Posted in Family, Recovery

Synchronicity or Swim

fish hatchery lab
Christian on “job-shadow” at the fish hatchery lab

I wrote the other day that I “don’t believe in coincidence”… but perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I think coincidence is usually the wrong word. Synchronicity is the word I almost always apply to those situations when “coincidence” seems meaningful. Which is almost always.  I like how my Sponsor frames it: “Coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous.”

Moments of synchronicity often involve people-connections, and even more often involve the repeat appearance of an idea from multiple sources in a short space of time. I often figure it’s God giving me a nudge when synchronous “signs” point me in a certain direction. I’ve learned to pay attention to moments of synchronicity.

A few years back, Keoni and I were driving to a potluck dinner in our Prius (before it got repo’d!) and encountered one of the hazards of hybrid-driving: the car so seldom needed gas that we got out of the habit of watching the fuel gauge… So we ran out of gas and ended up hiking along the side of the freeway to buy a gas-can at the next exit.

Hawaiian BBQ
Opening Day 2009–Kana Girl’s Hawai’ian BBQ

A kindly soul pulled over to pick us up, and as we chatted with him, we somehow ended on the topic of our restaurant-dream–which was at the forefront of our collective mind due to a string of synchronous circumstances relating to the prospect. As it turns out, this gentleman had several restaurant-spaces available for lease, and some great ideas about small-business funding. That conversation was the catalyst for us to convert our dream to reality. Three months later, we opened Kana Girl’s Hawai’ian BBQ. That’s one of those synchronicity-stories, when God put the right person in our path at the right time–who knows, maybe that’s even why we ran out of gas. God works in mysterious ways, right?

The topic of synchronicity was brought to mind last week by a school field trip with my son, and a handful of (smaller-scale, but intriguing) bits of synchronicity during the day.  I was driving Christian to his “job-shadow” day when he piped up (apropos of nothing) with the description of a dead owl that has been hanging by its tangled talons from a power-wire behind his dad’s house for almost a year. “You’ll never guess what my blog title was yesterday,” I responded, bemused by the synchronicity. “It was ‘How to Bury an Owl.'”

The job-shadowing expedition itself had a bit of “coincidence” already tied to it. Christian attends an elementary school near downtown Boise, and I live nearly forty minutes out of town, next to a State Park and a Fish & Game hatchery. Christian had been assigned, of all places, to the fish hatchery right next to our house.  He was tickled by the coincidence, and immediately tagged me as his driver.

young fisherman
Idaho fisherman from an early age!

His literal mind enjoys the how-things-are field of science–and he has also been an Idaho fisherman from an early age–so even aside from it being right next to our house, the hatchery job-shadow was a perfect match for him. The ladies showing him around the genetics lab, energized by his interest and knowledge, lamented the fact that they didn’t have a whole day to show him all the cool stuff they do. When they mentioned the possibility of volunteering at the hatchery so they could show him in depth, he perked right up.  I collected contact information to set up summer volunteering for him–and Keoni has already been shopping online for a lab coat in his size.

The real coincidence-kicker was the contact information I collected for Christian’s summer volunteer prospect. Our contact turns out to be a guy I dated in college. I mentioned (in my TMI-award post of embarrassing stories) the time I dated an identical twin who didn’t TELL me there were two of him on campus, resulting in a comedy-of-errors until I saw the pair of them together…  This is the guy.  Naturally, it was a fisheries class where we met—and the Lab-Ladies thought my twins-story about their “genetics geek” was uproariously funny. I haven’t seen him for almost two decades, but now we discover that he works around the corner from my house, and he’s the guy who can set up Christian’s summer opportunity.

When I say I’ve “learned to pay attention” to synchronicity, it’s often a matter of being open to suggestion. I’m a Planner by nature, but Life has taught me that God’s plans are better than mine. (Go figure.) It was a tough lesson to learn–but when I find myself swimming really hard upstream, trying to reach some goal that I’ve set, that’s often a sign that I need to pause and reconsider that goal.  There may be some reasons why the river is running the opposite direction from my attempted swim.  “Let go and let God,” my Sponsor reminds me when I’m swimming for all I’m worth and going nowhere.

Harley Davidson
an afternoon on the Harley, 2008

The best illustration I can think of is the first time Keoni took me for a motorcycle ride… His A.A. Sponsor let us take his Harley out for an afternoon, and being unaccustomed to riding, I was unconsciously trying to steer the thing with my butt. When I finally relaxed and just let the bike (and its experienced driver) take me through the turns and the leans, Keoni could tell the difference in his ability to handle the bike.  When I stopped trying to “swim upstream”–when I stopped trying to control!–that’s when the ride smoothed out.

When my Sponsor tells me to “let go and let God,” she doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t do anything for myself, or that I should sit back and expect God’s gifts just to fall into my lap.  Maybe I need to pay attention to the floating objects dropped in the water around me and build my own raft from them–but in the end I’ll be enjoying a leisurely float with the current instead of paddling like crazy against it.  Things fall into place when I stop swimming and stay open to the suggestions brought to me by synchronicity.

rainbow trout, synchronicity stories, synchronicity definition
swimming with the current… I could learn from the trout!


I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

45 thoughts on “Synchronicity or Swim

  1. I have a hard time believing in coincidences too. I always think a “coincidence” is some sort of sign. Then one day I got a fortune cookie that said, “There are coincidences.” Then I got really confused!

    I think most things happen for a reason even if we can’t figure it out for a very long time.


  2. Love this post! I feel like I go through weeks now and then where everything seems to be jumping up and down telling me what I need to be doing or where I should be going. I agree. We need to be open to listening to that stuff. BTW, you’ve probably heard this before, but you remind me SO much of one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott :)


    1. I’m honored by the comparison–and abashed to admit I’m not yet familiar with her writing… I’ll have to remedy that! :)


      1. Your “voice” is really similar :). For her take on “writing”, I’d recommend ‘Bird By Bird’. My favorites are her memoirs of finding faith after addiction, ‘Traveling Mercies’, ‘Plan B: More Thoughts on Faith’, and ‘Grace (Eventually)’ Good stuff.


  3. God has always had a plan for your life and now you are starting to recognize it. I say let go and let God. His Word says “I know the plans I have for you….”



  4. I was working a really tough job once and one particular day was praying for God to help me…and I got a call from a former classmate of mine…who had meant to call someone else! This person is one of the people I respect most in the world, and his ‘wrong number’ call that day was clearly God ‘staying anonymous’. Thanks for sharing your own story!


  5. You also remind me of another of MY favorite writers, Anne Dwelle! I can hear her voice through your writing. I told her I’d let you know that one of her old high school buddies was following your blog. I’m really enjoying getting to “know” you through your entries. (And I’m clicking away on the ads daily, too! )


    1. A pleasure to meet you, Linda! :) That Anne Dwelle character (a.k.a. Mom) has been one of MY favorite storytellers forever! I can’t wait till SHE starts blogging. :)


      1. I don’t have to, ’cause apparently you’re using my voice. :)
        And I think you wrote this as a big dope slap for me:
        “Let Go. Let God.” Our next matching tee shirts.


  6. I used to experienced more moments of synchronicity when I was younger. Guess I haven’t been taking the time to pay attention of late. Maybe this post is telling me it time. I don’t believe in coincidence either.

    Thanks for making a point of it here.


    1. We were just talking about this… We don’t have the money to BUY stuff for the kids, but we can provide them with things that money doesn’t buy–like experiences, and affection! ;) And we’re quite content with that!


  7. You’ve captured my philosophy beautifully. Great examples of how it’s all there for us if we just open our eyes. (And thanks for following my blog as well!)


    1. Haha, thank you. I confess I’m proud of that one. ;) I was watching all those hatchery trout and thinking about synchronicity… well, maybe I can’t take credit–I think that title got HANDED to me. ;)


  8. Great post.
    I don’t really believe in coincidence as much as I believe God is either trying to tell me something or show me something.It is amazing what happens to our lives when we just listen.


    1. Precisely. Hard-earned lesson, that! I’m more of a chatterer than a listener, by nature… But I’m teachable. ;)


  9. Synchronistic events happen in my life regularly and I always consider them a blessing, even when I don’t always see the immediate relevance. I think of them as proof of the golden thread that binds us to each other.


  10. Kana, first of all, I want to congratulate you for your dream that came true–I cannot imagine your feeling on opening day. And second of all, let me say that I love this post. The other day I told my husband that I was sure God was going to give me something that I really want because there were signs showing me the way plus the instruments to ge


    1. (I accidentally posted my message without finishing it)…the instruments to getting there. God is awesome.


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