Sunday, 14 February 2010

I don't believe in coincidences...

or do I?

I often start to say something to a friend only to hear them saying it first.

‘Creepy!’ I think. ‘Am I psychic or was that a coincidence?’

Surely the most logical explanation is that we spend a lot of time together and so have similar thoughts and experiences. Likewise a phone call from my mother will often coincide with me thinking that I really must ring her.

I would like to think that serendipity* is not a coincidence but some sort of divine intervention. When I first joined Twitter I tweeted just the once and my name was seen by the Chair of Lapidus. This is a lady who never normally uses Twitter but she recognised me and invited me to a local Lapidus meeting. It was fortuitous, serendipitous, and I’ve gained a lot from that reunion, but why should divine intervention be bothering itself with my Lapidus membership?

Can synchronicity* be explained in a logical way? Have you ever read or written a story only to see the same scenario reported in the news shortly afterwards? When I interviewed Pippa Goodhart last month she told me that she had recently read in the paper about an aristocrat whose wife had given birth to twin boys by Caesarean section and they had to decide which of the two should become the heir.

‘That was almost exactly the dilemma I'd put into my Cake Test story where triplet girls get muddled by the nannies and they have to devise a test to choose which of them would make the best Queen. Isn't life strange?’ mused Pippa and it gets stranger...

Several years ago I was sure that I heard a voice as the phone began to ring. It was my father-in-law’s voice. He’d been dead for many years but I heard him tell me that I was going to have to be strong. In the few seconds that it took me to answer the phone I became convinced that something must have happened to my mother-in-law. I was relieved to hear my best friend on the line but she had called to tell me that her husband had died and I really did need to be strong. So was this a coincidence, because I’m not sure how comfortable I feel about any alternative explanation?

And now I’m faced with another coincidence. Rod has just finished his 3rd month of chemotherapy to control his Amyloidosis. I said in an earlier post how well he was coping with the Melphalan and Prednisolone but that was before he developed blurred vision. Eye Casualty said that his optic nerve is inflamed. They sent him for an MRI scan, lumber puncture, field vision and all manner of tests. Last Thursday he saw an Ophthalmic Neurologist, a Neurological Ophthalmologist and a Haematologist. Three ologists in one day - is this a record? None of them could say what is causing it. It came on shortly after he finished his 2nd dose of Melphalan but apparently blurred vision is not a known side effect... and so it must be a coincidence, or is it?

If you’ve experienced a coincidence without a logical explanation then I’d love to hear about it. Please share it in Comments below.

If you’ve had any experience of Melphalan and blurred vision then we would both be interested to hear from you. If you don’t want to post a comment then I can always be contacted through my website at

I get mixed up with these two words and so have put the definitions here for myself as well as for anyone else with a similar serendipity/synchronicity confusion issue.

* Serendipity: when events coincide with a positive outcome
* Synchronicity: when a series of coincidences appear to be related


  1. Hi! I definitely believe in coincidences. So many have happened in my life. But here's one:

    One evening I was talking to a friend who invited me out for a few hours. I did not want to go but instead of just saying that, I made up a lie (little white one I was hoping) that my sister and her boyfriend were coming for dinner.

    I had not spoken to my sister for several weeks because of her busy schedule so I knew that was not happening.

    After we said our goodbyes...and as soon I placed the phone down, the doorbell rings.

    Yes, it's as you think. My sister and her boyfriend were at the door. "Hey," she said smiling widely, "We were shopping in your neighborhood and thought we'd surprise you. So can we have dinner with you tonight?"

    There are many more instances when I say something off the top of my head, and it happens.

  2. I believe in coincisdences..but I don't like them in fiction. Unless they're very well done..
    So sorry that Rod's had blurred vision, hope it clears up soon.

  3. Hi Marisa. How fascinating that you've had so many coincidences in your life. Thank you for sharing one. It must have been quite a shock to see them at the door.

    Thanks Keren. Isn't it strange that we accept so many coincidences in life but not in fiction.

  4. The stranges coincidence I've encountered happened to a friend of mine in high school. She called me one day before school to say she didn't want to go on the bus because she'd dreamed it had been in an accident & she described the scene. She decided to take it anyway, and sure enough the bus was in an accident right where she'd described. Thankfully no one was hurt in real life - it had been different in her dream. Very interesting stuff!

  5. Hi Rosalind, I am a new follower :) I found you through another writerly site. I love the title of your blog - the rain always gives me writing inspiration. :)

    One way that I remember the definition for serendipity is that it means "Happy Accident". Every now and again my mom used to describe my younger sister that way. Apparently I was going to be the youngest of two, but the world had other plans (in a good way), lol!

    I like to think that coincidences do happen for a reason; it just reminds me that there is a plan out there that is bigger than mine. :) I agree that they are harder to accept in fiction, though - it often seems "too god to be true", or the easy way out, and we scoff at that, because we read like writers. :)

    I hope that you and Rod are able to get some answers and that he gets some relief soon.


  6. Hi Jemi, what a frightening experience for your friend but good that the real accident was not so disastrous as her premonition.

    Thanks Lindsey for the follow. Maybe we shouldn't scoff at coincidences in fiction as so many of us have experienced them in real life.

  7. I have a friend who was due to have their first child 2 weeks before us. Suddenly his dad is diagnosed with terminal cancer. This is with 9 weeks before the birth of his first grandchild and he was only 51.

    He was ill, but coping. Then a week later he has a stroke. The docs give him no more than 24 hours to live. This is the Jewish community we are talking about here and this is a good man who everyone loved. So we get together and we pray. And pray. And pray.

    Not only does he make it through that day, but he starts communicating again and within a week he is sitting up playing chess.

    But, he is still critically ill and has a relapse as he also had a lot of other complications. Now there are 4 weeks to go before his first grandchild is born.

    That is when we experience a miracle. The baby is born 4 weeks early. Thankfully mother and baby are healthy and well. So he has his grandchild and everybody is in tears.

    2 days later he is given 24 hours again. 2 days later, on this Tuesday just gone, he sadly passed on.

    What made him last a month longer than the doctors expected?

    What made the child be born 4 weeks early?

    There is no such thing as coincidence. Only divine providence.


  8. Thank you Martin for sharing such a sad event. I'm so very sorry to hear that your friend has passed away. In my heart I agree with you that there is no such thing as coincidence, even though sometimes I think it's easier to say that there is. What a relief for your friends that the baby was born early and I wish them all well over this difficult time.

  9. Thanks for brilliant Blog. Synchronicity has played a huge part in my life and has guided me to many life changing situations. I was in a relationship that had turned sour, I was in a job I hated and a situation I wanted to run away from. I read an advert in Here's Health magazine for a weekend course in Exeter. This was Thursday the course started Friday evening. Ringing the number I gingerly said "I don't suppose there are any places left on the course" her reply "We have just had one cancellation" I grabbed it. I had already used all my holiday allocation and very warily asked my manager if I could possibly have the Friday - he agreed with ease. This was a man who usually made a fuss. At the course I met a woman who told me about communities (Kibbutz type places here in England) and on Sunday when the course finished, I went with her, a stranger, totally out of character for me, to visit Beechhill Community deep in the heart of Devon. I was in love, firstly with the lifestyle and then with the magnificent countryside. There was no place for me to live within the community but whilst on the course I had picked up several leaflets that I'd stuffed in my case. Back in Leicester city I mulled through them and used my last £79 to buy a train ticket to Monkton Wyld Court Community in Dorset for their 'Volunteer Week'. Eventually after several volunteer weeks, I was accepted as a resident and lived and worked there very happily for five years. My whole life I have dreamed and visualized living by the sea. Cutting this long story very short, from Monkton via several other strange coincidences, I was offered a flat on the Dorset Coast and if I stand on my toes from my living room window I can just see the sea, shimmering on the horizon. Oh yes, I forgot to mention, the course was called "We Dance to Free Ourselves".
    Sending Lots of Good Wishes to Rod - you are in my prayers.
    Rifka M.

  10. Nope – no coincidences for me. There’s always Something Higher behind it.

    A friend of mine’s mother, in her mid 90s, came to Israel regularly to visit children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
    On her last visit she became ill and was hospitalized .Her condition deteriorated and for months she lay unconscious in hospital, her treatment paid for by her English insurance.
    Eventually the insurance company decided it was costing them too much and they decided to send an ambulance plane to return her to an English hospital.
    The Israeli hospital said that her condition while critical was stable and she could travel.
    An hour before the plane was due to take off from England to bring her back, his mother’s temperature shot up and her blood pressure soared.
    The hospital had to inform England that her condition was no longer stable and she couldn’t be moved.
    Within 24 hours the crisis was over and her condition returned to being stable.

    The scenario repeated itself two months later. But this time my friend and his sister sat beside her, and told her. that they were pretty sure that she didn’t really want to go back but something was bothering her.
    “If it is because you want to be laid to rest next to Daddy in London then we want to assure you that if you choose to stay here we will bring Daddy’s body over here so that you will be together again”
    An hour after this “discussion”, one hour before the plane was due to take off from England , she quietly passed away.
    She is buried here in Jerusalem and her husband was reburied here a year later.

    A chain of coincidences? I think not.

  11. Thank you Rifka and Ann for sharing those events in your lives.

    What a lovely thought, Rifka, to dance to free ourselves. Might try that later.

    And yes, Ann, there is always Something Higher behind these things. I know there is. I just have to stop myself from asking 'Why?' sometimes because that's not a helpful way to think.

  12. Anyone interested in myth and synchronicity is warmly invited to a free seminar on the subject I am running at the University of Derby, May 5th, 12-2, with Dr Roderick Main from the University of Essex, and Prof Robert Segal, the UK's leading expert on Jung. For more details contact Jason Lee

  13. Fascinating post and very useful definitions! I'm afraid I can report no such lifechanging moments as your other readers, but just after I'd read your post, DD arrived home. As well as her job, she has been working in her own time on a design project involving images of robots. 'Look what I found at work,' she said, and plonked a book on the counter full of robots.'Not only that, but I hadn't heard from the robot people in ages. Then just after I picked up the book, an email arrived from them. WEird!'
    'Ah,' said I, not weird, just synchronicity.'


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