I don't believe in psychics. Never have. But that's not to say I don't find value in their services. Recently, I learned just how important a role they can play in our lives.
A couple of weekends ago, I attended a three-day bachelorette party extravaganza full of laughter, tears, dancing, drinking, karaoke, eating, gossiping and, of course, theorizing about TomKat's ill-fated marriage. Twenty women, ages 34-39, traveled from all over the country to descend upon the mean streets of suburbia to celebrate our friend's upcoming nuptials. Those in attendance included the bride-to-be's childhood, college and post-college friends, as well as family members. For the most part, we all knew each other -- or at least knew of each other.
On Saturday, after renting out a local movie theater for a screening of Girls Just Want to Have Fun (yes, we still find Lee Montgomery positively dreamy, but dear God, what was with SJP's permanently frizzy hair?), we went back to the house at which we were all staying for a psychic reading. I assumed there would be solo readings for whoever wanted one, but it turned out to be a group reading, during which any one of us could ask questions of the lady psychic, who, with her boho clothing and mystical-looking jewelry, was ever the part.
I don't have anything against psychics, but I guess I've always been too cynical a person to believe in their supposed special powers; con-artists like Miss Cleo ("Call me now!") and other money-scamming schemers have only served to fuel my distrust over the years. This weekend, though, I learned that whether a psychic has an authentic ability to read auras or make contact with spirits or see the future -- or whether he or she is just really proficient at playing a part -- is, ultimately, beside the point. A good group psychic, like the one we had that Saturday afternoon, has a much more salient power: bringing people together by encouraging them to expose their vulnerabilities and fears.
Speaking to a room full of women in their thirties -- a decade at once stabilizing and tumultuous, empowering and deflating -- who are looking for answers to some of life's more provocative questions (Will I be alone forever? Am I doing what I'm meant to do career-wise? Am I going to have children? Am I making the right decisions for my children? Is being just a mom good enough?), can, I imagine, be an intimidating prospect, but our psychic, clutching a crystal in her left hand, appeared relaxed and ready for the onslaught.
Held back by my skepticism, I kept silent for much of the two-hour reading, allowing the other women in the room to purge. By the end, though, my skepticism gave way to appreciation, as I witnessed a powerful form of bonding by group catharsis. One by one, the ladies asked questions about their lives and the lives of their loved ones that had many of them either in tears or close to it. In fact, there was barely a dry eye in the room as we listened to each other's stories -- stories that illuminated our shared guilt, loneliness and struggles as mothers, lovers, spouses, singles and careerists.
Women often put walls up to keep others away, unwilling to expose the imperfections and doubts we encounter in our relationships, our careers and our family dynamics for fear of appearing deficient, or as though, God forbid, we've compromised our lives in some way. The group reading truly unified us as imperfect, vulnerable women; it allowed us to feel safe with one another while sharing the frustrations, realities and challenges we face as women, as human beings struggling to make our mark on the world. It helped us feel relevant, validated, appreciated and heard. Moreover, it allowed us to reject this ridiculous notion of "having it all," as everyone present had exposed a little bit of their true selves, doubts and all.
It was a refreshing and important moment in time for us to experience, especially in a world in which technology, ironically, has helped sever us from true connection.
Indeed, technology is partly to blame for this disconnection. As gadgets and gizmos and the Internet have taken over our lives, we learn of each other's adventures electronically more than ever before. It's how we bond in the twenty-first century. Through these electronic channels, we create for others the lives we want them to see. Our Facebook profiles, for example, are veritable avatars for projecting perfect lives and perfect homes and perfect children who never cry and always act like little darlings. As texting and emailing and IMing become the modus operandi for communication and unification, we are resigned to use quick bits of data to relate to one another. We're having less real conversations, less meaningful, face-to-face heart-to-hearts, less sharing of the important stuff. What we see on Facebook rarely shines a light on the real demons and insecurities with which we all struggle. We can't see the tears in each other's eyes, the reddening of our faces or hear the tremors in our voices when we communicate through email and Facebook and texts; even the phone has its limitations.
Suffice it to say, I found the psychic reading to be incredibly powerful. Whatever her prophecies were, the real power of the psychic in the flowing, lavender pants was to help the 20 of us to bond and start the types of intimate, collaborative conversations we may never have broached had she not come to the house that day, a reminder that we are not alone in our struggles and that it's okay if life isn't perfect.
Finally, toward the very end of the reading, I spoke up a bit. I was particularly interested in who I was in a past life, since the psychic had already informed one attendee that she was a French peasant and farm woman and another that she lived as a Celtic witch. I just had to know who I was. A sword-wielding warrior, she responded.
Hmmm... a warrior. I suppose I can see it. I've always been a pretty strong-willed, resilient person. The truth is, though, I see a bit of warrior in all of the women at the reading that day. They are women who do battle on a daily basis as they navigate the complexities and uncertainties of the female existence.