‘LIFE IS HARD AND THEN YOU DIE’
It’s not easy to let go of old habits. It’s even harder to stay with the wrong habits for the wrong reasons. One advantage for me of being an ‘adaptable’ thinking type is that I can go with the flow. Major catastrophes in my life have had corresponding compensations. Being constantly forced to change my thinking and circumstances has illuminated my path to knowledge and wisdom and has also been my price for humility.
David and I had launched our custom furniture business wearing rose colored glasses. Overly-ambitious, under-capitalized, and with an abundance of talent and energy, we were ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, we failed to acknowledge the literal handwriting on our wall. We had recently signed the lease for a new work space, which we thought was absolutely perfect for us because of its fabulous location in NOHO, reasonable rent, and an electrical system that was already set up perfectly for our needs. We realized when we moved in, however, that the previous lessor of the space (a furniture maker) had painted his final message (above) in black enamel paint with a four-inch brush on the largest white surface in the shop. He died there alone, miserable, and suffering with lung cancer while tortuously fulfilling his final work obligations.
David and I were concerned about the implications of his message for our business. How could we exorcise his dark karma from our work space? We white washed over it several times, but somehow it managed to migrate through to the surface again and again. Then we installed a layer of sheetrock over it. Like placing a Band-Aid on a compound fracture, our repair made the new sheetrock a constant reminder of the tumultuous trials we were going through and how they were linked to the negative karmic energy that it concealed. As our business failed, it wasn’t the loss of money and credibility that was most painful for me. I’d experienced that before in my candle business. Someone who I loved was in desperate trouble and I felt helpless.
Just prior to the all too proverbial ‘shit hitting the fan’, David asked me to share “the most amazing experience of his life”. I had no idea what he was talking about or what kind of trouble he was in. He inspired me to take a toke of Crack and I did. I felt godlike for a moment, and then had the scariest headache of my life. I instantly acquired empathy for people who get migraines and swore off Crack for all eternity.
David never got the headache. He craved that first godlike experience with every desperate attempt to re-experience it. He became crazy for Crack and cursed by his addiction. He’d call me for money in the middle of the night, knowing that would make me even angrier at him and more miserable about my own career choices. I urgently wanted to help David, but I also needed to help myself and my family.
Design, management, and marketing were my turf. David had been in charge of production. He was an intuitive type and great at it. With his strong, healthy, and creative hands, he could craft or fix anything. Suddenly, I was doing it all. Our workers needed guidance to fulfill the work required to complete our production deadlines. I hadn’t had much actual experience being a foreman, furniture maker, or maintenance man. I was also inexperienced with creating jigs to help expedite production. David could effortlessly tell by the sounds in the shop if and when there was a problem.
Our landlord, suppliers, and clients were upset with us (an understatement). I was struggling to meet basic responsibilities and obligations. These circumstances made me bonkers and also attracted the corresponding compensations for this insanity into my life. The most valuable lesson I learned was – I didn’t have to go through this experience alone. Aside from Joanna, my family, and my close friends who are always there for me, I needed people who could help me manage my reality. I was blessed to find two.
Angelo Keith rescued me in my time of need. He had been a friend of the former shop owner, having worked for him as a furniture maker. Angelo helped his friend die with as much grace and dignity as humanly possible.
Angelo heard about our (my) dilemma and showed up at the eleventh hour, asking me to put him to work. He had many of David’s skills and then some. Much older, wiser, and more experienced, he’d quip, “Jesus was a woodworker”. When you need character building experience resulting in eventual martyrdom or sainthood, be a woodworker. Angelo never mentioned financial remuneration, which was beyond total disaster. I’ll always treasure him for that. Joanna and I came to love his family, too.
Angelo was like a one-man shop. He was as strong as an ox and as clever as a fox. He’d design jigs for doing tasks that never even occurred to me. He could lift a whole large upper cabinet with one hand and screw it to the wall with the other. I used to affectionately call him “Sumo”, short for Japanese wrestler. His hands were thinking type, like mine, with square palms and fairly long widely spread fingers. His palms were much thicker than mine and harder with tougher more calloused skin. Angelo had a strong ‘practical’ backup and was much more physical than me. Meanwhile, he had a first class mind. We’d walk in the woods together and blue-sky think in order to solve real problems. We’d construct unusual sculptures out of sticks and stones along the way. As a friend ‘in need’, I learned a lot from Angelo who was a friend ‘in deed’.
Glass, Metal Work, and Tabletop by Angelo Keith
Angelo helped me cope with my challenges on the outside. I also needed help with my challenges on the inside. I decided to find the right psychotherapist to help me sort out my issues. I researched Freudians, Jungians, Reichians, and Adlerians. I eventually chose a Gestalt psychotherapist because my needs felt immediate. Because we’ve lost touch and I don’t have permission, I’ll call my therapist ‘Ian’, for all the ‘ians’ who I didn’t choose. I had a healthy childhood and had no desire to rehash my early experiences looking for clues and reasons for my current challenges. I was lucky and blessed to attract another unique fixed thinking type who would help me find my way back to being myself. As an adaptable thinking type, I tend to attract other thinking types. In astrology, Gemini is mutable, Libra is cardinal, and Aquarius is a fixed type.
Angelo was both an Aquarius sun sign and a fixed thinking hand type. That combines his behavior with his psyche. People think that Aquarius is a water sign. They see a water bearer pouring water out of a jug, along with a symbol that looks like waves. Aquarius is a thinking type. Water embodies unconscious and feeling. The water bearer is pouring ‘feeling’ out of the jug in favor of ‘thinking’. I relate well with Aquarians.
Once a week, I’d weave a melodramatic web of intrigue for Ian, hoping to receive his insight, understanding, and sympathy. When I’d finished, Ian would say, “So what else is new?” He’d clean his nails or play with his new electronic gadget. Why didn’t he look into my eyes? Was he listening? How dare he waste my time and money? I was pissed and confronted him. That was the start of my healing.
Ian knew when to look into my eyes. I’d say “but”, he’d say “and”. I’d say “can’t”, he’d say “don’t want to!” Ian noticed my every gesture and facial expression. I couldn’t get away with a thing. It soon occurred to me that maybe I was taking myself too seriously.
Ian’s unorthodox methods and clever techniques made me realize it was possible to throw a switch on the inside and change my attitude. His thinking type hands were a cross between mine and Angelo’s with square palms and long fingers held widely apart. My hands were very flexible while Ian’s were very stiff like Angelo’s. I was a “jack of all trades”. He was a “specialist”. One of many tasks Ian accomplished was to help me find focus and clarity in my thinking. Ian’s palms and fingers were thicker than mine, but softer and smoother than Angelo’s and his fingers were less knotty and fingertips more round. Ian’s strong will, determination, and focus was mental as opposed to physical. I doubt he ever made or fixed anything. I sought Ian’s friendship as well as his therapy. He was fascinated by my passion for reading hands.
As founder of an institute for Gestalt Psychology in NYC, Ian suggested that I enroll in an intermediate study group. I participated weekly for two years and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Psychology compliments metaphysics and provides a strong foundation for counseling. “It’s much easier to see than to know what to say about what you see”.
I learned to carefully listen and closely observe others from Ian. I also learned that it’s not what you see, but what you say and how you say it that matters in the final analysis.
I once asked Ian, “What do you say to your craziest clients?” He told me, “I tell them to act normal or someone will come along and lock them up.” My fascination and curiosity about human character would soon lead me to exploring criminally insane people.