I just whipped through Darynda Jones’ newest Charley Davidson adventure, Eleventh Grave in Moonlight. It was just what the doctor ordered to soothe my battered body and spirit. I’ve caught every conceivable virus out there and must admit to succumbing to depression and despair that I wasn’t able to rub more than two months of health together at a stretch. But with Charley and Reyes and the team there to cheer me up, life was better than it otherwise would have been. And, as often happens while I read my beloved fantasy, I was struck by a concept, this one articulated by the inimitable Charley Davidson, Grim Reaper, god and all around bad-ass as I described her here. Upon solving a case, Charley ascribed the path to the solution as being strewn with blind luck and coincidence. But then she noted that given the way her life was unfolding, she believed less and less in coincidence. I’m with her. There are no coincidences.
This is a tricky topic. It’s been said that, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” I’ve always loved that idea; the hand of fate moving the pieces on the chessboard, or placing the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle so that everything falls into place, creating a beautiful overall picture. It’s amazing when we happen to be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of an opportunity or to get something we’ve always wanted.
When my husband and I went to Paris a few years ago, Michael wanted to eat at a famous restaurant. But the trip had been last minute and we didn’t have reservations. We decided to walk over and just try to have a drink and maybe an amuse bouche at the bar. Turns out, for one hour a week, this restaurant opened up to the public on a first come, first serve basis, and we hit that hour on the nose with the precision of blind luck and coincidence. We had the meal of a lifetime and it was the crown jewel of the trip, especially for my foodie husband. Another time we casually drove up to one of the busiest state parks in Washington, asking for a campsite. We were informed that they’d been booked for months. As we were talking to the Park Ranger thinking we were going to have to spend the night in our car, he took a call. It was a cancelation, and we got a spot. That was where my then-boyfriend, now-husband and I first agreed that we both wanted marriage and children and a lifetime together, under the magnificent vista of the Milky Way on the shores of Lake Chelan. The rest, as they say, is history.
But there’s another, more ominous side to this coin. If there are no coincidences, what do we say to someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time? What do we say to the victim of the drunk driver who happened to be crossing that intersection at just that particular moment and not five seconds later, which would have avoided the accident? What do we say to someone diagnosed with an incurable degenerative neurological disease, struck down in the prime of life? Hey, it’s just a coincidence that you caught the bum’s rush? Too bad, so sad. I don’t think so.
And if we think of coincidences as generally more lucky than not, what do we do with the fact that the harder we work, the luckier we get? Do we work to orchestrate or invite coincidences into our lives? If we put ourselves in the path of opportunity, will we be the grateful recipients of increasing instances of happy happenstance? Do we do-create our existences to the point that coincidences are merely the physical manifestation of the strength of our will?
For me, I think I come down somewhere in the middle. I’m a big believer that we co-create our reality with fate, or the Universe, or God, or whomever is out there that’s bigger than I am— and who has more of a clue about what the hell is going on than my paltry imagination can grasp. I freely admit to those of you who view faith as the crutch of wishful thinkers that that so-called crutch is the bedrock of my existence. So if I’m a mental cripple in others’ minds, that’s their problem, not mine. For me, coincidences are God’s way of getting our attention, gently guiding us on the path, and an effective mode of communication.
I’ve noticed over and over again that life shows up exactly where it’s supposed to, and that fuels my faith. Even when things seem negative or disappointing—like getting dumped or cut from a team, or losing a house we’ve bid—I’ve often observed that the loss was the necessary condition to create an even bigger win—the partner of our dreams, an incredible job opportunity, a better abode. Sometimes, the coincidence of running into an old acquaintance, or seeing a particular advertisement at just the right time or generally being somewhere or doing something we otherwise wouldn’t is the exact catalyst the Universe needed to get us to the next station stop on the train of life.
Coincidences can act as cairns, signposts along the way, letting us know we are on the right path. A chance encounter might be the wake up call we needed to make a course correction. Or, an unlikely event, seen as pure accident, might be the message we needed to help us make a difficult decision or rethink a choice we’ve already made.
I feel bad for those who brush off the benefits of coincidence as the spastic eruptions of Universal chaos. Mindless and meaningless. I don’t believe that for a hot second. I’m with Charley Davidson, bad-ass extraordinaire, who, like me, is rich recipient of coincidence after coincidence that continue to place us in the right time and location to enjoy the gifts of a benevolent Universe. Perhaps not every occurrence is benign, but there is enough joy and good that happens to keep me hobbling along on the crutches of faith, confident that I’m being supported by someone or something that has my back, with a gentle hand guiding me along the path if I’m but willing to pay attention to blind luck and coincidence.