Coincidence?

My old car was a barrel of monkeys. (If those monkeys all had knives and were trying to all get out of the barrel.)

It had its problems. What my dad likes to call “gremlins”. Some of the electrical stuff in my car decided to work when it felt like it. But most often, my driver side window refused to roll down.

After not being able to put on my seatbelt correctly, I bought a new car. And it has been working great. Except recently. When the driver side window decided to stop working. (Did you guess that?)

So my question is: is this a coincidence? I mean what are the odds? (I don’t know because I’m math challenged).

But it seems to me that calling it a mere coincidence takes the fun out of it. So I’m calling it a rare mistake of fate.

In life, there are reasons for things. But in your own life, there isn’t always. Don’t trouble yourself with finding meaning. Some things were just meant to be (or meant not to work.)

When Life Catches Up with You

Everyone vaguely knows of the possibility of parallel universes. (Basically, parallel versions of our selves [based on the decisions we’ve made] are living parallel versions of our lives.) So, that one time when you zigged instead of zagged? There’s a version of yourself out there that is actually living the life in which you zagged instead of zigged, and so on.

And if that’s possible, I think it’s also possible that once in awhile, your life matches up with a parallel life, which no longer becomes parallel, and so becomes your exact life. (Still following?)

I also have another theory. I believe that sometimes you’re let in on the secret. Sometimes, you get signs that you’ve linked up with one of your parallel lives and are actually on the path that you’re “meant” to be on.

In general, these “signs” go by many names. Maybe just coincidences, as I’ve discussed. And maybe in the form of deja vu, when you feel as though you’ve been some place before, but can’t remember any of the exact details of it. In these terms, I think perhaps your parallel self has been there, and you are just sort of “lapping” him or her, so to speak.

But I think when it gets really weird for me is when I’m paying close attention to it.

So, picture me going about my daily life. And since I am not Hermione Granger, I don’t know everything about everything. In some cases, I learn about things that I’ve never even heard of before while out and about.

It happens like this: Let’s say for example that I’ve been living under a rock and I didn’t know what an armadillo was. And so all of the sudden I’m reading a book, playing a game of trivia, or listening to a song, and the idea of an armadillo comes up. (And remember, before this moment, armadillos were completely unknown to me and this is the first that I’m hearing about them.) Well, doesn’t it beat all when the anchorman on the news reports on a feature story about armadillos that night? It’s as if something that I’ve never even knew existed is suddenly so prevalent in my life that I can’t walk a straight line without noticing it. But you are probably saying, “Coincidence, right?”

Yeah, it could be just a coincidence if it didn’t happen so often. Just last week I noticed different ideas and concepts that I had never heard before in my life suddenly reappear in Jeopardy!, the news, in the book I was reading, and in a song I was listening to. It seems the universe wants to beat me over the head with something.

And my guess is that it’s just me catching up with…me. My life catching up with another life, perhaps the one I’m supposed to live. It’s as if to say, knew she’d learn about armadillos eventually, and now she has. 

Because that’s what it is, for me. It’s reassurances that I’m on the right path. It’s like when an actor or actress hits their mark perfectly from the script. It’s more evidence that there is a plan (made by someone, made by the universe, made by stardust, made by no one), and it may not be completely fixed, but there are checkpoints I can get to. And when I get to them, I can be confident that I don’t have to worry that I’ve been making the wrong choices.

Somehow, I’ll know that life was walking beside me all along.

A Firefly in the Livingroom

Do you think there is such a thing as coincidence? Or is life a series of well-timed, intentional acts?

There’s certainly plenty of evidence for the former. Lightning strikes, for example. However, you could also argue that lightning strikes result from storms, which are a scientific phenomenon that can be easily predicted. Maybe that’s one point for the latter. Of course, romantic comedies would also have you believe in perfect, serendipitous coincidence. But, romantic comedies are also shot on sets with actors and scripts. Looks like that is a draw.

But whatever your persuasion on this subject, I find that some events are simply more difficult to pin down, as either coincidence or fate, than others.

Take, for example, the other night. I’m walking with my mom around the neighborhood. We’re watching the sky darken with a storm, so we’re sort of hoofing it. We pass a corner when we smell it. Cigar smoke.

Okay, not entirely, unusual in itself. Actually, not really unusual at all, is it? Except for the fact that my grandfather (you can read about him here) used to smoke like a chimney stack. And his tobacco of choice was cigars. Add to the fact that I am always thinking about him around the summertime. At his old house, he had this beautiful porch where we could sit outside until the light died, unable to see each other’s faces but able to make out the red tip of his cigar. And of course, the fireflies that lit up the yard. He used to say, without fail, that they would arrive around the Fourth of July and then disappear shortly after.

So, when cigar smoke swept up our noses on our nightly walk, my mom immediately said it was Pop-Pop, stopping by to say hello. I agreed with her, and we rushed home before the oncoming storm could soak us.

Unbeknownst to us, we must have had a hitchhiker.

We walked through the door and plopped down on the couch, exhausted from our hurrying, but glad for it, as we heard the rain splatter on the window. Relaxing back, we heard a faint hum in the room. Looking over, we saw a firefly hovering over the coffee table. It hung in the air like a fairy and seemed suspended there. It was captivating and altogether strange.

Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones who had seen it: our pet cat was all wide eyes and twitching tail. Not wanting him to eat our good omen, I captured the bug and took it outside. It sat on my hand for a moment and then drifted lazily into the air.

Now, you could say that a firefly followed us into the house and was almost eaten by a well-fed cat. And you’d be right. And you could also say that this was more confirmation of my Pop-Pop, who wanted to send us a sign that we’d recognize. And you’d also be right (at least in my book).

But isn’t that the beautiful thing? If it was intentional, then it was simply a memorable moment. If it was a coincidence, then it was also a memorable moment. That is, if my Pop-Pop sent it, then it’s meaningful, but if it simply attached to our clothes, then it’s adorable.

That’s why you can’t pin it down; it’s both intentional and coincidental. And I truly don’t see or mind the difference that I can’t answer my original questions. Because it doesn’t really matter. It’s all about what you choose to believe, and what “brightens” your day.

A Need to Believe

I must admit that I read into things. Maybe that’s why I became an English major, to read between the lines of Hemingway and to be beaten over the head with symbolism when I read Hawthorne. Or maybe that was already in my DNA before, what makes me still buy a book that tells you what a certain animal signifies when you see it (ooh, look a bedbug! I guess that means I need more sleep!)

But I don’t think I had to look too far to see the meaning in one event today.

I was exhausted. I’d been burning two ends of the midnight oil the night before. I was the kind of tired that if I closed my eyes, I got a little dizzy with how fast my brain was losing consciousness. And from there, it wasn’t hard to realize that I was feeling a bit down. I’m currently at a crossroads in my life (but who isn’t really, when they’re in their twenties?), and I’m trying to figure it all out. Today, I was simply tired in more ways than one. I would have liked nothing better than to crawl into a deep, dark hole to rest my head and my thoughts.

And so I was debating my choices (give up or give in) when I heard it. It was a song on the radio. But it wasn’t just any song, if you will excuse my dramatics. It was a song that I had never, ever heard on the radio before. Yet, it was a song that I had desperately wanted to have played on the radio. You see, it wasn’t exactly made for the popular stations. Not what you would call a toe-tapper or the next summer hit.

It was performed by Loreena McKennitt. She’s a new age-y artist who sings about the solstice and the wind that shakes the barley. Think of her as a less mainstream Enya, I guess. She also happens to be my absolute, all-time, favorite musician.

Now, I can’t really impress on you how strange it was to hear her own the radio, but I will try. Let’s just say that the odds of playing Loreena McKennitt are about as good as the odds of playing “It’s Friday” by Rebecca Black on that same station. In all seriousness.

But here she was. My favorite artist was belting out notes in the middle of my crummy day. I was every shade of dumbfounded.

Of course, I could dismiss this as a funny coincidence. I could slap my knee and utter something like, “Well, I’ll be.”

But I didn’t. I took it as a sign. I took it as one might grab a rope to pull oneself out of a very deep and very dark cell. Why? Because that is what I needed to believe. I needed a benevolent message, and I got one.

Yes, our own perspective and understanding colors things. Indeed, it was a well-timed occurrence. But then, why couldn’t that mean that it was also a sign, a personal reassurance? The answer is that it can be both.

I believe that we’re giving footholds like this all the time, to ensure that we keep holding on. But it is up to you to reach out and grab them, see where they are, even in the darkness. If you are open enough, if you are alert enough, and if you need it badly enough, you may just find what you’re looking for. That is, if you have the courage to recognize it for what it is.