Step on a crack, break your mother's back?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008
A friend of mine recently, and sheepishly, admitted to me that she has a difficult time "being there" for friends going through rough patches these days because she believes that letting negative things into her life makes her own life more negative. She told me that her mother had always told her this before, but that she never really believed it herself until she had her child. "It's not like I'm superstitious," she said, "but even on a superficial level, after I talk for an hour with someone about something horrible going on in their lives, I feel horrible myself and I think it affects my daughter," she said. "Does it make me a horrible person," she asked--rhetorically. Um. Yea, I kind of think it does. Not to sound harsh (I have learned that whenever I start a sentence with the "not to" disclaimer, I am about to be very much what I am claiming not to be...yet I still do it...) but who needs friends who don't want to help in times of crisis? It got me to thinking about superstition. I got a crash course in the subject when I married my husband. Like the first time I visited his parents and I sneezed on the way out the door--everyone went into auto-pilot and rushed me back into the house, one giving me water, one uttering mantra. Apparently it is bad luck to sneeze on the way out the door. Or how my mother in law essentially carries around a black eyeliner pencil to put a "kala tika" on my children as soon as anyone so much as smiles in their way. One decidedly un-superstitious member of my husband's family told me during my pregnancy that small, bad things that happened (a headache, feeling nauseous) were good because they meant no large bad things would happen to my unborn child. All of this has always seemed harmless, albeit a bit baffling to me. My friend's comment, though, seemed to be a different genre of superstition, one which actually changes her worldview and her relationship with others. "Tell me nothing bad, so nothing bad will happen." As much as it irked me, I think I get it, to be honest. Having a baby, and being a parent, is scary in the sense that you have very little control over so many things. As much as you make the little bubble you provide for your child safe and loving, the world outside of the bubble is obviously a larger force to be dealt with and one in which we, ultimately, have almost no control. So maybe that's why superstition comes into play--to try to exert some small amount of control over an often-cruel world. I think I get it. I just hope I never embrace it.
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