[SWP: Behind the Book] Wooed by the Universe
Written by
Irene Allison
May 2016
Written by
Irene Allison
May 2016



= meaningful coincidences


A funny thing happens with creativity. When its energy stirs, it's as if the world tilts ever so slightly towards the uncanny. Unusual things happen: strands of mystery, tiny messages, a fever of insight, or sudden luck in odd directions.

When our creativity is on fire, the magic of "coincidence" often hovers nearby. It's like a wooing by the Universe.

Despite knowing this, the synchronicity that emerged around the project of my book still caught me by surprise.

It appeared indirectly while I was researching a question about taxation for writers. Deep in the comments section of a blog, someone thanked an author for a recommendation. I Googled the author's name.


I couldn't believe my eyes. From the other side of the country, the upcoming release of a book, with a premise that seemed startlingly similar to mine. I stared at the computer, surprise tripping through me like lightning.

Holy moly!

Two writers releasing books, mere months apart, on a similar theme? Perfectly normal, it happens all the time. But the not-so-common topic of sharing the lifetime wisdom of a palliative care pioneer made this "coincidence" a little uncanny.

My "worry-mind" zapped into place. For the next half-hour, I paced the house, especially the kitchen, randomly opening cupboards, the fridge, looking for something, anything to placate my worries. I found the tortilla chips.

Two books, same specialized topic, releasing at roughly the same time?

A "scarcity thought" besieged me: Would there even be enough interest for both of our books?

I ripped open the bag of chips, stuffed a handful into my mouth. The salty, fatty crunch brought temporary relief. A few more handfuls, why not?

A hundred and seven chips later, from below the deafening crunch in my mouth, a tiny voice whispered.


Well, it wasn't like there was any other choice! I crumpled up the now empty bag of tortilla chips and tossed it on the counter. With newfound energy I strode back to the computer, determined to continue my work and simply ignore the "coincidence".

Then it struck me, hard and fast. This was not some fluke of happenstance. This was something deeper: the timing, the context. Like the first sweet hint of spring air, the season had shifted irrevocably; things were changing.

This, indeed, was a meaningful coincidence.

It wasn't just that Phil, the other author, and me shared a passion for a similar theme. A tsunami of change was readying itself to surge through the country due to recent legalization of physician-assisted dying. Suddenly the topic of death, of how we die, and of how we care for our dying, was no longer taboo.

Things were changing; our upcoming books were part of it, part of a larger conversation. A deep sense of gratitude settled through my core, extinguishing my "worry-mind". 

Then I got excited.

I wrote to Phil, then plucked up my courage and asked him to read my manuscript. No small request. He responded quickly, humbly, and agreed. For the second time that day, I was stunned. Not only by the boldness of my request, but by Phil's instant and wide generosity.

A few weeks later, Phil contacted me with an endorsement that captured the essence of my book's message. Indeed, we shared a common vision. I suggested the possibility of joint author outreach. He agreed. We weren't competitors; we were twin, yet different voices echoing one another in a niche and timely issue. A seed of synergy lay at our feet.

Other "coincidences" with Phil continued to startle me. Similar age, both born in Britain, settled in Canada. Similar family tragedies. Both with close connections to palliative care, both showcasing the wisdom of pioneers in the field. Both seeking to improve the plight of the seriously ill trapped by high-tech acute care that often increases suffering and simply prolongs the process of dying. Both yearning for more compassion and heart in healthcare.

But there were differences too: variations in tone and thrust, in structure, content, and focus. Like the distinct yet complimentary voices of a choir, our books were clearly different.

And for that I was grateful.

Not for the sake of some supposed "originality" (no such thing exists), but because our topic deserves a chorus of voices. For far too long, patient suffering in serious illness has remained in the shadows. It's time to shed some light. It's time for change.

Indeed, this was synchronicity, a meaningful coincidence, and a nudge from the Universe that seemed to be saying:

You don't have to create something new.

All you need to do is to weave your truths together with the truths of others

 into one beautiful whole. 


* * * *


Our books:


Conversations on Dying: A Palliative-Care Pioneer Faces His Own Death

--- Phil Dwyer


Stay, Breathe with Me: The Gift of Compassionate Medicine

--- Helen Allison, Irene Allison


Visit me at: http://www.ireneallison.com

Visit Phil at: http://conversationsondying.com

Let's be friends

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  • Irene Allison

    Thank you, Lori! And you're right, perspective is everything!

  • Lori A. May

    Lovely. Perspective is everything. Recognizing this as a "meaningful coincidence" is a great example of that. Thanks for sharing, Irene.

  • Irene Allison

    Roni Beth, thank you for your kind words.

    I laughed when you talked about your life being run by synchronicity, bringing you want you needed even when you didn't agree with it. Ha! So funny and so true. There's just no arguing with synchronicity! 

  • Irene Allison

    Thank you, Maggie. How interesting to hear that you've been involved with palliative care. It is such a precious and special field. A gift really. 

  • maggie brooke

    I've worked a lot in palliative care. love it. thank you.

  • Roni Beth Tower

    Loved this post - the language, the images, the content of it.  My whole life has been run by synchronicity - the universe bringing me exactly what I need when I need it - even when I do not agree.  Thank you for writing this.   Roni Beth

  • Irene Allison

    Carol, thank you so much for your kind words.

    It's funny isn't it how we can believe in synchronicity and yet when it's happening it can take a minute (or many) for our minds to wrap around its positive aspects.

    I love your story to which I'll add: fans of Elizabeth Gilbert will likely find your book too and ... there's every chance that once your book is out into the world, Elizabeth will read it too! I'm sending that thought out into the Universe. 

    And I'm looking forward to reading your book too (I just love the cover)! Wishing you lots of luck!

  • Irene Allison

    Thank you, Patricia, I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Irene, I love your writing -- especially this post. I am such a believer in synchronicity as a powerful component of creativity.  Yet, as much as I believe that, I fell into the same trap as you did.  As soon as my book Paining Life was selected by SWP, I saw that Elizabeth Gilbert was publishing a book about creativity.  I was truly upset.  (She wouldn't read my book, which I understand given her popularity.) So, I read hers and saw how different hers was from mine. Then I remembered to bring my focus back to my own creative process -- finally  

  • Great post! I love how you went from feeling threatened to acceptance to collaboration.

  • Irene Allison

    Garine, thank you, that's so true. I remember reading about your wonderful, scary, and very positive experiences of reaching out for endorsements for your book. So you know all about it! 

  • wonderful connections happen when you take the simple steps of reaching out - even though it is scary!

  • Irene Allison

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Mary Jo. 

    Indeed it is amazing how the seeds of change suddenly seem to gather force and flourish. One of the things I really appreciate about getting older, is that I am so much more aware of being one small part of something much bigger.

    I really enjoyed reading about your experience. So familiar to me too. Wishing you lots of luck! 

  • Irene Allison

    Charlene, what a small world!

    How amazing that you've met Phil (I still haven't but it's sure to be one day soon). And yes, I read your very moving post about Debbie's Dying. (I'm linking it here so others can read it.) How lovely that this widening circle is connecting us as well.

    And thank you for sharing that beautiful and uncanny connection you experienced when writing your book, "Medicine Buddha / Medicine Mind". What a wonderful story, I love it!

    Thank you so much for sharing.     

  • Irene I love that you know Phil! I've been the grateful guest poster on his site Conversations on Dying and have seen him, met him briefly at the Writers' Community of Durham Region meetings. He is a warm and genuine human and I'm delighted now the circle continues...

    When I was writing Medicine Buddha/Medicine Mind, I hit an impasse which I'm sure all of you are familiar with: lots of writing done, but a sudden sense of "maybe I've bitten off more than I can manage..." Scary feelings! Then I picked up Norman Doidge's second book, The Brain's Way of Healing. His sixth chapter title mentions Buddhism so I turned there first and the first two words, a name, David Webber jumped up at me. David had studied with my teacher in the 1970's and traveled with him. I knew David well! Seeing his name in this great book and reading his intense healing journey there, as well as seeing some healing possibilities offered by my teacher in the same chapter increased my confidence that I was on a path I was supposed to fulfill. So I did. 

    Later I called David to thank him. We hadn't spoken in over 30 years but he instantly knew my name...it was a very heartfelt talk. So glad to have had this experience. 

  • Mary Jo Hetzel

    Thank you for sharing your story about the whole crazy process we all go through when something like this happens. I truly believe in synchronicity -- when we take positive steps in the direction of our passionate commitments, amazing things happen seemingly out of nowhere. Another aspect of all this is what you were implying in your post: when the time has come for certain truths to be told or messages to go out, they seem to flower forth in abundance. I remember how upset I was with myself when I waited too long to do anything with my doctoral dissertation about the devaluation of women's work of care and service, only to see dozens of books and articles come out on the same theme, well after mine was finished. It seems that the themes of your and Phil's books will strike a chord with a huge range of people, and help us all find our way through life's final passages. MJ

  • Irene Allison

    Thank you, Ann.

    I like your analogy. And as you say, it's wonderful meeting others who have come to similar conclusions; it's  affirming and inspiring. Besides, can there ever be too many books exploring different aspects of a similar theme? Not for us book-lovers.

    Good luck to you too, Ann!

  • Irene Allison

    Patti, what a fantastic story.

    Your feelings resonated with me in exactly the way you expressed they did for you. Ha! And what great company to be in. Fingers crossed that Julia Cameron will love your book (she does after all believe in synchronicity).

    Wishing you great success on your path and for your book!


  • My feeling is that finding others who write about a similar theme is a good thing -- it's like a restaurant opening next to another restaurant, suddenly that's the street where you go to have dinner! Meeting others who came to the same conclusion I did is affirming and inspiring to me, and Im happy to see that it was to you, too.

  • Patti Clark

    I love those coincidences that happen. And I could so relate to your 'scarcity fear' - A friend of mine emailed me just before my book was to be released and said - 'Oh by the way, did you know that Julia Cameron just released a book almost exactly like yours?" 

    GULP - what NO!  I can't compete with Julia!  Then that same small voice spoke to me...

    "Hey, my book was just mentioned in the same sentence as Julia Cameron - Cool!" 

    and I realized, we're not in competition (like I could ever compete with Julia anyway!) but instead there is some very interesting synchronicity around this at the moment.

    I did try to call Julia...but her team intervened! : )  But they did invite me to send her my book...and who knows!

    Thanks again for this story.  Wonderful!

  • Irene Allison

    Thank you, Iris. And I'm glad the themes of Phil's book and my book resonate with you. As you said, it's good to bring those themes to the forefront. My condolences for the loss of your friend. It sounds like she was lucky to have you in her life, and at its end. Thank you for sharing that story.  

  • Irene Allison

    Barbara, what a wonderful story about the invisible threads that weave us together.

    I love it that another writer in the community introduced your book to the family member of an important character in your book, and that you all met up in Chicago. That's uncanny! And it sounds like it was a blessing for everyone.

    BTW, I've got Even in Darkness on my kindle waiting to be read and I'm really looking forward to it.

    Thank you for sharing your "behind the scenes synchronicity"!

  • Iris Waichler

    Good for you for reaching out to Phil.  The topic you have chosen has always been one that I have been interested in as well. My many years working in hospitals in combination with taking care of a close friend who we helped die with dignity as helped me solidify my opinion and feelings about it. So glad you are bringing it to the forefront. Wishing you much success with your book and its message.

  • What a great post, Irene! I am in love with the synchronicity around our creative work- it feels like wonderful affirmation of what means so much to us.  My favorite example in bringing Even in Darkness into the world is that another She Sister, Betsy Teutsch recommended my book to a family member of an important character in my book. We all met when I did a book event in Chicago, and it was a magical evening that was thrilling to us all.  So congratulations, and keep appreciating these connections!