Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Of cherry lollipops

“A consistent soul believes in destiny, a capricious one in chance.” – Benjamin Disraeli

I wasn’t raised by religious parents. But one of the things my mother taught me from the very beginning was that “Things happen for a reason.”

All my life, even when I was disappointed with the way things turned out, that thought was in the back of my mind. I never believed in a Supreme Being who moved us all around like chess pieces on a board. But once I got past the initial shock of a negative experience, I was usually able to soothe myself with some thought of fate or destiny.

Things didn’t work out for this trip, because the plane would have crashed. Things didn’t work out with this boyfriend, because my soul mate was waiting in the wings. Things didn’t work out with this job, because there was a better one out there.

And over the years, I have to admit that things DID usually work out for the best, just as my mom always said they would.

But when I became suicidally depressed and all hope disappeared, the belief that “Things happen for a reason” was one of the casualties. Although I had begun suffering clinical depressions as early as high school, I had still always been an optimist by nature. But now so many of the truisms that I’d lived by – “Life never gives you more than you can handle,” “If it’s meant to be, it will be;” “This too shall pass” – became nothing more than trite platitudes. Life had suddenly become terrifyingly random.

Recently, some friends and I were talking about politics, and about the scary state of the economy. We were imagining the solutions we’d bring to the table if elected President. Of course, every idea was impossible. Jokingly, my friend Jake said, “If I were President, I’d give every man, woman and child a lollipop. Because how can you be sad if you’re holding a lollipop?”

“Make mine a cherry,” I laughed.

The very next morning at work, something truly bizarre happened. The public relations director of a local health organization came to talk to me. I’d never met her before, so she brought in a package of information about the organization. And tied to the package, with a ribbon, was a cherry lollipop.

I froze. I had not thought about or seen a cherry lollipop, probably, for years. And suddenly, after the topic came up, here was one. “Why did you put the lollipop on there?” I asked her, and she said, “Oh, it was on my desk, and I figured, ‘I bet she’d like a cherry lollipop.”

I’ll be honest: I ate it. But I kept thinking about the coincidence, because one of the platitudes I’d also always believed was that “There are no coincidences.”

A few weeks later, I went to a Halloween event where a Jack-o-Lantern of candy was passed around. I reached in and grabbed the first thing my hand touched. It was a lollipop. Cherry.

I’m still suffering from a crisis of faith. As they used to say on “The X-Files,” “I want to believe.” I’m having a problem doing that.

But I hung the cherry lollipop from the Halloween party on my cubicle wall at work, and I look at it several times a day. Could there be a message here? Is it possible that despite all my fears, there is a force looking out for me after all? Is it a sign that the Universe is not as chaotic as I’ve come to fear it may be?

I hope my mom was right. I want to believe.