A medium at large

“You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Life-Changing Lessons from Heaven,” by Theresa Caputo with Kristina Grish (2014)

To me, Theresa Caputo’s gift for connecting the living and the dead is more believable than what happens on her reality TV show, “Long Island Medium,” or at her live events. However, I do enjoy the show and was happy to have had the opportunity to see her in person when she came to Fort Wayne last year.

Reality TV is — well, reality TV, and while any psychic or medium is going to have hits and misses, only the big hits make the final cut. As for the live experience — you have a theater packed with ticket holders, many of whom are grieving and quite anxious to be randomly read. Then there are the non-ticket holding spirits who want to get a word in. Even with her gregarious personality, how can a psychic medium who has struggled with anxiety, as Theresa has, do readings in the midst of such intense energy? That atmosphere seems ripe for scrambled signals.

However — when I look behind the hype and the heels (which also can’t be good for the “chi”), I see a woman who has struggled to understand and accept her God-given gifts and is, like the rest of us, just trying to put and keep it all together. It also helps that Theresa is my age (a fellow ’80s stone-washed jeans survivor), and I love that she keeps using that old cassette recorder.

On to the book. Instead of a progressive narrative, it’s an amalgamation of topics on issues such as faith, authenticity, and gratitude, each underscored by Theresa’s own experiences and those of her clients with Spirit. The lessons build on and inform each other, “but you won’t get lost if you jump around based on how you’re feeling that day,” as Theresa says in the intro.

True to her general theme, she emphasizes that our loved ones really are present and eager to continue to help from the other side. They cared when they were alive, and death does not stop them from doing so, especially if they are part of our soul circle. “If you’ve got work to do, (your mother’s) soul will continue to meddle and help your soul graduate to the appropriate level,” she writes.

Chapter 10, “Intuition Ain’t Just for Psychics Anymore” is actually pretty useful. Everyone has some level of intuition, and it’s an important navigation tool here in the physical world, if we are willing to use and trust it. It’s never wrong, although it may take you in a roundabout way to where you’re meant to be, Theresa says. When we are traveling that roundabout way, it’s easy to think our intuition has screwed up and sent us down the wrong path. No way, she says — Spirit always knows the way and what we need at each step. “Guidance isn’t always obvious, but if it were, you’d never have to intuitively search for meaning and thus, learn many lessons,” she says.

Again, the breadth of topics here precludes looking at all of them, but that chapter on intuition stood out for me. If you are interested in how intuition works, whether you associate it with the P word (psychic) or not, it’s worth checking out.

Sensitive revolution

“The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You,” by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. (Revised ed., 2013)

“I’m off the charts on this Highly Sensitive Person quiz,” I remarked.

A sigh issued from the other side of the room. “Ohhh, Lord.”

That was probably in the late 1990s, and I’d just read a brief about a new book about highly sensitive individuals, with a miniature version of the “Are you an HSP?” questionnaire. Up to that point, the word “sensitive” was usually preceded by “too,” and so I’d tried not to be. It had never occurred to me that sensitivity could be a natural trait, let alone a positive influence. So when I read the book, it was an eye-opener.

This revised edition adds expanded scientific research into the trait of high sensitivity and a new description of it: DOES (gotta love those acronyms). D – depth of processing; O – being easily overstimulated; E – emotional reactions and empathy; and S – sensitivity to all the subtleties around us. There is also a more extended discussion of psychiatric medications.

Aron paints no pretty pictures of sensitivity. It’s not always an advantage, and it has its costs. Feeling everything so intensely (and some of it not even ours) puts us on a path that sometimes intersects with the mainstream but more often does not. Instead, she walks us through all aspects of life as an HSP — from childhood experiences to work and relationship issues to health and spirituality. It’s not an easy road, and if we’re not careful, we can become easily offended, demanding, and difficult. Being sensitive is about what we have to offer, not about what we think the world owes us.

In the section on spirituality, Aron writes of four particular experiences she’s had with HSPs: “spontaneous deep silence creating a hallowed kind of collective presence, considerate behavior, soul/spirit directness, and insight about all of this.” HSPs are the priests and prophets, artists and poets, she says. We are the ones with the rich inner lives that help us find meaning where there is precious little in evidence — Victor Frankl, who survived a Nazi concentration camp and wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning,” is a prime example given.

We are not necessarily smarter, nicer, or better than our non-HSP brothers and sisters. However, learning more about the trait of high sensitivity and how to manage it can help us stop perceiving ourselves as weak or inferior.

That is the primary message I’ve taken from this book, both the earlier versions and this revised edition: Sensitivity does not have to be a liability in life. Like other traits, we can turn it into a gift or a curse. If we can find a way to make it work for us and for the benefit of others, we all come out ahead.

Unexpected growth

My father gave me this plant, a croton only a few inches tall then, a week or so before he died. In the 20-plus years since, it’s grown and survived several moves, getting toppled by a kitten, and an attempted rawhide bone burial in its soil by an Australian shepherd. Its offspring from cuttings are healthy and lush. The original, now a long trunk/stem with some leaves on top, has hung in there.

We can come to the point where all evidence points to something staying exactly the way it is, and we think we’re foolish to believe, much less hope, otherwise. Things are the way they are — make the best of it. Right? Sure, we hear words about hope and change, but that’s not reality. Not for us.

Then we get an idea for Croton-new growtha new product or creative project. A challenge at work or at home forces us to reexamine the ordinary. We discover an unexpected connection. A gift comes our way, seemingly out of the blue.

In the case of this seasoned croton, a shiny little leaf appears about midway up the trunk. The plant had no apparent reason to sprout new growth here; leaves usually start growing up top with the other leaves. But a new branch in the middle of nowhere?

The reality of the present moment may look the same, but this little green leaf reminds us that reality is, in fact, change and growth. Much of it happens behind the scenes, but when it appears, might we see that reality differently? Might we even dare to hope?

The angel Gabriel — charged with the daunting task of convincing a teenage girl that her unplanned pregnancy was part of a much bigger plan — said it best: “Nothing shall be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)