I know most people have at least one ‘small world’ event in the course of their lives, but these extreme, mind-reeling coincidences happen to me with an odd frequency. In 2003 there were two on successive days, today two came within hours of each other.
The day began with sad news: I learned that Alice Miller had died. Her books helped me through a difficult time, a period of growth I could not, I think, have navigated without her compassion and insights. Through her website, I was able to thank her, and receive a characteristically professional and loving acknowledgement. Sad as I was to hear of her passing, I felt pleased that I’d been able to thank her while she was alive. This made me think of another person to whom I’m thankful.
I used to work at the same place as this man; we didn’t work together per se, but would pass and greet each other in the hallways sometimes. One day, out of the blue, he asked me to come to his office, and we chatted for an hour or so. I was viewed as extremely competent and successful outside my workplace but was somewhat overlooked, even exploited sometimes, within it. The place had a peculiar and rather mysterious culture, and no one had ever bothered to explain it: this man didn’t need to, but he took that trouble. He expressed his own sense of having allowed himself to become trapped there. To some extent this influenced me to leave, eventually: which some may view as having thrown away a promising career. But through it, circuitously, I found my real path, a true vision of my best future.
I have been Facebook ‘friends’ with this man for a while; found him again that way. I thought I would like to visit him and thank him for his time and thoughtfulness in the past, but didn’t get to his town on this visit to the UK. I could have just sent him my thanks via Facebook, but my intuition wanted me to thank him in person. I put it in my diary for about two years from now.
Today I travelled to a branch of the Foreign Office north of London to get some paperwork done in relation to the work visa I need for my next adventure. As I was waiting in line to get off the train, just in front of and below where I stood, someone was holding papers bearing the name of the place I know the man now works (he escaped at last to a better job). It was him, the man I’d just been thinking of. On this random train of the hundreds that travel each hour - a train I almost missed because the puppy got in bed with me this morning and I was too comfy to want to get up - on my very carriage, there he was. If he hadn’t been holding the documents he was I’d have walked right past him. I only had about 20 seconds to stammer my thanks to him, and I think it was probably more embarrassing for him than anything, our being in such a public place and all. But something was able to be completed today, something which instinct tells me was important.
Now, some would say this encounter meant I have chosen the wrong path in life and should return to my former path, or that it’s ‘just’ a coincidence, yes, a big one, but meaningless. Me, I’ve experienced enough of them to believe that I was being told I am in the right place at the right time in life, and need not look back on anything before that moment as a misstep or wrong turning. As well as a chance to express real gratitude, it was a signpost. As I walked from the station to my appointment with bureaucracy, I laughed out loud and shook my head, thanked the Universe, and wished that man well for the future.
I believe that social networking tools like Facebook are increasing the possibility of these connections being made, too. When I got home to dear friends P & K, who I’ve known since about 1995, I found a Facebook message from another dear friend, D, who I met in 1991. At that time he was living with G, who broke up with him a few years later. D told me that this ‘ex’, G, had just become Facebook friends with one of the guys I’m staying with, P. Now, bear in mind I’ve known all these people for 15 years or more, but they live in different parts of the UK. They’ve heard of each other through me, but D, P & K finally met each other only two weeks ago, when D stopped in for a lovely overnight visit. Then this morning, D’s ex, G, becomes P’s ‘friend’! It turns out that P & K have known G for almost 14 years, as P used to work with G’s partner (the one after D). They’ve even been on holiday together. I’ve heard P & K mention G, but it never occurred to me that it might be that G.
I used to want to make a book of ‘small world stories’, but I think they’re not always that interesting to read - they’d be better as a radio show, as often the amazing twist is best in the telling; each person knows how best to reveal the kicker, the coincidence. Nonetheless, I won’t be producing a radio show any time soon, so here’s a good a place as any to share a few.
(From June 2010)