The Higher Power of Lucky

“Lucky stole her technique of keeping going from the anonymous twelve-step people, whose slogan is ‘One Day at a Time.’ If you think of undoing a big habit day after day for the entire rest of your life, you can’t bear it because it’s too overwhelming and hard, so you give up. But if you think only of getting through this one day, and don’t worry about later, you can do it. Lucky used the ‘One Day at a Time’ idea by putting one foot in front of the other without thinking about what would happen later. She knew she could do one step and then another step and then another step and then another step as long as she thought ‘One Step at a Time.’”

Life advice from a young adult novel. How profound.lucky

So profound is ten year-old Lucky’s voice in Susan Patron’s The Higher Power of Lucky, that I almost didn’t believe it – except that she speaks with such authority. She also has been through an inordinate amount of struggle and strife for a child her age, which has given her wisdom while toughening her up.

The title, ethereal cover with illustrations by Matt Phelan, and book jacket summary drew me to this book. I’m always looking for quality literature for young people, but all that package material spoke to the adult in me who is still searching. If a ten year-old could find her higher power, then surely I could. As with anyone’s search – no matter what age she is – Lucky’s is filled with twists and turns, mysterious signs, with the only real answer being a feeling. But it sometimes is the simplest ideas, like the passage above, that get us through. And listening to and allowing our feelings to come through – as Lucky ultimately did with Brigitte – often is the ultimate goal.

The prose in The Higher Power of Lucky is stark, but gorgeous; as raw and beautiful as the desert setting of Hard Pan. It is in the quiet moments of Lucky’s days, the tone of which reminds me very much of Missing May by Cynthia Rylant, that such images sneak up on the reader. After Lucky, Miles, and HMS Beagle – who is not a beagle – finish their ramshackle dinner outside:

“The feel of the air, soft and nearly still, was something you usually wouldn’t even notice. But now, after the dust storm, it felt like a kindness, a special thoughtful anonymous gift.”

Susan Patron has given readers such a gift: a quiet, thoughtful piece of literature that reminds us that focusing on what’s right in front of us can reveal our higher power more readily than any grand adventure.

Lowest Common Denominator

We’re taught to see the big picture.  The interrelationship of all things.  This keeps us all on the same page, united in our humanity, celebrating our differences in their similarities.  It helps us make meaning and induces awe.  I get it.  I value it.

But this mindset is antithetical to a ‘one day at a time’ mentality; a live in the moment attitude; that ever-present push for mindfulness.

Especially for an anxiety-ridden person such as myself.

How can I not ‘sweat the small stuff’, when it adds up to a whole mess of stuff?  Each tiny bit of tedium I must attend to throughout the day fills up the entire day.  I cannot shut off the mechanism in my mind that fits each peg into its hole in the mosaic of my life.

X leads to Y then to Z and every consonant clamors in dissonance.  I can’t hear the letter for the alphabet.

I’ll always be an English major, though I graduated a number of years ago.  I’ll always be a book reviewer.  An English/Language Arts teacher.  A writer.  A critical reader.  A literary theorist.  All this is type-set into my skin.  I eat, sleep, and breathe words, letters; their combinations, their phraseology.

I am forever searching for ways to form patterns, find themes, stack layer upon layer of meaning.

But what about when I need to reduce?  To distill an idea down to its purest form?  Base.  Primitive.  The smallest atom of an idea.  I need to reverse operations.  How do I learn to do that?

“The proper, wise balancing
of one’s whole life may depend upon the
feasibility of a cup of tea at an unusual hour.”
― Arnold Bennett, How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

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