car, and to save face, I shared with her my story about the Parking Curse. She laughed and rolled her eyes, but played along.
Weeks passed before my coworker confronted me in the hallway one afternoon.
“Hey, you gave me your curse!” she says.
“What curse?” I like to forget about embarrassing things like losing my vehicle.
“Your parking curse. I lost my car at the Galleria today, and it’s your fault.”
I admit, I couldn’t hide my grin. The Curse had finally been broken. I had passed it along to someone else, and I was free. After that, I went weeks—months even—without losing my car.
I would like to say that I have never lost my car again. In fact, I will say that, but I advise you not to believe me. Still, there was something to this “curse” thing in my head.
Not long after I shook free of the Parking Curse, I acquired a new scourge, this one sandwich related. I named it the Overdressing Curse after I had a good four- or five-time streak going. Basically, anytime I ordered a sandwich anywhere, it would have an excess of mayo and/or mustard.
But Jessica, you might be saying, that is just American food. Maybe you just like less dressing than the average person. And you may be right. However, the reason I feel justified in making this claim, is that in most cases, I had a control group—another person at the table also eating a sandwich, sometimes the same type of sandwich—and they did not have a cup of mayo oozing out of their lunch’s back end. Over and over again this happened, until I was positive it was my new curse.
During this dark time, I had many electric yellow shirt stains and went through copious amounts of napkins. I even did something I had never done before…asked for “light” condiments (please). When things became desperate, I tried to pass the curse on to my husband, but he never took the bait. Eventually, the curse waned, although from time to time it reemerges to remind me not to get to cocky—and to bring an extra shirt just in case.
My theory about curses was always lighthearted until last year. I was going through a frustrating time as a writer, filled with rejection and defeat and derailed goals. Things were getting serious.
Around the same time, a new curse emerged. I call it the Train Curse. The first day I was stopped by the train on my way to an appointment, I sighed, turned up the radio and tapped my fingers impatiently on the steering wheel but let it go. When I was stopped again on my way home, I bemoaned my bad luck but shook it off. But then it started happening day after day—even if I left ten minutes earlier, ten minutes later, or took an alternate route—there it was: the train.
After a couple of months, I was beside myself cursing and railing against the Fates. To me, the train now represented all of my frustrated goals, all of my dashed hopes. My life wouldn’t get better until I could break the Train Curse. Silly as it was, I believed it.
Was it going to be a good day? Would I finally have a breakthrough? Only the train knew. And every day I met the train, a little hope left me. Today must not be the day.
The first day I managed to miss the train or beat the train, you would have thought I had made the New York Times Bestsellers List. I called my husband to tell him the good news. And then a day became a week, and I was sure it was a sign. Life was looking up.
But lately, I have been meeting the train again, sometimes three times in one day. And funny enough, it has been a rough few months, and I could feel the Curse bubbling up from deep in my psyche. The fear, the anger. This time it is different though.
When I meet the train, I laugh. I mean, deep belly laugh. If I am honest, it kind of tickles me. My curses are meant to be playful and silly, not drenched in existential angst.
“Ah, the train. We meet again.” And I snap a photo and text it to my husband.
Now, when I see the train, I see it as life telling me to take a breath, slow down, and be in the now. For the next three minutes or so (definitely “or so”!) I can’t move forward, I can’t go go go. That decision is out of my hands. But I can be with what is and choose to be okay with it.
And if I’m patient, the train will pass, and life will move again. It always does.