I met Susanna Merrick-Klinkbeil while waiting for the phone booths at The Wing in New York’s SoHo. I asked her what kind of work she did, but she demurred, implying that she didn’t have time to explain just then, but I could come find her later if I was still curious. This reticence piqued my curiosity; some of the girl bosses I’ve met there barely say hi before cheerfully downloading their entire CV into your brain. The possibilities set my imagination whirling. Was Susanna a spy? A therapist? A Republican political strategist? When I saw her the next morning, I rushed over to get answers.
Susanna, it turns out, is an intuitive energy reader, meaning that she perceives visible auras and their colors. She believes these halos of energy reflect our innate way of being in the world and whatever we’re currently going through, whether it’s the “green” of a
breakup or the “orange” of dealing with a high-energy toddler. She’s also a stylist who pairs clothes with vibes, helping people match their wardrobes to their energy and “call in” whatever they’re craving.
Whether or not I believed that Susanna could see colors emanating from my heart center, getting style advice based on something vaguely therapeutic, rather than boring concerns like “a realistic budget” or “maybe a 38-year-old shouldn’t wear a Bart Simpson sweatshirt so often,” greatly appealed to me. I booked a session.
It felt like a good time to admit that I needed help. I have a four-year-old and a 19-month-old and a job that rarely requires formality. Getting dressed, once a fun and interesting form of self-expression, had become another in a litany of required chores. Without quite knowing how, I had acquired a lot of smocky tops, baggy leggings, and cardigans with pockets large enough to smuggle a ham. Oatmeal, gray, and black dominated my closet, if not my aura.
On the day of the reading, I spotted Susanna across the room, radiant in a pink belted jumpsuit and vertiginous clogs the color of matcha, topped with a taupe linen work coat. I was wearing a plaid button-down, jeans, and brown desert boots, which was as close as I could get to making an effort on a drab winter day. Susanna dimmed the lights and led me through a guided meditation, tracing the movement of an imaginary ball of light from head to toe. Then she told me what she had intuited about my color energy, including the pain she sensed I held.
Her questions required genuine soul-searching. How did I dress when I was first starting out as an adult, and when did that change? I flashed on a memory I hadn’t thought about for years: my 25-year-old self, in a pleated skirt and knee-high Frye riding boots, clomping down the hallway of my first publishing job. Where were those boots now? I’d left them behind many apartments and several lifetimes ago. In my early twenties, I sometimes changed outfits several times a day just for fun, imitating whatever celebrity, classmate, or magazine image I thought was cool at the moment. Susanna diagnosed me with a disorder she calls “hot girl hangover”: At 25, I was cute enough to make whatever outfit I threw together seem passable; at 38, I was going to have to put in effort, even though I felt like doing so less than ever.
But Susanna claimed that there was a way to recapture the enthusiasm I’d once brought to my wardrobe. And now that I actually knew who I was, I wouldn’t feel like I was putting on a costume when I got dressed—I’d just feel even more like myself. This all sounded wonderful, albeit potentially expensive.
My innate energy, Susanna told me, is a mix of red and magenta. Magenta is a rebellious, wild-card energy, and red is intense—magnetic and repulsive—and impossible not to notice, like a stop sign. But I’m not projecting magenta, she said; instead, I’m putting out blue—caretaking energy that depletes and depresses me. What wearing new, brighter colors can do, she said, is temper the negative aspect of these tendencies. I needed to think about what kind of image I wanted to project, and what would make me feel comfortable and happy. “Something in you needs to be honored—a creative energy,” she told me. “Pieces that have a story are so important for you.” I needed to be more playful, to show on the outside how creative I am on the inside.
Even leaving colors and their associated vibratory qualities aside, those ideas resonated with me. Susanna also said several variations of “You are seen and you are experienced in this moment,” and honestly, I’d happily pay $225 just to hear someone say that and mean it.
She did a brief oracle card reading that focused on the fear and uncertainty holding me back. At the end, she asked: “What do you want? Don’t get analytical; just start pulling the feelings.” I told her that I wanted to feel inspired, as if I had new realms to explore. She took out a note card and a box of watercolors and began to scribble with a paintbrush; soon, a thick smudge of violet emerged. Next, I told her that I wanted money. (Who doesn’t, I know!) I explained that for a long time, I’ve felt that I haven’t been paid what I’m worth. She told me that by being truer to my essential nature and being grateful for what I have, I would call in abundance—yeah, yeah—but then she painted a smudge of army green on the card. “Green is growth, abundance, expansion,” she said, explaining that this particular shade is particularly grounding and earthy. Then I told her that I wanted to feel overwhelming love, the way I felt when I met my husband or gave birth to my children. Squiggles of vibrant pink appeared on the card. “Masculine energy is where you find strength sometimes,” she said, appraising my unisex outfit. “But I think there may be more strength in feminine energy for you. Pink is compassion, love, sensitivity. But it’s also a superpower for women.”
When I got home, I looked at my closet and saw all the black—a void into which I’d been retreating. But there were a few brighter spots: a pink striped shirt I hadn’t reached for in a while, for instance. I wore it the next day, feeling pleasantly like I’d done my homework. I pulled the trigger on a legitimately insane puffy coat with a toucan pattern that I’d been eyeing; it had just gone on sale. Susanna also sent me shoppable moodboards in the shades we discussed, and I had fun clicking through them, fantasizing about standing behind a podium at a bookstore wearing a $600 pink dress with gold thread running through it. It’s still a fantasy for now, but if I can tap into my innate magenta energy, I might be able to manifest it into reality.
This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of ELLE.