I've always had precognitions and dreams that came true. I grew up in NYC and it was a regular occurrence for me to be on the subway and think of a person who would then appear. I could be walking down the street and casually think of an acquaintance or even a minor celebrity, who would then round the corner. Carl Jung calls this 'Synchronicity' and when you begin to notice, when you write down your dreams and pay attention to coincidences, you will notice that this sort of thing happens all the time. This American Life's episode, No Coincidence, No Story!, got me thinking about the major coincidences in my life and what, if anything, they may mean.
In my late teens I dreamt of boys and shortly thereafter would meet them in real life and in each case, I thought, he must be my soul mate. This must mean something. It must. I dreamed him. Here he is.
The boys didn't agree. To them, I was just another girl and in truth, I was too scared of love, too frozen to trust. And for a dream of this sort to come true, the other person needs to believe you are their soul mate too.
When I was 24, I was just getting over a bad relationship with a lying, cheating, enchanting alcoholic who exceeded all my intellectual and sexual needs and I had lost my hope, my wonder, my curiosity, and every spark of my identity. I prayed to god, and I never prayed, I said my heart cannot take this kind of pain again. I cannot. Please god send me a nice boy who will be kind to me, who will marry me, who will be a good father, please god I want to feel peace and I don't want to be alone.
I may not actually believe in god or in prayer, but I believe that you can tell yourself a story. I believe in stories.
One night I had a dream of a boy's face and when I saw him at a bar the next day, I didn't care. I told myself, this doesn't mean anything. It never means anything. So you had a dream about him. It doesn't matter. Nothing matters. I mentioned the dream to a girl I didn't know very well (and soon would never see again) and she unzipped my sweater, told me to pop my boobs out and shoved me towards him. The boy's name was Mark and a couple nights later we went on a date, and I told him I had a dream about him, and I didn't think anything of it. Five years later we were living across the country in Los Angeles, and were talking about getting married but something was stopping me. I was scared. Scared of marriage and repeating the mistakes of my parents and more than anything, scared of falling the frozen walls around me that I had always imagined to be diligently keeping me safe.
We were driving up to San Francisco on a neverending stretch of flatland interstate when it began to rain. We were listening to This American Life, the segment that involved putting a band together via classified ads to play a cover of Elton John's Rocket Man. In the episode, the man who puts the one-day-classified-ad band together is a man named Jon, from The Mekons. He explains that at the time he was disillusioned and didn't have high hopes for the project. He explains that there were a number of "lucky accidents" during the making of the project. On his way to the recording studio, his taxi driver was a flute playing, Carl Jung-loving, 'Synchoronicty' fan.
As the segment ended, a green minivan cut us off and a child's fingers reached out the window to catch the rain.
A moment later, the green van flipped over and toppled down into the embankment and into the endless farmland. Mark, without a thought, swerved the car onto the shoulder, and slammed the breaks. We were a ways away from the crushed mini van. A few other cars stopped, but most people don't stop to help victims. For a moment, I watched hundreds of cars drive by.
Before I really understood what was happening, Mark was out of the car and running towards the mini van. He ran. I hesitated because I knew there were dead bodies. I hesitated because that is what I do. I put up walls and I freeze. But Mark is wide open, sincere, good. I slowly searched the trunk for our emergency kit. I tried to find something that could cut steel because I knew there would be people trapped inside the van. We had nothing in the trunk that could cut steel. I quickly walked over.
There were three alive children lying still on the grass. There was a man walking in circles and screaming. There was a dead woman. There was a dead child. I handed our emergency kit to the off duty EMT's who had happened to be driving by. I knelt next to Mark, at the foot of a child's head. His name was Darwin. Mark, Darwin and I talked about movies and cartoons. We waited for the helicopter to come.
The helicopter took away the three alive children. We walked back to our car. We were on our way to my cousin's baby shower. We could think of nothing but dead children.
I had never seen Mark so shaken. I thought of the quick moments when he pulled over, opened the door and ran. I wanted to marry him.
The weekend proceeded and we were quiet and we held hands and at times I saw tears in Mark's eyes. I wanted to tell him, I want to marry you, but I didn't. What if he is a good man, but not a good husband? What kind of world is this, where children die? Why should anything matter if nothing matters?
On the way back down the 5 to Los Angeles, we passed the exit where the accident happened. We looked for wreckage on the other side of the road. There was nothing there, just empty flat land like nothing ever happened. And then, on the radio, Elton John's 'Rocket Man' came on the radio. We raised the volume. "Oh my god," I said. It felt like the Universe acknowledging that the car crashed happened, that children lost a mother and a brother, that three children had lain still on their backs, waiting for a helicopter to come. That my boyfriend was a good, loving man with the most tender of instincts. That the the world and life and all of it is beyond understanding, there is suffering, but there is also this man I love, who loves me.
I am the sort of person who lets whisps of doubt seep into my brain. I choose to view the coincidences in my life as signposts, arrows, cairns that communicate, "You are going the right way." When I write in cafes listening to music, and I write a word and it is just the word that I then hear in my headphones, I smile, and I am filled with light, and I feel, for that moment, that I belong in this chair, I belong in this story I am writing, I belong in this moment, inside of everything around me.
In our early days, when I doubted our relationship, I'd ask my husband why we should be together and he'd always say, you dreamed of me. That doesn't mean anything, I'd say, and I'd say that because a precognition and a dream come true had never amounted to anything meaningful before. What I didn't see is that Mark also believed in my dream. He also believed we belonged together. I wasn't alone in my belief. It took the two of us believing in our relationship to make it so.
Moments of coincidence, of sychronicity, lucky accidents, fate, God, whatever you want to call it, cannot happen without our noticing them. They are there if we pay attention. They are there, at the very least, to pull us inside of moments, to notice the clashing potential magic of our surroundings, they are a small gift for paying attention to the spinning world around us.