Monday, March 29, 2021

My first therapist.

About 41 years ago,  I met a woman who changed my life. I suppose I could start a story a day with those seven or twelve words and never fully run out of fodder. But this particular woman, did change my life.

I'll call her Jill and leave it at that.

I'm 94%-positive people aren't named Jill anymore. Just as they're not named Betty or Donna or if they're boys, Frank or Walter. Names come and go like the tides. And in this generation, I seem to know more women named Alex and Charlie and Sam and even Georgie than I know men named Alex and Charlie and Sam and even Georgie.

Jill was my first therapist and a woman wise-beyond-her-years. I say that because I was probably 21 at the time and she, likely was just half-a-decade or so older. And she was way wiser than I ever was.
Playwright, Eugene O'Neill. Not a laugh-a-minute.

At the time there was some pretty Eugene O'Neill shit going on with my parents, involving things. An etiology, if you want to get hoity-toity about it, that was more Hillbilly elegy than upper-middle-class Jew, though those two cultures probably have more in common than you'd think from watching Jed Clampett, Jethro and Ellie-Mae.

It was enough stress for me, also living in a dorm-room in New York's most roach-filled building, Johnson Hall up on 116th and Morningside Drive, that I knew I couldn't handle it all on my own. Though I grew up with Samuel Goldwyn's one-liner rattling through my head that "anyone who sees a psychiatrist ought of have his head examined," I put aside my mid-century non-modern biases and walked down to a pre-war building on 91st and Central Park West where Columbia had an affiliation with a dispenser of mental acuity.

It was there, for eight-dollars a session, that I met Jill. And continued seeing her once-or-twice a week for five years or six.

In all those years, I can remember just two things Jill taught me, and I'm richer for both of them. 

One was the ultimate human advice, though it was expressed in Upper West Side shtetl terms. "George, be a mensch." 

As I enter, every day, deeper into my achy and bruised dotage, the saliency of those four words reverberate all the louder. I have my own business now and, somedays it seems, more clients than I have fingers on both hands. All giving me assignments at seven at night and expecting something as finely-woven as the Unicorn Tapestry back at seven-in-the morning.

A Unicorn. The real kind.

Looking back on my forty years working in giant world-wide agglomerations of regressions to the mean, commonly known as ad agencies, there was hardly one among them that wouldn't, to that seven-to-seven demand, say "sure."

But that ain't being a mensch. That's throwing shit on a dish and calling it dinner.

Being a mensch, between me and my Account Director--a woman who drips out my time as if I'm trapped inside a giant impecunious eye-dropper, is saying, "George is the fastest writer you'll ever meet. But he needs till end-of-day."

That oh-so-gentle pushback buys me a little time to breathe, and I usually, then, deliver mid-to-late afternoon--still apace but with some time to have walked the dog and actually think with a few laps around the cerebellum built-in. 

"George, be a mensch," is delivering for clients the way only you can. With a timeliness, quality and thoughtfulness unusual in today's processed-cheese-food industry. Also, I am not stricken by 91-rounds of internal review that exist to pump up the egos, and the hollow chests of people who sit in judgment of work but never actually do any. That gives me more time--regardless of the timing--working, and less time placating and politicking for someone's ego's sake.

The second bit of wisdom I gleaned from the woman I'm calling Jill, was a cartoon-metaphor that I think about almost every day. 

"George," Jill would wag her finger at me, "you're like a creature. Every time something upsets you, you crawl under your rock and refuse to come out until you feel once again it's safe."

As I've noticed through the decades this hermetic proclivity, I've learned to shorten, if not altogether avoid, my time underneath mossy igneous. I've learned not to crawl completely under rocks--but with a deep breath and a metaphoric hiking up of my pants--to battle back, that is, be a mensch.

A friend and I spoke for 45-minutes the other day, which might be, for me a during-Covid record. I generally run to the laconic, if not the Taconic.

"George," he, she or it said, "the smartest thing you ever did was those ads for yourself in Futura extra-bold condensed that you run on Linked In. It's you versus Goliath."

Wilt hardly ever wilted.

I completed the sentence, "And as Wilt 'The Big Dipper' Chamberlain once pointed out, 'no one roots for Goliath.'"

I heard this while bearing in mind that I seem to gain a large client each week. Meanwhile, my ex-Alma Mater bangs a broken drum and announces the win of a dead or hemorrhaging brand that won't generate enough revenue to pay for one of the six or nine ex-CEOs they'll keep on full-salary plus black-car and dry-cleaning unto death do them part.

"George, be a mensch." In a lot of ways that makes me bigger than other agencies.

"George, be a mensch." In a lot of ways that keeps me smaller
than other agencies."

That's just the way I like it.

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