Photo: Annie Mullen
By Gavin Mullen, PsyD
When I met Jim Fisch, MD, in his home last Saturday afternoon, he came to the door with his 2 year old grandson, Kai, who told me that a waffle iron was being repaired in the basement. There in the basement, Jim, his son Michael, and grandson Kai were repairing a 40+ year old waffle iron, without a set of directions, and with an assortment of tools, some of which may also need some repair.
The astonishing moment came when all three generations of Fisch men seemed confident that the project was doable and there was no conviction otherwise. While I saw a waffle iron in multiple pieces, minus electrical cords and essential parts, Jim saw possibilities.
Knowing Jim these past ten years, I would have to say that this is an endearing feature, the reliance on his own steady inner resources that allow him to move through life, enlivened by the possibilities. That everything from waffle irons, to broken hearts can be repaired, and made right again, is at the center of what he knows is real and true. In other words, Jim is always game for whatever is next. Search your toolbox, figure out what is needed, and give it a go.
This was certainly true when Jim signed on for yoga. As a gift to thank him for being my teacher at the institute for Psychoanalysis, I gave Jim a yoga mat. Now, mind you, Jim was 70 something at the time, and while active and fit, he had never seen the inside of a yoga studio. I thought his willingness had something to do with my own determination to get him to give yoga a try. What I see now was that it was his own determination, to always give life a try, that not only brought him to yoga, but had been a powerful force threaded through his life.
So where in his in his life do we see this determination? Everywhere. When he met his wife, Shellie, at 16, he was determined to marry her, raise a family with her, love their five children together. And when four of their five children moved to Israel, Jim and Shellie, at 53, sold the house, the dogs, gave up his practice, and moved to Israel. There he stayed, built another practice, brought psychoanalytic self psychology to the middle east, loved their eleven grandchildren, and when the time was right, returned to Chicago. Ever ready for the next adventure, he scuba dived, biked, camped and canoed with his family, (including a 7 day canoe trip this summer with Kai) and, in recent years, fell in love with opera. Opera? I asked? Yes, said Jim, especially the ones where everyone dies at the end.
I ask about his own thought on dying and he is nonplused by the question. As a man who does whatever is next, death and endings happen, he says, they are required, but made doable by the knowledge that life is rich, my children love each other, our deepest connections unquestioned.
What Jim calls his blind faith, is anything but blind. That faith in himself , he is ready to generously extend to others. When I was saying goodbye after our talk, I asked him what he thought of this interview, and the article I would write. In his kind and steady voice he said, “You will get it right. I have faith in you. You will know what to do.”
James Fisch, MD , when not practicing yoga, is a practicing psychoanalyst with offices in Glencoe and Chicago, and on the faculty at the Chicago institute of Psychoanalysis. In addition, Dr Fisch is Director of the Institute’s Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Program.