I was in a bad state of mind. I was lying on the floor of a random hotel room in NYC and it was Thanksgiving several years ago. I was by myself because I had recently separated from my ex-wife. Anytime someone separates from someone there’s never anything nice about it. There are some bad moments. Maybe police get involved, maybe some neighbors, and certainly the children. The children are always involved.
One friend of mine knew my situation. She asked me over for that Thanksgiving. She and her daughter were making a turkey. There was going to be stuffing. And I’m sure biscuits. It was cold and slushy outside and something seemed warm and comfortable about being with another family that holiday. But her fifteen year old daughter put an end to that invitation.
She googled me and saw a recent Financial Times column I had written where I had mentioned having a “wife”. I can’t even remember which column, if any, she was mentioned in. The fifteen year old daughter said to her mother, “Mom! Why are you always going out with married men??” So that invitation was over. And, not having anything else to do, I was lying on the floor of the random hotel room.
So I came up with an idea for something to do: I wrote an ad and put it on the most amazing internet invention ever: Craigslist.
The ad said, “I was very sick for awhile. I would get piercing headaches all the time. But when the headaches finally stopped I realized I was psychic and could tell the future. I don’t want this ability. It’s too much of a burden and I can’t shut it down. But right now, today, I’m willing to answer any question that anyone emails me.”
The emails started pouring in. I don’t know if it was selfish or not. I wanted to help people and by doing so, maybe that would help myself. One woman wanted to know if she should keep pursuing a guy at work who slept with her once and “she felt a very strong connection with him whenever they were together” but that he seldom called her anymore. She wanted to know if she should pursue that connection and if a year from now they would be together. I told her, first off, anything could happen. Nothing is ever written in stone. But as long as she was thinking so much about this guy, she was spending energy that could be used on either improving herself, or doing activities to meet other guys. Chances are she would not be with this guy in a year, I wrote.
Another woman wrote to me and said, “tell me something about myself that nobody knows so I know you are a legitimate psychic.” This is an easy one. I wrote to her, “When you were a little girl, you had long beautiful hair. Everyone commented on how beautiful your hair was. But one day you got a haircut and it was cut too short. You cried about it and no matter what anyone told you, you could not be consoled. You remember that to this day.” She wrote back, “THAT’S AMAZING! HOW DID YOU KNOW?”
Trick question: How did I know?
Another email: “I’m a designer of children’s clothes. Every year I work on new designs. But I’m tired of it. I have ideas about doing nutrition consulting using holistic methods combining the spiritual , the physical, etc. What should I do?” I wrote back, “Start a blog with your ideas. Every day give tips. Offer to have people contact you directly for help. Submit content to magazines, other blogs, etc. Come up with a 12 week plan that people can sign up for where they achieve greater holistic health by the end of the plan.”
She wrote back and was excited. I wrote back. We decided to meet. We wrote each other back and forth all day. She told me her friend thought she was crazy for wanting to meet me. We met a week later at the bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel. She was married but it was an open marriage, but it was open for her to have a lesbian girlfriend. That was the same friend that thought she was crazy. I wanted to kiss her.
I responded to about two dozen emails that day. I felt outside of my body. Like my fingers were typing and I couldn’t leave the keyboard or I would miss an email. Most people continued to email me for the next few days until eventually I needed to leave my room and do other things. Some days you get down and you need to reach outside of yourself to pull yourself off the floor. Other days you need to ask an anonymous person if a connection is real or a career is satisfying.
You can argue with whether or not what I did was ethical. But it wasn’t about that. Or about the people who responded. It wasn’t about my friend who invited me for Thanksgiving. Or the woman who needed a connection. It was about how sometimes everything changes and doesn’t get better until two lips touch in a first kiss.