The Versatile Blogger Award: Seven Facts about myself

Again, I’m honored to have been nominated by Mr. Anonymous for The Versatile Blogger Award.  Below are seven facts about myself, which I’ve been asked to post:

1. I never start a day without a very strong mug of coffee.

2. I read in Spanish for an hour every morning, while drinking that strong mug of coffee.

3. Madrid was my home for nearly a decade.

4. We live on the same ground where, more years ago than I wish to count right now, I graduated from high school.

5. Our cat was born in Spain.

6. I am the proud owner of a lapstrake rowboat, which I wish I could’ve been able to build myself.

7. Influenced by the years I lived in Madrid, where I could take the metro everywhere I needed to go, I haven’t driven a car since 2002.

Everything without End

The founder of psychoanalysis didn’t know what to think. He expected the next patient, who would lie on the couch, to arrive any minute. This day, like every day, would be a long one, and then, after finishing work in the consulting room, his scientific work, as he called it, would beckon him, and he might remain with his books and papers and pen until early in the morning. At 9:56 am, Freud imagined that someone he used to know very well, a former colleague and friend, entered the room without knocking, walked to the couch, and lay down on it, as if this time were reserved for him. If only this were real, Freud thought to himself, and Carl Jung had been willing to be analyzed on the psychoanalytic couch. Everything could’ve turned out differently. The word everything took a long time to disappear from his immediate thoughts. Maybe it remained. Psychoanalysis was everything to Freud. Jung could’ve become the one to lead their fellow psychoanalysts into the future. Instead, he went his own way. In Freud’s imagination, as he waited for his next patient, Jung spoke on the couch about how he struggled with his own dreams. These final words of the imaginary Jung were so real to Freud that he momentarily forgot what time it was. He had to get back to work. Maybe he was still learning what the work of the mind was all about.

Couch Talk (Part IV) (Fiction during the Day)

Speaking on the psychoanalytic couch this morning felt as if I’d just drunk two or three espressos. I can’t remember how many minutes of the fifty-minute hour passed before I recounted a fantasy that had come to me the evening before, and which I wrote down before falling asleep. Caffeine is helping me to write these sentences. It’s noon, and I usually wait until after lunch to have another coffee. I’m afraid of what might happen next. Maybe I believe that a good experience can never last long. So far, today has been good to me. I needed a break from my editing, and no new work has been sent to me since I woke up. This seems a strange way for me to think, since I need the money I make from editing to live. But the last clause of the previous sentence isn’t true. I edit articles that don’t interest me in the least for my own masochistic reasons. Money isn’t a problem for me. I could spend all of my time writing sentences like the twelve before this one. Perhaps one day I will. Psychoanalysis is expensive, and for some reason deadlines seem to help me through my days. I often think I need more help with my life than I probably do. This realization came to me on the couch last week. The fantasy I told Mary this morning on her couch (I sometimes feel as if it were my own while I’m on it and struggling to speak whatever comes to me) might make a good story: I enter her consulting room, find her seated at her desk writing on a laptop, her back to me, and I look over her shoulder at what she’s creating on the screen. The few sentences that I have time to read lead me to think she’s writing fiction, based on the real work that happens in this room with people like me. I’ve become so involved in these sentences that seem to appear all at once on this screen that for a moment I forget that the image of Mary writing fiction on her laptop happened in my imagination. The fantasy ends with her turning around, realizing she didn’t hear me come in, she stands up, walks to her chair as if nothing unusual happened, and I lie down on the couch. Mary listened to my fantasy in silence this morning, and then I started to talk about something else. These sentences, and this story about this morning’s psychoanalytic session, must come to an end. Another editing project has arrived in my email inbox. Maybe I’ll imagine myself on Mary’s couch, with this laptop, writing fiction of my own, while I edit someone else’s words.

Couch Talk (Part III) (Words from the Unknown)

The fifty-minute hour was probably only minutes old when I imagined Mary lying on a couch alongside me. Who would listen to me now? Both of the above sentences appear on this screen in what feels like seconds. I’m at my desk at home, writing about what happened earlier this morning in a nearby fourth floor consulting room. The image of my psychoanalyst on a couch alongside me, in her office, grows in my mind, and then the following realization appears: we’re both seeking the truth. Another sentence demands to share space on this screen: Whose mind are we analyzing? A memory comes to me, here at my laptop, of the first time I struggled to free-associate on Mary’s couch, twelve months ago: I was afraid of the words that left my mouth, one second at a time. This last sentence reminds me that I felt the same way a short time ago, earlier this morning, during our Monday session. In reality, Mary was seated behind me, not lying on a couch alongside me. Maybe part of me desired her to be a patient like me, which in reality, who knows, she might still be. I wonder what she’s doing right now, as I write this sentence. I should be editing something, shouldn’t I? The question feels a little dangerous, as if I were tempting fate, since I know from experience that a job could arrive in my email inbox at any moment. And of course I want work, which is how I pay for the psychoanalysis, yet these minutes, and maybe hours, of time just to imagine and write, seem more valuable than money. To write, and to lie on a couch and speak whatever comes to mind, knowing that someone is seated behind me, focusing both on my mind and on his or her own, is one of the most valuable gifts I’ve ever received. And who have I received it from? From myself? Today, Monday, feels like a slow day, as if neither God nor my parents were in a gift-giving mood. As I write more sentences, hopefully more of today’s session will become clearer to me.

Couch Talk (Part II) (The Impossible, Possible, for a Moment?)

The impossible had always seemed possible. Or maybe in moments of fear I’d eliminated the word impossible from my mental dictionary. I doubt these two sentences would come to me on the couch. I’m writing and reading these words on the screen after the Monday morning session. Typing sentences like this one becomes another form of couch speaking, which I experience in my psychoanalyst’s fourth floor office four times a week, fifty minutes each time. In both cases, what seems to help the most is that the inner experience leaves my head in a form of translation that I’m sure I could never learn if I tried. Experience has taught me that both good speaking and good writing comes to one as a gift. I can’t achieve them through hard work alone. Fear came to me on the couch this morning, and probably more times in fifty minutes than I dare to imagine. Perhaps it was in the opening minutes, while I struggled to become comfortable speaking with no one in front of me, that I became frustrated with the whole idea of psychoanalysis. For years my problem with psychoanalysis was that I couldn’t move beyond the idea to the reality of it, with me on the couch and with a psychoanalyst listening to everything, words and silences, out of sight. The impossible was that for years I wrote fictional accounts of psychoanalytic sessions without having experienced it myself. I said this on the couch this morning, or did I? Maybe I said something similar to: I was unwilling to make the commitments of time and money that experiencing psychoanalysis involved. In any case, I imagine I started speaking during the opening minute. Mary had been listening to me for twelve months. Maybe both of our minds remained in the weekend that had just ended. Then I heard words from behind the couch: Maybe I wanted her to make the impossible possible for me, even before these fifty minutes were over. I often wanted Mary to solve my problems for me, and I knew it would never happen. I wanted her to do so this morning, although I had no idea what impossibility I wanted her to make seem possible.

Couch Talk (Part I)

I’m no longer trying to do the impossible. I should be relieved. These two sentences would make a good beginning. I could write them down in seconds, if my laptop were in my hands. The two opening sentences are a beginning, and as soon as I leave this room, I’ll write them down in the spiral notebook that I often carry with me for such creative moments. Sometimes Monday is a slow work day for me – wait, that’s not true – and no new editing for this week was in my email inbox when I left home, also where I work, so maybe I can focus on these words, images, and thoughts when I return home in little over an hour. Four times a week I walk fifteen minutes to this four-story building where I spend fifty minutes on a couch, and fifty-four or fifty-five minutes in the building, if I include the minutes in the waiting room on the ground floor beforehand. The impossible has become possible, on good days, and I realize that these words have left my mind, and the psychoanalyst seated behind me has something new to think and imagine about. I speak many more words and sentences than appear here. For years I attempted to write about this experience of psychoanalysis, speaking whatever comes to mind while lying on a couch, the other human being in the room out of sight, speaking occasionally, without ever having experienced it myself. I thought that my years in psychotherapy and training to be a psychotherapist would be enough, although I knew better. And a writer friend who’d been in psychoanalysis and knew I was trying to write psychoanalytic fiction suggested I experience it myself. Maybe I wasn’t thinking at all. Today seems to be a good day. I’m speaking and writing spontaneously for seconds or minutes at a time.

How many minutes have I been here? More important, how many minutes remain? It seems early in the fifty-minute hour for this question to come to me. I’m aware that I’m anxious. I awoke earlier than usual, and I was surprised, and a little anxious, that I hadn’t received any emails with editing work to do, which I often do on Monday mornings, from one or two clients on the East Coast. Maybe this Monday feels slow because I’m doing everything possible not to face whatever is bothering me. I’m afraid of something. I say this aloud and wait to hear something, anything, from my therapeutic partner, seated behind me. I imagine her as my therapeutic partner. We’ve spent a considerable amount of time together in the last year. In a way, today feels as if this were my first experience on the couch. A lot of sessions feel that way, as if Mary and I were meeting for the first time. Mondays can be difficult because of the weekend break after the intensity of the previous week. It took me several months to realize this, and I attempted to minimize the inevitable feelings of dependency, but then, during following Monday sessions, I felt an emotional separation between us, followed by a sense of closeness, which might be what I’m feeling right now. As if out of nowhere, I recall that my very first time on this couch was also on a Monday, and that I struggled to speak whatever came to mind. Do I speak these sentences that have written themselves in my mind? For a moment, speaking itself feels impossible. Trying to write whatever comes to mind is difficult enough.