This event hinged on an unusual mix: an obsession, a premonition, and the evil eye.
I thought I was beyond the point of being obsessed with anything ever again. I had a few obsessions when I was a kid, but I’ve spent a lot more years learning how to go without — I’m a single parent.
But a couple of years ago I took an entry-level job in the accessories department of a retail store because I lost my business a few months before. It was the only way my youngest daughter could keep her college scholarships. I don’t know if it was because I’d experienced years of deprivation or if it was some deep, psychological yearning, but suddenly I was obsessed with handbags.
Rivets. Bold stitching. Contrasting colors. Hand painted scenes on genuine leather.
They beckoned, and new ones arrived every other week. I joked with the crew that I had to walk through the department with blinders on or my entire living room would be full. Most of the time I would look at them more closely and think, It’s not that great. Not at that price, anyway. Still, once in a while, I had to watch someone else walk out the door with one I had my eye on.
I moved into another type of customer service position about a year later, but one of the posts was right next to the handbag section.
As I was standing there one afternoon, a handbag in a customer’s cart caught my attention. I thought, I like that fabric. The color.
Deciding when and how to approach customers was part of the job, something I did every day, in different ways. Some of the customers would pass by me frequently, so we developed cordial relationships. Some of them weren’t interested in talking to me at all. They were just there to shop. It was important for them to feel comfortable so I watched their body language. I didn’t want to take someone’s time unnecessarily.
The customer with the gold handbag had her back toward me. It looked like she was by herself. For a minute or so I wondered, Should I say something or let it go?
I studied the purse a little longer trying to decide, then I took a couple of steps toward it.
“I love that handbag,” I said, suddenly realizing I didn’t like it as much once I had gotten closer. As I stood there wondering how I was going to get out of the awkward predicament, the customer turned toward me and said, “Do you? I’m not sure.”
I looked at the woman and realized I knew her, but I wasn’t sure who she was. When I haven’t seen someone for a long time I often struggle with facial recognition, which can make life difficult. One woman had been coming into the store every couple of months, and we’d talked at length a few times. I thought it was her, so I said, “It’s Jody, isn’t it?”
“Close,” she said, “It’s Kate.”
I thought, Close? That’s not close, but no big deal.
She went on. “Our kids, your daughter and my son, went to high school together.” As she continued to tell me what her son was doing in college her features came into focus. It had been nearly five years since I’d seen her.
One of the store managers kept looking our way, and I felt like she was getting annoyed with me, so I kept what I shared about Amber to a minimum. We ended our conversation with the usual, “It was great to see you, etc.,” and Kate disappeared as she headed into the women’s clothing section.
I went back to my post thinking, That was bizarre. It was someone I knew!
As I stood there, another thought occurred to me. If I hadn’t been at that post when she walked over to the merchandise in front of me I might have missed seeing her. My co-workers and I have a variety of tasks we need to accomplish each day, and we take turns doing them. It’s like musical chairs, we switch places on a regular basis.
After another minute or two passed by, Jody walked in.
I was stunned, laughing as she approached me. I said, “I was just talking about you.” I quickly explained what had happened, noticing once again that the manager was hovering, shooting more stern looks in my direction, so I said, “Let’s get lunch sometime soon.”
Jody headed off to shop, and I decided to tell the manager what had happened. The quick, check (this) out version, of course.
To keep the story short, I didn’t mention the unusual response I’d gotten from Kate, that when I called her Jody, she said, “Close.” But as I thought more about it, I realized that, as the situation played out, it turned out she was right.
Jody actually was close. She was minutes away from arriving. A little while later, when I crossed paths with “Jody” again in the store, she reminded me that her name is actually Jolene, not Jody. So that was “close,” too.
I began to wonder, Was Kate’s word prophetic?
One morning when I was attending a Sunday service at a small church, the pastor asked everyone if they would like to share an experience that allowed them to see “the most wonderful kind of wonder” they had ever known.
I sat there clutching a miraculous story, one that I had only shared with close family and friends because it was going to be part of a memoir, wondering if I should share it. I sat there thinking, Other people will probably share similar stories, so it should be fine.
No one shared anything like it, but I thought that the church was a safe place, so I went ahead.
When I finished telling the story, one of the women in the group shot me the evil eye. I don’t think anyone else saw her do it. Like the store manager, she knew how to use it.
The message was clear: It’s not okay for you to be talking like that.
On a regular basis when I’m at work, I see that people are quite comfortable with the idea that remarkable events can happen.
People often run into someone they know, and I can see their excitement. They usually talk for a while, thoroughly enjoying the “random” crossing.
But the experience at the church confirmed for me that while it’s okay to talk about some things, it’s still not okay to talk about others.
No matter where I was, if I shared my stories and my beliefs about them, some people would think I was “going too far.” I noticed that a lot of people seem to think it’s okay to talk about the things some stranger long ago or far away has done or experienced, but we’re crossing a line if we even hint that we think we’ve experienced an event that involves God.
So. What am I supposed to do? Ignore those parts? Act like nothing happened for everyone’s convenience? Use words like “weird” or “strange”? Words that are “okay” in some people’s opinions, instead of daring to mention concepts that make them uncomfortable?
But what if talking about it, explaining what it is like, what is involved, etc., would help people become more comfortable with at least thinking about the possibility that God is acting in our lives?
In this situation, I felt like my obsession with handbags played a part. Nothing else in the store had any significance to me. People heard me talking about them all the time. It was constant, and that’s what caught my eye.
Kate’s word seemed to be prophetic.
I believe that I was compelled to take the steps forward to talk to her.
I imagine that it scares some people to hear that. It’s scary to think that a force outside of our control could compel us to do something.
But it’s never forced me to do anything.
In most cases I felt uncertain about moving forward, as I was in this case, but I was “finally convinced” to make the decision. Then I’ve always been able to see that there were deeper and deeper levels of perception that occurred, different things I responded to, different things I saw, changes in the path I was taking, etc., as I tried to understand how it happened. I was experiencing breathtaking sets of circumstances, and in order to understand, you had to see all of it.
In Chloe Rhodes book, Black Cats & Evil Eyes, Rhodes says that the evil eye has sometimes been described as “a jealous spirit.” She says people in many places have believed that it develops in a person because they are coveting the good fortune of another. She also said that this idea appears in the Bible in Proverbs 23:6.
I’ve known for a long time that if I shared my stories people would be jealous. Who was I to have God present in my life like this, giving me gifts?
I knew they would think, If this is real, why isn’t it happening to me? Why would God give her gifts like that and not me?
The logic then continues, If it isn’t happening to me, it isn’t real.
The experience with Kate and Jolene helped change how I viewed the experience with the woman at the church.
If she was jealous, not angry, that turned things around completely.
Anger revolves around the idea of right and wrong. If we are on the receiving end of someone trying to control us by making us feel that what we are doing is “wrong,” it can stop us from taking action. For years I didn’t feel like I could tell my stories because I was afraid people would get angry with me.
But if she looked at me that way out of jealousy, it’s about her, not me.
Of course, I haven’t become immune to jealousy. Even with all of the incredible gifts I’ve been given over the years, I still have to deal with the fact that other people are getting things I want.
Defying the Odds: Random Chance or Gifts from God?
Every life event is based at least partially on random events or chance. So, why are some events glorified while others…
I’ve had to learn, as most people eventually do, that everyone gets different kinds of gifts throughout their lives. Some people get the gift of being a talented musician. Some people get the gift of having a close family. Some people get the gift of financial well-being.
The story I shared in the church was about believing that I had been divinely guided to go to a monthly writing workshop, even though I was depressed and didn’t want to go alone because the friend who had been going with me wasn’t able to attend that day. Then I watched as the group experienced profound, deeply personal synchronicity. The gift was given to everyone in different ways. It revolved around different aspects of writing and the nature of the stories we were, or even were not, telling. I think everyone felt incredibly fortunate to not only witness what happened, but to be part of it.
I also noticed something else in this experience that I never expected to see. As the store manager used the evil eye to control how long I talked to Kate, it turned out to be a positive force.
The manager was using the “evil eye” in an environment where it was appropriate. Her quick, stern looks served as a reminder that there were other customers that might need my attention. If I hadn’t noticed her or if I had “decided” to ignore her, I could have easily missed seeing Jolene.
(I feel like I have to qualify the word “decided” because given what I have experienced I can’t say for certain if I decided that or if all of it was directed.)
I am sure that some people will try to argue that this was simply a matter of probability. That when actions are repeated often enough certain kinds of patterns will appear.
For example, after some unknown number of people come to the store (anywhere from one to multi-millions), I will eventually see two people I know in one day.
Probability applies to situations that are similar to what I have been experiencing, but it doesn’t explain everything that happened that went beyond the fact that these women came to the store on the same day.
Similar, profound events have driven me to try to understand what is actually happening, to look more closely at things like: What happened prior to the event? How many different things were going on as it happened? How many different types of connections were involved?
The idea of dismissing every single aspect of this kind of event would be like pulling off all of the petals of a flower. Destroying its beauty by tossing aside one petal after another while thinking, I thought that part mattered but maybe I’m making too much of it, and that part must not matter because at some point long ago a stranger made me think it didn’t, and since that part doesn’t matter, this one must not, either.
When I think about what it takes to create such beauty, I can’t do it.
Instead, I wonder how many people are experiencing these kinds of events and dismissing them. If people don’t know what to look for or if they’re not paying attention to this kind of detail, is it possible that lots of people are dismissing events like this simply because they’ve never heard anyone talk about it?
You might think, What if people lied? How could you tell? What if powerful leaders fabricated stories to make us believe they were being guided by God?
All I have been seeing is an astonishing kind of beauty in the ways my life is unfolding. The events often happen in mundane situations, and they are showing me that I do not have any power. If someone wants to make up stories to tell people they have been experiencing beautiful events that show that they do not have any power to affect anything outside of their own life, that God isn’t aligned with any particular religion, and that now that they have been experiencing these events, all they want to do is spend all of their time learning about the nature of God….
Well, hopefully you get my point.
The events have created a kind of knowing that gives me hope for the world.
They have enabled me to see a kind of beauty I didn’t know was possible. It doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any kind of hardship in my life. Quite the opposite. Many of the challenges I’ve faced seemed to create the dynamics for the spectacular opportunities.
Maybe I didn’t present my story at the church that day in a way that conveyed all of this. I think I have been trying to figure out how to do that as I continue to share these unusual events, as I work toward the goal of getting back to my memoir. Hopefully, I am getting closer.
1) Rhodes, Chloe. Black Cats & Evil Eyes: a Book of Old Fashioned Superstitions. Michael O’Mara Books Ltd, 2015, 21.
2) I don’t mention my favorite numbers very often. I share a few stories about them on my blog and in my free mini-book, Synchronicity, Documented, but I couldn’t help but notice that the biblical passage mentioned in Rhodes’ book includes all of them. Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Oxford University Press, 1989: Proverbs 23:6 – Do not eat the bread of the stingy; do not desire their delicacies….