The Psychic Closet

The last thing on earth I ever wanted to grow up to be was a psychic. Not that I cared so much about being psychic; I just feared being labeled a psychic. Actually, what I most literally avoided was being labeled crazy. Mentally ill. Delusional. Insane. My favorite -- my "best" -- readings for other people are life purpose readings. During one of these consultations a few months ago, I mirrored for a client the struggle I went through of trying to become everything other than what I am. No doubt you may also relate to a similar misguided process, where you try on every out-of-the-box socially-acceptable label you can find, trying to find a template or a recipe into which to cram your unique talents and life experience.

Goldilocks Picks A Major | Goldilocks Reads The Want Ads

  • Maybe I'll become a _____.
  • Maybe _____ will be the perfect (easiest) path for me.
  • Maybe _____ is the blueprint I am seeking for the life I want to live...

The first, current, last, and future career option for me has always been Writer. That's safe and general. It's definitely true. Among other reasons, it allows me to tell stories behind a veil of fiction. I figured I could just write about paranormal experiences without claiming they happen to me and get away with being imaginative -- crazy and delusional work really well -- are perhaps even desirable skills -- for novelists.

But, over the years, I began to panic about all the writers who ended up in the loony bin. It seemed that crazy was a label that might follow me into the writer's closet and do me in anyway. After watching An Angel at My Table, the bio flick about Janet Frame, where poor young Janet stares out the school bus at the asylum she will eventually wind up in... To think I ever complained about having to wait tables to support myself while struggling to find the time and motivation to write, while poor Janet takes up a pen and writes on the walls of her padded cell... Later in life she learns that she has been awarded her country's most prestigious literary award and autographs copies while strapped to a bed, sedated under a heavy blanket of psychotropics, barely conscious of where she was, let alone what she had accomplished...

Years later, it was Judy Dench portraying Iris Murdoch slowly losing her vocabulary and ability to speak... I swore right then and there I wouldn't suffer through any more tragic biographies of writers losing it.

It seems our fear is destined to find us, and the only way to handle it is to become someone who has handled it -- to engage it and move through it. I'm paraphrasing the truth of Jeanette Winterson.

Incidentally -- poetically -- it was not a psychotherapist or a career counselor who busted me out of the closet I was hiding in -- it was my literary agent. Literary agents and editors are adept at reading between the lines, cutting efficiently through bullshit, spotting weaknesses, and laying them bare without platitudes or ego coddling.

Agent Phil was the first person who ever read all my work, interviewed me, and basically nailed me. "You write the same story, over and over again," he said. "You do realize -- you're consciously aware of -- what that Story is, right?"

God no, I did not. I thought my stories were wildly varied...

"It's okay. Nearly all writers write A Story over and over again, and it's usually -- inevitably -- their Stories. I'm asking because you can do more with it once you're aware of it."

So, what is my story?

"You consistently retell the story of Joan of Arc, or possibly the Anunciation of the Virgin Mary, dressed up in a modern context. People who hear voices they know to be benevolent and divine in origin, but who are inevitably socially ostracized and persecuted. I'm wondering how that is your Story..."

So I told him. The whole story. My real story. He was the first person to whom I ever really confessed where my ideas came from. (I sure as hell would never have risked telling a psychiatrist.) "Well, I've got to tell you," he said "Your own story is at least as interesting as your fiction, if not more so. And I believe what's holding back the power of your fiction is your non-fiction. It also concerns me that your stories always have tragic endings... I think it might be really important for you to write -- to live -- a different autobiography here, my friend..."

I was busted -- and this man admittedly had no interest in "all that New Age" stuff, other than that there was a market for people like me and he was looking to create exposure for me, and an income as a producing writer, through article writing, columns, syndication, etc.

In my experience, you will most likely find the messages of your spirit guides confirmed -- even eerily repeated -- in the voices of real, living, breathing, human beings. The most successful psychic reading will tell you exactly what you already know, what you've already heard.

My spirit guides and angels had been repeatedly telling me "You are already everything you've ever wanted to become. There's nothing to fix. You fulfill your life purpose with every breath you take."

They also told me "Nothing else you attempt will ever have the success or power or impact you desire until you speak with your authentic voice. Your life purpose is not about you -- it's about how your life serves other people."

Phil made a bet with me -- a dare really -- to build an audience for my true story. He even set a very tangible goal, an actual number... Although I would never have foreseen it when I began publishing Shift Your Spirits in 2006, I reached that goal in 2008. Here we are. I believe I've completed the tangent I was meant to explore, to retrieve the part of myself I was trying to shake off along the way.

The Dreaded P-word My colleague and friend Andrea Hess and I have had so many conversations about what we jokingly call "the p-word" -- how the word psychic made us cringe a little bit. She has also experienced a recent shift as a result of stepping into this simple, spiritual authenticity. It seems we have both taken the word psychic and proudly wear it now like a badge, with powerful results.

I still tried on costumes that seemed more credible, taking baby steps that would eventually bring me here: I switched from pursuing a masters in clinical psychotherapy to a more spiritual masters in holistic counseling. I am guilty of thinking "Maybe if I'm a minister, I will be safe." (What is UP with this? Is it some past-life trauma of having been burned at the stake or something?) Then once I began receiving requests to do readings for people and discovered that I could indeed do them, I still went through a closet full of safe labels -- I called myself a "professional intuitive consultant." Well, so what the hell is that, exactly, in the most authentic, simple terms? Translated, it means "I'm a professional psychic." There I said it. I have claimed it.

Facebook I resisted getting a Facebook account for the longest time -- partly because I avoid unproductive, time-eroding online activities, but also because I cringed at the thought of all the people I have known, some of my oldest and dearest friends, discovering that I had never had the balls to tell them my truth.

I have discovered the same thing at every stage of my coming out process -- that those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. Even better, there are thousands of you who have waited to talk about your own truth, and that my doing so as well allows an important conversation to take place that we ALL want to have -- I am only really holding up a mirror.

The very people who I feared might judge me -- who might not like me anymore if they knew -- are now writing to me about their own spirituality. These stories are twenty years old and they usually start with "I've never told anyone this before..."

What's really bittersweet is that we could have shared these stories decades ago and it would have been okay. It might even have been amazing.

So, I'm on track -- I'm still a writer of fiction and an aspiring novelist whose day job happens to be performing psychic readings. Yes, I'm a minister, a counselor, a life coach... None of those labels are really important. As soon as I had acquired them at my ego's insistence, I discovered they aren't necessarily all that important. I've got to tell you, being a psychic is the best job I've ever had. It beats the hell out of waiting tables.

Slade's signature