on May 18, 2013 in Musings

I have Pollyanna Syndrome.  I am proud of my ability to find the good in any situation.  Sometimes it takes a while, but I stick with it until I find something good.

Recently, our family has been going through a rough time.  My usually sunny attitude was clouded over and I got bitter about having to look for something positive.  I didn’t want to spend the time nor the energy to go find the good.  Why couldn’t the good come and find me?

I hired an editor to help me with my memoir.  I’m so close to being finished that I’m no longer objective.  We’re not working my manuscript front to back; we’ll organize the chapters later, although we’re following rough outline.  When I sent her what I thought would be the last chapter, she sent me a short email. “Write the next chapter.  Regicide is not how your story ends.”

Regicide?  What does that mean?  Is that even a word?

I couldn’t find my dictionary.  Yes, there are a million online dictionaries, but I wanted to look it up in mine.  Full of post-it bookmarks, my dictionary is an old friend.  I knew no one else in the house would have touched it, and that only left me and my messy, cluttered, unorganized habits to blame for the dictionary’s absence from its spot on my desk.  It was the last straw.

Everything that had been raining down on our family immediately drowned me in tears.  It was 3:15 in the morning and I didn’t care if I woke up the whole neighborhood with my sobs.  My storm of self-pity broke when anger dawned.  I tried to list all the people that had contributed to my misery, vowing to cut all ties with them.  It was a short list and my own name was at the top.  And in the middle.  And at the bottom.

The 4:30 alarm went off (my reminder to quit writing and start getting ready for work).  It forced me to swallow my feelings.

As an emotional eater, I knew my diet didn’t stand a chance.  Numerous trips to the vending machine cleaned out my change purse.  I wasn’t allergic to it, I ate it.  And, as my workday progressed, I regained some of my Pollyanna sunshine.  I also kept repeating my ‘tough times’ mantra.  Everything is working out for my highest good.  Out of this situation, only good will come.  It will create miracles in my life.  I am safe.  All is well.  By the time I left early to go to the ear doctor, I was feeling better.  I had a renewed motivation to organize my workspace and eventually the whole house.

Fate had one more blow to throw.  It hit me as soon as I walked in the door.

Later that night, as I was filing some papers, I found my dictionary.  It was just sitting there.  I couldn’t even remember what I wanted to look up in the first place.  I opened my beloved old friend, without any purpose in mind.

ser·en·dip·i·ty  [ser-uhn-dip-i-tee]  noun
1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
2. good fortune; luck.

 Being Pollyanna wasn’t the only way to find the good.  It could happen accidentally!  I immediately decided to stop looking so hard for the good.  It could (and would) find me.

The word comes from the Arabian Tale, The Three Princes of Serendip.  The princes go into the world to find fortune and knowledge to bring home to their father.  They dress as common men, knowing they will be treated differently if it is obvious that they are royalty.

The three princes came to a river where a man in merchant robes was crying.  He told them how he loved the river and built his home along its banks.  The river flooded and took away almost everything he had.  The princes tell the merchant that he has been blessed.  They tell him if he searches for the good in his misfortune, he will surely find even greater fortune.  And they continue on their journey.

On their return trip, they come to the same river and wonder how the poor merchant is.  A servant runs up to them and asks them to come dine with his master.  The servant leads them up the cliff overlooking the river to a beautiful palace where the merchant greets them at the door.  He is overjoyed to see them and thanks them over and over for their advice.  When the princes left the merchant on the riverbank, the merchant was still in despair and he looked to the heavens for guidance.  He saw a shelf in the cliff face that may be suitable to rebuild his home.  When he and his servants reached the shelf, they found a field of gems.  The merchant was now richer than he had ever been.  He had found the fortune in his misfortune.

When the three princes return to their father, they tell him of the lessons they have learned.  Like the story of the merchant, every lesson reveals that only good comes out of misfortune.  To honor their journey and the lesson they have shared, the king decrees that a new word be made.  Serendipity.

But Serendipity isn’t just a fairy tale.  Famous examples of accidental discoveries include

  • Penicillin
  • X-Rays
  • Velcro
  • Corn Flakes & Wheaties
  • The Microwave

There are many examples that prove Serendipity is real.  I lost my dictionary and found a new way to look at the events in my life.  I’m still going to look for the good, but I’m not going to look so hard that I miss the accidental discoveries that will reveal the fortune in my misfortunes.

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