I believed in my horoscope. I was sure that my grandmother was communicating to me through the Ouija board. I knew that astral projection was possible and assumed that invisible spirits floated among the living. And I was sure that a person’s true self, that elusive spark or gravity-sucking black hole within each of us, could be determined by analyzing that person’s handwriting.

Perhaps this was the case for every 1970s kid, steeped in stories about Bigfoot and the Bermuda Triangle, hypnotized by the comforting voice of Leonard Nimoy as he went

in search of what did not really exist. There were mysteries in this world, hidden knowledges, deep secrets that thinned the surface of everyday life and showed its beliefs and precepts to be pallid and meaningless.

Or perhaps this 1970s kid needed a map, a way to suss out those who could hurt from those who were simply neutral. Which grownup jammed his words together on the page so that the letters had hardly any room to breathe? Who had deep looping lowercase j’s and g’s, letters with ballooning tails that asphyxiated the sentences on the next line? Who would take away my voice? And my own handwriting, a hybrid of my parents’ – where did I exist in the angles, the print masquerading as cursive, in the rounded shape of the first letter of my name?

My work with children and adolescents, work that I love and have an affinity for, continually reminds me of the messiness of my childhood and the intrinsic vulnerability of children. I tried my best to make sense of my childhood world, to contain it. I believed I could think my way out of anything, could apply structure to chaos
ex post facto. That long-gone, ever-present world informs my work. It emerges in my writing. It’s pushed me into other therapeutic approaches in my own individual therapy. It’s sometimes overwhelming and somehow comforting. Maybe I am lucky to have these stories, even more lucky to have had a strong enough foundation to survive them and have the ability to make them transformative.


From the prompt “handwriting.”

Image of an excerpt of a letter by Frida Kahlo from