I remember how I learned of the word "serendipity", a very sexy upperclassman who introduced me to many carnal pleasures, including the famed NYC shop's frozen hot chocolate, but when called upon to provide a definition, I've always drawn a blank. So imagine my surprise when, as I'm looking it up for the, 20th, 30th, 100th?, time, a mnemonic catchphrase (serendipitously) pops into my head: the happy accident.
Though I've used the phrase for years, I'm pretty sure the connection was the result of a literal (happy) accident I had last week that netted me $200. I say "netted" because the dings on my fender were so minor in comparison to the ones the bumper already sported (what can I say? people like my rear end), there's no way I'd ever pay to have them buffed out. Which I told Ari, the kindly and honest Escalade driver who hit me; he insisted I take the $200 anyway.
Now, $200 is no small potatoes for me. I could probably think of ten or fifteen ways that money could be put to excellent use off the top of my head. In fact, I did: bills; groceries; 1/4 of rent; long-overdue cut and color (my sole New Year's resolution is to find a reasonably priced, kick-ass salon on the EAST side).
The funny thing was, nothing I came up with felt right. I enjoy serendipity but I actually place a lot of stock in vibes: when I've listened to them, I've generally done right by myself; when I hear the voice and do it anyway, I generally find myself up the creek without a paddle. As chance (or serendipity) would have it, I'm reading Trust Your Vibes: Secret Tools for Six-Sensory Living, a great book by Chicago-based intuitive Sonia Choquette right now, so I not only got a little reinforcement for going with the inner flow, I actually had concrete instructions:
I believe that the more you practice getting quiet, the quicker you'll sense your vibes. It doesn't matter what approach you use as long as you get quiet. Choose what suits your temperament: My mind becomes quiet when I fold laundry, organize my office, or go to the gym; Patrick paints and gardens; my mom sews; my dad putters on gadgets; my brother Stefan washes his car; one of my neighbors loves to work in the yard, while another walks his dog. All are valid ways to connect with your spirit.
I know she's right, right? I also know that patience and trust are huge parts of the equation, and neither is my strong suit. However, 43 years of living and ten years of copywriting have taught me that the answer rarely comes when you're yelling at it to hurry the hell up, so I let it go and went about my business.
Sure enough, in pretty much the first moment I'd really forgotten about the money, the perfect solution popped into my head: give it to Jen.
You see, about a month ago, I fell in love. In my obsessive quest to find out more about my new love, I stumbled upon an intriguing tidbit that bore remarking upon, so I did. The writer was apparently intrigued enough in turn to check out my site, where she found an entry discussing a particular piece of graphic design she had also admired, along with my 757th apology for the hideous graphic state of the Evidence Room website.
And so she emailed me, offering her services. To code the whole damned thing. For free.
Understand, please, that I started the redesign on that site over two years ago. I knew how butt-ugly it was; so did the rest of the company, who were politely but insistently pushing me to fix the problem NOW, or they'd fix it for me. We'd been burned so many times on the coding end that I was hours away from giving in and letting another designer do his own redesign of the site just to get the damned thing fixed.
But then came the magical, mystical email from Jen, someone I'd never met, someone I didn't know from a hole in the ground, and I paused. "Let it go," I told myself; "Let it go for the night," and I went off to see a play. And when I came home, there was an email in my inbox with a link: Jen had built an entire test site from the Photoshop sketches I'd sent her earlier that day. I didn't just find a web person; I found the web person, someone whose generosity and work ethic were so firmly entwined with her taste and abilities that she was going to do this amazing job for free.
Only she wasn't, of course: she was now going to do it for $200.
It's funny how an amount that seemed so great all of a sudden seemed so small. It's all about a shift in focus: when I relax and let go, a half-empty glass becomes half-full; a so-called tragedy becomes a gift of epic proportions.
You can't chase the happy accident. But if you give yourself time and room and lots of love, you might just find yourself having them a lot more often.
It is my Christmas wish for everyone I meet.
ADDENDUM: My new buddy and coding goddess, Jen, blogged about the incident from her perspective. Made me all hot in the face and tight in the chest, so it must be good. Thanks, Jen.