Antioch-Part VII. Breakthrough

When I went home on spring break, something profound happened spontaneously—without effort or intention. Instead of viewing my mother as someone who didn’t give me what I needed growing up, for the first time I could clearly see her as a fellow human being who had suffered tremendously as a child. I saw in her face that she was just as starved for love and kindness and tenderness as I was. All the old residues of anger and resentment dissolved in that moment, never to return—not even once. A flood of love and compassion for my mother filled up my … Continue reading

Antioch-Part VI. My Mother and I

In the next few sessions, Dr. Leonard wanted to focus on my relationship with my mother. When I told him that my mother’s name was Erica, he asked me if I resembled her in any way. At the time, I was not able to see even a remote resemblance to her. It was a mystery to me why my parents gave my mother’s name to me, the fifth out of six children. Years later I came to understand that, while my nature resembled more my father, my physiology resembled that of my mother with her sensitivities to chemicals and her … Continue reading

Antioch—Part V. Slaying Demons and Dragons

“Dr. Leonard, I know that you’ll be shocked when I tell you my secret. You probably won’t like me anymore.” With a flushed face and racing heart, I confessed. “I’m not a very intelligent person. I’m actually pretty dumb. I’ve just been pretending that I’m smart most of my life. I’m a good actress and have everyone convinced that I’m smart.” Dr. Leonard looked puzzled. “What are you talking about, Erica? Of course you’re intelligent. You’re very intelligent. I read your file. You took honors courses in high school and got straight A’s. I read the enthusiastic letters of recommendation … Continue reading

Antioch-Part IV. Archeology of the Soul

In time, Dr. Leonard won my trust and coaxed me into talking about my life. He listened with uninterrupted attention and with disarming compassion. My highly-tuned radar could not detect even a trace of ridicule or judgment in his demeanor—something I had never experienced before. I felt seen and heard for the first time. Therapy became a sanctuary for my troubled psyche. I saw Dr. Leonard every week that I was on campus over the last two years of college, sometimes even twice a week. Jeff’s father generously paid for the therapy. The sessions became an adventure that I looked forward … Continue reading

Antioch-Part III. Breakdown

With the marriage to Jeff, I gave up my family name, Merriam, and switched to Elliott. I practiced saying my new name over and over. “My name is Erica Elliott.” I liked the way it sounded. The new name symbolized a new life and gave me some psychological distance from my family as I struggled to find my own way in the world as an adult. Jeff came from a wealthy background and could have whatever material possessions he wanted. His parents, Edith and Oz, had an elegant home south of Chicago in an upscale neighborhood. Oz was president of … Continue reading

Antioch-Part II. Marriage

“Come mothers and fathers throughout the land. Don’t criticize what you can’t understand. Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command. Your old road is rapidly aging. Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand. For your times they are a-changing.” It wasn’t long before the music of Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and Rolling Stones woke me up to the unrest unfolding throughout the country. I memorized the stirring words to many of Dylan’s songs and sang them to myself as I walked around campus. The potpourri of sounds included ethnic music which I … Continue reading

Antioch—Part I. First Day of College

Coming from Germany where I spent my last two years of high school, the first day at college in the US turned my world upside down. My plane landed in Dayton, Ohio. It was the last week in September, 1966. As the passengers filed into the airport, I looked around with anticipation, having been notified that someone from the college would be holding a sign with my name on it. When the crowd thinned, I finally saw a small, cardboard placard with the words “Erica Merriam” written in whimsical rainbow lettering, held by a tall guy, barefoot, with long, wildly … Continue reading

Uncle Ernst-Part III

Our train to Arosa passed through lush green valleys and along a little mountain river. Uncle Ernst stood in the aisle of the train doing his strange exercises, like deep knee bends with his back straight as a rod, which years later I realized were related to the Alexander Technique. He had been prescribed the exercises to improve his posture and open up his constricted chest. I felt ill at ease watching my Uncle’s uninhibited behavior create stares and neck craning by nearly all the passengers in our section of the train. He exercised with complete focus on what he … Continue reading

Uncle Ernst–Part II

On the fourth day of the fast, I awoke feeling refreshed, rested, clear-headed, and actually bubbling with energy—mental and physical energy—while at the same time experiencing a pervasive sense of peace. Hunger had mysteriously disappeared. I had no discomfort anywhere in my body. The world looked different to me. The colors looked brighter. The air smelled pure and intoxicating. I felt alive in a way that was new to me. Strange and wondrous feelings filled my mind and body. Everything in my life and in the world felt perfect just the way it was, no matter what. There was nothing … Continue reading

Uncle Ernst-Part I

Uncle Ernst, my mother’s younger brother, was a most unusual Swiss medical doctor. He had been the subject of heated controversy in my family. My mother claimed that he was a genius; my father claimed that he was a quack. While in high school in Germany, I remember traveling with my family to visit Uncle Ernst, a man I barely knew. Ernst had a thriving medical practice in a town called Landquart in the canton of Graubünden. We knew that Uncle Ernst would be too busy to visit with us. We simply wanted to say hello when he got a … Continue reading

Pneumonia—An Unusual Treatment

Rachel began her life with the deck stacked against her. She has had serious medical problems since birth, most of which are related to the genes she inherited from her parents, and then exacerbated by environmental factors, like the food she eats and the air she breathes. With persistence and determination, Rachel has managed to navigate her way through life, overcoming one challenging health obstacle after another—all the time maintaining her inimitable Jewish sense of humor even in the bleakest of times. We actually laugh together during her appointments with me—even when she is in serious distress. Rachel’s long list … Continue reading

Antarctica-Part V. Inspiration & Activism

Come join me for the last chapter of this odyssey. One of the Indian students who “interviewed” me asked what most moved me about the trip. Aside from the thrill of being of Antarctica, I was moved by Sir Robert Swan’s dedication over the past 30 years to the preservation of Antarctica and to raising awareness about climate change. His strategy is brilliant. He brings young change makers from all over the world to Antarctica so that they will see for themselves what is so painfully evident. I was equally moved hearing about the dreams and aspirations of the young … Continue reading

Antarctica-Part IV. Primordial Paradise

Have you ever imagined what the earth looked like in the beginning, before humans tinkered around with it? Antarctica offers us a glimpse into this primordial world. It is the last remaining truly wild place left on our planet. I can see why Sir Robert Swan, after skiing 900 miles across Antarctica over thirty years ago, vowed that he would devote his life to “saving” this majestic and wondrous place.                                 … Continue reading