One day, and he accepted the fact, he would be brought to his knees by love or by luck. When that happened, he knew that, he too, would be branded with the deadly question-mark he recognised so often in others, the promise to pay before you have lost: the acceptance of fallibility. – Ian Fleming, Casino Royale (1953)
After being delivered a significant setback to a rather distressing legal case, I’m sitting alone in my room, Italian hard candy by my side, a ice-cold glass of water slowly condensing, and an unlit herbal cigarette in my mouth.
The only sounds you can hear are my hands religiously shuffling cards, the echoes of Fleming’s words causing my brown eyes to squint in concentration as I riffle through them. There is an angry set to my jaw, a muscle rippling along my cheek as I focus my energy and senses.
The very first game is of tantamount importance. It will provide me evidence, reassurance and a semblance of hope.
Four cards are laid out on the table.
The first two are mine, the second pair … the dealer’s.
I can already sense it, before I even pick it up.
It’s a natural 21.
I don’t even hesitate to flip it over ….
Upon seeing the pair of clubs, I allow myself a cruel smile.
I haven’t been bought to my knees yet.
Some things have remained undamaged despite what the world was telling me.
In some ways, I suppose I’ve always been a secret gambler at heart.
I’ve never placed a single genuine bet in a casino before, out of fear of addiction, but there is no denying that I love the call of playing cards and how genuinely exciting playing them can be.
It is a strange experience, at once, very sensual and sensory and cold and clinical. You need to be in touch with your inner thoughts, desires and will, manifesting and imposing your luck into reality, whilst understanding that logically such an occurrence is rare and that you need be aware of the odds.
Luck isn’t a deity that belongs to you. She is flippant, whimsical and elusive.
To catch her, you need all your strength.
I’m beginning to understand how I’ve been approaching my relationship to Lady Luck wrong this year. I’ve been far too worshipful. Far too reliant and slavish.
I need to seize control of this relationship once more. The power dynamic has been far too skewed in her favour, which has made me far less attractive and insipid, causing her to be bored with me.
Lady Luck isn’t a deity you pander to or pursue … you simply accept when she comes into your life and take full advantage of that momentary kismet.
Otherwise, you go back to playing the odds. You need to be clever, clinical and calculated in your daily life. If Luck truly favours you, she will visit you more often than others. But that is not a sign of favouritism. She is and will forever be out of your reach.
I have been slack with my off time, relying far too often on the frequency of Luck’s visits instead of playing the game the way how people are meant to.
It was this realisation that made me win that all important Blackjack hand above. Because I had finally taken ownership of my luck again. I wasn’t relying on a deity any more. It was time for me to create my own luck and then be grateful when Lady Luck steps in and boost it.
This kick to the kerb has been just one of the many that has assaulted me this month, let alone year. If 2022 is plagued with misfortune like I said previously, then let it come. This is just another problem that I have to face with meticulous planning, quick thinking and rapid deployment of grit, determination and will.
And it will be resolved, just like every other damnable problem this year.
If 2022 is truly as horrific as they come, then in the next 3 months I am going to be kicked to the floor again.
So I might as well get used to picking myself up from off the floor because I have ended up down here so many times.
Only this time, whenever I dust myself off, I shall be squarely reviewing my every actions that lead up to the moment and not blaming a mythical deity for my own poor judgement and planning.
After all, there is really no one else to blame except me when it comes to losing.
Fail to prepare … prepare to fail.
Today’s harsh reminder was just another brutal wake-up call about how I’ve gotten complacent in a lot of things. Too much time listening to others, instead of acknowledging my own feelings, needs and desires.
And truly not enough writing.
It’s one of those pitfalls when you literally don’t do enough self-reflection … lessons aren’t learned, self-esteem starts to plummet and you end up not knowing how you are lost, which is important, because knowing how you got to this strange location is the key to leaving it.
We all look in the past for answers to the present. It’s a classic story trope, where characters research clues hidden long ago, to solve modern mysteries.
Self reflection, and in my case, written self-reflection helps me find those clues so that I can resolve my current dramas.
In this case, I’m re-discovering what made my relationship with Lady Luck and I work. I never answered to her … she answered to me when it was convenient for her.
There is a cruelty to our relationship that makes it healthy and beneficial for both of us.
But when she is not by my side, which is far more often than I think, I need to be my own person. I need to be more than my beautiful lucky crutch.
It is said that you need 825,000 pounds per square inch to form a diamond.
Heat, pressure and carbon …. nowhere in that equation is luck.
I can’t be a polished carbon life-form if I am too reliant on luck being in the equation.
It’s time to reignite the passion I used to have for life again. I want to own once more, that same cold, confident and ruthless drive that has propelled me to most of my successes. I need to unlock that potential in me that I know has always been bubbling away there.
As I am writing this though, sometimes, even I can’t quite fathom how fickle my mind can be.
I mean, reading this, you are supposed to believe that one lucky hand in blackjack, is now responsible for the complete return to form of Damocles. That all he needed to get his drive, determination and dedication back was one good hand.
I suppose when you’ve been kicked to the kerb as many time as I have recently, the smallest reversal in fortune is enough for you to keep playing the game, to try your hand again the rest of the table.
The greatest lesson I seem to learn from all of this, is that I truly can be professional, despite feeling like utter shit. There is no denying that there have been incredibly low moments at work, but I’ve had the strength and mental capacity to block out the negativity and sadness and keep on doing my job with a smile.
Composure … it’s something I’m proud to have.
Even when everything around me is falling apart, I’ll always retain my fierce spirit and never compromise on what I think are important.
Even when handed devastating news, that set everything back by a month and will cause me to get into more of a legal quagmire … I’m remaining steadfast. All my mental training in the years prior …. all my techniques … they’re all best tested and standing up to the test.
I’m not smoking, drinking, falling for loose women or engaging in other forms of self-destructive behaviour.
As the Brits are apt to do when everything goes to shit … make a cup of tea, understate the situation and remain calm.
I like to think that I have the same steadfastness.
And I’m oddly proud of myself for that.
A rare moment indeed, because I’m often far too critical of myself.
So for once, I’m going to say that I am proud that I haven’t broken down, despite all the misery that has befallen me.
As I write that though, just when my pride is hitting the apex of its strut, another curious line from Casino Royale enters my mind.
‘Surround yourself with human beings, my dear James. They are easier to fight for than principles.’ He laughed. ‘But don’t let me down and become human yourself. We would lose such a wonderful machine.’
I can’t help but smile cruelly at that. The sheer emotional gambit I have run so far would have crippled most people. I suppose I really am a machine at times.
No point in stopping now to be more human.