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plam reading session
Twenty20

"Two daughters,” he said knowingly as I got in the front seat of the Uber. He, being the driver, a man I had never met before in a city I had never been. 

I’d be lying if I said inadvertently booking a clairvoyant driver was surprising to me. This is par for the course—they find me. Or maybe I find them? Probably both. The point is that for someone who doesn’t “believe,” I’m also the one on a bachelorette weekend in Toronto holding my hand out for the driver to press a crystal into my palm, nodding along as he tells me, “You have healing powers.”

Three years—and one daughter—later, that Toronto driver was probably the most accurate reading I didn't pay for. (Well I did pay for the Uber.)

Hello, my name’s Karen, and I can’t stop forking over money to clairvoyants for a glimpse of the future or a sliver of another dimension, that I don’t think actually exists.

At my core, I’m a savvy bargain shopper. I feel the high of endorphins when I find a two-for-one on garbanzo beans. I’ll ask for the manager if the jumpsuit I bought last week is suddenly on sale 20 percent off. But if someone claims to have insight into the future—my future—I will hand over all of my dollars. Maybe it boils to down to my burning desire to know what’s going to happen to me. I’ll grasp at straws for hints of what’s to come. This craving, or sure, anxiety, quashes logic so that I can place blind faith in anyone claiming to hold mystical insight.

And yet, I’m not sure “anxiety about the future” is totally fair—to me or the clairvoyants I’ve visited. You see, I've been interested in what most would call "new agey" stuff since I was a child. It’s much more en vogue today than it was when I asked for a crystal ball for my 10th birthday. And not many friends knew how to respond to my “What your sign?” question during recess. (I’ve known that I was a Taurus with a Sagittarius ascendant and a Cancer moon since I was 13). I meditate. I’ve dabbled in “Moon Juice.” My apartment smells of palo santo. I blame the traffic on Mercury retrograde (astrology is my true weakness—hey, you can’t deny the placement of the stars). My interest in astrology has clearly been a gateway to crystals, reiki, aura readings and a slew of clairvoyants I’ve allowed to read me.

Oh, and clairvoyants I’ve had many. Everyone from the $10 walk-up tarot card pull on the Lower East Side—where I learned that I’m “being called to reflect on the life lessons and themes that are currently being experienced at this time,” (hmmm, vague!)—to an in-demand “celebrity-endorsed” psychic. The latter was my most pricey. I’d gifted myself a wellness retreat post baby (and post some unexpected health issues), all of this on top of a recent cross-country move and the unforeseen strangeness of adjusting back to work. Everyone at the retreat raved about this woman, so I saw right past the, cough cough, $275 per hour price tag, in hopes of receiving wisdom, guidance, direction or all of the above.

While I might have expected tapestries and incense, the room I met her in was more like a therapist’s office: two chairs across from each other and a desktop computer at her desk, i.e. the energy read much more Office Space than Practical Magic, but it was no matter: I came there open and ready. And so began my most expensive session to-date.

Was it worth it? Well, I’ll put it this way: I learned that my husband will “make his mark” in his career and that I should pay attention for when my daughter—who is almost 1— starts to have imaginary friends…because she can see dead people? Of course, this was all regurgitated to me after I first divulged that I a). had a husband and b.) was a new mom to a baby girl. And still, the best part of this session has to be that the clairvoyant wound up spending most of the time (remember: $275 per hour) talking to me about her ex-husband. (Clairvoyants, they're just like us!). So, am I going to worry about spooky imaginary friends? Of course not. You bet.

To no one’s surprise, most of the clairvoyants’ insights are general and could probably apply to anyone. But. I. Keep. Coming. Back. For. More. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m addicted, so here’s my speed log:

$100 per hour numerology and intuitive blend: "It seems like there is a lot going on."

Isn't there always in the modern world?

$80 dollars for an hour psychic: "I see slow progress in early fall having to do with career. Instead of getting frustrated with where you are, consider how far you have come."

Managing expectations and reflecting on your hard work? That’s sage advice.

$275 per hour aforementioned “celeb” psychic: "Make sure you are communicating with your partner."

Great advice for anyone in any relationship ever.

€45 coffee ground reading in Spain: “You will have a baby in the place where your mother was born.”

OK, that one actually happened.

$60 for 45 minutes (discounted for first visit) “intuitive blend,” which meant a clairvoyant who also did some energy reading and healing reiki:You have the power within you to achieve whatever you want." 

So what if most sessions are really just thinly masked pep talks?

Perhaps sitting down with a stranger to tell you what they see is just that; being seen. Your therapist knows about all of your relationships and neuroses. Your husband knows what you want to hear. But the psychic on Orchard St. looking you in the eye to tell—or remind—you that you dwell in a vast interior and emotional world with a rainbow aura is what I needed to hear today to wake up and grind tomorrow. It’s catharsis—a stranger tells me I’m going through a hard time, and now I have a jumping off point to access that emotion and talk it out in a conversation where I don’t owe the person on the other end of the table anything beyond this conversation—OK, their hourly rate, but still.

But if I’m being completely honest with myself, I may not “believe” in anyone’s ability to communicate with spirits or see the future, but I believe most of these people believe they can. And, to an extent, I do kind of believe a lot of seers have a high emotional intelligence, meaning, they really are reading things about their clients many of us overlook. The nodding of my head in agreement; the slight smile or frown when they get something right or wrong; the simple act of wearing a wedding ring or answering a text from Mom or not combing my hair that day—they’re all clues that can steer the conversation.

Sometimes, they drop all the subtlety. One clairvoyant asked me “Do you meditate?” I answered, “Yes, I do.” She then nodded and said, “Yep, I just felt you drop in.” But I didn’t leave feeling scammed; I left feeling seen. A session with a clairvoyant is often more about this very second than about the future. It can be about someone just saying “Yes,” back to you. And that sentiment echoes in the room and compounds in your chest telling you: You are here. Your pain exists. You can move forward.

So do I believe the aura stylist can change my energy by telling me what colors to wear? Not really. Will I make that appointment anyways? Probably. I’ll chalk it up to my Taurus sun and Sagittarius rising.

I’m the sturdy bull, ever roaming.

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