La poisse

I’ve been having a run of bad luck lately. A series of unfortunate events. Nothing too serious or life-threatening (she says, knocking on noggin) yet oh-so frustrating. If it had only been one thing or another, I might have put it down to ‘shit happens’. But no, I fear that I may have la poisse.

Being of an inquiring mind, I had to first understand the origins of this French expression. It comes from the word ‘poix’, a type of glue made of pine resin back in the Middle Ages. From this came a derivative word, ‘poisse’, meaning something sticky that you can’t get rid of, which became a slang expression for misfortune.

I suppose it makes sense. Bad luck is sticky. Once you have it, it seems to attract more of the same.

Mine began a few days before Christmas when my daughter’s flight from the UK to Canada was cancelled at the last minute. There seems to be a run of such things just when people are rushing to get home for family celebrations. It was annoying but no biggie: they rescheduled her for the next day and put her up in a hotel. A few hours later, I was about to board my connecting flight for Toronto when my Canadian passport went missing. I mean it literally evaporated between the security check and the gate. These days you cannot get on a plane bound for Canada without either a Canadian passport or an electronic travel authorization. So I was stuck in Amsterdam, watching my family board without me.

By the time security found my passport (yes, they had it all the time), I was rebooking a flight for the next day. KLM waived most of the charges but it still cost me a couple hundred euros including a night in an airport hotel.

Arriving in Toronto, our vacation rental had no heat or hot water. Thus ensued two days of chasing the owner and the property manager before giving up and moving to a new place on Christmas Eve. In the meantime, my son’s girlfriend got the stomach flu and was out of commission for a day or two.

A week later, as we rang in the new year in Québec City, I got a sore throat that turned into a nagging cold. On our return flight, this led to a nasty case of airplane ear that hurt like hell and made me feel like I was in a decompression chamber for the whole next day.

Arriving home, we discovered that our senior house sitters (we use an association that sends retired people to care for your pets and house while you’re away — normally they do a great job) had been rather less than respectful with our house and pets. We’ll never know exactly what happened but I suspect they enjoyed the house while providing at best haphazard care for our dogs and cats.

The last straw came yesterday, when I dragged my sorry butt to the year’s first fitness class. This is a fabulous class at our local community centre that combines strength, balance and stretching. I didn’t feel 100% but I was pleased to get myself there. Just before it began, I turned to say hello to someone and felt something slip in my back. “No way,” I told myself. “You are doing this.” So I did. An hour and a half later, I realized my mistake. My back was well and truly out. I hobbled to the car and drove home. This morning I can still barely move.

I don’t usually believe in luck, at least not the kind where some benign or evil force controls your life. You make your own luck, that’s always been my philosophy. So I have to question why all this is happening and what I need to learn from it.

First of all, despite the ups and downs, I have been incredibly lucky. Getting on the next day’s flight at such a busy time of year, getting a refund on one rental and finding another, getting upgraded to business class on our return flight. Coming home to our pets in good health after all. So the glass is definitely more than half full. My cold is getting better and in a few days my back should be back to normal.

Secondly, I have learned a few things. One is that I’m too trustful: I trusted security with my documents, and strangers with my home and animals; I will not be so trusting in future. Another is that I can be own worst enemy: I should not have forced myself to exercise when my back was saying no, however inconvenient it might be. And finally, when shit happens, I need to roll with it better.

This year is shaping up to be one of big change for us. More on that later, but in the meantime, I will focus on my learnings from the past few weeks. I don’t really do resolutions, but I have set an intention for 2020: to be present. To me that means breathing into change, not to be distracted by too many demands on my attention, to focus on what matters, to get offline and enjoy one thing at a time.

Wishing you a wonderful new year filled with health and happiness: Bonne année et bonne santé!

What do you hope for in 2020?

Photo credit: Clément Falize on Unsplash


  1. phildange · January 9, 2020

    Happy new year Mel . Congrats for your relevant ethymological initial presentation .
    Dear, I sympathize with your current state . I have a rather short-lived solution that finely works for every kind of darkness offered by this present world of ours : “Don’t worry that much, for soon it’s the end of the world .”
    This recent awareness is an endless source of relief .

    • MELewis · January 9, 2020

      Ha, ha…your dark humour is always a source of relief for me! 😂 Hope you enjoy at least a few fine hours before the end of everything. Happy new year while it lasts!

  2. francetaste · January 9, 2020

    What a string of disasters! I don’t know which is worse–the passport episode, which wasn’t your fault but which cost you a tidy sum, the vacation rental (same thing), or the back going out from a small twist. You don’t get into details about the house sitters, and I hope you gave them a terrible review, but some people have “different” ideas about cleanliness and respect without being intentionally mean about it. And germs happen–not much you can do about getting sick, especially when mingling with so many germs in close places like planes. I hope your back is better soon and that you can continue your exercise class. Nothing beats strong back muscles.
    Bonne année et, surtout, la santé!

    • MELewis · January 9, 2020

      I prefer not to dwell on the spilt milk and frankly, I have spared you a few other examples so as not to make this blog sound like an endless lament. You are right: some people while perfectly well intentioned have completely different ideas from our own as to what constitutes clean and tasks well done (I did give honest feedback to the association although the review remains private). The passport incident really was not my fault, and I am still waiting on a claim to the security company (airport informed me this was subcontracted to Brinks). Still, several of my contacts insist on the importance of always keeping your passport in hand, and I am going to practice this in future. Thanks for your wishes — I’ll take santé every time! 🙏🏻

  3. acflory · January 9, 2020

    Ouch, you really have had a run of bad luck. Not totally convinced the good outweighed the bad, but I applaud your positivity. My luck seems to be bad for all the little things, but then when a few big things come along, things that could be disastrous, I have good luck. -gallic shrug- c’est la vie, n’est ce pas?

    • MELewis · January 9, 2020

      I know, eh? 😟 Yet I can’t help but see the big picture — all our flights made it safely, we are all in one piece and it was indeed memorable! Plus, we did have fun. The little things are annoying but in the end, health and a bit of wealth is 99%. Glad the big things work out for you, too! But most importantly: how are you doing in the land of flames? Have been thinking about all my friends down under. Hope you are staying well! 🤞

      • acflory · January 9, 2020

        Yes, I’m mostly a glass half full person too, after the event if not during. 😉
        The Offspring and I are fine as we live on the Melbourne fringe. It /is/ a highly bushfire prone area, but this time all the horror is many hundreds of miles to the east and north. For us, it’s that awful feeling of ‘there, but for the grace of god, go I’. I don’t pray, but I hope most fiercely that February turns out to be a damp squib’.

  4. paul · January 9, 2020

    Well thankfully, at least you are here to tell us all about it, Sharing the story (but not the luck) can help make you feel a bit better. I hope your back gets better soon

    • MELewis · January 9, 2020

      Thanks, Paul. Yes, I happily got the story off my chest and feel better already, but don’t wish the rotten luck on anyone. It’s a good thing we don’t know what we’re letting ourselves in for when we travel or we would surely never leave home. Happy new year to you!

  5. Suzanne et Pierre · January 9, 2020

    First of all, our best wishes for 2020! And sorry to hear you Christmas holiday in Canada was such a suite of bad lucks. I certainly hope you still enjoyed your time with family and friends and that Quebec City was as nice as you had imagined. I think they did have quite a bit of snow by New Year.

    Bad lucks seem to always come in series; not certain why but when something starts to go wrong everything goes wrong but in general it all sort itself out after a while. Glad that everything turned out fine in the end and you made it back home safely. I do understand the pain of having a cold while flying. I had the same when we came back from India last November. It was very very painful. (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · January 9, 2020

      Thanks for your wishes, Suzanne. My story focused on what went wrong with our trip but we really did have a nice time in Canada, and especially in Montréal and QC where we enjoyed the snow. Also the New Year’s celebrations which were very lively. Toronto was back-to-back visits with family and friends so we didn’t have much chance to see the city, but to be honest it felt quite unfamiliar to me this time — too many high rises and construction sites. The Québec side felt a lot more like home, which is perhaps only natural as it’s more like Europe. Sorry to hear you also experienced the pain of congestion in the air; it is truly awful! Wishing you and Pierre all the best for the new year. Looking forward to catching up on your travels!

      • Suzanne et Pierre · January 9, 2020

        I understand your feeling about Toronto. We lived there for 25 years but when we go back we don’t ever think we would like to move back there. It is getting too intense and too big though we still like to visit from time to time. Glad you had a good time in Montreal & Quebec City.

        As for our travels, we are still posting our pictures & stories from India which we hope to finish in the next few weeks. When we are done, the blog will go quiet for 2 months as we will be travelling to different places to avoid a few months of our awful winter!

  6. Garfield Hug · January 9, 2020

    I cannot believe that all those events happened!! Poor you. Rest well and banish bad luck🍀🍀🍀

    • MELewis · January 9, 2020

      Four-leaf clovers are just what I need! Thanks for your wishes, GH. Hope you are off to a happy and healthy new year in 2020!

  7. Becky Ross Michael · January 9, 2020

    Oh, my…what can I say? Things can only get better???

    • MELewis · January 10, 2020

      Thanks! I would love to say that but I’m a bit superstitious… Let’s just hope that’s my share of crap for this year! 🤞

  8. Dale · January 9, 2020

    Happy New Year, Mel!
    And yes. Yes to how we send the Universe a message to pour the merde down on us – until we say whoa… our message did not mean that so we change it.
    Yes, to you taking a closer look at what you went through and choosing to see the good that came out of it.
    And yes, especially, to listening to bodies when they scream to stop. Which I am sure you will in the future.
    Bonne année, fini la pouisse! Que de bonnes choses se présentent à toi et ta famille!

    • MELewis · January 10, 2020

      Merci mille fois, Dale! Send me all your positive energy and I’ll beseech the universe to pay attention. I sense that something shifted this past week. May this new year be everything you hope for! 🤩

      • Dale · January 10, 2020

        Yes! Sent! And you must be clear with the Universe because it is listening…
        May this new year be a fabulous one for you!

  9. Mary Katherine · January 9, 2020

    Golly- what a heap of bad luck! Around here we’d say you’re snakebit! Hope your back heals soon. But bravo on such a positive and proactive attitude (I’m a relentless Pollyanna myself). Looking forward to your posts in 2020!

    • MELewis · January 10, 2020

      Thank you, Mary Katherine! We need to stay positive in this crazy old world and it’ll take more than a bad back to shake my inner optimist. Snakebit? Interesting, that’s a new one to me. 🤓

  10. Susanne · January 10, 2020

    Did you by chance ever see the very old TV show “Hee Haw”? They had this routine where they sang a song, which I can’t recall the name of, but the chorus was
    “Gloom, despair, and agony on me
    Deep, dark depression, excessive misery
    If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all
    Gloom, despair, and agony on me.”
    I hope 2020 brings all the best luck and not a whit of agony.

    • MELewis · January 10, 2020

      Lol, I never watched Hee Haw but it was a backdrop of those childhood TV shows. I can almost imagine that tune being sung to the theme of the Beverly Hillbillies! 😂 I hope that I’ve had my dose of agony for 2020. Wishing you all the best for this new year!

  11. Alison · January 10, 2020

    Well that’s a lot of bad stuff rolled into a tight timeline! Here’s to hoping the rest of the year goes better.

    • MELewis · January 10, 2020

      Thanks, Alison! It was a lot, eh? It didn’t quite hit me until I wrote it all down. But I do feel better for unburdening on all my blogging friends. Bonne année to you!

  12. midihideaways · January 10, 2020

    Happy New Year, Mel!! Here’s to a new year where bad luck will bounce off you as water off a duck’s back!!

    • MELewis · January 10, 2020

      Bonne année right back at you, Andreas! I like the duck image. It reminds me of what I used to say to my husband when he seemed immune to criticism: “Teflon man, nothing sticks!” 💫

  13. Ally Bean · January 10, 2020

    Oh what a series of events. I’m sorry to read about it all, but happy to know that you’ve learned a few lessons in the process. Sometimes life is so difficult, isn’t it? My hope for 2020 is that we all have good luck, trusting the process and the proper people to help us along the path. Happy New Year.

    • MELewis · January 10, 2020

      Thank you, Ally! Your hopes for 2020 echo my own. Reaching out to others for help can make all the difference if the right people are around. Wishing you a wonderful new year!

  14. Lisa @ cheergerm · January 11, 2020

    Oh man, a problem shared hey? Your recent insta posts seemed so happy but then that’s the tricky thing about social media. We know that things can always be worse but that doesn’t mean that what we are going through isn’t hard. I had a bloody awful year last year, massive family split accompanied by death and other awful stuff. Life is a journey and we are always learning. Loved reading your posts again, you always evoke exactly where you are as well as provoke thoughts. X

    • MELewis · January 12, 2020

      Ah, so sorry to hear you’ve been through a rough year, Lisa. 😢 I’ve definitely missed your regular posts in this space for awhile. I do hope that 2020 brings you and family brighter horizons, although I know that these things take a long while to heal. It warms my heart to hear you enjoyed the posts, especially coming from someone whose writing always evokes something very real to me. 🥰

  15. margaret21 · January 11, 2020

    Surely you’re due a run of better luck? I hope so. You’ve certainly taught me a bit of French I hadn’t come across, so thanks. I hope not to need it anytime soon though ….

    • MELewis · January 12, 2020

      I’ll settle for an end to all the cursed cock-ups! 😌 Glad to have been a source of French enrichment, and I do hope it will come in useful one day.

      • margaret21 · January 12, 2020

        I really don’t want it to. But I’m sure it will!

      • MELewis · January 12, 2020


  16. Joanne Sisco · January 13, 2020

    Oh Mel!! It seems you and I have been infected by the same gremlin 😦

    Ever since our trip to Portugal at the end of November, I feel like I’ve been battling one ‘irritation’ after another … because in the grand scheme of things, that’s what these are. Now I have a new word to attach to them.
    My new mantra seems to have become ‘if this is the worst that can happen, I can live with it’ … although admittedly I’m usually saying it through gritted teeth.

    Best wishes for a kinder new year!!

    • MELewis · January 16, 2020

      Just realized I had read your comment but not replied. Your awful experience in Portugal is a sad reminder than travel has become so normal we tend to forget where we are! You are right — if it’s not a health or serious personal matter, it’s all just irritation. But how the universe does conspire against us sometimes! Infuriating, frustrating and galling but in the end, as you say, you grit your teeth and move on. I do hope that 2020 is more forgiving. I hardly dare say it but my back is better and I’m hoping that my string of foul fortune is reversed. 🤞

      • Joanne Sisco · January 16, 2020

        Glad to hear your back is improving and I can happily say the same thing about my leg/hip issues. Hopefully this is the sign that the gremlins are behind us!

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