Elisabeth: What the Psychic Said


When people ask how K and I met, I generally tell them we saw each other online, exchanged a series of winsome emails, and then met up for a bourbon cocktail. If there’s time, though, I like to tell them that what really happened: I put away my shoebox, and I knit a sweater.

A few summers back, I went to a psychic, mostly on a whim, when I was mooning around getting over my last break up. A good friend strongly recommended her. She said that her theatre company relied on the psychic for guidance about absolutely everything. And a theatre company is way more complicated than me, all that blocking and staged readings and shows run entirely on electricity generated by bicycles. Plus the psychic’s office was on the same block as my therapist, which seemed very important.

The psychic had a lot of slightly bizarre and moderately profound things to say to me, including that I was like the 2010 Gulf oil spill and my recent ex was like the cap that neatly sealed it off (not a false assessment of our relationship, but couldn’t you just agree gently that we were a bad match?!). She had lots of things to say about how creatively blocked I was, and that I needed to stop relying on other people to find outlets for my creativity and happiness. When I got out there and found it for myself, by myself, she intoned, only then would I be my authentic self with or without a relationship. Now, I realize that 99% of psychics probably say this to 99% of their customers. But then she said sternly, “You like wounded birds, and you need to stop carrying shoeboxes around for them.” How did that psychic see the last decade of my dating history? This was a logic model I could get behind: spend time alone; do not be distracted by wounded birds, even the most adorable ones; use all that time to discover my authentic self; once self is found, hold onto it and find a Person who is really pumped about my authentic self.

Of course, I had big intentions, but as with many of my projects, I was long on enthusiasm and a bit short on follow-through. I would “be creative” in periodic fits of energy. I sewed two pillow covers out of sea themed dishtowels from the Crate and Barrel outlet, my wild and distracted stitches marching up and down the messy seams. I co-chaired a consensus-based community garden committee. I rearranged my desk. I scattered ocean treasures just so across the wide planks and waited for inspiration to strike and ignored the fact that I had so many public health papers due that I never had any time to do any writing for myself anyway. (In retrospect I may have gone overboard with the ocean treasures. When a friend saw the pillows and sea glass strewn everywhere, she asked if I had plans to rename the bathroom “Buoys and Gulls Room.”) Of course, I also spent a lot of time creatively crying on the Q train.

Then, in the middle of a miserable city winter, I decided I’d embark on a truly creative pursuit: I’d knit a sweater, and I would start dating again when it was finished. Not even any making out lying down, nope, not until I was wearing a hand-knit creation. I reasoned that as adrift as I felt, by the time the sweater was finished I’d feel differently, maybe a little closer to the person I wanted to be. I went to the Lion’s Brand studio just outside of Union Square the next day, found a perfect, vibrant fuchsia, and brought it home. It was just me and those needles, flashing furiously. I realized that in two decades of knitting, I’d really never made anything for myself—not a pair of handwarmers, not even a scarf. I raced jubilantly through the first six inches without realizing the raglan increase was backwards. Ripped the stitches out, started again, slower this time. I would bring my sweater on the train; listen to The Moth podcast while I slipped yarn through loops and counted the rows and let my mind fade away, feeling calmer already, creating my own string theory. “By the time this sweater is done,” I would think, “things will be different.”

Now, if my life were a lesbionic rom com, this is where I would slip the sweater on and head to my early morning shift at the Co-op to bag interminable bags of marcona almonds, and on my 594th bag I’d notice that there was a slightly stoic, hunky Midwesterner moving boxes of soy milk into the freezer, and we’d, you know, make out lying down. But I’ve racked up so many missed shifts at the Co-op that I’m basically barred from entering it ever again. And the sweater, although radiantly pink, looks backwards at all times, even though I’ve tried it both ways a dozen times. Also, the sleeves are best suited to a kindergartener. What really happened is that I told enough friends about the self-reflective creativity-inspiring sweater project and my time “off the market” that when I triumphantly finished it, they made me pay up. I didn’t feel ready and protested loudly, but I dusted off my okcupid profile. When I couldn’t think of a way to start it, I wrote, “Well, I knitted a sweater so I could focus on my authentic self, and now the sweater is done, and it’s a good story.”

With a total prize of a profile like that, you can imagine the veritable bevy of suitors that showed up at my seaside palace. Eventually K and I stumbled across each other, and made plans to meet up on a late Sunday afternoon. I’d spent the day experimenting with different marinades for baked tofu and setting up my brand-new three-season tent in my studio apartment; she’d carried a friend’s belongings from the East Village to a sublet on 10th Ave after the friend accidentally ate a pot brownie and swore there were daemons in his Ikea Aneboda shelving unit. We had drinks, then we decided to have dinner, then there was a torrential spring rain that kept us at the charming Brooklyn restaurant even longer, you know where this is going…she walked me back to the train and I stuck out my hand for a jovial handshake. I waited for the train thinking, “I want to have sex with that person,” and my way of showing her was a handshake.

If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know that this is where K went home and methodically decided to invite me on a summer vacation, while I went home and basically zipped myself into my three-season tent.

I spent the next few months dating K, in a determinedly casual way. I wanted to be dead sure before we got serious, and I knew we’d get serious, that my authentic self was on board. I’d worked so hard (and knitted such an ugly sweater) to be myself and be brave, and I wanted to make sure I held onto it for the long haul. I kept watching and waiting, to see if I would start to feel like I was carrying the weight of the dreaded wounded bird. But all that happened is that a responsible, dapper Iowan kept offering to make me dinner and laughing at all my stories. Bit by bit I relaxed, and I couldn’t see any need for any shoeboxes, and we kept having such a good time that I eventually realized I had possibly found the Person from the end of the logic model. I flew into my apartment one night, and saw that K had beat me home and was making dinner. When she looked at me, her whole face lit up, like I’d been gone for months at sea, like I was her very favorite person in the whole world. I sat down on a kitchen chair, got a little teary, and told her I loved her.

If you need a psychic, I know a good one.

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  • Amy

    Oh the end of that story! Love. Love, love, love, love, love. I remember that feeling of realization. The day I realized that B stopped whatever he was doing when I walked in just to stand up and give me a proper kiss hello was such a good day. It feels so good to be welcomed home with a smile, doesn’t it? I just had to marry him.

  • Kate

    Your last paragraph just put me in danger of crying on the bus, in the best way possible.

    • Marina

      Seriously. Sniffling at work.

      • carrie

        It’s pretty dusty in my office…

    • alyssa

      oh man, did not expect to tear up at that one! beautifully written; what a beautiful love story you’re writing.

    • Alexandra

      Glad I’m not the only person tearing up over here. Must be some ninjas cutting onions.

      • Elisabeth

        You guys are incredibly kind. One of my mantras this year is “Be Elisabeth, but Be Brave.” It’s scary to put this out into the ether, but APW support is better than Facebook on one’s birthday. Thank you all!

        • Courtney K

          “Be Elisabeth, but Be Brave.”

          Love that. Stealing it.

        • Parsley

          I’m glad that’s your mantra! Especially since it means we get to read stories like this one. Thanks for sharing.

  • Katie

    I just….. Yessssss. Thank you for this post. It’s perfectly timed as so many of APW posts are. I have been waiting for the shoe to drop and have recently discovered that this time, it just won’t. Hooray for being authentic and inviting someone good to love our authentic selves.

    I love and thank you for your final paragraph. Like you, I started a lot of self help and even saw two psychics after a breakup. I finally recognized the patterns and went about being more mindful of myself, what I wanted etc. When I then met the right Person, I went about our relationship in a “determinedly casual way.” I’m sure a lot of us can fully understand the sentiment of wanting to be cautious after so many missteps and misplaced devotion and enthusiasm. I’m glad you got comfortable with yourself and K. We all have our own stories of how we met, but I’m beginning to think that, for people of a certain experience level, the fundamental steps and sequence of your story isn’t just the way we are all going to come to learn to love and be loved.

  • Sara

    This might be the sweetest and funniest “how we got together” story I’ve ever read.

  • LMS

    I love everything about this – you are an amazing writer.

    Having just broken it off with the person I thought I would marry (who was a bit of a wounded bird himself, now that you mention it) you have me thinking about breaking out the old knitting needles.

    • Elisabeth

      Oh LMS! I know that feeling all too well. Find a project! By the time you’re done, no matter what, things will be different than they are now. Sending you good thoughts.

      • LMS

        Thanks for the good thoughts!

  • Shelly

    Elisabeth, your writing transports the reader into a completely different world. Wow.

  • LOVE. I get excited whenever I see your name on a post. To ugly sweaters and tossing out shoeboxes!

  • Emmy

    I’m not crying a work. My allergies are just acting up.

    Thank you for this lovely post. As a fellow shoe-box hauler still struggling to keep my authentic self and be brave, this was so wonderful to read.

  • Anne

    Gorgeous writing. Thank you for sharing this story.

  • Jashshea

    Omg, you are HILARIOUS. So funny and so touching. I love everything about this.

  • Class of 1980

    How I love off-kilter writing. This is good stuff.


    Like everyone else, I love the last paragraph – my heart skipped a little at remembering that feeling in myself – but I also giggled heartily at “I also spent a lot of time creatively crying on the Q train.” You’re a funny woman!

  • I was on board from the first sentence, but this is the line that makes me feel like I know you:

    “I’d spent the day experimenting with different marinades for baked tofu and setting up my brand-new three-season tent in my studio apartment; she’d carried a friend’s belongings from the East Village to a sublet on 10th Ave after the friend accidentally ate a pot brownie and swore there were daemons in his Ikea Aneboda shelving unit.”

    So, so, SO great.

  • Beth

    Love this! The best thing I did after my last long-term relationship ended was to just take the time (a year) to re-figure out my own needs and what made me feel fulfilled. And then I went and met my fiance on OKCupid, too!

  • Can you write for us every day? Please?

  • Perfect post is perfect. The awkwardness of deliberately and intently trying to Find Your Self rings so, so true (my own phase was distinctly lacking in sea glass but rife with gently trapezoidal scarves knitted on the train). And don’t get me started on the truly bizarre ways we find to express immediate attraction to an intriguing person – my brain went full-on third-grader when I met my intended and for the longest time I could only a) ignore him or b) make fun of him, and not in the adorable banter kind of way. It’s a miracle we eventually learned to interact like normal people. You captured all of this so hilariously!

    And yaaayyyy, Q train! I get off at Beverley Road. Maybe I’ll see you at a meetup someday!

    • Elisabeth

      I LOVE A GENTLE TRAPEZOID. The next time I see one on the Q train, I’m accosting you in a non-violent way, Liz.

  • Smitty

    can’t wait can’t wait can’t wait. xoxoxoxoxxo!!!!


    I’m sure something else matters but I can’t see what, right now.

  • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

    Knitting for oneself + APW!!!! Day made. I think this is my new favorite post for the ugly sweater alone.

  • Aw, that’s beautiful.

  • “…she’d carried a friend’s belongings from the East Village to a sublet on 10th Ave after the friend accidentally ate a pot brownie and swore there were daemons in his Ikea Aneboda shelving unit.”

    Okay, you’re now my favorite, ever. Just sayin’. Loving reading about you and K, and so awesome to have a lady-oriented intern. Keep up the fabulousity.

  • Courtney K

    So, so funny. I mean, “Buoys and Gulls Room.” I’m dying.

  • anon

    “if my life were a lesbionic rom com”

    – I would watch this movie. So. MANY. Times.

    • Elisabeth

      Anon, if you’re in Brooklyn, you should come on over because right now I’m wearing a Take Back The Night 2003 t-shirt and watching Nashville with two gigantic cats and a wine spritzer by my side. The rom com lives!

  • Katy

    This was the sweetest post! Made me tear up… One sentence especially touched me: “When she looked at me, her whole face lit up, like I’d been gone for months at sea, like I was her very favorite person in the whole world.” I literally know what it’s like for my own face to light up after my Person has been gone for months at sea. Thanks for making me think about my own “how we met” story, and about that wonderful moment in just over 2 months when I will get to see my sweetie again :)

    • Class of 1980

      It was my favorite part too.

  • Can we see a picture of the sweater?