Metaphork in the Road

On Tuesday I was receiving back treatment from my craniosacral healer A., a lovely Italian (not Italian-American) woman who boasts a decidedly un-American unflappability. I was still fresh off The Breakup and on Day 2 of a period that really had wings, as my punny British beau used to call days of extra-heavy flow. (Sanitary napkin joke for those not in the know.)

“Are you feeling crampy?” she asked, and I shook my head. “But then I’m not feeling much of anything,”

She raised her eyebrow. “My sense is there’s quite a significant uterine release happening.”

“Why not?” I said grandly. It was true I was having my heaviest period in years, but that dovetailed with my theory that, post-age 45, periods are more triggered by strong emotions than hormones. This was a decades-long relationship I was releasing even if, after more than a week of crying and storming, I’d slipped into a comfortable numbness.

A second later, I heard before I felt an enormous whoosh—an electric current running through my body as if I’d been shocked. It shot from the top of my head (the crown chakra, the entrance point of heavenly consciousness) to my pelvis floor before it spread to my hips.

“Wow,” I started to say when A. interrupted me. “I’m sorry, Lisa, but I think I’m going to faint.” A second later she crumpled to her knees, then regained consciousness before I could spring from the table.

I apologized at the same time she wondered aloud if something was wrong with her. “That was me and my Carrie shit,” I said. “You’ll be fine in a minute.” We opened the window and, sure enough, she was.

Before resuming the session, she sat back on her stool and explained that when she was younger she’d had a history of fainting when experiencing strong emotion, but that it had never before happened with a client.

I smiled at the ceiling. “How many witches have you treated, though?”

About 20 minutes later, as I was readying to leave, sirens began to sound outside the window. A. swiveled around and reported firemen were entering the building across the street. A second later another truck arrived.

“Definitely me,” I said, this time joking. But on my way to the train, I asked the guys on the rig what had happened. Out of professional curiosity, mind you, not because their arms were perfect and firemen by definition are hot hot hot.

The younger men got that deer-in-the-headlights look younger men are starting to get around all my red lipstick and middle-aged-lady cleavage, but the fire chief straightened his suspenders and stepped forward. “All the tenants in the building reported smoke 20 minutes ago,” he said. “No fire has been detected.”

I smiled again.

After session, I got home, fed Gracie, changed my billionth tampon of the day, and began to put away the morning’s dishes. I picked up a smallish salad bowl that my first godfamily gave me years ago–the family with whom I no longer keep in touch because its fraught dynamics remind me too much of my family of origin.

This bowl is not the prettiest. It’s painted with the 90s-ish mustards and olives that are back in fashion but I’ve never favored, and it doesn’t conjure especially positive associations. But it’s so sturdy and well-sized that I got in the habit of using it for everything during quarantine, and naturally reach for it now. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up this bowl, rued its ugliness, then used it anyway. I’ve also dropped it more times than I can count, and it’s never sustained a crack.

Until Tuesday after back treatment, that is, when all I did was pick it up lightly and it broke apart in my hands.

“Ok,” I said aloud, and climbed into bed for the night.

It was 7pm.

I woke the next day at 4:45 am, early even for me, and considered the prior day’s disturbances in the field, as my teacher Rupert Sheldrake calls such psychic disruptions. In earlier times of distress or transition, I’d often busted telecommunication devices, car batteries, lightbulbs–anything that conducted energy, basically. The year I turned 40 was so tumultuous that my therapist had been forced to stock extra bulbs for our sessions. Around the same time, I read for seven fancy ladies at a Delaware house party, and so badly short-circuited the building’s electrical system that it had to be rewired entirely.

In recent years, I’ve learned how to better modulate my energy frequencies, even straighten out Internet connections simply by slowing my pulse. (It’s why I begin all Zoom intuitive readings with breathwork.) But yesterday I had splintered a bowl and fried my energy worker and quite possibly the wiring of an entire Park Slope building—really something given that it had withstood the high-octane sanctimony of that region for 50 years.

The last time I’d messed up my energetic field this badly was when Covid first began and I’d fried my phone and computer within the span of 24 hours. But, really, I’d broken up with the Arsonist many times before.

So what the actual fuck? I said aloud as Grace mewed in solidarity. Which is when my phone buzzed.

It was T, my friend of 35 years who’s been in Thailand since her high-octane Hollywood gig threatened to get the best of her.

You up? I can feel something is off all the way from here, she messaged.

We got on a Whatsapp call and compared space crone notes—how she was mermaiding by the seaside, feasting on fresh fruit and vegetables, doing daily yoga and meditation, even getting a deep diving certification.

“Insert metaphor here,” I said, since the trip was clearly allowing her to access her highest self for the first time in a long time.

“Yes’m,” she said. “And you? What’s going on?”

“More of a metaphork in the road,” I said. A silence followed, since everyone who can fully grasp me is accustomed to my supplying all the details of my life without prompts. (Behold the self-parented child I carry.)

But that morning I found I just couldn’t tell the story again. Too early to be so raw. Instead I silently sent her a link to my recent break-up blog post. As she read it, I padded into the kitchen and fed Grace, then fondled the shards of the broken bowl. It was homely, for sure, but had basically done the trick. It seemed wasteful to just toss it without trying to glue it back together.

“Am I allowed to be incensed on your behalf?” T. asked like the very good friend she is.

“The thing is, I tried not to go to the pissed-off place first,” I said. “It costs people like you and me, having to be so tough. But he smacked my heart down. He was mean. He auntied me.”

We were both silent. Sloughing a middle-aged woman into the maiden aunt category around a young pretty girl is on the short list of straight-male fuckwittery.

“He’s your addiction,” she said finally. “You’ve always said that.” She went on to say a lot of other smart, kind things because she really is a person who can hold my whole heart.

I didn’t feel fixed. I didn’t even feel healed. But I felt received, and for someone like me that’s the rarest and most precious feeling in the world.

“Hey,” I said at the end of the call. “Why don’t you start reading books again—not to find your next project but to refill the creative well. Just follow out your curiosity, make it a scavenger hunt.”

“Will do,” she said and then we said good bye with a lot of “I love yous” because if there’s one thing turning 50 in a pandemic teaches you, it’s that you have to keep telling everyone you love them while you still have the chance.

A few seconds later my phone vibrated again, though the sun still hadn’t rose. It was my former TV producer, Little Lisa—so named for her younger and shorter stature, not because she is any way a small person in spirit or capacity. We adore each other but have different enough lives that we don’t always stay in good touch—except over the astral plane, of course.

It’d been three months since we’d been in touch on any plane.

She messaged:

I’ve dreamed about you the last two nights.
In the first you were working on a book and doing a show about movies but more as the whole you, the psychic you and the critic you. I said—aren’t you worried about people judging you? And you said the good thing about no one caring about you is you can do what you want.

While I nodded, a second message sailed in:

In the second dream, you were surrounded by yellow light. Doing readings for all these people and teaching to large groups. You looked more beautiful than you have in years. You seemed like you were doing amazing but tbh it seemed like the near future not right now. Anyway, hope yr good….heading into work!

Before I could metabolize the gift of visions she’d shared, my phone buzzed one more time. It was T again.

I opened up an Alice Walker book randomly and here’s what I got:

“Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger than we were before.

Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant.

But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening. Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be… for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.”

At that exact moment, the fire alarm in my apartment began to go off though a candle wasn’t lit, let alone the stove. I went into the hallway but smelled no smoke.

“Ok,” I said aloud. “OK!” The alarm went off as mysteriously as it had gone on.

I padded into the kitchen again, and resolutely threw out the shards of that never-quite-right bowl. Then I sent a final goodbye to the Arsonist, breathed deeply, and blocked him.

I have known this man for 45 years, have dated him off and on for 12, and have never blocked him, not even when shit got violent. Not even when I lost the child that would have been ours, and had to bear that loss alone.

But it was time to get bigger, and the universe was letting me know by all channels possible that I couldn’t do that while shrinking myself to fit his limitations. It was even giving me a blueprint of how I and my practice could evolve. No matter that this man was my smallest self’s favorite person. Better to block him than such powerful progress.

An hour later, my phone vibrated with my first client booking in more than three weeks. In the days since I’ve booked two more and have swanned in the botanical gardens, even met a kind stranger who caught me hugging my favorite tree and understood exactly why. Spring is springing everywhere; beautiful change is in plain sight.

But I’d be lying if I said I feel much peace. The existentialist terror is still gripping me–a lonely emptiness roaring beneath my feet and between my ears. The Arsonist might not have been able to honor my best self, but he often rescued me from my weakest and it’s hard to accept he may never do so again. In the back of my head he was always my dream, and it’s easier to get through life with a dream, even if it’s really a nightmare. More than that, it’s hard to consciously walk into a future that looks different from the past, even if you’ve mostly known pain.

Decades of tuning in on others’ behalf have taught me not to believe in hope—the projection of only what our puny minds can conceive. Instead I’m working on faith—what I perceive as a deep, deliberate dive into the divine mystery. Right now that dive feels like drowning, but I’d be an ungrateful wretch if I ignored all the, yep, signs and sirens I’ve been shown, especially over these last few days.

I tell my clients all the time that the unknown isn’t just an abyss–that it’s also where the miracles lie. So maybe it can book me a room where my open heart is fully welcome and wants to hang its hat.

The great and terrible thing? This intuitive really doesn’t know.

i loved you on purpose
i was open on purpose
i still crave vulnerability & close talk
& i’m not even sorry bout you bein sorry
–ntozoke shange

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy