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Laundry On Sundaes

Every beginning is only a sequel, after all, and the book of events is always open halfway through.

I absolutely loved this week’s 100th episodes of How I Met Your Mother. Yes, we only saw the Mother’s feet and Ted didn’t even get to meet her, but you know what, sometimes life’s like that. Sometimes the perfect person is just inches away from you, and perhaps your paths have already crossed many times before. Yet you know none of it at all. To you, they are just isolated events that hold no significance. But there’s something waiting to happen, something magical. You just don’t know it yet. But when it does happen, the dots will connect, the stars will align, and you will see that everything that has happened before has happened to bring you here. There is a grander plan outside of you.

To quote the wonderful blog Have You Met Ted dedicated to all things How I Met Your Mother:

There’s something magical about just missing someone you don’t know as they pass through a doorway. They’re right there, all of them, their whole life and memories and thoughts and hopes and dreams, but you know nothing of it, you can’t read it. It’s like when you meet someone and find out they lived on your block years ago. It makes you realize there’s a whole world going on around you that you can’t see and experience. It makes you wonder what things are happening just on the other side of the door, or the street, or the city, that someday you’ll know about and realize how close it was then, or maybe you’ll never know it. How many things are a bathroom’s door and a glimpse of a foot away that you’ll never get a chance to know better?

It’s a beautiful thought, isn’t it? It reminds me of the story 向左走 向右走 (A Chance of Sunshine) by the wonderfully talented artist and writer 几米 (Jimmy Liao). It’s one of my favourite books of all time. You can read it in Chinese here. It’s also available in English, but I heard that it really doesn’t capture the charm of the original. There is also a movie made based on the book – Turn Left, Turn Right – but again, it doesn’t do the book justice.

The essence of the story is nicely encapsulated by the poem Love at First Sight by the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, an excerpt of which appears in the prologue of the book. The complete poem is below:

Love at First Sight
Wislawa Szymborska

They’re both convinced
that a sudden passion joined them.
Such certainty is beautiful,
but uncertainty is more beautiful still.

Since they’d never met before, they’re sure
that there’d been nothing between them.
But what’s the word from the streets, staircases, hallways –
perhaps they’ve passed by each other a million times?

I want to ask them
if they don’t remember –
a moment face to face
in some revolving door?
perhaps a “sorry” muttered in a crowd?
a curt “wrong number” caught in the receiver?
but I know the answer.
No, they don’t remember.

They’d be amazed to hear
that Chance has been toying with them
now for years.

Not quite ready yet
to become their Destiny,
it pushed them close, drove them apart,
it barred their path,
stifling a laugh,
and then leaped aside.

There were signs and signals,
even if they couldn’t read them yet.
Perhaps three years ago
or just last Tuesday

a certain leaf fluttered
from one shoulder to another?
Something was dropped and then picked up.
Who knows, maybe the ball that vanished
into childhood’s thicket?

There were doorknobs and doorbells
where one touch had covered another
beforehand.

Suitcases checked and standing side by side.
One night, perhaps, the same dream
grown hazy by morning.

Every beginning
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.

How amazingly beautiful is that? It’s one of those poems that haunts you with this feeling of wonder and possibility. And how amazingly does it embody How I Met Your Mother? I can’t believe I never made the connection between one of my favourite poems and one of my favourite shows. “… the book of events/ is always open halfway through.” I just feel fortunate to be able to listen as Ted reads his book – after it’s been written, from the beginning, all the while watching him struggling to find what he believes is the beginning, but what really is halfway. And I hope that one day when I look back, I will find my book as beautifully connected.

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