At first, Katie looks like the last person I would normally consult with for advice on life. A batik sarong tied snug and tight just above her breasts, enough silver to build a small bridge pushed up in circles around her wrists and the orange henna streaking her frizzy silver locks reminds me of something out of The Dark Crystal. But she, Katie the Tarot Whisperer, was there along the entryway to the naked hot springs. I felt pulled to chat with her on my way back into the real world. I had so many questions and I figured her amber necklaces, draped and hanging low in thick strands around her neck, held some sort magic and answers for me. Also, I trusted her eyes.

This is not the first time I have crossed the veil into the land of Hocus Pocus to help determine what next steps to take in this beautiful train wreck I call my life. Of course, psychotherapy is always my first choice, but as my beloved therapist gave me her abracadabra, you’re mostly fixed seal of approval and sent me on my way almost a year ago, some dabbling in the ether from time to time helps me get through the indecision I am often gripped by.

And ether, I did enter.

My intent for this past year was to repair some of my faulty inner wiring, to try new things, to have my perspective shift so radically that rainbows would shoot out of unicorn heads and disintegrated the dark clouds that regularly hover in the periphery—if not directly over—my life. I wanted a glimpse at the mysteries of what drives us to slip out of bed and face each day. I wanted to know why I am here. I wanted to know how to make this life better.

Like a New Age Magnum P.I., I sought answers. My experiences weren’t exactly the stuff of A Fortune Teller Told Me or Eat, Pray, Have Sex with a Hot Brazilian in Bali. I don’t have those kinds of world travel in my budget just yet. Instead, I climbed to an old grove of oaks with David J of Bauhaus one afternoon and asked him all about spirits and God and what can be found in our hearts. I spent a weekend as an apprentice to a 1960’s LSD guru and psychotherapist, exploring my shadow side and discussing the ways in which to come to terms with all that is dark and murky inside of me. I consulted a medicine woman in regards to pains in my chest and she worked her magic, rattling and chanting the spirit of my wounded, dead ex right out of my psychic space. I sent scanned photos of my hands to a palm reader in Australia and read the two-page report over and over and over again, memorizing the clues. I drank enough kombucha to rebalance the friendly flora of an entire village to see if I could get drunk or have visions only to pee a lot instead. I was fed psychedelics, wrapped in angora and held like a baby as I looked up to the stars and cried. I learned the mating call of my power animal and practiced the loud and frightening and awful-sounding bugling like an insane person before presenting it to the forest. I waited for answers.

And then there was Katie the Tarot Whisperer.

Katie asked me no questions about my life or what it was I sought. She simply instructed me to shuffle the cards and meditate on what my best self was needing in those moments that I sat next to her, naked men cruising past with penises flopping to and fro in the hot August sun, my daughters fully dressed and giggling among dragonflies at a nearby fountain.

As Katie turned the first card up to begin the reading, she let out a sigh that dropped like a large dusty curtain falling across a darkened stage.

Oh great, I thought, after all of the shit I’ve been through, I am going to die on my way home today. I imagined my kids and I careening off a cliff and exploding into a burst of flames at the bottom of the Napa Valley. Our ghosts would clasp hands and swim through the sky to a great big ball of something drifting between the stars. Oh, the horror! I had so many plans. So. Many. Glorious. Plans.

Instead, she placed her hand on mine and said, “Wow. The last few years have been full of chaos and pain. Everything has fallen apart.”

That’s when my sad little inner child broke down and started to cry. Right there in the blistering sun, penises and bare breasts and New Age sighs all around me; Ray Charles’ “Hard Times” filling some corner of my inner ear.

She went on to explain all of the things I already knew but had been too distracted to give attention to: I’ve only lost the things I no longer need—it is good that they are gone, the old friendships and relationships, the old career, the old ways of doing things. Gone. For good. And also, forever.

Katie also told me some things that I had a hard time hearing—that I have a heart built of courage. That I love like a warrior. I thought, Really? Most people bug the shit out of me. I don’t even want to spend time with my friends lately. And I have so much anxiety and I worry about everything, like crashing this borrowed car into the Napa Valley on the way home today.

And then she smiled and said, “Your career. You are doing what you do because it is wrapped inside of your heart.”

There remains, however, a disproportionate amount of fear in me.

Courageous heart. Love and fear.

I thought back to the night a dear, wonderful friend died. We surrounded her bed, hovering in her mother’s living room, in the early evening shadow of majestic Mt. Shasta and we smiled and cried and loved our friend as the cancer siphoned the last bits of her glimmer away. Her mother, the strongest of us all, looked on, coaxing her gorgeous daughter away from the pain and into the arms of some giant entity that filled the air around us all. She repeated, over and over: Everything is love, Lydia. Remember, what would you do if you weren’t afraid?

My God.

I am such a coward.

There is so much to be afraid of.

Like broken hearts and broken spirits and the things those broken things make people do. Like raising daughters in a country where conservative crap-neck jackasses dismiss rape and want to ban abortion and hate poor people and vaginas. Like everyone I love dying. Like succumbing to a permanent madness instead of bouncing between intermittent bouts of despair. Like never having a book published. Like earthquakes and deforestation and racism and homophobia and flesh-eating bacteria and plane crashes and war and poverty and just trying to live and breathe in a world full of contradictions and madness and greed.

There is so much to be afraid of.

But Katie the Tarot Whisperer says I’ve got what it takes. She says my writing and warrior heart are healing me. She says that big things are just within reach and that I can have it all if I keep my focus, if I utilize my fierce, pumping, beating, disgusting and pulsing bloody chunk of a heart.

I suppose sometimes we need to be reminded of the things that are buried so deep inside that we’ve convinced ourselves they never really existed in the first place. Sometimes it takes an old woman named Katie and her magic amber necklaces to let us know what is true.

Courageous heart. Love and fear.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

I would do everything.