http://ow.ly/kFa0H EastWestBooks May 25, 7:30 Eliz. Wagele on #ENNEAGRAM OF DEATH. 324 Castro St., Mt View CA 650-988-9800 #mbti #coach
http://ow.ly/kFa0H EastWestBooks May 25, 7:30 Eliz. Wagele on #ENNEAGRAM OF DEATH. 324 Castro St., Mt View CA 650-988-9800 #mbti #coach
John’s mind started to cloud and I didn’t trust his driving so I started using my car for outings. He was always asking metaphysical and other kinds of questions. “What’s the worst sound you ever heard?” when he couldn’t stand the noise my windshield wipers made any longer.
John could neither tell his mother he was gay nor had AIDS so she didn’t have the chance to nurture him in his last days. I’m a mother of four and would want that opportunity for myself, so finally, close to the end of his life, I begged him to tell her the truth. He said, “I will tell my mother not for her, but for me. I don’t want the dishonesty of sudden hushed extinction or secrets opened after my death, like trunks of obscene jewels. I want to be proud of my life, to celebrate my destiny, whatever it is. I want to lay down my head in peace, not in squalor and hysteria and infamy.”
It turned out badly. The first words out of her mouth were, “I won’t be able to tell my neighbors.” He had predicted as much. She didn’t come to be with him. His sister came from Wisconsin for a visit, though. After he died she wrote that her closest friends knew and were understanding but she preferred to keep the reason of his death a secret.
John ached to be fully alive during his last weeks. “I want to take the train forever. I want to ride through the guts of every back city, every mountain canyon, every forest and field. I’ll see lots of junked cars and old wooden buildings, the country 100 years ago, 70 years ago, 40 years ago. And I’ll speak to no one. I will be the one who nods his head, reads his Hemingway, eats peanuts and stretches out with hungry eyes, starving to live just one more day, just one more day.”
Knowing John satisfied my need to be, as well as to have, a reliable friend, as this note attests: “Elizabeth! Thank you for being my perennial, conscientious and loving friend. It is wonderful to walk and talk with you—to investigate the labyrinths of existence—and sometimes just to bitch about life. But let’s hope there are more ordeals in the fog like in Point Pinole, the cold chill of truth sweeping in across the bay, and the eucalyptus friends catching the meanings in their silver leaves and scorched arms.”
This was the last installment of an expanded story from Chapter 4, The Enneagram of Death.
Read reviews of The Enneagram of Death – Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear, and Dying and Elizabeth’s other books and CD. http://www.wagele.com
Also, Elizabeth will give a talk on The Enneagram of Death May 25 at 7:30. East West books, 324 Castro Street, Mountain View CA 650-988-9800 http://www.eastwest.com
John had fierce itching nothing would stop. It would get so bad he tried to kill the bacteria on his skin by taking baths with large amounts of Clorox added to the water.
When he regained some strength, he set up his will and durable power of attorney, bought a new dishwasher though the old one still worked, and volunteered to visit men in his AIDS support group in the hospital or at home when they became ill. This gave him goals and the sense his life had hope. He found joy every day and lived by “Do not possess what you can never really own.”
John improvised on the piano to work out his complicated relationships. He photographed patterns in the sand and in eucalyptus bark. Once we took a walk deep in the woods near St. Mary’s College in Moraga, hopped on a lone picnic table, and shouted the lines of a play we made up to the attentive oak and bay trees. After John quit his job as an English teacher at Monte Vista High School in suburban Danville, he wrote me a note, “I know everyone around school is going to be talking about me in hushed tones. I’m irresistible gossip. Students too. God, what a choice bit of rare flesh to sizzle on the grill of public discussion.”
As a teacher, his goal was to instill a lifelong appreciation of literature in his students. He would occasionally show them movies, too. Hopelessly playful, John threw little pieces of liver at his students one day. They were watching “The African Queen” and he wanted them to know what leeches were like.
We formed a support group of about 12 friends, AIDS volunteers, and medical volunteers to fill John’s needs. He named us the Herlinettes. My main job was to take him on adventures, the scarier the better, to cheer him up. Sometimes he surprised me by wrapping my head in a large towel and driving me around in his car, it seemed in circles. After he took the towel off, the schoolteacher in him would charge me with telling him where we were. Once we were parked on a corner facing a house about three miles south into Oakland, and I was completely disoriented. Another time we were near a reservoir in the middle of a herd of goats. Sometimes we’d take the train to San Francisco and go where we weren’t allowed in the Transamerica Pyramid Building or wander about in Chinatown’s darkest alleys.
This is Part III of an expanded story from Chapter 4, The Enneagram of Death. Part IV will appear on April 30. Read reviews of The Enneagram of Death – Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear, and Dying and Elizabeth’s 6 other books and CD: http://www.wagele.com
Also, Elizabeth will give a talk on The Enneagram of Death May 25 at 7:30. East West Books, 324 Castro Street, Mountain View CA 650-988-9800 http://www.eastwest.com
John and I had not yet spoken to each other in the series of barrelhouse-blues-and-free-improvisation-classes we both attended in 1980 with about twelve other students. One evening, our teacher improvised a beautiful and mysterious piece, then asked if it reminded any of us of someone in the class. I raised my hand right away and said John. I was right.
A few weeks later, I defended John when the teacher forgot he had promised to play a recording John had brought of piano improvisations he had made at home. There was just enough time to hear them and they were interesting. After class, John came up to me, threw out his arms, and shouted, “WOW! YOU REALLY SAVED MY LIFE!”
He asked me to teach him classical piano shortly after that. After a few months, we developed a friendship centered on listening to his vast collection of music. One time when I was visiting, he asked me to play food on the piano—popcorn was easy enough but pears flambé, beans, and milk were challenging to say the least.
As our friendship grew, I enjoyed interacting with this probing individual. A few years into our friendship, I told him I had a private problem I needed to talk to him about. He opened his big eyes wide, stepped back a couple of steps, and exploded with “WOW! TELL ME ABOUT IT!” John was kind to me when I moved out of my home for a few months. Most of the people I knew projected simplistic explanations on me that had little to do with my situation. John showed compassion, however, by listening attentively and giving me his honest feedback. That he was so supportive during this difficult time for me added to my motivation to be helpful and loyal to him when AIDS struck him.
When John contracted AIDS, I visited him in the hospital often. He was so weak he could hardly stand up. Even though he was anguished about his condition, he would take care of his friends who visited, giving them grief therapy.
I didn’t mind talking about death, unlike some of his friends who were terrified they could come down with the disease. AIDS was a death sentence then—in 1986-88. Some of his best gay friends were so scared they abandoned him. When a straight couple, dear old friends of his, was told by their evangelist minister to stay away from him, and his dentist, also a good friend, refused to treat him, he felt as though they had pounded a stake in his heart. “I’ve been surprised that some friends and acquaintances have withdrawn and avoided me after my diagnosis,” he said. “Do I remind them of their own vulnerability to illness, of the thin line between life and death? It is a shock when people disappear. One never likes to imagine one’s friends as inconstant…”
Once home, the fear John had suppressed during his life-and-death struggle in the hospital surfaced. He would wake up in the night shaking from macabre nightmares. He struggled with not yet being finished with life, with the injustice of it all. One night he tore up every shred of newspaper in his house in a rage.
This is Part II of an expanded story from Chapter 4, The Enneagram of Death. Read part III here on April 23. Read reviews of The Enneagram of Death – Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear, and Dying and Elizabeth’s 6 other books and CD: http://www.wagele.com
Also, save Saturday May 25 for my talk on The Enneagram of Death at East West books in Mountain View CA at 7:30 pm. 324 Castro Street, 650-988-9800 http://www.eastwest.com
That stung. Just what I most didn’t like about myself in 1988. Why had nobody ever said it before? Painful as it was, John really saw me. Damn! The one person who perceived my private hell was going to die any minute. I parked, and we sat on the sidewalk, leaning against a building for about 20 minutes, while John gathered his strength to cross the road to the café. He insisted on fetching his own coffee. Then he took the most agonizing steps of his life, he told me, yet he was exhilarated to be out one last time.
In June 1986 John Herlin was weary from twenty years balancing being the best teacher he could be with taking nature photographs, writing poetry, debating friends, hiking the regional parks around Berkeley, California, and traveling the world. So he took a vacation in Hawaii. Two weeks after coming home early with what he thought was the flu, he was still sick and short of breath. His lungs contained 48 percent of their normal oxygen and were clouded. Doctors diagnosed him with pneumocystis pneumonia, which could only mean AIDS, and kept him in the hospital for 18 days. Eighteen months later he died in the AIDS epidemic at almost 48.
John was one year younger than I was and one of the best friends I ever had. I admired him for demanding authenticity in himself and his friends. The conscience his rigidly religious mother instilled in him drove him to do good deeds, such as taking elderly neighbors grocery shopping regularly. At the same time he rebelled from her teachings. He was a maverick and flirted with the dark side—a trickster with a smile to match.
John told me he had a repressed childhood. He suffered angst over his sexual identity, and tried to resist being gay in his home state of Wisconsin. As a young man, he moved to Berkeley, where he found a sense of belonging and freedom. He joined a gay support group and felt at home. Years later, he plunged into helping others with HIV-AIDS, volunteering to answer phones at the AIDS Project and speaking publicly on the epidemic. He used himself as an example of a person with AIDS to help educate health workers and those vulnerable to getting the disease.
This is Part I of an expanded story from Chapter 4 in The Enneagram of Death. Part II will appear on April 9. Read reviews of The Enneagram of Death – Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear, and Dying and Elizabeth’s 6 other books and CD: http://www.wagele.com
Ruthie Landis and I presented a workshop based on my book, The Enneagram of Death – Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear of Death, and Dying. Among other activities, actors read one story from each of the nine type-chapters as I played piano pieces suited to each story. The piece most people asked me about was Li’l Darlin’, which I used to accompany the Achiever story. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-WpXUvsSOk Each participant was given a copy of my book.
This is a review of the workshop by one of the participants:
“On February 9th 2013 I attended the Finding Your Way Home workshop hosted by certified Body-Psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, Enneagram teacher, life coach, and Reiki master, Ruthie Landis. Joined by about 50 fellow spiritual seekers, I was moved, entertained and educated by Ruthie, along with a variety of performers and guest musician, speaker, and renowned Enneagram author and expert, Elizabeth Wagele. While I’ve been introduced to the Enneagram personality system, I have never delved into studying it. This humorous illustration was written by one of the attendees, Reverend Liz Stout:
DE GUSTIBUS NON DISPUTANDUM (Latin Translation: No Accounting for Tastes)
ONES always chew more than they have bitten off.
TWOS offer a bite to someone else first.
THREES take a bite of the best-selling, most popular brand.
FOURS take a bite slowly and dramatically, hoping that others are watching.
FIVES hide the wrapper so no one else will know what bites they are enjoying.
SIXES check the expiration date or read the list of ingredients before taking a bite.
SEVENS do bite off more than they can chew, and proceed to chew it.
EIGHTS may take possession of someone else’s bite, putting up a fight if necessary.
NINES can’t make up their minds what to take a bite of—they take a little of everything so as not to show partiality.
To further assist you on your journey of self-reflection: Type 1: Perfectionists, Type 2: Helpers, Type 3: Achievers, Type 4: Romantics, Type 5: Observers, Type 6: Questioners, Type 7: Adventurers, Type 8: Asserters, and Type 9: Peace Seekers. When I first arrived, I was wary of labeling myself as a definitive type, however as the day progressed, I could clearly see how we each portray one of the nine dominant features. You can, in fact, be a combination of two types. For example, I am a Romantic with an Achiever wing.
As I entered the workshop hall, I was struck by a figure that stood at the front of the stage. It was life sized and wrapped in a dark and somewhat daunting black hood. It brought images of the grim reaper up from my subconscious; indeed, the theme of the workshop was death and grief. While many avoid these subjects at all costs, the attendees delved right into their own pain and fear around loss. Ruthie opened the event by honoring her recently deceased father. Her heart was wide open as she shed tears in remembrance of her beloved dad. This heartfelt memorial set the mood for the rest of the day. Laughter, tears, pain and joy were all a part of the smorgasbord of emotions that were shared throughout the event.
After Ruthie’s introduction, we were privileged to watch one of the participants, Dr. Ann Cusak, do a somber and dramatic Death Tango with her dance partner, Peter Maslej. We then watched monologue readings from Elizabeth’s Enneagram of Death based upon the nine Enneagram types that reflected both their inner descriptions and their transformational journeys. The performers were powerful and true to their type. Most of the actors were the type they portrayed and shared anecdotes and insights on their own personal dances with death and loss. After each performance, we participants shared our own moving insights and experiences. It was evident that, while we may all have different ways of dealing with death (or not dealing with it!), we all share the mutual pain loss brings.
One of the most touching moments took place near the end of the morning. Having once been a professional dancer, Marylou Tromanhauser took to the stage and shared a chair dance that was truly inspiring. She had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease; however this debilitating disease showed no signs of stopping her. She remains a magnificent creative force!
The afternoon was interactive. We broke into groups, joining with fellow Enneagram types. I supped the sweet nectar of creative expression with fellow dramatic, creative 4-Romantic types. After we each shared what our recent experiences were with grief and loss, we wrote our own private phrases on a long scroll of paper. The scroll was later read out loud as a compilation of our thoughts and feelings.
One of my favorites of the day was our final project. Ruthie spread art supplies, magazine pictures, ribbons, and fun items out on tables around the room. Each Enneagram group had a blank mural to fill in whatever ways their imaginations saw fit. The room was all a clutter with busy bodies, finding manifestations of their soul messages among the art supplies. These were placed on each blank mural, and ultimately became montages that spoke our heart and soul messages on grief and loss. After we finished the exercise, we walked around the room observing the messages of each mural. A very distinct personality emanated from each. For example, the Perfectionists’ was thoughtfully constructed—symmetric and orderly. The Adventurers’ pictures reflected faraway places in distant lands. The Romantics used few words. On the other hand, the Achievers used hand-written messages, indicative of an organized, corporate layout, award ribbons and all. The pictorials and messages of the Helpers, were about caretaking and healing, serving as they do so well.
The event was a feast of inspiration and creativity. Laughter and tears, combined with stories of joy and pain, were honored and shared, as we waded through the delicacies and delights that go hand in hand with fond farewells and new beginnings.”
Edited from “The Monthly Aspectarian” article called All About Town… Finding Our Way Home – Ruth Landis – The Ethical Humanist Society. March 2013. By Theresa Puskar.
See http://www.wagele.com for information about The Enneagram of Death and other books.