In the fairly short existence of Milwaukee Record, I’ve made a point to chronicle foolish adventures that have damaged my spirit, tested my eating endurance, and depleted both my physical and emotional well-being. I have no regrets (except maybe that George Webb one), but with the arrival of a new year also comes new perspective and a new opportunity to forge a different path. Over the course of 2018, I’m going to seek inner peace, personal growth, and healthy choices while documenting my experiences with a series of columns under the ’18 And Life To Go umbrella. Will it work? Probably not, but I’ll try anyway.

I’ve lost myself. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have a career that allows me to write about whatever I want, book events, explore the city I love, and apply creativity into sales, marketing, and “journalism.” So few people get to make a living doing exactly what they love, and I try to remind myself of that every day. It might sound sad to some of you, but I truly have my dream job. However, by having the rare opportunity to pile all of my interests, every ounce of creative thought, and most of my waking hours into co-owning a venture I love, I’ve misplaced my own identity along the way.

Over the last four-plus years, I’ve withdrawn myself from others and have found I have little in the way of non-work happenings to discuss when people ask what’s going on in my life. Nearly every fun, interesting, and notable thing happening in my life now is work-related. Don’t get me wrong…it’s a blessing to have a job that ranges from shopping with Andrew W.K. and booking halftime concerts to screening cult comedies from my youth and searching the city for incredible food. Yet piling all my interests and passions into my career has made my awesome job into my whole identity.

Honestly, that might’ve unconsciously been a reason I decided to start this ’18 And Life series. Long story short, I need to find myself again, but I don’t know how. I already knew that deep down, but it didn’t really sink in until a stranger in a Hales Corners office complex put her hands on my head and told me as much. Yes, on the recommendation of a few people, I withheld my judgement, withdrew $60, and tried intuitive reiki.

Reiki is an eastern practice in which a therapist is said to channel energy into a patient to help administer relaxation, as well as both emotional and physical healing. To be honest, it sounded like bullshit to me. Even writing it out now, it seems like a pretty far-fetched concept. However, with enough rave reviews from folks whose opinion I respect, I set out to give reiki a shot. This wasn’t your normal reiki (is that an oxymoron?) session though. I decided I was going to get really weird with this and book an intuitive reiki session, where the specialist would attempt to simultaneously heal and advise me. Kristine Joy came highly recommended in this specific sect of reiki.

Kristine has been practicing reiki for five years. After finding success in her home practice, she recently made the move to an office complex in a serene section of Hales Corners. Like my less-than-helpful salt cave session in New Berlin, the prospect of driving well outside Milwaukee and then back during rush hour to partake in a relaxing treatment seemed kind of counter-intuitive (pun intended!), but I quickly forgot about the drive there once I arrived at Kristine’s building off the beaten path in a spacious, tree-lined parcel of suburban land. I ventured past a Big Boy statue (!!!) in the lobby and down some stairs to her cozy basement office, where she greeted me by name. Either she’s really good at this intuitive stuff or she just looked at her appointment book.

Kristine was extremely friendly, which helped eliminate any apprehensions I had about being alone with a stranger who’d be touching my head and limbs for 60 minutes. She gave me a rundown of her path to reiki, we talked about who’d referred me, and she led me to the adjoining room where my session would take place. Strangely, she told me she’d actually been meditating about me before I arrived and she was already picking up lots of things. Uh…okay.

For the sake of clarity and my own recollection, Kristine allowed me to record my appointment. I was dropping $60 on a one-hour session, after all. At that price, I didn’t want to miss anything.

“Your energy will shift and move how it needs to. Don’t be afraid to move. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or talk back. If you fall asleep, that’s fine, too,” she told me. “There’s no right or wrong.”

The room was small, but had more than enough room for a padded table where I’d be lying for the next hour or so. There was a chair with wheels that Kristine would be sitting on as she transferred energy to and from my head, shoulders, arms, legs, and feet. The room was dark except for a little light from candles and some sunlight making its way in through the drapes. I took my place on the table, lying on my back with all my clothes on. Other than my jacket and sweatshirt, I only removed my shoes. Kristine put on some ambient background noise, took her seat beside me, placed her hands on the top of my shoulder, and the session started.

“You’ve got a lot of tension up in your shoulders,” she told me a few minutes later. “There’s a lot of emotional stress going on. Your heart—not your physical heart, emotionally—feels like its been through a lot. It feels like there’s been a lot that you’ve gone through. I feel like you’re protecting yourself a little bit.”

Okay, one for one. Moving to my head after a few minutes, she told me “they” (a pronoun she’d go back to over the course of the appointment) were saying, “You’re very intelligent, so it feels like you’re always thinking 12 steps ahead on stuff. You’re constantly taking in and reading people or situations. Your insides are such a disconnect of what people see on the outside. You’re a thinker. You’re really in your head, so it’s really hard to quiet things down because you’re always thinking ahead.”

I’d referenced overthinking and an inability to stay out of my head in previous installments of this column, so I took that to heart. As I mentioned above, it also hit close to home when I was told I needed to find my true self. “They” were telling her I needed a lot of answers, but either her intuition, me booking the appointment with my Milwaukee Record email address, or some combination of the two let Kristine know I was already trying to figure it all out…for a couple reasons.

“Continue with what you’re doing by trying different things and finding more information. It feels twofold, like there’s two reasons for it,” she said. “There are personal reasons you’re doing it, but there’s something else you’re doing it for. There’s a combination and a dual benefit to everything you’re looking at. The dual benefit is almost like what’s allowing you to do it for personal reasons. You can justify doing it more if it’s for the dual purpose. Otherwise, I don’t think you’d take the self care. It’s really good because it’s giving you permission to do things personally. Keep exploring because you’re getting more from it than you even realize.”

On top of those internal revelations and the acknowledgement of “the fog”—both my long-running term for it and her wording in my appointment—clouding my mind, Kristine also asked about my caffeine and sodium intake and advised I reduce both. The mind, body, and spirit all work in tandem, she explained.

“It’s all compounding,” she said. “There’s a lot built up that needs to start coming out to get that clarity back in your head. It’s so foggy. You’re tired…god.”

In all ways, I’ve been pushing forward with my internal “Service Engine” light on. I knew that was the case for a long time, but hearing someone with no background on me say it as if it was fact and having her recommend I find a hobby or creative venture that’s just for me all struck a chord.

It wasn’t all talking and assessment, though. There would be spans between five and 10 minutes where I’d lie there with my eyes closed, her hand would be on my leg or foot, and we’d be silent. Around the end, I actually fell asleep and started snoring (the recording supports this). Maybe there was something to this “You’re tired…god” stuff!

After more than an hour, my session was over. Kristine gave me a quick summary of everything: I’m protecting myself, I need to find myself, I’m living in a fog, I drink too much coffee, I eat too much salt, and something about my right knee that didn’t really apply to me. I was warned I might feel increased energy in the days that followed, but that didn’t really happen. In fact, I had no energy the next two or three days because, on her recommendation, I decided to take a break from coffee. The break has lasted close to two weeks now.

Other than caffeine control, it’s tough to say whether intuitive reiki presented any direct benefits for me. Like many other treatments (acupuncture, floating, etc.) I felt like I was purchasing a block of time to unplug from the world and to focus solely on myself more than I was buying an A-to-B cure for any specific ailments. Even without the purported exchange of energy between Kristine’s hands and my body, I think I did draw at least some benefit from speaking with a second party about my internal struggles and getting her perspective. I’m not fully sure if I’m a believer in reiki itself, but I told her I might consider coming a couple times a year. Any more than that and “they” would be picking up signals about my financial worries.

I still haven’t found myself, but maybe talking things out with stranger who’s picking up my energy brought me a little bit closer.