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I’ve always experienced reality on a multitude of non-ordinary levels. In fact, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in contact with a medley of ancestors and star-beings speaking to me from the sky. I’d love to share two (of hundreds?!) of the otherworldly encounters that helped shape the younger version of me. There’s a brief backstory here, too, to provide some context about the family/culture I grew up in, just outside of Chicago, Illinois. I've changed the last name of the neighbors mentioned in the story.
Back when I was a little girl, before I realized my contact with otherworldly presences might be perceived as unordinary, I shared stories with my parents about my conversations with the ancestors and star-beings. My old-school Italian father became worried and sent me to a psychologist. “Why are you so lucky to be one of the chosen ones?” the psychologist asked condescendingly. “Why are you being spoken to by beings from the sky? None of the other children I know have these experiences.” I certainly didn’t feel chosen, and even though I was just a child, I knew the psychologist didn’t actually think I was lucky; he thought I was playing make-believe. Or maybe he thought I was crazy. Neither of those were true. My experiences were just as real as the conversations the psychologist was having with me.
There were spirit-guides, too, always all around me. I called some of them the ‘Sha sha shas’ because of the sound they made coming down the hallway toward my bedroom. Other spirits lifted me from my bed covers at night while they performed benevolent, energetic work that I could not comprehend at the time.
One humid, mid-western evening during the summer of my 11th year, I stood on the corner of Carlyle and Dryden amid the flickering fireflies and asked my crush, Ryan Flannigan, if I could kiss him. It was the first romantic kiss of my life, and I remember every detail: the smell of Ryan’s skin, the smile on his face when I pulled away, the sound of the other neighborhood kids playing in a distant, grassy field. The next morning I went to church, which I typically protested, and I remember my mom leaning down and whispering in my ear in the middle of the sermon, “Why are you so happy?”
Later that year, Ryan Flannigan’s mom committed suicide. Ryan found her when he returned home from baseball practice in the middle of the afternoon; she’d slit both her wrists in the master bathroom. None of the adults had seen it coming. They’d assumed she was just another normal, suburban housewife, content to be kept in a middle-class home on a safe and tree-lined street. But she wasn’t an ordinary housewife. She felt out of place, like me. I could see it in her eyes every time she answered the door after I knocked to see if Ryan was home.
It wasn’t long after her death that Mrs. Flannigan came to visit me in the night. I was in that delicate space between sleep and wake – the place where the spirits often contacted me. When Mrs. Flannigan’s spirit spoke, it wasn’t the slow and wavering voice she’d used when she’d answer her front door. That voice had been sad. “Hello, Jackie,” she’d say, looking at me in a way she didn’t look at anyone else in the neighborhood, as if she understood something about life that no one around her acknowledged, but she knew I understood it, too. The voice she used when she visited me after her death wasn’t sat at all, and she didn’t say my name. All she said was, “Be yourself.” She said it lovingly. I was levitating several feet off the bed when she said it, but I wasn’t afraid. Mrs. Flannigan's presence had always felt comforting to me.
My parents sent me to summer camp on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, when I was twelve. I shared the story about Mrs. Flannigan’s spirit with a group of girls and our camp counselor. “No one believes me,” I said.
When everyone had fallen asleep that night, I snuck out to the lake where the kayaks and canoes were tied up to the pier. A sliver of moon reflected on the surface of the water, wavering. I lay on my back at Geneva’s edge and felt the water on my bare feet. The night sky soon arrived as a starry tapestry, gently enclosing the known world within its protective embrace. No sooner had I noticed the vastness of the stars, than two hands appeared from the sky, slowly beginning to pull apart the starry fabric above me. What lies beyond? I wondered. What’s on the other side? Those hands, those mysterious and knowing hands, wanted to show me. Behind the starry tapestry. Beyond the yawning divide. I sat up quickly, terrified. It was challenging enough to manage everything already occurring in my life; I didn’t need this explosion of awareness yet. I didn’t feel ready! I wasn’t ready for a glimpse beyond the cradle of cosmic civilization, and I didn’t want to see the magnificent angel or alien I felt peeping through the curtains at me. I wasn’t ready to understand what I was seeing! Why was this being given to me? I was just a child in awe at the edge of a lake, clutching her knees and trembling. Sensing my terror, the hands quietly returned the sky’s fabric to its prior resting place, sheltering me from whatever I’d been about to discover on the other side of the tapestry. And like that I was left, in the night with shallow breath, underneath the stars. Enclosed within my most familiar reality.
Mrs. Flannigan’s message to “be myself” has been one of the most precious blessings and pieces of guidance I’ve ever been gifted, and I’ve held her message close to my heart for over three decades. Whether in matters of love, career, spiritual work, or simply moving through the world at large, I credit my unwavering ability to “be myself” to the blessing I received from a woman who’d struggled to embody her own intuitive wisdom.
As for the realms beyond the starry tapestry, I’ve since been willingly catapulted to those realms many times – to realms beyond, above, below, and woven throughout ordinary reality. And I continue to deepen my relationship with specific spirit guides, ancestors, star-beings, light-sources, god/goddess energies, and plant spirits, to align myself beside their loving power as I help guide my clients to their own truest, healthiest, most empowered selves.
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