Finding Balance

 When I was in my thirties, I lived in Seattle, or rather crash-landed there after two exhausting years of being on tour with the theater.  Travel, hotel rooms, performing and restaurant meals left me ill and defeated. I had to leave the theater with no idea what to do next. At that time, I did not see my intuitive healing work as a career, it was just something I did for the people I met who were in need. I seemed to always have a small stream of folks coming to my door for help. My Aunt Ethel had encouraged my sight in a playful way, by reading my fortune in tea leaves. It was a game we played together. I moved on to using cards and eventually to nothing but my own knowing.

tightrope-walker1Because I was new to Seattle, I took myself to a psychic fair at a local yoga center to meet kindred spirits. After an afternoon of readings, a man approached and asked if I would come on NBC to demonstrate my skills. I told him I’d think about it. Not being a television watcher, I had no way to judge if the experience was meant for ridicule, so I asked neighbors if the show was reputable. It was, so I accepted, hoping the experience might provide a few new clients to tide me over.

 I was broke the morning of the program, so I borrowed bus fare from the man who ran the neighborhood market across the street. I grabbed a large paper bag, stuffed my belongings inside, and ran out the door. Others came in limousines.  When I arrived, I was ushered upstairs to a waiting room, where I met interesting women with similar abilities.  The television hostess took me aside, and asked if I would give her a quick sample of my skills. She was scurrying around in a frantic state of disarray, looking like she could have a nervous breakdown at any moment. Every hair had to be perfect, as well as her clothes, make-up and voice. She was on a fast-track to the top, despite personal cost. I told her as much. She declared me a genius, and that was that.

When I was escorted into the television studio, she was calm, confident and inviting. I know that psychics have many rituals they use in doing their work, she told the audience, and noticed that you carry your special things in a brown paper bag. Could you tell us about the significance of that?

I sat in a moment of disbelief. The only significance, I laughed, is that I could not find my purse this morning.

Well folks, she continued, Karen blew me away with the accuracy of her reading earlier, so I am excited to hear what she will see for us now.

Another moment of disbelief. ‘Blew me away?‘ Reading for her was like asking somebody if a house was on fire. Not a tough assessment.

I shared with the audience what little I knew about the history of using cards for divination, then read for a woman about a new business she was opening, what it would involve, and what it could mean to her personal life. 

The producer had arranged for the same woman to stand up and ask the same question of each of us. We were kept in isolation until we read, then taken off again, so we couldn’t hear what the others reported. We were being publicly tested.

Long story short, the show was a success. I had never watched television in the morning, and had no understanding of the number of people who did, so when my phone started to ring, I was pleased. I did not know that the phone would not stop ringing. The phone did not stop at any time during the day or night. It did not stop for a full month! At first I left the receiver off the hook, so I could have moments of peace, but eventually I unplugged it all together. I thought I should be able to manage the calls, but it was like trying to stop a human tsunami. And so, I walked away. 

I began doing haircuts for neighbors to make ends meet, and put up signs to help as a Girl Friday along Lake Washington. An older woman named Margaret was my first client. She was my idea of a Norman Rockwell style grandmother. She spoiled and loved me to such an extent that I dropped other clients, and worked only for her.

I felt unsettled by the television experience, and guilty. I knew my sight could help others, and felt a strong sense of duty. But I was only one person and my inner resources were already dangerously low.

I remember being frightened during this period. I felt I should be able to create or read or sculpt or write whenever I pleased. I was afraid there was something wrong with me when the activities that gave me comfort dried up and went away.

Margaret was wise at these times. She would remind me about cycles and seasons over tuna casserole, warm cookies and coke. She helped me understand the timing of things, and that it all came down to keeping my balance, no matter what cycle I was in.  When life is abundantly good and showering you with gifts, stay humble and centered. When life is throwing stones and pulling you into the mud, stay humble and centered. Watch it all. See it for what it is, and never let it define you. I learned that year that receiving too much, was as dangerous as receiving too little, and that if I centered and waited, well, pretty soon, all that I needed would come back around again.

Song for Keyo

I have trouble remembering what happened yesterday, but my brain has forever stored the lyrics to useless, senseless songs from the 1950’s.

Dungaree Doll

I wanna make a chain of paper clips and chain us together while I kiss your lips.

The kind of slow sensual song I listen to now reminds me of packing seven of us into a Volkswagen Van to drive from Portland, Oregon to New York City. Big Bush was the driver, named for the Afro that filled most of the front seat. They were street musicians who performed in Harvard Square. They played music and I read Tarot Cards.

The lyrics to Lean on me floated through the square sung by Keyo Morales, my wonderful Puerto Rican friend from Spanish Harlem. Keyo had a shaved head. He wore a hoop ear-ring (before men did such things), a tuxedo jacket over Army fatigues and red high top tennis shoes. I loved Keyo with all my heart, but so did ever other woman whoever met him, because Keyo’s love was universal, too big to be contained. Keyo sang because he wanted people to stop fighting and start smiling and dancing. His music opened their hearts.

What a lovely troupe of friends I traveled with that summer. My daughter, Kristen was there too, but I missed my son, who stayed with his disapproving father, my thankfully X-husband. Everyone welcomed Kristen as part of our traveling family.

Eager customers formed lines around the block waiting for comfort, healing, and a view of their future from the woman in the blue velvet dress. I gave each person 15 minutes and they gave me $5, which actually meant something 30 years ago. After a long night of work I hid in the public restroom and counted my money. Great wads of five dollar bills made me rich. It was enough to get us an apartment for the summer and keep us in food. Transportation was provided by Keyo, who gave me a ride to Harvard Square each day on the handlebars of his bike, my nine year old daughter perched on the cross bars between his protective arms. Women were always lined up to see him when we arrived, but I was the only one coming and going on his handlebars.

When I hear dreamy loving music I remember that summer, the summer of being a nomad. How ironic that I led a gypsies life only blocks from the French Music School where I’d prepared for a career in opera. My life seemed to veer farther and farther from the mainstream every day.

Once I asked Keyo if he had ever done acid. “400 times,” he answered. Some part of me thought I should be worried, but it was the baldheaded man in red tennis shoes I felt most comfortable with. He was the person who taught me about love with no sexual expectations or conditions.  Keyo was love. His life was loves statement and his music its expression. His audience recognized the lack of it in their own lives and flocked to him like a pied piper of the heart.

I returned to Portland in the fall on The Grey Rabbit Hippie Bus, all of us crowded together like bunched asparagus. No room to move or breathe. They let us out in California and we hitchhiked back to Portland. Keyo stayed. I heard he moved in with a Native American woman in the winter. I tried to imagine a female vast enough to encompass his energy and love.

I felt sad and more than a little jealous, yet I knew he’d been there as my teacher and deepest friend; holding him was like holding the wind.

written 5-21-08