How Life Plays Out and the Signs That Guide Us on the Journey

I’ve thought a lot about the ideas of fate and destiny and higher powers and roads taken/not taken since moving to Indiana almost three years ago. It makes sense really. The life I knew for 40 years suddenly changed and I had to make sense of an entirely new life – and with that new life – a new self concept.

I’ve never considered myself a New Agey-type or religious in nature. But as the years have played out and I’ve seen my life unfold in a place – and in experiences – I never thought I’d be in, I think more about the idea of becoming, or that there’s something much bigger at play. That perhaps I’m not in control of what’s supposed to happen in my life.

Now I’m not saying I’m resigned to the will of others and I have no control over my life choices. What I mean is that perhaps there are things we’re supposed to do in life … and that the seeds for these things have already been planted and we’re just waiting for them to grow and come to fruition.

I think about this a lot with respect to songs I loved for years, but didn’t know exactly why. Or movies and television characters that resonated deeply with me for reasons I could not explain. Or book passages, poems and words that seem to represent a bigger idea than I was capable of explaining. All these things that resonated with me so many years ago … perhaps it’s because they were signs for something bigger to come. Such as roads I didn’t know I would take. Or different people I was destined to meet. Or a place I was supposed to live that I never could have imagined.

What if all those songs, books, characters were part of a grander plan that I’m just now seeing play out?

To help explain this concept in a much better way than me, I turn to writer Cheryl Strayed, most known for her memoir, “Wild.” I recently finished reading her book, “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar,” which is a collection of letters she answered while writing the Dear Sugar advice column for The Rumpus. In a chapter entitled “The Ordinary Miraculous,” she answered the following question:

“The general mystery of becoming seems like a key idea in many of your columns, of how you don’t know what something will turn out to be until you’ve lived it. It’s made me want to know more. Will you give us a specific example of how something has played out over the years of your life, Sugar?”

Strayed goes on to give the example of a child’s red velvet dress that she found at a yard sale while shopping with her mother. She didn’t have any children at the time, but there was something that drew her to the dress; though she couldn’t explain what that was. Her mother bought her the dress and told her to keep it in a box for the future. Strayed later goes on to explain that many years later, she would watch her 2-year-old daughter wear the red velvet dress at Christmas, long after her own mother passed away and never had the chance to meet her granddaughter for whom she unknowingly bought the dress. It was then that she realized the significance: her daughter is wearing a dress that her grandmother bought her at a yard sale. She goes on to explain that the moment was so ordinary to many, but extraordinary to her.

She ends the chapter with the following paragraph:

“I suppose this is what I mean when I say we cannot possibly know what will manifest in our lives. We live and have experiences and leave people we love and get left by them. People we thought would be with us forever aren’t and people we didn’t know would come into our lives do. Our work here is to keep faith with that, to put it in a box and wait. To trust that someday we will know what it means, so that when the ordinary miraculous is revealed to us we will be there, standing before the baby girl in the pretty dress, grateful for the smallest things.”

Reading that paragraph broke me wide open. It summed up exactly how I’ve been feeling about all the signs and indicators of what my life may mean, or what I’m supposed to heading toward.

I suppose some people would say there is no grand scheme of life. That there aren’t really signs and hidden plans. And for me, someone who tends toward control and wanting to be in charge of my life, it can often be hard to simply have faith and let life unfold.

But it was comforting and reassuring to know that, as Strayed suggests, perhaps we just need to sit back and wait for life to play out as it’s meant to be. I have to believe it all means something. And that perhaps all those songs, characters, books and words that resonated so deeply with me and left me raw were given to me for a reason. And just maybe I’m on the exact road that I need to be traveling on in my life.

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