How An Unexpected Omicron Trip to London Released My Writer’s Block — a synchronicity story
Synchronicity occurs when unexpected events collide, bringing you new meaning and understanding.
Today I’d like to tell you the story of what happened when South African scientists discovered the Omicron variant, my flights to South Africa were canceled, and how that solved my months-long writer’s block.
Along the way, I’ll share three points about synchronicity that might help you recognize it in your own life.
Let’s start here: The Beatles!
I am a rabid Beatles fan. I’ve listened to their albums hundreds of times since I was a child.
I love The Beatles’ backstory: they rose from the tough streets of Liverpool to achieve international fame. They overcame huge obstacles — and simultaneously created massive troubles for themselves and their families with their turbulent personal lives.
Even now, The Beatles continue to influence music, art, fashion, and film, decades after they ended their group career.
Most of all, for me The Beatles represent a fountain of creativity. They began as a rock-n-roll band copying American blues artists. But as they grew, they wrote more than 300 songs together, evolving and changing over the years and taking on new styles and formats, getting better all the time. They finished as artists.
In November 2021, I held airplane tickets from the US to South Africa for the December holidays. It was time for our son’s trip to visit his father. But then came Omicron!
President Biden (among others) banned flights in and out of South Africa.
Flights that once seemed merely stressful were now impossible. What to do?
In the United States, Thanksgiving is the third Thursday in November. This year on November 25th, instead of gathering with family, I skipped the family dinner out of covid caution. I was still hoping to get on that plane.
To console me, the Beatles documentary “Get Back” came out on Thanksgiving. It was released in three parts, over three days, and I sat and watched it all the way through each day (about 2 hours each).
As a distraction from 2021 St. Paul, Minnesota, I time-traveled to 1969 London. I would have fit right into those groovy clothes and hairstyles, the grey and gritty streets, the thick accents and the jokey slang.
In fact, I was in the womb during the filming of the documentary in January 1969, and when I was born in May, the song “Get Back” was #1 on both the US and UK charts. So I was listening to The Beatles early on!
Watching the film over Thanksgiving weekend, I fell even more in love with The Beatles themselves as they revealed their humanity. Tensions ran high. Personalities clashed. Creativity is not an easy path; it’s truly a “long and winding road.”
I’d been feeling blue about my own creativity ever since moving to the US last June.
The truth was, I’d had writer’s block for months.
Maybe it was the big change, maybe it was the stress of the pandemic, or all the settling-in steps of emigration/immigration and the bureaucracy of finding new doctors, banks, school, apartment, ID cards, everything. It was so draining.
I’d come home after 24 years living overseas, and I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to say. I knew I was guided, but I didn’t know how things were going to turn out, and I felt as though I were midway through my own personal mini-series, with not enough perspective to review or describe the experience well to anyone, including myself.
On Saturday November 27, just as I wrapped up part 3 of “Get Back,” my phone pinged. “Let’s change your flights to London.”
My child’s father had been working in London, and because of the bans, he was now stuck, too. He suggested we re-book our tickets from Cape Town to London.
Although I’m usually up for an adventure, when I researched the changes, my heart sank. Instead of a sunny beach holiday, we’d travel from snow to rain. The distance was half, but the new flights cost more. Toughest of all, accommodation in London at the last minute, at Christmastime, looked scarce, if not impossible to find.
But I had given my word that father and kid would reunite, so I kept my commitment. I re-booked the flights.
Luckily, here’s where the synchronicity starts kicking in.
I knew our child would be spending the whole month with his dad, so I’d be free. Thus, I sought out a place in central London where I could walk around.
I needed a kitchenette so I could buy groceries, to keep both my costs and covid exposure down. I had no desire to eat in restaurants, this time.
Sticking to my budget of less than 75 pounds per night, I combed through Airbnb. “No results found.” Seven days until we flew, and there was no room at the inn.
I nudged my budget upward pound by pound. Only one place came up, in a neighborhood called Marylebone (I had to google how to pronounce it). Good news: The owner was a woman. It had a microwave, mini-fridge, and a hotplate. A simple bed and desk, in an attic with windows. These signs were good enough! Since I had no other options; I took it immediately.
This is my first point I’d like to make about synchronicity. Let’s call it “perceived limited field.”
Sometimes when I’m “forced” to do something, when there are no other options on the table, it turns out to be meaningful. Although I can’t see that at the time.
As soon as I’d confirmed the Airbnb, I smiled. I looked at myself in the mirror: I had a huge grin across my face. Why? It was odd. I certainly didn’t feel happy that I was going to a cold city instead of a beach. Lots of things would be shut because of lockdowns. I wouldn’t meet up with any friends in person because of Covid, and and and. It was not ideal.
Here’s my second point about synchronicity:
Something in me knew that this was going to be good. My smile came from somewhere else, not my rational emotions. It was as if my inner guidance was speaking to my face and telling it to smile, without letting my mind in on the secret.
I needed to trust my guidance on this one.
My son and I flew from the US to the UK on December 3rd. We jumped through every bureaucratic hoop, passed all the tests and checkpoints. I dropped the kid off with his dad, and they hugged in a delighted reunion.
Now it was time for my personal retreat.
The rain drizzled on the old-fashioned brick rowhouses of my AirBnb street. Quaint but plain; unimpressive.
I climbed two narrow flights of stairs to my attic.
Well, at least I had a kettle to make tea.
I had my notebooks to keep me company.
Perhaps, for a month, this simple little London AirBnb could turn into my writing room, like The Beatles’ Paul McCartney had when he moved from Liverpool to London in 1963.
Paul later said his room was so small he had to saw off part of his piano to fit, but he wrote great songs there, including “Yesterday.”
Imagining I was Paul McCartney, I made myself a cup of tea and wrote down snippets of the phrases in strong English accents I’d overheard at the airport.
“It’s not a slight, you’ve misinterpreted it, she meant …”
“And then whenever he does ring …”
“I’ve arrived …”
“Because I thought, apparently mistakenly, that …”
“The manager, will he be in Chelsea, or … ?”
English people communicate by not finishing their sentences. It’s what they leave unsaid that’s most significant.
I could feel my ears re-awakening to language.
I slept off my jet lag. It took two days. I was bleary-eyed, but I felt I was onto something new.
I journaled my mixed-up time zone dreams. I wrote lists of sounds I could hear outside: the dawn chorus of birds, muffled announcements from the train station next door, and often the hiss of rain.
Partially recovered, I googled “outside activities near me.” Because London is so densely-packed and historical, a long list came up. Third on the list was, “Beatles Walking Tour.” Aha!
The tour goes twice a week.
Then I noticed where the tour started: the corner of my very own street! 100 paces away!
The Beatles coming to visit me at home — priceless. I perked up further.
On the tour, promptly at 11:00, the guide Richard met me and one other tourist couple outside the Marylebone Train Station.
Then, the full reveal.
The third part of synchronicity, for me, is when it all joins together.
When I figure out why I am where I am, and why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Richard said, “The Beatles filmed the beginning of their 1964 movie “A Hard Day’s Night” right where we are standing.”
“And here,” Richard waved, “is where The Beatles ran, pursued by hundreds of fans, in the opening shot.”
I looked up the road. He was pointing to my house.
I felt a pulse of energy shoot through me.
I was walking in their footsteps. Literally.
Across the years and distance, I felt the connection.
I saw why I had come to London. Why this AirBnB had been my only choice.
My trip took a turn for the better right there.
For the next three weeks I wrote non-stop. I walked and walked, eavesdropped and listened, and took notes.
I looked at paintings and sculptures in stunning art museums that were only a quarter full because of the coronavirus.
By the time I flew back to the US, I was sure I could live in London if I were invited to become a coach to executives and artists there. A complex and challenging city with so much to give.
After the doldrums of lockdown, when I couldn’t even lift a pen, London lifted me.
Best of all, I loved the gift The Beatles had given me: creativity, fortitude, perseverance, and a sense of humor no matter what happens.
London, and The Beatles, gave me my writing spirit back.
And that’s why you’re reading this story today!