Do you keep seeing palindromes and wonder why? Here are some answers.
The first one appeared in a dream.
I was considering buying this very strange (but cute) powder blue cardigan with giant flower-shaped stones all over it. There was a sign above the rack advertising the price as $13.31. When I woke up it seemed significant that I could remember that specific number so clearly. “$13.31”stuck in my brain and throughout the day I caught myself thinking about what it might mean.
Of course, the number 13 carries some heavy symbolism in culture and numerology, so I fixated on that. Until, that is, later that afternoon when a grocery clerk announced my total as $47.74 and it struck me – the number I’d been ruminating on all day was just like this one. A palindrome. They read the same right-to-left as they do left-to-right. I released the idea that 13 was trying to get my attention and instead did some excited googling about the significance of palindromes.
I didn’t find much.
But it kept happening. Like, a lot.
I do understand that with only 10 digits in our numeration system there’s a relatively high likelihood of palindromes occurring every now and again. And I totally get that we see what we look for, too. Still, for months and months almost every time I looked at a clock, it was a palindrome time. Even more than that, sometimes my phone or computer battery would join the game and my screen would read something like: 6:26 26%. Receipt upon receipt upon receipt featured a palindromic total or transaction number – or both. It was more than noteworthy and not just a little baffling. But what could it mean?
I was connected enough to the universe to know I needed to be paying attention . . . but to what?
As the months wore on and the palindromes kept trying to tell me something, I would occasionally hunt the Google-verse for the meaning or power of palindromes. There are some theories and facts out there but none with any obvious thematic consistency and none that seemed to make sense for me. (One thing that I learned was that a medieval alchemist studying moths recorded the following palindrome about their behavior: In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni, which, translated means “we go wandering at night and are consumed by fire.” That’s completely rad, right?)
In the meantime, the other aspects of my life were sort of (ok, completely) a mess. I was experiencing constant anxiety about my job, my relationships, my home, my body – all of it. I had chronic dissatisfaction with my life and truly had no clue who I was or what I was supposed to be doing. My physical life was totally disengaged from my mental life, and my spiritual life was buried in a far, far off distant past.
Finally, probably because she was tired of hearing my self-loathing whine-drama, my friend offered to give me a tarot reading. After I shuffled and cut the deck, she turned the first card: The Magician. “Look,” she pointed at the center of the card. “He’s wearing the Ouroboros.” My blank stare surely revealed my confusion. “The snake biting his own tail. It’s infinity. He reminds us to go back to where we began in order to move forward. It’s returning to the beginning.”
In the beginning, I was not worried about data or calories or really anything. I was not losing sleep over other people’s opinions of me, nor was I spending even one second of my own precious life trying to manage someone else’s. In the beginning of my life, I knew magic was real. Unicorns. Fairies. Haunted castles with hidden stair wells – these things made up my world. My Barbies made love potions out of berries in the backyard universe I built for them. Stories and songs and poems flowed through me as naturally as cool, dark mud sliding through my young fingers. In the beginning I was of the earth and in the stars and without question where and how and who I was meant to be.
The snake and the numbers were right: I had to get back there.
The word palindrome is the marriage of two Greek roots: palin, meaning again, and dromos meaning way. To find my way again.
The magical messages still come at me on receipts, the odometer, the clock, license plates, phone numbers. $71.17. Find your way again. 12:21. Go back to the beginning. I recognize them now as loving reminders from my guides to stay awake and true to my karmic purpose. To simplify and celebrate all the things that bring me delight and let go of the rest.
It didn’t happen all at once. At first, I had to cleanse every aspect of my physical and spiritual world to get back to my true core, which, if you’ve ever undertaken that kind of task, you’ll know is exhausting and sometimes painful work. But I was already in pain, and on the other side of that magical clearing is a version of ourselves free from the restraints of expectations that don’t serve us. Because of these messages from the palindromes, my life is radically different now. Or, I guess actually, it’s radically the same as it was always meant to be.
Jennifer Joy’s debut book of poetry is called We Played Wedding, We Played Wife.