Signs and Synchronicities

I go back and forth every single day. The clarity it comes to me in choppy waves.

Aloha Ke Akua – Nahko Bear (Medicine for the People)

Last month, for perhaps the first time, I truly felt like I was receiving messages from the universe. I was open to little nudges, unseen hands guiding me toward the correct path in life. I’m not usually one to believe in “signs” or “universal messages” but the way they began to pile up and manifest themselves in exactly the right moments really had me paying attention. I was in awe at the way the small suggestions and confirmations I was noticing in my daily life seemed to be telling me exactly what to do, encouraging me to make the decisions I was making. My doubt was at an all time low when it came to this type of thing. I followed with confidence, trust, and a heart open to new experiences despite the fear. The universe was on my side.

Then suddenly this past Monday, just as it appeared I had reached the pinnacle of where the universe was leading me, all the signs started to shift. Why were they saying the opposite of what they seemed to be saying a week or even a few days earlier? Had I misunderstood then? Or was I misinterpreting them now? Or had I been kidding myself the whole time, just seeing what I wanted to see? I still don’t know. I’ll never really know. All I know for sure is that I followed them both times. Even though they started to shift in the opposite direction, perhaps contradicting all I had just put so much effort into doing, I continued to follow with curiosity and faith.

To be more specific, the “signs” I thought I was seeing were all pointing me toward a new career path, telling me it was time to break out of my comfort zone and make big changes in my life. Absolutely bizarre coincidences began appearing all around me, unbelievable opportunities suddenly manifested themselves. I was seeing synchronicities everywhere. There was an electric static feeling in the air. It felt impossible to ignore.

Like I said, on Monday of this week, it all came to a head. I had an interview to be an English teacher at a local high school, and they offered me the job. I couldn’t believe it. It had all happened so fast, so miraculously. Somehow I had applied before they even posted the job online. They were so pressed to find someone before the impending school year that they were willing to work with my unconventional licensure situation. I even had exactly the right amount of time to give two weeks notice at my current job. This was the path I had been pursuing before I found myself where I am now. It seemed too perfect, too good to be true. I had to take it. Didn’t I?

That night, my excitement slowly began to wane and turn into a tangible fear. Was I really going to do this? Was this really still something I wanted? Would I be happier somewhere else simply because it offered a bit more money and the potential for more future security? I was so flooded with conflicting emotions and I felt smothered under an impossibly short deadline to decide. I didn’t like the way this pressure was affecting my ability to make a calm, informed, confident decision. It didn’t help that all the signs I looked to to reaffirm the messages I had been receiving now seemed to do a complete 180.

At the final hour, when I had accepted and told my beloved coworkers, but hadn’t yet signed a binding contract for the position, I experienced a physical sensation I had never before experienced. The only way I can describe it is utter dread. My skin was cold and clammy. There was a strange, disgusting, static pressure on the back of my neck. I couldn’t eat that evening. I could barely sleep and woke up at 3am in a complete panic attack.

That morning I let everyone know I was having second thoughts. Somehow I found myself online investigating for the millionth time the steps I’d have to move toward for complete licensure once I accepted this position. Somehow I had never noticed until then what a convoluted, expensive, intensive, seemingly impossible process I was about to commit myself to at the risk of losing everything. That was the tipping point. I decided to back out.

The sense of relief and certainty that washed over me when I changed my decision was immense. I could finally breathe again. I was so unimaginably grateful for where I am right now, the people I get to spend my days with, the work I do, the incredible, supportive family I have. I was also so grateful that I had listened to that palpable force of intuition inside of me that began screaming for my attention.

So what happened? I thought the universe was telling me to do it, but then just before I could, it told me not to. Why? Feel free to think this explanation is completely nuts, I’m sure I would have a few years ago myself. But I still think I heard the messages correctly the entire time. The universe was guiding me toward that interview and that job. I was just getting a bit ahead of myself as to the reasons why. I was not being guided there to accept the offer, or to completely change course. I was guided there to show me something important about the life I have now.

The last few months had left me feeling very unsatisfied and frankly ungrateful for where I am in life. I felt trapped in a shitty situation, doomed to a life I had never foreseen or chosen for myself. This whole experience gave me something so much more valuable than a new job, it gave me a wake up call. I LOVE the life I have now. I’m not stuck here. I WANT to be here. The universe showed me that I have other paths open to me. I can choose a different life whenever I want to. But I don’t want to.

It’s not just complacency or fear of change. It’s because I have everything I could have ever asked for, everything I never even knew was possible for me. I have a job I adore. I get to work with people I not only get along with, but who I love as dearly as my own family. For the first time in my life, I enjoy, even look forward to going to work every day. It doesn’t even feel like work. It feels like spending time with my friends. I get to laugh everyday, feel genuine joy and connection, be my true, authentic self, have lots of downtime and flexibility, caring, understanding superiors, and even beautiful rolling fields with cows and a little pond to take walks to every day. I might not be paid a lot, but it’s enough to live, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted anyway. This job gives me the only kind of wealth that truly matters: community, love, and happiness.

After this harrowing ordeal, I’ve come out of it trusting in the universe, synchronicities, and signs more than ever. I’ve learned to trust myself and the universe a lot more. If I had just kept going, ignored the new messages I was receiving in favor of continuing to follow the old ones, I would have completely destroyed my life. Not only would I have lost everything I have now, I’m certain I would have crumbled under the pressure of everything I hadn’t realized I would be taking on.

Thankfully I listened to the new, seemingly contradictory, guidance and feel happier than I have in a long time. I’m closer than ever to my friends at work. It was beyond touching to see how sad, yet supportive they were about my initial decision, and then how overjoyed they were when I changed my mind. Now more than ever I see the true value and importance of the genuine connections I’ve made here. I got to fully realize the support and love I have from my family, particularly my mother as well. My boyfriend’s mom yelled at him when he said he wanted to turn back from the career path he had chosen. My mom embraced fully whatever path I wanted to choose, assuring me that she loved and supported me no matter what. I hadn’t understood what a rare and special blessing that I had.

Now I know I’m exactly where I need to be. No matter what happens, I am so grateful for all that I have been given and get to continue to enjoy for the time being. I feel refreshed, refocused, and invigorated to be the very best I can be and emboldened to show my undying love and appreciation for the people that give my life purpose and meaning. What a journey these last few weeks have been. Everything I’ve experienced so far in life has been necessary to bring me to where I am. I wouldn’t change a thing. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Love, Nature, Humor, & Suffering

Have you ever noticed something very particular and seemingly random suddenly coming up again and again in your everyday life? Almost as if the universe is calling you to pay attention to this specific thing? I know some people have this sensation often, even to the extent they start making every little thing extremely meaningful in some way. For me, this hardly ever happens. I have a very weak sense of my intuition. I never really think much of the strange coincidences that happen in my life. That made it all the more poignant to me how much this sign stuck out and refused to be silenced.

Over a month ago, I was in a training and one of the instructors mentioned the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. As she said it, I glanced at my bookshelf and realized, I had that very book! I hadn’t purchased it. I had gotten it secondhand from a psychologist that retired from my last job and left piles of books to give away to whoever was interested. I took a lot of those books, but hadn’t read many of them yet. I decided that I just had to read it now, but I was in the middle of another book so I put it off. Then I heard it mentioned on a few podcasts. One podcast host, just as I was thinking it, made a comment to the effect of “if I was playing sign’s from the universe bingo, two of the squares would have to be Viktor Frankl and neuroplasticity.” Chills immediately ran down my spine. Neuroplasticity was another pivotal concept I’d learned about in school that had changed my life and seemed to be endlessly talked about wherever I went afterward. I knew this book had something for me, maybe exactly what I was needing.

It’s not a very long book so I got through it pretty swiftly. Much to my delight, there were even notes in the margins from the psychologist that I had inherited the copy from. I took my own notes as well, and this is what I’ve taken away from Frankl’s text. What is the meaning of life? Or rather, what things give life meaning? Love, nature, humor, and suffering. These are the things that make life meaningful.

Frankl brought me to tears with his descriptions about how even in the face of the most horrific suffering anyone can imagine, inside the concentration camps of Auschwitz, with seemingly nothing left to live for, the image of his wife’s face in his memory was enough to give him strength and keep him going. It wasn’t necessarily that he felt he had to survive to see her again. He didn’t even know if she was still alive. But it didn’t matter. The love he had for her was real and could not be taken from him. The love itself was enough to keep living. I think we’ve all tasted the incredible power that love gives us, but his descriptions really drove home how inherently meaningful love is, that it truly can conquer all, even our own immense suffering and hopelessness.

He went on to explain, that despite the numbness the prisoners succumbed to after so much time engulfed in pain and suffering, the beauty and majesty of nature was still able to grip them. As they stood in agony in a filthy train car, supposing they were on their way to the gas chambers, they still crowded around the tiny window just to see the breathtaking image of the distant mountains against the horizon. He also recounts the story of one prisoner that tells him before she dies that the scraggly limb of a tree that she could see through the window at camp kept her going. She said the tree spoke to her. It said, “I am here. I am here. I am life, eternal life.”

As morbid as it may seem, Frankl also recounts the humor he and his fellows found even in suffering. Starvation, pain, humiliation, death, and disease were not enough to take away their ability to make light of it all somehow. Regardless of the situation, no matter how dire it may seem, we still have the power of perspective, even if only in fleeting moments. We can find the humor in even our darkest hours. And sometimes that is enough to get us through. No one is demanding we take life so seriously. There is so much power in laughter, especially dark humor and laughter at our own misfortune. The gift of humor is transcendent.

Finally, Frankl explains that there is meaning even in suffering itself. Although we try to find happiness and avoid suffering as all living beings do, there is still inherent value in the suffering that touches each and every one of our lives to some extent. Suffering can be seen as an opportunity. It can be a fortifying fire that turns iron into steel. Sometimes our suffering can be seen as a sacrifice, a way to protect someone else from the fate we now bear. What could be more meaningful than that? Love can make even the most bitter suffering a beautiful gift. While we don’t wish for suffering to stain our lives, it is not an evil if we can transmute it into a source of strength and spiritual transformation.

Near the very end of the book, when I thought I had already seen what the universe had directed me here for, I was moved more deeply still. A concept I had been incubating for a while now was presented to me in the most perfect phrasing, in words I hadn’t quite been able to grasp yet myself. Frankl used the example of a chimp being experimented on for a cure, but as this left a bad taste in my mouth, I thought of a better one. Consider a honeybee and its life’s work. As it flies from flower to flower, the bee is only concerned with collecting pollen to make honey for its hive. It has no hope of becoming privy to the larger significance of its daily labors. The bee will never know that in addition to providing for its fellow bees, it is pollenating the plants it visits. It is making it possible for an unimaginable abundance of life. It is giving life not only to the flowers and vegetation, but also the beings that consume them to survive. The bee is unwittingly the humble servant of all Earth’s life.

Faith for me is learning to trust that this grander scale of significance also exists for human kind, even if I’ll never see it or be able to understand. “What is demanded of man is not, as some existential philosophers teach, to endure the meaninglessness of life; but rather to bear his incapacity to grasp its unconditional meaningfulness in rational terms.” This quote, right here, is the reason I believe the universe directed me to this book. This is the confirmation of the inner truth that I have been searching for. This was the universe patting me on the back and saying, “You finally got it. You’re on the right path.” My task in life is not to understand it all, like I once thought. My task is to keep going despite my lack of understanding, to learn to trust in something beyond myself. When I lost the belief in God, I also thought that I lost this higher purpose. But that isn’t true. I may not see an omnipotent being beyond myself, but there is still something. I don’t need to give it a name to feel the truth behind it. There is peace and beauty and strength in learning to surrender to the unknowable meaningfulness of life.

Signs

Isn’t it funny how certain experiences in life tend to stand out at us? We’ve all had moments that made us wonder if some higher power is at play, nudging us along or drawing our attention to something important. Whether you believe in any particular higher power or not. I certainly haven’t for the majority of my life, yet still these moments continue to present themselves. Even though I learned all about the psychology behind why we feel this way about some events, but not others, I can’t help but wonder.

If I remember correctly, the scientific explanation for these “signs” we notice, is simply that our brains are placing more attention on certain events that fit our narrative, while ignoring all the others. It isn’t that we are doing this on purpose. It’s mostly unconscious. It is similar to the way we often feel like every time we are late there is traffic, and only when we’re late. In reality there is probably traffic quite often when we aren’t late as well. We just don’t notice it as much, or make a mental note of it like we do when it’s an extra inconvenience. Or maybe a better example would be when people share all of the supposed times prayer has miraculously healed people. These miracles are attributed to prayer, but all of the billions of times prayer didn’t work are ignored.

So when we notice “signs” in our lives, this is more than likely the same mental process behind it. Even so, it is hard to ignore that tingling intuition that there is something more meaningful at play. It’s quite frustrating to be honest. I like to think of myself as a logical, rational person. However, when it comes to this one situation, all of my rationality seems to fly out the window. I’m trying not to get into specifics, but I feel it’s going to get too confusing if I don’t.

Surprise, surprise, I’m referencing my relationship with my old high school sweetheart yet again. I swear, it makes me feel so pathetic and insane to even think about him at all. Part of this strangeness surrounding him is that I do seem unable to let him go. Despite my shame and my occasional hatred of him, he is still probably one of the people I think about most. Even when it felt like I had finally moved on a few years ago, it seemed like the universe conspired against me to place him back in front of me again.

That was probably the most significant and hard to shake of the “signs” I’ve experienced in relation to him. It had been years since we’d spoken. I had him blocked on all social media. I really hardly even thought about him anymore. My heart felt like it was finally at peace. Then one night, I had a vivid dream about him out of nowhere. Exactly one week later, he made great efforts to contact me out of the blue. I even tried to ignore his attempts, but he wouldn’t stop. Apparently he had even planned to appear at my house if I continued to be silent. Although I was happy in the end to get an apology and explanation from him and to have him in my life again, I still can’t help but feel cheated by that whole situation. Why was I dragged back into his orbit, just to be set adrift once again with renewed pain?

Since then there have been a few other, less impressive “signs” regarding him. I don’t pretend to know what these signs even mean, however. Perhaps simply that he is to be an important part of my life whether I want him to be or not. A year or so ago after newly mending our friendship once again, I found a blue and purple marble on a path I often walked in the woods behind my house. This seemed significant because it was just after I decided to talk with him again. Not only that, blue and purple are the colors I once assigned to him for his aura. This marble was dead center at the start of my hiking trail. No one else uses this trail besides me, certainly no children or anyone who would be carrying marbles into the forest. I had walked it just a day or so before. Never had I seen this marble which would have been easy to spot if it had been there all along. Certainly I would have noticed it earlier.

The most recent and frustrating of these “signs” happened just a few days ago. Once again I was beginning to feel like I was managing to let him go. I have a wonderful new vegan guy to talk to and I’ve been happy for the most part. Then I discover that my vegan guy is actually going to be moving 5 hours away from me for a new job he applied to before we met. Even though we’re going to try to do long-distance, I have little hope it will work out now and am desperately depressed about the whole thing. Then just two days after receiving that heartbreaking news, I run into my ex’s girlfriend at the grocery store.

At first, like the marble, this may not seem like anything significant. But the context matters. Since I’ve graduated high school, I don’t think I’ve run into a single classmate. Not only that, but my ex and this girlfriend don’t live in my area. They live two hours away now. This girl just happened to be in the area, in the grocery store, at the exact same moment and spot where I was, a few days after my new romantic relationship took a nosedive. It just seems so ridiculous. I’m sure I still sound crazy, but at least my mom sees the absurdity of all these things as well.

The most frustrating part is when something like this happens, it makes me wonder if I am supposed to do something about it. I’ve spent the last two days wondering if I should message my ex. Ultimately I’ve decided not to. Part of me worries that I am ignoring important direction from the universe or whatever. My mom thinks that whether I act or not, the universe will have it’s way, so I don’t have to worry too much. I hope she’s right. Although I don’t even know what I want to happen. Right now I mostly just want these strange occurrences to stop because whatever they are, they cause me so much pain.

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com