A few months ago, I picked up Small Medium at Large to read for probably the fifth time. The book was published 12 years ago, but it’s become one of my comfort reads. I was a weird kid, a strange teenager, and am an even weirder adult. One of the many reasons for this was that I was a psychic kid. My family was supportive because they were psychic too, but outside of my family it got funky. Of all of the books I’ve read about this, Small Mediums at Large is the only one I’ve found that talked about growing up this way – with a family that was also psychic. How to deal with puberty and growing up is hard enough without trying to figure out the motivations and impressions from the adults around you. Even though I got through it fairly well, it was such a relief to find this book. This is the only book I’ve ever found that I could point at parts and say, “Me, too! That’s how it is for me!” It’s the most validating book I’ve ever read. Almost as if the author, Terry Iacuzzo, wrote it for me – just to tell me that I wasn’t crazy. The first time I read it, I kept bursting into tears. It felt like someone else out there really understood what it was like.
On a whim, I sent Terry an email saying how much I loved the book and how much it meant to me. I asked if she’d ever want to be interviewed for my blog. Now, you have to know that Terry has a reputation of intense privacy. She rarely does interviews and she doesn’t have a lot of her personal information out there for public consumption, so I honestly thought that I would get a nice “no, thank you” and go along my merry way.
But then she said yes.
We set up a time to talk and the time just flew by. Terry and I got along like old friends and talked for nearly two hours. I found in our email conversation that Terry has recently lost her wife and partner of 25 years, Jackie Brookner. Jackie was an ecological artist, teacher and pioneer. Terry lost her to cancer in May 2015. Terry spoke about the deep connection she shared with Jackie – how they had amazing conversations about life and the Universe and their roles in it. Jackie was relentless in questioning Terry on the precise details of the psychic experience. She asked questions that Terry never asked herself because being psychic was something she did naturally and never had to explain. Jackie taught her to savor every nuance of her being and to articulate her internal language of connecting. Then Terry was ready to write. Jackie taught her how to use the computer, and encouraged her to write her memoir, Small Mediums at Large.
Terry hasn’t been doing readings since she lost Jackie - needing the time to reflect and grieve but she has been thinking about writing again. Terry lives in New York City and loves the street life there, streets filled with strangers and stories, people who she feels a part of the collective experience.
Terry told a story of an elderly Indian man whom she met when she wandered into his shop in the East Village. She said, “Hi, how are you?” He looked right at her and said, “I am happy every day.” That really resonated with Terry—wow, could that be? What a concept. Now Terry uses that response in her greeting to people and finds that – even if it’s just for that moment – it’s true. It stops time, makes people think and smile. There can be moments, seconds of happiness, even while missing her girl, every day. She says it now all the time and thinks – let us spread this around.
Terry moved to New York City when she was nineteen during the hippie migration. She built her career through word of mouth. Even now, she only does in-person readings for clients who come only once a year or once a lifetime, Terry makes that decision. Her reputation has spread because of the book and she gets emails from people (like me) who are hiding and struggling with their gifts. She said that her mother was psychic, but never used that word. It was the 1950s and that word was not part of her vocabulary. She’d sit around the kitchen table with the neighbors drinking coffee and smoking while answering questions about life and love. Terry observed these interactions and learned from them. Her mother was direct and didn’t mix words. She said it like she always knew it and that was the way it was and or was going to be in the future.
We talked about encouraging psychic feelings in children and she said as long as it was an organic thing, a natural thing, that was fine. Encouraging kids to trust their bad feelings about possible predators or good feelings about situations they could trust. Watch and listen to the stories they tell, listen with an intuitive ear. We talked about the cable TV show, “Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal” where the producers manipulate kids to speak to spirits or go to fearful places that trigger them just to get a show. Terry and I agree that that’s akin to child abuse. The parent’s role is to be the gatekeepers, to listen and give the child free range to describe their own visions and dreams. To stop leading them on, force feeding them into being Indigo Children if they are not.
One of the things I found so interesting about Terry was that she was an out lesbian and no one gave her trouble about it! Even in 2016, people are getting hassled for their sexuality, but Terry said it was very different back then. Her brother and his friends were gay and that’s who she hung out with. It was more challenging to find lesbians; there were many gay men who were much more visible. It was the 60s and 70s, when she was living in Greenwich Village, the center of the Gay Liberation Movement and the Women’s Movement, which helped make it easier to meet friends of like mind. Drugs weren’t just taken haphazardly – the LSD was from Timothy Leary’s laboratory and was valued and prepared with ceremony almost like Holy Communion. Even tattoos were drawn on the body in a ceremony where people met quietly with a Shaman present in lofts filled with candles and low music. They were all exploring together, it was beautiful and sacred.
Through the 80s and 90s, Terry was able to make tarot readings her full time profession. She learned tarot on the Swiss deck from her brother when she was twelve years old and used the original Rider Waite Smith deck during the hippie years because of the fantastic imagery. During the 80s and 90s she returned to her childhood Swiss deck preferring not to have so much imagery interfere with her psyche. But after the events on 9/11, she switched back to the Rider Waite deck because it was easier for the clients to see their anguish as well as their hopes displayed on the face of each card.
The Rider Waite Smith deck is the original modern tarot deck. Arthur Waite commissioned Pamela Coleman Smith to draw his vision of the tarot, and her paintings live on through them. Mostly forgotten until recently, Pamela Coleman Smith is sort of the mother of the modern tarot. Terry does certainly not forget her. She has several photographs of her in the apartment and cites her as one of her personal heroes.
We were talking about some of the downsides of being psychic in public. She said she has to really control her focus, look down at the ground or sit with her back to a wall because of the temptation to start reading the room. She tells a story of being invited to a cocktail party at Joan Rivers’ apartment. An aggressive woman who was told Terry was a psychic grabbed her by the arm and walked her over to a corner and shoved her palm in Terry’s face and said, “Read me!” Terry politely said, “I would gladly read for you at my apartment-- my fee is $1500/hour.” The woman backed away. How vulgar, she said. No kidding. (Terry’s fee by the way is not that high, that was said to discourage that woman.)
Terry said that people always ask if she’s psychic all the time? Which translates to, “If you're psychic are you looking at me and reading me right now and tell me what do you see about me?” She said with a laugh, that her response over the years is to say, “Yes, and most people are not that interesting.”
Terry said that she’s always on a journey to understand the deeper meaning of everything. She wants to get to the unknown science of tarot and the multi-layers of psychic energy beyond language, symbolism and metaphor. She advises readers to sort out what’s going on with themselves before doing readings. If you can understand yourself you can then use that understanding to connect with whom you’re reading for. But you have to stay out of the way and become simply awareness. This will show you what your skills are. Just watch the screen in front of you. Do the psychic mentalist bit first – read the person, pass though your desire to profile, then take a deep breath and start reading the cards with those skills. She said that too many people put themselves and their story into the readings and it gets in the way. But do understand that all readings are about ourselves, because we are all connected. This needs time to understand, but don’t think too much, experience.
I’ve always had problems in my readings with grounding and centering. I’m terrible at it and rarely remember to do it. I asked Terry how she handles that and her answer made my jaw drop. “I don’t do it, she said. “I try to go deeper in. I let go and fall deeper. Nothing destructive, mind you, but I just let it spiral out and get large and unspool like a big beautiful ball of multi colored yarn. It’s amazing.”
Although she is still on a break, she still loves doing readings. She’s been writing and involved in some other creative outlets that are keeping her busy. She said that she loves to go to the movies and out for a drink with friends. One of her valuable pieces of advice to other readers is to get off the phone. Time your readings out to an hour – maybe 90 minutes max. And – something that she said she’s terrible at – don’t read for your friends, and keep your clients as clients. You need to choose when to give readings and how long and for how much money. Charge what you’re comfortable with. There has to be enough of an exchange to make the work worth your time. The money gives you your energy back.
For the astrologers reading along, Terry is a Scorpio born on Halloween with her Sun and Moon in Scorpio and her rising sign is Sagittarius. For the tarot readers, her favorite books are simple ones: The Big Little Book of Tarot: The Only Book You’ll Ever Need by Rachel Pollack, and Tarot and the Tree of Life – Finding Everyday wisdom in the Minor Arcana by Isabel Kliegman. Mostly Terry says to put the books away after awhile and discover your own meanings by becoming familiar with the imagery and what the tarot is saying personally to you. There are no set in stone interpretations, they have to speak to you in your language.
We were talking about why we’re here, and Terry said that instead of the doom and gloom of the majority, she sees a restoration period for this beautiful planet. That we turn around our mistakes, and that my kid’s generation is going to fix everything. She believes that this Earth School that we’re on is so exciting and beautiful that it’s hard to lose hope even when politics get weird. It’s bigger than us.
Talking on the phone, it was hard not to get enthusiastic about everything, really. Terry has such a love for life and for what she does. She said that she got an email from a book club telling her they were reading her book and meeting at the end of the month. They were going to cook Italian food in honor of her Italian family. So Terry surprised them and showed up! In Washington, DC. -making their day.
This woman has the energy of a 15 year old and her excitement for her craft and the science and energy behind it is completely amazing. When talking to Terry you can pick up the energy that she shared with her partner, Jackie. Regarding her work, Jackie once said, “Hidden in the roots of our words we find what we seem to want to forget--that we are literally the same stuff as earth.” Similarly, Terry says that we are all connected, that we are all one, and that readings are a way to communicate this with each other. That we are made of cells that hold stories, and when we’re reborn, we are energetically stories and memories that find each other again. It's easy to see why Terry and her girl were together and in love for so long.
Terry was nice enough to fill out the LFT Questionnaire for me, too! I hope that you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed talking with Terry. Get her book if you can, and keep your eyes open for new writing from her in the future.
I'd also like to thank Keva for helping me craft the interview and giving me such great questions to ask Terry! You're a peach, sweetie.
1. What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
They know the difference between my psychic ability and me.
2. Your idea of happiness.
Sharing the beach house with friends on Fire Island.
3. Your idea of misery.
Losing my friends way too young. And of course, watching the cruelty in the world.
4. Where would you like to live?
Where I live now, New York City.
5. Your favorite colors and flowers.
Green and white. Gardenias, lilacs, poppies.
6. Your favorite poets.
Bob Dylan, Adrienne Rich, Rumi
7. Your heroes/heroines in fiction.
Honestly, the only book I ever read is Tarot.
So my heroes and heroines are the kings, queens, pages and knights.
8. What role does divination play in your life?
Everything. Everything points to a direction. Everything has a hidden meaning.
10. What is your present state of mind?
I’m humbled by the experience of grief from losing my wife of 25 years to cancer.
11. What is your favorite tarot deck or divination tool?
12. Your favorite songs?
Witctha Lineman, A Case of You, Khrishna Das and Ram Dass chanting,
Miley Cyrus: Twinkle Song
13. What is your favorite word?
14. What is your least favorite word?
15. What sound or noise do you love?
Birds singing in the trees.
16. What sound or noise do you hate?
Mothers yelling at their children.
17. What turns you on?
Laughing with friends over a good meal.
18. What turns you off?
19. What is your favorite curse word?
20. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Thank God you’re here! I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. Let’s get to work!