Gayle Brandeis Recommends...

“My first semester of college, I took a class called ‘The Psychology of Interpersonal Relationships.’ It wasn’t what I’d expected—we didn’t have a traditional textbook, didn’t have desks. We sat in a circle on the blue shag carpet in the ‘meditation room’ of my dorm and talked about feelings and dreams, sometimes acting them out in the center of the circle. I had always been quiet, but in this class, I shut down. I liked the professor a lot, though—he would often ask students ‘How does that emotion feel in your body?’ It was a question I found revelatory, a question I regularly ask my students about their characters now. Once, I noticed a tiredness in the professor’s eyes and realized with a pang that he would die someday; this put a fire under me to step into the center of the circle, to share my dream about Elizabeth Taylor and a giant Buddha, because what if the professor died and I’d never availed myself of his insight? As I acted out my dream, heart racing, he helped me see I was much more comfortable with my Buddha self than my Elizabeth Taylor self, helped me see I had a hard time letting myself shine. Awareness of mortality—others’ and my own—has been my most profound source of motivation ever since, the thing that pushes me out of my comfort zone, pushes me back to the page, pushes me to open my heart, to stop playing safe, to take creative risks while I still can. We’re all going to die someday. We might as well shine.”
—Gayle Brandeis, author of The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother’s Suicide (Beacon Press, 2017)