Serendipity. I know there’s a John Cusack movie that supposedly explains this phenomena, but I can’t fully put faith in Kate Beckensdale. (John yes, Kate no. Sorry, Kate.) I look at definitions that seem too sterile and scientific for an idea that feels so fluffy. Isn’t everything a fortunate discovery made by accident?
I try to apply the concept to my own love life (yes, that’s what I call this beautiful disaster). The only thing I come up with is a recent shopping excursion. I’m ready for a latte when I am taken by a distinguished looking 70ish-year-old employee. I compulsively open my mouth, expecting to say, “What a beautiful jacket,” but instead out comes “Do you have socks?”
Where did that come from? Who am I going to get socks for?
I follow him blindly through menswear, staring blankly at the rows of brown, burgundy and black intended to be hidden beneath trousers.
“Over here,” he gestures around the corner of one such display. And now I am facing perfect rows of argyle socks. I can think of one person who wears argyle socks. But I’ve only recently begun dating him, and it seems a bit early for socks.
“Is this what you’re looking for?” the man asks sincerely, holding up a pair of chocolate brown footies embellished with baby blue and navy.
“NO!” I think, while smiling and walking away with $14 socks to give to a man I hardly know. But is this a happy accident? Exactly what our relationship needs to kick it to the next level?
I decide to ask a man-shaped person. At 6-3 and 200 pounds, Cole qualifies.
“I think of serendipity as being a comedy of errors, but with a happy ending,” he says. He looks thoughtful, so I prod. He met his girlfriend because he ended up in the hospital. An older female friend of his felt he needed some company. She gave her daughter his phone number and asked her to check up on him. In his mind, if he’d never ended up in the hospital, he never would have met his girlfriend.
I begin to ask everyone – anyone – for advice. I ask Annie, the receptionist at my dermatologist’s office, if anything serendipitous has happened to her.
“Yes!” she expresses most excitedly. She had just gotten out of a long relationship and wasn’t ready for anything new. So when she met an interesting guy at a wedding, she blew him off. But she continued to run into him again and again and again. Now they’re dating and she finds that most serendipitous. But I don’t. We attach meaning to things because we like the mysterious air it provides.
I am frustrated that the closest I can get to finding serendipity in my own love life is buying socks for some Boulderite with a bicycle – which is not really serendipitous, but sounds like a great excuse to give something to a boy I like.
Finally I consult an expert. Of sorts. Who does one ask about serendipity? A psychic? A scientist? I confer with Spirit of Light in Lafayette and ask Karen VanLandingham, a spiritual counselor who specializes in energy work. “Serendipity is like synchronicity,” she tells me. “It has a lot to do with your energy and attitude at that time.”
I am fascinated by this definition. It makes the most sense thus far – applying certain laws of attraction and manifestation and coupling them with Jungian sensibilities of meaningful coincidence. It’s a relationship of ideas and not an issue of fated cause and effect. Since everything is pretty much accidental, it’s all serendipitous, which means none of it is. Right?
I liked the bicycle boy and so I bought him socks. I wanted to attach a meaning to it; I tried to make it fit. It didn’t work. And I will forever be the girl who bought him socks.
Sometimes buying socks is actually just buying socks. But happy accidents – I’m told – are everywhere.
Charney is a sassy yet classy shoe addict who thinks her love life is amusing and hopes you do, too.
Originally published in Women’s Magazine, February 2009. Check out the rest of the magazine at www.womensmag.com