Monday, January 4, 2010

Was It a Coincidence?

People say all the time that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. Like when things happen that seem to be linked, and we want to say, “What a coincidence!” their take on it is that some giant hand of fate manipulated events to occur in that way. “That was no accident—everything happens for a reason,” they suggest. Or insist.

So I was actually writing something Friday about the new year, and the Roman god Janus, for whom January is named. Janus had two faces, and he was able to look forward and backward at the same time. The Romans held him to be the god of beginnings and endings.

I love this not only because I was really smitten with Greek and Roman mythology in college, and took an elective course on the stuff, but also because, if you look at the banner on this blog, you’ll see I’m photographing myself in the rearview (yeah, I know: sideview) mirror of my car. Even my cute little blog business cards say (below Funny Is the New Young) “Moving Forward and Looking Back.” A little bit of Janus in me, I supposed.

I started this blog thinking that it marked a bit of a turning point for me between my former self (job- and family-focused), and my newer self with no job, and family grown and gone. I could self-define and self-direct and make new choices. No clueless pointy-haired boss to kiss up to (a la Dilbert), no commuting hassles, no dry cleaning debt, no alarm clock! Yowza!

I know, I know, what’s this got to do with the whole coincidence thing I started out on? I’m getting there.

Yes. Friday. I opened my newspaper (yay, there’s still a daily paper in St. Louis, and it still carries Ellen Goodman’s column) and found to my great dismay that the venerable (no, that is NOT a synonym for old) columnist from the Boston Globe is retiring. So I guess the Post-Dispatch doesn’t exactly carry her column any more, because she just extinguished it.

Sure, she’s entitled. I can’t exactly do it myself and then get all indignant when anyone else wants to end the career. Of course she hints that she’s not completely going away, and that she’ll still be writing, just not on the same schedule or in the same format. Good for her. I’ll look forward to reading her new stuff as time goes on. She’s been a beacon for readers for decades, and a role model for writers.

But here’s (I know—FINALLY!) the coincidence: Her opening paragraph is about Janus. She mentions beginnings and endings. She points out that he looked backward and forward at the same time. (Insert theme from The Twilight Zone, or that five-note riff from Close Encounters of the Third Kind here.) It totally freaked me out.

Goodman starts out with the observation that there is something fitting about writing her last column on the first day of a new year. As usual, she does a splendid job of sharing her journey with us. She notes that there’s a trick to moving on without moving out. Good for her. I’ll miss her columns, as I do those of the late, great Molly Ivins.

But Janus and I will be watching…


  1. I love this. Looking back while looking forward is an incredible concept. I seriously doubt any of us could get far moving forward without looking back at our past and what we have learned and accomplished.

  2. Thanks for that image. As I think about retiring, I'm definitely looking back and forward. I read most of Ellen's column but must have skipped the opening...I was mostly hearing my brain shriek NOOOOOOO! And then I thought, maybe she'll blog.

  3. I've promised myself that as I move forward with life, I'm going to start reclaiming things I lost in the process of becoming an adult.

    My love of playing and connections with the universe and finding amazement and wonder and all that stuff that fades away through your twenties while you are so busy trying to grow up.

    I just couldn't figure out a way to do it, or an ideal to look to.

    Well, thanks to you, I just did!

    Happiness in the New Year to you.

  4. I see coincidences all the time. This is a great example! I love this idea of looking back and forward at the same time.

  5. That is freaky! It's tough to see someone we've grown to enjoy move on...but I've found often we replace that with something new, in time. So maybe, in a sense, sometimes we have to have these changes to open another window to us.

  6. I always think "meant to be" and I think the fact that you had Janus-ness with Ellen Goodman means you are meant to have a column!