The Reading

While out of town on a business trip a few months ago, I had some time to kill after the conference had let out at the end of the first day.  I was kid-free with not one single piece of laundry in sight. The last time that happened was approximately eight years ago, so feeling liberated and unusually relaxed, I found myself wandering the streets of suburban Chicago. After walking past about eleven hundred coffee shops, a CVS, and a ton of quaint little restaurants specializing in various ethnic foods, I turned a corner and nearly ran into a sign advertising psychic readings. Always up for new experiences and having literally nothing else I had to do, I figured, “What the heck?” and followed the arrow on the sign up a narrow flight of stairs.

A woman near my age with eyes that looked decades older answered the door, “Can I help you?”

“I saw your sign…,” I muttered, trailing off awkwardly while pointing down the stairs and immediately regretting my decision. Isn’t this how horror movies start? Or is that porn? Either way, my judgement had obviously been impaired. As a result, something strange and frightening was about to happen. She smiled a tired, spooky smile and listed the services she provided along with prices.

What I thought, “Never mind, I, um, have a…thing…I have to do. So sorry to have bothered you.” What I said, “I’d like a reading please.”

Looking for any additional means of escape other than the front door and mentally kicking my own ass, I followed her down a short hallway into a tiny room with two lavender chairs that faced one another. When I say “tiny,” I mean our knees touched when we sat down. Next to the chairs was a side table with a candle and some other unfamiliar items I assumed to be important psychic-person supplies and quite possibly murder weapons. The wall was light blue with clouds and fat little baby angels painted on them. At least, I think that’s what the room looked like; it was getting hard to see through my increasing anxiety and regret. The woman, whose name was also Nikki (insert Twilight Zone theme song here), asked me to hold out my hands and I complied.

Skeptically Open-Minded

Going into this reading, I had never personally experienced any kind of paranormal phenomenon; no ghosts, goblins, ESP, or telekinesis. The thought of seeing a ghost or having my mind read generally causes an involuntary shudder and as a rule I avoid scary movies and attractions labeled “Haunted” or “Kids Eat Free.”

Despite being a little creeped out by the possibility of such things, I also tend to be a cynic. My assumption has been that a person marketing psychic skills simply makes general statements that can be interpreted in a variety of ways and then provides slightly more specific information as they go along, based upon their customers’ responses.

Still, the vast number of books, television shows, and movies covering the supernatural make me think there could be at least a kernel of truth to some of the stories. Besides, if parents are expected to feed their children three times every day and dress them in clean clothing, why couldn’t someone look at the palm of my hand and tell me precise details about my financial future and the long-term health of my extended relatives?

I went into this experience skeptically open-minded; simultaneously believing everything the other Nikki said would be utterly ridiculous while also kind of hoping to experience something paranormal.

The Reading

My first psychic reading began with a brief examination of the palms of my hands and the declaration that I will live a long life.

“Okay,” I thought, “this is a good start.”

She said a few vague things and then she Climbed. Inside. My. Head. With absolutely no information from me, this psychic named Nikki was able to tell me disturbingly specific and accurate things about myself. She gave me a heads up on a potential health problem and then talked about some work related opportunities I may have to choose from in the future, giving guidance as to the possible outcome of each. She warned me to always read the fine print carefully and urged me to stop limiting myself by thinking I have to choose between two important parts of my life, providing examples of how I might be able to do this. She described my personality, highlighting aspects of me only my closest friends and family could know. She discussed some details of my financial future and emphasized the role that travel may ultimately play in my life.

After several minutes, she stopped and asked if I had any questions for her. I like to think I would have, had I been able to pick my chin up off the floor. All I could say was, “Wow” and  “Huh.” She discouraged me from sharing the specific details of my reading with others as that may “change my fate.” (Hence the annoyingly vague descriptions.)

Once the reading was over, I gave her my money and walked out of the little room, down the hall, through the door, and back down the stairs. Feeling mystified and a little violated, I resumed wandering the streets of suburban Chicago.

Brain Hack

In less than ten minutes, this complete stranger with old eyes was able to tell me who I am, what I want in life, and what gets in my way. She broke down and explained facets of my personality it has taken me 35 years to assemble and that I’ve only recently begun to understand. I haven’t yet found the words to describe how I know that she was “in my head” but she was. The closest I can get is to say that she gave very specific comparisons and reference points that I use in my own thoughts but have never said out loud.

If one went just by the description I gave above, my previous assumption about how psychics work would be very fitting. Anyone could probably take those words and make them fit their own life. However, the actual words she used and the examples she gave felt like they came directly out of my head, word for word as I have thought them. The whole thing created a strange sense of vulnerability that lasted for hours. It was as if the security system in my mind had been breached and now anyone could slip right in, without my consent.

So Many Questions

Having my brain hacked by a stranger leaves me with several questions. For example, was it the exchange of money that opened my mind to another? I mean, if the ability to read someone’s mind exists, what are the rules, the boundaries? Can someone with psychic abilities read anyone’s mind anytime anywhere? Do we have any defense against this? Seriously, we all have thoughts not meant to be shared with others. Picture a world in which your friends, family, and co-workers could access your innermost thoughts at will. What an appalling mess that would be! We were created with an inner monologue for a reason. Without mine, I’d be rapidly unemployed, divorced, and no longer allowed to shop at the local K-Mart.

This experience also made me wonder about the prediction of future events. It doesn’t feel like we’re supposed to know what’s going to happen, how it’s all going to work out in the end. Problems are a guaranteed and critical component of life. But if we knew some of those big scary things were just around the bend, how would we ever get out of bed in the morning? I nearly have a panic attack waiting for the seal to pop on those biscuits that come in rolled up tubes; I would be paralyzed with fear if I knew in advance that I was going to be in an accident or get a really bad paper cut later in the day.

I suppose it’s natural to want to know what’s going to happen: Will I find the love of my life? Will I live long and prosper? Will I travel? Will N’Sync ever get back together? Should I do this or should I do that? Will I ever truly solve the mole problem in my backyard, for the love of all that is holy?

But I think the not knowing and waiting and struggling our way through problems are central to the human experience. I believe this process is what ultimately makes us into a whole, strong, and capable human being. I also believe that each decision we make changes our trajectory in life infinitesimally and that the sum total of those tiny changes is our future. If one can look into a crystal ball and see what is going to happen, what does this say about the significance, or lack therein, of the choices we make on a daily basis?

Hypothetically speaking, suppose the clairvoyant Nikki had told me I would be financially independent in a few short years. Since my current income and savings plan would take about 234 years to result in independent wealth, there would have to be a windfall of some kind for that to come true. Would that mean I don’t need to worry about saving money or contributing to a retirement account now? That I could just sit back and wait for the predicted wealth to arrive? I think, just to be safe, I would maintain at least a shred of frugality because, “But the psychic had said…,” doesn’t sound like the start of a very good defense at a bankruptcy hearing.

Wrap It Up, Nikki

Nikki the Psychic didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know or hope to be true. Everything she said supported conclusions toward which I feel I was already guiding myself. Her words did provide me with a renewed motivation, a mental goosing to get me to do what I should have been doing all along. This experience, my first touch with the supernatural, also gave me the chance to think outside the box about the rules and how things work, to ask myself questions I’d never considered. As of right now, I’m not sure I really want answers to those questions. There is an element of fun in wondering about what we don’t know or understand, in considering the seemingly impossible.

Well…I would like to know if there are any mind reading self-defense techniques I could practice to keep people out of my head without my consent. For now though, I guess I’ll just think really quietly so as not to be overheard by any psychic passersby.