I love asking couples the story of how they met. Falling in love has always seemed to me something of a miracle. In the space of mere days–or even hours–you can go from not knowing another person exists to wanting to spend the rest of your life with them. If that’s not magic, what is? And then there are the other stories, which have always been my favorites: stories of two people who have known each other for a long time as friends and then one fine day, for the most unlikely of reasons, suddenly come to see each other as something more. However it happens–fast or slow–there always seems to be a whiff of destiny in the way a love story unfolds.
Now take that whiff of destiny and multiply it by a hundred. That’s what you’ll find in the true stories compiled by Joyce and Barry Vissell in their book Meant to Be. These are love stories in which the miraculous doesn’t just play a bit part–it takes center stage. I’ve read a thing or two in my seven years of parapsychological research, but even I found myself surprised at the power of what happened to these couples. Their stories run the gamut of paranormal phenomena, from premonitory dreams to voices to apparitions, all pointing them to relationships that changed their lives forever. These stories are so clearly extraordinary that, after reading them, you’ll be faced with a stark choice, having to say either (1) that these stories were simply made up or (2) that there really was an immensely powerful unseen hand guiding these lovers to one another.
One of the things I most appreciate about the Vissells’ book, besides the sheer power of the stories it contains, is that the authors don’t restrict themselves to stories of couples meeting. They also include, in a separate section, stories of the way in which established couples who are struggling to maintain their relationships find themselves guided by unseen forces toward renewed intimacy and commitment. I think it’s important to know that the hand of destiny isn’t just there in the beginning of a relationship but is also there to help us through the difficult times that every couple eventually faces.
Another fact I think it’s important to remember, but that the Vissells don’t address, is that destiny can also bring us to someone with whom we’re not meant to spend our entire lives. It can be very confusing when we see signs of a relationship being “fated,” proceed to entrust ourselves to someone, and then are either left by that person or find ourselves needing to leave them. A great addition to the Vissells’ book would be some stories of miraculous meetings that eventually led to partings. In this vein, let me offer a couple brief stories of my own.
In my mid-twenties, I was single and living in Paris. One night, I had the sudden urge to go swing dancing. I tried to convince some friends to come along, but to no avail. So I headed to the Caveau de la Huchette all on my own–the only time in my life I can remember going to a dance club or bar by myself. I had been there for maybe half an hour when I saw a couple of young men walk through the door. Something about one of them made me immediately think, “I would love to dance with him.” But I didn’t make eye contact. I just turned back to the band and continued listening, until a few moments later when I heard someone ask, “Would you like to dance?” It was the same guy! We ended up dancing together the entire night, and then, when the swing club closed, staying together until dawn. I had never in my life felt so immediately smitten by anyone, never so quickly swept up by passion. But he was only in Paris for a week, and somehow I knew, in my heart of hearts, that our encounter would be brief. When we parted at morning light, I didn’t ask for his email address or even his last name. Somehow I knew this was the way it was meant to be.
As it happened, a few nights later, I got to missing him and regretted not having any way to contact him. I was returning to my room at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, where he knew I lived, and I found myself wishing that I’d arrive at my room and discover he’d left a note under my door. I remember asking the universe, “Couldn’t I have what I want–just this once?”
Lo and behold, when I opened the door to my room, there was indeed a note on the floor–from him. We spent another passionate night together, enough to make me forget my initial conviction that this was supposed to be a brief romance. When we parted that second time, I asked for his email address. And as soon as his plane landed back in Canada, I sent him an email, thanking him for the amazing two nights we had spent together.
The email came back undeliverable. I tried every variation I could think of on the address I thought I’d heard him say, but nothing worked. I agonized, desperate for him not to think that I hadn’t written because I didn’t want to write. At that point, I was so head-over-heels for him, I would have seriously considered flying to Canada if I could just figure out a way to get in touch with him. At one point, I thought I had found another way of contacting him, but that way, too, fell through in bizarre fashion. I remember telling a friend, “It’s so absurd that it almost makes me believe in God!” Everything had just seemed so perfectly orchestrated for us to meet, to share one of the most romantic nights of my life, and then never to be able to contact one another again. Was there a God? One who liked to play dirty tricks?
As it happened, just two months later, I fell in love with a man who would change the entire course of my life, opening me up to some amazing lessons in love and spirituality. (This is the subject of my memoir The Supreme Victory of the Heart.) If I had been able to contact the swing dancer again, I might have missed out on these vital experiences. And I believe that’s at least part of the reason that “fate” worked so hard to keep us from seeing each other again.
At the same time, I do believe that it was destiny that brought us together for those two nights in Paris. Those two nights were also vital to my development as a person. And I’m not sure that, if I hadn’t experienced that brief, passionate romance, that I would have had the same confidence to start a relationship with the man I eventually spent several years with. I believe there’s a reason for most of the events in our lives, and that destiny is often just as clearly in the service of short but meaningful relationships as it is in service of the longer ones.
Let me share one other story along these lines.
After the end of the long-term relationship I just mentioned–the one that taught me some essential spiritual lessons–I was quite sad and lonely. There were good things in store for me–just a year later I would meet the man who would become my dear husband–but I wasn’t capable of going straight from one of these men to the other. I needed comfort and companionship, but I wasn’t yet ready for my husband. And it happens that destiny brought someone else along.
This man saw me at a distance and followed me across several city blocks to introduce himself. In the beginning, it seemed to me like we had nothing in common, but he asked me out to dinner a few days later, and I went. We actually had quite a bit to talk about, and he was a good man, I could tell. Afterward, we walked to a nearby movie theater to continue our date. Things continued to go well, but I just wasn’t sure what I was ready for.
The two of us had driven separately to the restaurant, which shared an enormous parking lot with the movie theater. When we came out of the movie, it was so late at night that what had previously been a packed lot was now entirely empty except for two cars parked right next to each another, one of which was mine. “Is that your car?” I asked him, meaning the other one. It was. Somehow, in that crowded parking lot, we had “accidentally” parked next to each other. A small thing, perhaps, but symbolic enough for me to say to myself, “Okay, I think we’re supposed to do this.”
That man and I spent nine lovely months together and then amicably separated. It was a relatively short relationship, but it was a loving, restorative one. And once again, it ended just two months before the start of the next “big” relationship of my life: the one I now share with my husband.
So I believe in destiny. But destiny believes in all sorts of relationships. Whatever will get us where we need to go.
Read Meant to Be. I think you’ll be inspired to look at your love relationships in a whole new way.