The Jew and the Psychic

In which a clairvoyant with a parrot dishes out some hard truths

“World Renowned Psychic” read the description on the brochure.  “Is your life in transition? Get answers to all of your questions.”

It was day one of my four-day retreat in Tucson, Arizona. The plan was to take a much-needed break after enduring the no–end-in–sight-headless-chicken–divorce-marathon, which rendered me physically, emotionally, and spiritually depleted. Not only is this the first trip I’ve taken since filing for divorce, it’s the first trip I’ve ever taken alone. During our marriage, my soon to be ex couldn’t tolerate me travelling without him, as though he knew that once free from the shackles of our soul-crushing marriage, I might never come back. 

I reread the brochure and smirk. Is your life in transition? How I wish I could call the chewed-up, spit out mess of my life something as prosaic as a “transition.” More like pandemonium. I’ve spent the past year in numb horror watching the Santa Monica house of cards I painstakingly built crumble under the tsunami of divorce. Everything I thought I had has been obliterated. Everything I thought I knew has been challenged. A big void fills the space where my life used to exist. The feelings range from emptiness to despair. The stories I tell myself about my feelings keep me up at night, ruminating about the past and fearing the future. If I do manage to drift off, I am a granted a sleep that can only be described as hysterical. Dreams of being trapped in plummeting elevators and barreling down the 405 when my brakes go out are my only repose.

Yes, I desperately need this retreat.

But even surrendering to this retreat is a struggle. I look around me and see gaggles of woman who appear to be desperately seeking their mid-life Oprah-experience. If I had to guess, their purses are stuffed with books by Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra. My almond milk latte churns in my stomach as I wonder if I’m now one of them.

How the******did my life come to this? 

And to make matters worse, the Big 40 is right around the corner. As I have no choice but to keep trudging towards the day of the fortieth year since my birth, it’s impossible for me to not acknowledge how far I haven’t come. On my 30th birthday, I felt proud- smug even - as I assessed my internal Progress In Life list. Two masters degrees - check! High profile career in Jewish non-profit world - check! Luxury condo in great part of town - check! Prominent seat on the board of a prestigious West Los Angeles synagogue - check! Nice Jewish husband - check, check, check! But now, a decade later, I’m facing a failed marriage and financial insecurity, struggling to re-establish myself in the work force while balancing single motherhood. How can I not feel as though The Universe has demoted my entire existence? 

So maybe a visit to the clairvoyant is exactly what I need.  It’s practically the only thing I haven’t yet tried. I’ve spent years in therapy, meditation, and yoga. I’ve immersed myself in Judaism and studied the ancient texts. I’ve both qualified for and attended every 12-Step program under the sun. In fact, my entire adult life feels like it’s been a major self-help project. Yet, despite all my “tools,” it’s still a profound struggle to not tailspin into dread and anxiety about my future. Maybe the answers are quite literally in the stars.

Having nothing to lose, I make an appointment and find myself sitting on a concrete bench outside an office with the words “Center for Psychic Healing.” Suddenly I feel a hand on my shoulder. I whip my head around and lock eyes with an old lady with matted grey hair and the brightest, bluest eyes I’ve ever seen…I swear, they’re like alien eyes. And there’s a parrot perched on her shoulder. A fricking parrot. On her shoulder. A big orange and red parrot with a metal handcuff around its scrawny parrot ankle, which is chained to another handcuff around the old lady’s liver-spotted wrist. 

“Come on in, honey,” she whispers with a crooked smile.  I think the parrot smiles at me too. I have no choice but to follow her into a tiny, dark office. I take a seat across from her and notice the parrot******splattered across her lap. She stares at me for a long moment. Her electric eyes seem to pierce through all the defenses I’ve spent years erecting.

Finally she speaks. “You’ve had quite a year. Oh honey. I’m so, so sorry.” 

Tears stream down my face as she hands me a box of tissues. Then she pulls out a piece of paper filled with a dizzying array of random symbols and zigzagging lines.

“This is your birth chart, “ she says, pointing to the piece of paper that coincidentally looks like a fairly accurate illustration of my internal chaos. “It’s all here.”

She tells me that I need to stop blaming myself because there was nothing I could’ve done to prevent my circumstances. According to my chart, this was the time that everything in my life was going to fall apart. She tells me the only goal is to stop judging the feelings and situations, no matter how awful they seem. 

I melt back into my chair and feel her words wash over me. It’s not exactly what I expected to hear, but I can’t deny the intrinsic truth of what she is saying. 

“Do you have any questions?” she asks. My head races with so many thoughts that I’m actually struck speechless.

When will I get my life back? Will I ever make a living? Will I manage to find a new career path and experience some concrete measure of security and success? Will my daughter come out of the divorce unscathed and not repeat the terrible relationship mistakes I made? Am I a good enough mom? Is my ex a good enough dad? Am I a good enough writer? Friend? Human? Should I just get the******out of LA and run off with my daughter to Hawaii? Will I ever trust another man again? Will I ever trust myself? Will I ever be truly loved? Am I enough?

All of these thoughts get distilled into one question that manages to merge all my lifelong fantasies and desires into one sentence. “Will I ever have a healthy, happy romantic relationship?” I murmur, in a voice barely above a whisper.

I hold my breath as I await her response, praying that she’ll confirm my lifelong romantic fantasy. Just tell me there’s a man waiting in the wings of the Shakespearean tragedy of my life. A man who has the power to rescue me from all this chaos and give me the happy ending I’d like to believe I deserve.

She takes a deep breath and replies, “I’m sorry, but no. Not now. This is not the time for a relationship. This is a time for you to stand on your own two feet. A time to heal. A time to find out who you are. But there’s good news,” she continues, pointing to my chart. “Things are definitely looking up around November 2015.”

November 2015? But that’s nearly 2 years away! I can’t wait that long. It’s just not fair.

Then I remember the words a wise rabbi once told me when I was complaining about something not being fair: “The only fair I know of is the County Fair in Pomona.”

I look up, and see her and the parrot smiling at me, and I actually grin back. For the first time in ages, I’m filled with hope for whatever the future holds. And the next time a guy I feel ambivalent about asks me out, I have a built in response: My stars just aren’t aligned right now. Check back in with me at the end of 2015.

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