Thursday, July 24, 2008

Where's My Happy Accident?

My life is one giant coincidence. Or is it?

The Celestine Prophecy would have you believe there is no such thing. That every single thing that happens to us is 100 percent on purpose. It is simply our choice in how we perceive it. We can go on about our day, ignoring the little old lady who dropped her purse in front of us at the grocery store, or we can stop to help her pick it up. What would stopping do? Could she impart some wisdom to us that profoundly changes our lives or, in the 45 seconds it takes to help her, were we saved from walking out of the store and getting hit by a car?

I tend to believe everyone we meet is there to teach us something. So far, all the men in my life have done just that. This doesn’t mean I have always liked the lesson, but I certainly learned something. Sometimes I learn more about men, sometimes I learn more about myself. Sometimes I learn about peanut butter.

What happens when you come across something that seems too strange to be ignored? Like when you run into the same man twice in the impossibly crowded environs of London? Once, on the tube, where you both shared a seductive and lingering gaze and another, at the bustling Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill. What happens when you’re walking with your friend and you hear two men in front of you speaking German? So you look up. And there he is. The man who flirted with you on the tube two months ago. I remember feeling like Jell-O when I left the train and I remember, even more, his eyes following me as I walked away.

And now, here he was, not only in front of me, but German! I mustered up the courage to ask him, in German, if I might tell him something funny. And when I told him about our tube story, he could only smile.

That’s what I was doing when I met the Mad Scientist at the Chicago Art Institute, in the German oil painting section. When he walked away, staring at me as he did, I was sure I’d never see him. But then, 30 minutes later, when I had gone in the complete opposite direction, finding myself in a room covered in Seurat, there he was. It was August and the museum was impossibly crowded. You can barely see your feet, let alone a familiar face. Yet, you do – see a familiar face. One who ends up being the shortest, most wonderful relationship of your life.

Last night, at the Ravinia in suburban Chicago, when I walked into one of their restaurants, I saw The Beatle, a man I had met on a plane from Chicago to St. Louis about four months ago. He and I had the loveliest conversation and then we parted. I sent him one email and he sent me one. Then I saw him in this packed outdoor concert venue. Walked right into him.

Is it just me? I need to know. I feel like I must have so many lessons to learn. Why else would all these people be put before me in so many different situations?

What I’ve learned so far is this: Germans can be unbelievably sexy, whether on a train or on a crowded London street. Scientists can break your heart, and Paul McCartney doesn’t look a day over 26.

And I’m still alone. It’s okay on most days, but next time, I wouldn’t mind a lesson in how it only takes one person who you meet by accident to make you change your mind about accidents. Happy accidents.

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