Following the Signs

I’m a big believer in signs. I’m constantly asking, or more like pleading, for guidance from the Universe, or God or whoever might be listening. “Hi, it’s me again. Sorry to bug you, but I need help with xyz. What should I do? Can you give me a sign?” I’m always pleasantly surprised when I get what I consider to be a response. It gives me hope that maybe someone out there is really listening and wanting to lend me a hand as I stumble my way through life.

Like when I turn on the car radio after an argument with my husband, and Hall and Oats are singing:

Baby come back, any kind of fool could see I was wrong, and I just can't live without you.

As I listen to what I imagine are my husband’s thoughts transmitted to me via radio, I breathe a sigh of relief. Everything’s going to be O.K. My marriage isn’t over. At least not today.

Or like this past week. I was trying to decide whether or not to go to a workshop in Hawaii. The rational me said, “I can’t afford it. It isn’t the right time. I won’t know anyone there,” etc…

Still, that small voice inside urged me not to give in so easily to my fears.

So last Thursday morning I asked for a sign. Later that day I was working at my desk when a colleague came up and started talking to me. I turned around to answer him and stopped mid-sentence. There, imprinted on his t-shirt, was a lovely scene of swaying palm trees and surfboards planted in the sand, the words “Hawaii” in block letters beneath. “Oh crap,” I thought, staring at his chest. “No backing out now.”

I knew I had to go. I had to obey the First Law of Signs: You must recognize and honor the signs you receive.

If you negate the signs presented to you and keep asking for MORE signs about the same thing, they stop showing up. Imagine a friend asking you over and over for advice on something, and you keep telling them the same response, yet they don’t seem to want to hear you, or believe you. You get fed up. Eventually you’re going to find other friends who will listen to what you have to say. Who wouldn’t do the same?

I knew I had received a sign. But I decided to sleep on it before doing anything, just to make sure I was really clear. I did a quick online search, found a cheap deal – a direct flight - on an airline I preferred. “Perfect,” I thought. “It’s all falling into place, I’ll book it first thing tomorrow morning.”

The next morning I went online to double-check the price before signing up for the workshop. It had gone up by over $250 from the night before. I was shocked. “I definitely cannot afford to go now,” I told myself. I stressed about it all day and spent my Friday night prowling airline search engines on the Internet to no avail. The price would not budge. At midnight I finally gave up, defeated, and went to bed.

I woke up at 5am the next morning with the quote, by W. H. Murray, in my head: "Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back... the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too…Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it..."

No wonder I was driving myself crazy! I had not actually committed to doing the workshop! I was still trying to game the system by FIRST getting an airline deal, and then if THAT worked, I would commit to going.

Which brings me to the Second Law of Signs: You must act on the sign, to fully and unconditionally commit, without knowing the outcome.

Commitment to the unknown demonstrates faith.

I immediately went online and sent the deposit.

I went back to my trusty airline search engine, envisioning miraculously lowered prices, only to find myself stonewalled again by the price gouging airlines! How could this be? I had committed! Providence was supposed to be moving too!

I picked up my cell phone to call the airline. The red line indicating my battery was low winked at me, despite the fact that I had plugged it in to charge overnight. I dialed the airline, and just as I was being transferred to an agent, the battery died. I gave up on providence and decided to take a shower.

As I stood there, scalding water pouring over me, the image of the cell phone’s red battery bar flashed like a stop light in my mind. “Stop means don't go,” I blurted out loud. But I knew it didn’t mean don’t go to Hawaii. It meant, “The fanatical way in which you are going about this is going to cost you a lot more money than you can afford to spend right now, and it’s not working. You need to find another solution.”

Of course! How could I not have seen the Third Law of Signs? We must adhere to the wisdom of negative signs. They are just as powerful a message as the positive ones.

I stepped out of the shower, dried myself off and got back on the computer, determined not to give up. Instead of again researching the airline and flight I had been obsessing over for the past two days, I went back to my frequent flyer miles to see if there was something I might have overlooked in the previous night’s exhaustion. Sure enough, in about 15 minutes, I found a flight that could work. It was not on an airline I typically fly, it wasn’t direct, and I would be making connections through places I had never been, but the timing made perfect sense. And best of all, I could use my miles. I hit the send button and purchased a roundtrip ticket to Hawaii. Total cost: $10.

All along I had been beating myself up for not buying the ticket the day I saw the Hawaii t-shirt, for not acting RIGHT AWAY on my intuition, BEFORE the price went up. I was angry at the airline for raising the price on me, and I was worried that this workshop was going to cost more than I could afford.

All along the Universe was trying to tell me, “don’t go left, go right!” But because I was so focused on doing it MY WAY, I couldn’t hear the message. I didn’t see the sign. I kept pounding my head against the closed door, wondering why it wouldn’t open at my command, instead of noticing, “Oh, that door is closed, is there another one I am supposed to be walking through?”

Which brings me to the Fourth and final Law of Signs: You must surrender to the outcome.

We all know the quote, “Life’s what happens when we’re making other plans.” But how many of us actually LIVE it? My life rarely unfolds the way I think it will. Yet I still run around plotting and scheming to get things to go my way. As if I really know what is the “best” way.

Most of the things I’ve railed against, shaking my fist angrily at the sky –– my inability to conceive children, the ending of my first marriage -– that felt at the time like life’s injustices, the system working against me –- have always, in the end, turned my life in richer, more expansive directions for which I have been very grateful.

Which is not to say it’s made my life easier or more pleasant. I would not have CHOSEN to have these experiences. But looking back, I do not regret a single one. What I’ve gained in the long run was well worth the suffering endured in the moment.

My only hope is that with each new experience I can trust the signs a little more, let go of my own agenda of what life is supposed to look like, and maybe, just maybe, come through a little wiser in the end.