When Anthony, my boyfriend at the time, dropped me off at the small ranch house surrounded by trees in Princeton, New Jersey, he was nervous.
"I'll be back here at 11 a.m.," he said.
"OK," I replied.
And when I closed the door, I remember him looking very small.
The energy healer guided me inside her home. Energy healers are trained professionals who use crystals and psychic abilities to spiritually heal people. Anthony insisted on making an appointment for me because of the mental breakdown I'd had at a writer's conference the week prior. Anthony was also convinced something followed me back from the conference. The night I came home, I woke up from a sex dream, and he swore he saw a dark spirit fly off of me as I was humping his thigh in my sleep. I thought it was funny, but Anthony was spooked, and his mother "knew a lady."
I agreed because I was impressed. I'd never met a guy who also saw spirits at night.
Once inside, I took off my shoes, placed the cash for the session in a small elephant-shaped bowl, and followed her into the back of the house.
The energy healer mentioned during our session that I had psychic abilities. I didn't think much of it other than feeling relief. Everything I once viewed as unexplainable clicked: the visits from my deceased great-grandmother, the shadow people I would see in my closet before bed, or even the white light that appeared to me when I thought of overdosing my freshman year of college. I smiled realizing I would leave feeling slightly less insane.
I also thought maybe she was buttering me up to attend her one-day intensive reiki training class, which was offered the next day. I would have done it anyway. I had chronic neck pain from a car accident, and it was worth a shot.
Reiki is a type of massage therapy, a hands-on healing system that has been around for centuries. I didn't get the memo to dress in all white for the training, but the energy healer let me borrow her clothes — a long white dress.
In the beginning of the session, you have to get in touch with your "reiki guide," who you call upon, imagine, or pray to before a massage session. The spirit guide will move your hands or tell you when to stay on a spot longer. We all sat with our eyes closed in a circle for 20 minutes during the guided meditation. Some of my classmates saw a color, like purple or blue, so before they would give a massage, they would imagine that color.
I ended up seeing a white light, and red letters came across my vision that read "FOLLOW YOUR JOY." I wrote down the experience and shared it with my class. The energy healer, our teacher, was delighted.
Afterward, we began to massage each other. I didn't realize how squeamish I was about touching strangers until I had to give classmates a massage. I knew right away that I would never be able to take this up professionally, so as I was leaving, it surprised me when our teacher told me that my path was changing and I would be doing my life's work with my psychic abilities.
I didn't expect that a few weeks later, when I was catching up and drinking heavily with my girlfriends at a happy hour after a breakup with Anthony, that I would begin to see and communicate with their beloved relatives who'd passed away.
The start of the night was only unusual because it was the first time I'd worn glasses. I found out I was nearsighted, and my prescription glasses finally arrived. When I was picked up my friend Liz to take her happy hour, I told her about how amazing it was to see the details of the leaves on trees. I could have stared at a tree the entire night.
Instead, we continued to make our way over the bridge into Philly. I hadn't seen my friends in a while, but now that I was single again, I had time to. I didn't dwell on the breakup at all, and much like the others, I was relieved.
I also planned to get shit-faced. I'm usually fine with a few drinks, but that night, I had a place to crash in town, and I was pounding the beers back. When I moved on to the harder vodka drink, that's when I began to see red numbers floating over people's heads.
I turned to my friend Jenny. There was a number five above her head. There also was a warm feeling on my palms and around my back. So I asked her.
"Hey, did you have five relatives who passed away?" I asked. I'm not sure why I knew to ask her that, but with the drinks I was extra-confident in myself.
Jenny's eyes went wide.
And that's when the initials of her relatives began to pour out of my mouth.
"Did one have a name that began with the letter E?"
"Yes, Eleanor, my aunt."
And on it went until the fifth relative as I accurately gave her the initials. And then the messages came through, which were not anything very specific — they just wanted her to know they were around her and supporting her choice to pursue grad school.
Six drinks later, I was talking to Liz's grandmother who passed away the previous year, and Liz was crying from her beer buzz and happiness. Her grandmother showed me images of family dinners. I asked her about the significance.
"My grandmom used to cook dinner every holiday, and I mean amazing meals," Liz said. "I missed her so much this year."
"She's telling me how she missed cooking," I replied, smiling, and Liz's face lit up.
Then her grandfather came through, who showed me pictures of a house.
"Does this mean anything to you — that your grandfather is showing me a picture of a house and is worried about your dad?"
"Yes," she replied. "It must have been the house my father grew up in. My dad sold it after my grandfather died."
"Well, he wants you to tell your dad that it's OK, and he's not upset," I replied.
On my way back to my friends' place, I gave my Uber driver a reading from his mother who'd recently passed away. Like my friends, he was very open to the thought and happy to get a few messages.
I continue to see red numbers and pick up messages when my friends would like a reading. I've learned that our loved ones never leave us. As alone as we might feel at times, we all have our beloved relatives who want to assure us that we are never alone.