I was standing in the bookstore looking at the three words embossed on the pale pink notebook cover: Dwell in possibility.
I loved everything about this notebook, from its ballerina-pink cover (which reminded me of my daughter Lucy’s tights as a little girl-dancer many years ago); to its embossed gold message from one of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson, to its subtly lined pages.
Next to the book display were matching striped pens in smart boxes.
I picked up the notebook and decided it was a perfect gift for my soul sister and soon-to-be
former employee, Megan. She was moving on to a new and exciting opportunity. Celebration was the order of the day.
Along with a pair of long impossibly soft red ‘reading socks,’ it would make a lovely gift. (I don’t know why, but I decided against the pen at the last minute.) I knew in my heart that it was the perfect gift for her.
At that moment a thought whispered, I wish I had a friend who knew how much I would like this. It sort of startled me, this weird little moment of selfishness. But the whisper persisted. It must be wonderful to have a friend that knows and understands you that well.
I sighed out loud, out into the universe.
I considered buying one for myself as well, but axed the idea. I wanted the book and the pen, and the two items together just cost too much to justify for no particular reason.
I was right; Megan said she loved the gift.
A few weeks later, after my birthday and before Christmas, another dear friend, Marie, and I went for a combined holiday lunch. She is also a December baby, so we had lots to celebrate. We pulled out our gifts. She loved hers, which delighted me. Then, in turn, I opened mine.
I looked at her, puzzled, a lump suddenly growing in my throat. Tears welled up.
Underneath the tissue paper in the brightly colored gift bag was the pink notebook—and the boxed pen. Marie had thoughtfully inscribed the inside title page. It read, I really dig how we’re growing wise together. Looking forward to 2015 with you.
How could this be? I hadn’t said anything to Marie about my gift to Megan; or my secret desire to have the notebook and the pen.
“I was hoping for a different reaction, I guess…?” Marie said, confused, but smiling.
I quickly rearranged my features from freaked-out to appreciative. “Sorry! It just caught me off guard. It’s wonderful.”
I looked at her beaming face, now relieved of its concern. I told her the story, and we marveled, as we often do, at the crazy things that just happen in life. But wait: Do they…? Just happen?
The real gifts
I had sighed a request out into the universe standing in that bookstore, and it wasn’t really for a bit of paper with a pretty cover and a writing utensil. The real thing I was praying for in that instant, without even fully acknowledging it, was exactly what I already had.
The gift was realizing I did have a friend who knew me that well, and cared about me that much. The gift was the lesson that the act of asking for what you want can produce powerful, even magical, experiences.
I had indeed wished for something in the bookstore that snowy, quiet day midway between birthday and Christmas. For a friend who really saw me. And my answer from the universe was “You already have that, idiot!” (Or words to that effect.)
Sometimes we ask for what we have, but are unaware we already possess it. Our Higher Power has the most amazing ways of showing us that which might be right in front of us, but to which we may yet be blind. Our vision might be blurred by ego, or self-pity, or pain.
The sign might be subtle, or the Universe might have to show off a bit, as with the magic trick of the Pink Notebook incident. But I’ve come to understand that asking–without expectation, and with humility and earnestness–always results in a response to the listening, watchful questioner.
Asking for what I want and need
The Pink Notebook incident prompted me to start my experiment, called originally Ask & You Shall Receive, to simply, fearlessly and without expectation start asking for what I needed and wanted in my life. To ask for help. Just to see when, where and how the Universe responded. Was this just a fluke? A coincidence? Or was there something to The Secret, and these laws of natural attraction?
Having spent much of my life enmeshed in others’ lives, concerning myself more with their wants and needs than my own, this experiment was perhaps one of the first truly honest life explorations I had ever done.
I remember at the beginning a counsellor asking me, “Okay, Suzanne, let’s make a list of your needs and wants. Give me the first thing that comes to your mind…”
I responded, without hesitation, “I need and want those I love to be well and happy.”
I thought that sounded quite reasonable until she frowned, rolled her eyes and said, “Um, you do realize wanting someone else to be happy isn’t for you, right? Let’s try again…”
I know those who aren’t ridiculously co-dependent (as I was, and am now in recovery from) may find this impossible to understand. But trust me, it was months before I could ever actually make that list.
Curiosity turns into research
If I was going to do a social research project, I wanted to first identify my current state, then my desired state, and a timeframe and any other parameters to frame my study. I decided on a year that would start January 1, 2015. It seemed appropriate to start with a new year, and with the inspiration of the Pink Notebook incident fresh in my mind to spur me on.
In fact, I decided to use the very same notebook as the journal for my thoughts and findings.
And now, my desire has grown to reach out beyond only recording my experiences, but to research those of who are also on a healing journey to unearth their authentic selves through the experiment of identifying what they need and want, and then engaging in the simple and complex process of asking and receiving.
I’m reading everything I can find on the subject in preparation–from indie rock musician Amanda Palmer’s The Art Of Asking to the literature of Al-Anon to ancient sacred texts.
And next, I’m planning a research project that will take the next year, and all of the above will result in a book, ideally in two years, but we’ll just see.
Though I can be a bit scornful of cliches at times, there are some that really work for me. “Standing in my own truth” is one of them, and it’s what this journey is about for me.
My end game is to enrich my understanding and to share what I learn with others.
Yes, it took me five decades to get here, and that’s one (somewhat negative) way to look at it, but another is to say that in the timeframe of millennia that actually doesn’t make me too slow of a learner, right?
I’m ready to ask for what I need and want, and to luxuriate in the miracles with which I am graced as I ask, and receive. And finally, to be properly humble and grateful, and to give back as good as I get. Literally. 🙂
PS: If you don’t have the book, or read it and loved it, you can get more with The Secret app which delivers daily teachings from the book to your phone or other devices.