The Pansy Pathway: Thoughts About Coincidence, Mystery, and Connection.
Updated: May 15, 2019
The intellectual me and the spiritual me are in constant dialogue, debate, and mutual wonder about life and the human experience - my personal experience and our shared human story. There is, all at once, our human linear timeline extending back into ancient history, and forward into the imagined future - and the one that circles around and around and around. It's that around and around and around one that captures my spiritual and creative sensibilities and dukes it out with my internal linear and intellectual counterpart. The internal other is an idea that fascinates me. The othering (both from a sorting and organizing perspective and from a judgement perspective) that we see and participate in externally is also and internal phenomenon. I see it as a key component of metacognition. So what?
As an adult learner, asker of questions, and teacher I have often been perplexed by experiences I can't explain. I have a yearning for answers, to know, to discover the what and the how and the why of things. Sometimes to know is fulfilling and rewarding and other times knowledge is a harbinger of disillusionment, confusion, and disappointment. My faith and spirituality are a key part of my identity and there are just some things I can't prove, justify with fact, or explain. There is beauty in the mysterious that I'm willing to preserve. Human connections are part of that mysterious.
I've been fond of saying, "I don't believe in coincidence," throughout my adult life. It's not a blanket statement. I don't believe there's a master script, I don't believe we're pawns in some cosmic chess game, I don't believe that we are predestined. I believe that life is complex and connected. I know that there are circumstances and experiences that confound me and to try to sort them out intellectually dilutes the wonder. I ascribe these experiences to the spiritual realm and find myself daily confronted with opportunities to be in awe and appreciation of what I cannot explain.
Last week my husband and I took his 1974 Peterbilt truck out of winter storage. It was a warm spring evening - a rare occurrence this month - so we took advantage of the opportunity. As we were driving down the road I found myself thinking about a dear friend. Mike (or "Uncle Mike" as he is known by our son) is like family to us. He even married my husband and me, thanks to a temporary "one day officiant" application with the Vermont Secretary of State. I had an overwhelming confidence that we would see Mike walking as we drove down the road of his hometown last week. As we turned a corner on the road leaving the downtown area, there was Mike. Something in me leapt with confirmation.
My intellectual brain said:
You know Mike. You know Mike likes to walk. The weather is nice. It's a time of evening that is a logical time for Mike to walk. You're passing a side street close to Mike's house. You've probably seen Mike walking here before under similar circumstances. See, there's Mike. Your brain is a smart machine. This is explainable.
My emotional brain is more succinct. It said:
You felt it. Your feelings are a manifestation of your connection. Look there's Mike. See, you're connected!
Here's the thing. I think both are justifiable and rely on the other in some way. I'll leave it there because there is another story I want to get to in this post. Seeing Mike just sets the stage for this other story.
Yesterday I reconnected with an acquaintance. I guess that's the best way to describe her. She was a client of mine, but my definition, an acquaintance. We didn't invest in building a friendship and we didn't stay physically connected after our professional relationship came to an end. I met Lissa and her fiance, Aaron, in 2008 for a wedding consultation. We chatted a few times - they signed a contract with me to design their wedding flowers - we communicated through the process in that context - I designed and delivered their wedding flowers - we exchanged casual thank yous and you're welcomes after the fact - and that was the extend of it. I didn't join Facebook until 2009 and there were no smart phones, no Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat to carry one another around in respective pockets. But here's the thing...I felt a connection...and Lissa stuck around with me through pansies. Yes, the flower.
During our planning process for her wedding, Lissa shared with me how she wanted to honor her grandmother and incorporate her grandmother's favorite flower: the pansy. I ended up designing a memorial photo, sourcing some fresh pansies and providing preserved pansy blossoms for her guests. That connection rewired my brain to associate pansies with Lissa. I can't explain it, I don't know why. For the past eleven years I have had countless unspoken thoughts and feelings about Lissa and Aaron all triggered by the sight of a pansy.
Yesterday, one of my favorite designers, Francoise Weeks, posted a video of pansies in bloom and I immediately thought of Lissa. And then I thought of seeing Mike. And then I thought, I have to find her. I don't have client records that old on my computer, but a student at my school recently recovered an old hard drive for me and I immediately wondered if those files might include wedding clients from 2008. Sure enough: 2008 Weddings>October>Waller. A quick Google Search brought up Aaron and Lissa's wedding announcement in the Brainerd Dispatch. It was the word Brainerd that caught my eye. My son has a bear named Brainerd, a gift from his uncle Ad, who lives in Brainerd, MN. Sure enough, the Brainerd Dispatch is a newspaper in Brainerd, MN! What are the chances that Lissa and I share a connection to this small city in central Minnesota? I'm sure a statistician could calculate it...and I bet it would still be mysteriously impressive. The announcement identified Lissa as a graduate of Central Lakes College, the very college that my brother-in-law teaches at. Coincidence or not, this felt like a confirmation that I should keep going in my effort to track down Lissa!
A bit more searching online and I found a Facebook page titled "Lissa Carlino- Author, Blogger" and I recognized the profile picture as my bride from 2008. Turns out Lissa is living in New Zealand with her family (cool!), but what really blew me away is what she's up to...she's writing and promoting subjects that I care about deeply. Lissa recently published her first book: Woman Enough and as I dug around I found a companion site titled "Woman Enough Profiles" subtitle: "A companion piece to my book featuring some of the most badass women I know." If you're here reading this post, you're on my newly launched site Strong Beautiful Woman where I'm also proudly featuring women who meet the same criteria! I choose to put this in the not coincidence category.
I reached out to Lissa by Facebook Messenger and heard back almost immediately from halfway around the world. "Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor," was Lissa's response to my rambling message. We've been messaging back and forth and agree that the connection is just that...a beautiful re-connection...and who knows what will happen next!
So, here's what I'm thinking about (not necessarily fact, simply thoughts, wonders, musings, mysteries...)
Relationship (connection) is a critical part of defining the human experience
When lives intersect, even casually, perhaps there's a pathway established and it doesn't go away, even if it lies dormant
Our bodies and senses and minds...somewhere....somehow know the pathways
Sometimes these pathways are reaffirmed, rooted, and cataloged through smell or taste or touch or image or sound
When we pay attention, the connections are visible
When we reach out and re-connect...well we just never know what we'll discover...and there's a gift in that
There are days I devour the neuroscience and the explanation...and there's incredible wonder in it. Today I choose the mystery of feeling connection. And I'm grateful.
How do you experience connection? Leave your comment below!