Celestial signs are there for us all, if we just ask and stay open. They can help us reclaim our courage, make us believe in ourselves again, and take us places we never thought possible. But only once in my life did a sign of mine actually walk through my door.
His name is Bill Medley. You might know him as one of the Righteous Brothers—the one with the deep, soulful baritone.
My story begins 10 years ago. After moving into our remodeled Costa Mesa home, my husband and I discovered numerous construction problems. Plus, it turned out to be less comfortable for my elderly mother than we’d imagined.
We cried. We fretted. And then we realized what the universe was trying to tell us: That house just didn’t fit our needs, and its energy didn’t feed our artists’ souls. Not like our quaint bungalow in North Santa Ana had, back when I was an environmental activist and at-risk youth advocate, working with the most fascinating people of my life, including Deepak Chopra, Laura Huxley, Buckminster Fuller’s daughter Allegra, and the defiant graffiti artists of the inner city.
There also was the little seaside cottage that inspired me to write my first poem as a child. Living just steps from the ocean sparked in me a sense of the divinity in creative expression. Watching the graceful pelicans glide across the sparkling water, I learned to convey in words my oneness with nature. Maybe there I could find my way out of the commercial writing that had become rote, back to the journalism that once made me feel so alive.
Then a house in the Balboa Peninsula Point neighborhood where I grew up came on the market—a midcentury-modern diamond-in-the-rough a few doors from my childhood home—with room for my mom. We could barely afford it, but we threw the Costa Mesa house on the market, set a shoot-for-the-moon price, and began frenetically hosting open houses. Talk about pie-in-the-sky. We were in our mid-50s, a time when we should be buying something less expensive, not more. But in that place deep in your heart that knows more than your brain, I felt certain it was meant to be.
We made an offer on that impossible dream, and by some miracle it was accepted. But we didn’t have near enough cash to carry both houses, not even for a day. I began looking for a sign that this crazy move was the right one. Something concrete—something bigger than any psychic flashes I’d received in the past, or that my dowsing crystal had revealed.
So this metaphysical girl began a new daily ritual—putting her hands together and gazing skyward, asking for an undeniable sign to light the way. There was a humongous, non-refundable deposit at stake. I needed proof that this move was the right one, and I needed it right away.
Then it began. Practically every other time I performed this rite, I would hear a Righteous Brothers song on the radio. After about the 10th time, my husband, Steven, and I agreed that Bill Medley was our sign to buy this house. At the time, he lived on Balboa Peninsula Point. I grew up with his music (think Rendezvous Ballroom and Coconut Grove). And his evocative, sensual voice helped awaken me to the power of womanhood while I was still an awkward, bookish teen.
He had to be the sign.
But still no offers. I wanted to trust, but doubts kept plunging me back into the black hole of fear. Which is when this move became my do-or-die. I believe I have spiritual guides who place signposts in my path, and that it’s up to me to create my own reality. But I’d never been tested like this before.
Making big financial decisions and taking calculated risks are huge issues for me, ever since I was disinherited as a college student for rebelling against my controlling father. Am I brave enough to follow my inner voice at this stage of my life?
Tao meditation says: “Deception occurs when you are divided. Truth appears when you are whole.” I needed to stop the war inside me and give the truth space to appear.
Then one cloudless spring afternoon, I was on the phone in my home office during an open house, whining to a friend that we were never gonna get this dream home, that we couldn’t afford to eat the deposit, and that I was starting to doubt what I thought I knew. I looked up from my desk and saw the back of a towering, slender guy, sunlight catching the silver in his hair. Then he turned around.
Bill Medley was standing in my studio!
I leapt from my chair. “You’re my sign from God,” I gasped. He backed away. I babbled on and blurted out the Cliff Notes version of our little drama and the part he played in it. He smiled and reassured, “You just keep the faith, girl. Family is everything. You’re gonna do it.”
Turns out he was looking for a home for his daughter, but she wasn’t ready to move right away. (Rats!) Meanwhile, my husband had been watching from the dining room, telling other open-house visitors why I was going nuts. After Bill sauntered out the front door, I told Steven, “If I don’t have the guts to make this move now, I might as well be spitting in the face of God.”
The next few weeks produced a string of inadequate offers. But each time, I’d remember that day and fall back into the quiet comfort of knowing all would be well. Then a charming couple showed up and offered full asking price, and both deals were sealed without a day to spare.
Fast-forward almost a decade from the day of that transformational event. We’re living in our dream home. I’m revisiting my paranoia about money, wondering if we’ll ever be able to retire here. During a bike ride I discover that Medley’s house is on the market.
My heart sinks. I get off my bike and stare blankly at the for-sale sign, and I’m filled with a profound sense of loss I don’t fully understand. I can’t let him leave without expressing my gratitude. I need to repay him, but how?
I decide to arrange an interview and write a story about the man, his music, and what he means to me. It’s been forever since I did any writing like that, but I used to love it. “I can do this,” I convince myself, and wonder where this new bend in the road will lead.
I start trying to find people in the neighborhood to get a message to Bill. Weeks roll by. I read his memoir and try to believe this unlikely interview is meant to be. Then, after his house has gone into escrow and it seems the opportunity has slipped away forever, his realtor calls and says he’ll do it.
I contact him, set a date, and scramble to learn how to operate my new digital voice recorder. The day arrives, and I’m sitting face to face with my living, breathing sign. I briefly tell him the story of why I’m so compelled to talk to him. He doesn’t remember. No matter, I say. “I owe you. You’re the reason I’m here.”
Then unfolds more than an hour of the most entertaining and touching tales, told in the voice that singer Lola Falana called “sweet thunder.” How doctors told him in the ’70s that he’d never sing again, and his high school choir teacher appeared out of nowhere and said, “I can fix that for you. God told me to heal you.” About the days when the black Marines from El Toro flocked to see him and Bobby Hatfield sing at a local dive, yelling out “righteous, brother” because they sounded like two of their own. And the Vegas years when Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack welcomed him into their circle.
I listen to the interview later that night and am struck by the dramatic change this man has inspired in my life. Again. At age 66, staring down the fear of losing my retirement security by leaving a dependable career as a copywriter, I decide to surrender and go back to when I looked at writing as art, not a living. Back to when work was an adventure.