Allowing Synchronicity to Narrate - Not Dictate - Our Lives
The idea that synchronicity can serve to guide us may seem obvious to some, but problematic to others. If we think of our lives providing meaningful, even intentional guidance for us through the events that happen, does that mean we offload responsibility for choosing? Do we allow circumstances to push us around? How do we know what direction we are being “guided”?
My take on it is not really that experiences of synchronicity tell me the “right” thing to do in future choices. It is more like they serve as narration to my life. As a narrative process, it is impartial. It is I who imposes my values on the messages I take in. Synchronicity reflects our choices, and the feelings behind them, back to us through the events of our lives.
My shoulders taught me a lesson
A few years ago, leading up to an important vote in the U.S. Congress, I was motivated to make phone calls to every member of Congress to let my concerns be known. The timing overlapped with our vacation, so I found myself making calls in between trips to the pool and strolls around the neighborhood. I had a sense that I was taking it all too far: I was on vacation, and my family needed me more than Congress did.
The day before the big vote, my father-in-law invited me to have a golf lesson. He is a talented golfer, but I’m not. (The only other time I’ve seriously practiced golf was the day I asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage.) I was excited to take a lesson, so my daughter and I joined him at the club for our scheduled lesson. It didn’t really feel like all that much exertion in the moment, so I got into it and gained some skills. (I was proud of my daughter, too, who did the same.) I must have swung the club over a hundred times that morning.
The next day, the vote happened. It did not turn out the way I had hoped, and I was pretty upset. I also noticed a growing ache in my shoulders. Within a few hours, I could hardly move. My shoulders were aching as if every inch of them were sitting under a truck. Apparently, the exercise from swinging the club had caught up with me.
Too many “shoulds”
What’s funny about this circumstance is that Dana and I have a long-standing joke about the spelling of the word “shoulders.” Our shoulders are the part of our body where we carry our burdens. When we carry the weight of all the things we “should” do, we call them “should-ers.” They are the metaphor for taking on too much responsibility, acting out of obligation instead of inspiration.
The metaphor was not lost on me. My “should-ers” were in agony after having spent much of my vacation on the phone trying to influence a vote thousands of miles away, something I felt I should do, but had lost inspiration for. This physical experience—through symbolism and metaphor—served as guidance to remind me there were other ways to approach the situation. It didn’t tell me what the right thing to do was, it simply showed me the downside of the way I had handled the situation. In the end, I chose how to interpret it, and I knew in my gut—or rather, my shoulders—that I had taken on too much responsibility. Synchronicity merely served to point out that possible interpretation to me.
When I see life as an adventure, coming at the challenges with excitement and curiosity, I find synchronicity to be a great companion. Because of “guidance” from my shoulders, I saw more clearly how to use flow to achieve my goals, instead of obligation. I may lose as many battles as I win, but with the guidance of synchronicity I get better at choosing the right battles to win. No, not the “right” ones…just the ones that my own judgment tells me are the important ones.
Synchronicity provides context
For instance, have you ever had a coincidence that reinforced a decision you made, making you feel like you were destined to end up there? In my view, this sort of “spooky” coincidence comes from an impartial process of symbolic narration (i.e. the events of life serving as metaphors), rather than coming from an “all-knowing guide” somewhere outside of me.
Life is an adventure and synchronicity is the narrator. It provides meaning and context for situations. We can't predict the details of the future, but we can read the qualitative meaning of what is unfolding, and decide from there who we want to be.