This wasn’t happening, was it? I was in a safe place. Yet I was experiencing things in my mind that overwhelmed me. I was recounting a dream. How could a dream about a broom disorientate me, here in a fourth floor office in downtown Seattle? The image was so clear. It was waiting for me, as a welcoming object, at our cabin in the San Juan Islands. Wait a moment, I said aloud, the broom hasn’t arrived at our cabin yet. In a year I will find it there, and then I’ll have to assemble it. How would I assemble a broom? It’s a dream, I reminded myself. The broom needs me to clean something that’s dirty. Did I say that aloud? I imagined getting to my feet. This couch and the silent psychoanalyst seated behind it were too much. My mind was becoming too much. Then, without warning, my mind became silent. I imagined myself holding a broom, cleaning my mind. Or maybe the broom was doing the cleaning itself. My mind felt cleaner than it had seconds earlier. The silence behind the couch overwhelmed me sometimes. What was he thinking? An unwelcome thought arrived: I didn’t want him to have his own thoughts. I wanted to control everything. I spoke aloud for the first time in what felt like several minutes: why is it so hard for me sometimes to realize that we’re not the same person? He might respond this time. I would have to wait and see. Time was beyond my control. How long was a year in my mind? Maybe, if I kept cleaning my mind, or if I allowed my mind to do its own cleaning, the question would become clearer to me. Uncertainty wouldn’t leave me.
On Sunday I’m going to the airport. That word frustrates me. I remember what’s been happening at airports across the country in recent days. I’m angry. Sunday feels like a long time from now. I’m afraid of how I’ll feel on my way back home on the light rail. He’s not returning with me. He’s flying home, to Spain, to visit his family, whom he hasn’t seen in several years. These sentences make me uncomfortable. Airports are places of travel. I’m traveling in my mind. This way of speaking unnerves me because the words are in control, not me. I keep wondering: what’s wrong with me? He’ll be gone for seven days. He says six, but it’ll be seven. I’ll get more work done, or maybe I won’t edit anything. Loss comes to mind. I won’t lose him. He’ll visit his family for a week. A week is a long time. I’ll have more time for reading. I enjoy being alone. Maybe the airport reminds me of inner chaos. I’ve no idea where that thought comes from. Your mind can feel like a chaotic place, and that frightens you. This frightens me, not knowing how to interpret what you say. I can’t see you. And I’m afraid of what I see inside myself.
I could blame what happened on an extra morning coffee. Then I had a tea before leaving home to walk downtown. Sometimes I forget that I work at home, which sounds strange as I reread it. I often consume more caffeine on Sundays than on other days. Then Monday arrives, this morning, and I forget to stop after one morning coffee. On Mondays I have therapy in the morning. I arrived ten minutes early and used the restroom twice before entering Martin’s office. As I write this sentence, I imagine I was blaming myself for something. This sentence has arrived on its own: I was afraid of something. Maybe I thought something bad would happen in the session. Martin would become angry with something I said. Something similar had happened to me in real life, many times. Why not also this morning? By the time I entered his office, I wondered how many minutes I would last on the couch. I would have to say that I couldn’t wait. I would return in a minute. These sentences help me realize something: I’m blaming myself for being human. I was frightened. I am frightened. My mind must become the focus. Must it? Maybe, if I keep writing sentences, and free-associating on Martin’s couch, mental focus will happen on its own.
Nothing comes to mind. For ten minutes nothing has come. The screen and keyboard are ready. I read and I took notes. Then I expected words to appear. Nothing has appeared. Silence surrounds me. I glance at the time on the screen. I glance at the bookshelves across the room. Perhaps another book would help me. Moments ago an image came to me. It surprises me. The search for something to write about has ended. I’m no longer here at my desk. I’ve travelled, in my imagination, a distance that would take me around forty minutes on foot. In an instant, I’m in a familiar place, where in reality I lie on a couch a few times each week. It’s Sunday. My imagination brings me another surprise. My psychoanalyst observes me from his chair behind the couch. I don’t want to lie down, or do I? Moments after the question arrives, a desk appears before me, and my laptop too. I must write all this down before it disappears from my mind. The psychoanalyst will wait for me, in his chair, won’t he? The images have made it onto the screen, in words. I’m at my desk, this real one, even in my imagination. It’s a cloudy, cold, quiet Sunday afternoon. On Tuesday I’ll walk for around forty minutes to that familiar place with the couch. Reality hasn’t disappeared.
It’s beyond my control. It’s much more than an it. I’ve no idea how many images it consists of. I wrote down what I remembered. My first cup of morning coffee was moments away. The few sentences that I wrote in my dream journal would seem to say that it was a brief dream. How can I know? The unconscious has its own secrets. Four of us are seated at an outdoor table. A picnic table in a park comes to mind. I open a bottle of red wine. The man dressed in a dark suit, seated across from me, doesn’t drink this kind of wine. The two others with us are talking. The man in the dark suit pours himself a glass and his face makes it clear what he thinks. Why did I bring a cheap bottle of wine? Last night’s dream makes no sense. These sentences make sense to me only because I know the language in which they’re written. Dreams have a language, symbols, which makes understanding them a creative experience. I must wait for meaning to emerge. It’s afternoon. I don’t want to impress the man in the dark suit. I’m angry with him. I want him to drink my wine, the bottles I buy on sale. This last sentence calms me. I’m in control in the dream. I feel like preparing myself an afternoon coffee. The dream makes its own kind of sense.
These sentences originate in my imagination, don’t they? I know where I’m seated, what day and time it is, don’t I? Sometimes writing every day causes me to confuse inner time and space with the outer ones. Causes of things intimidate me. What causes what? I’m afraid of becoming angry with someone tomorrow. I imagine it happening while four of us have a beer in a bar downtown, before the rest of the evening. We’ll probably have dinner there too. It’s so simple to imagine that these are facts, in my mind, as if tomorrow were yesterday. An inner voice, which comes with a familiar image, asks why facts can’t exist in my imagination. I want to rewrite the opening sentences of this paragraph, imagining that the voice and image of my psychoanalyst are with me, in my mind, silent, as he often is in his office while I struggle with my mind on the couch. I almost wrote that I struggle in my mind or that my mind struggles with me on the couch. The four of us could enjoy our beers without me becoming angry or frustrated. Are you satisfied, I imagine asking this inner figure as I finish the pint of IPA. Tomorrow night feels like the present, and it is, in my imagination, or a psychoanalyst might say, in my unconscious mind. A reply to my question arrives from within: you tell me. For a moment I’d forgotten where all of this was happening. It’s not over yet. The words will stop coming when they’re done with me.
It was time to write an old friend. The email seemed to write itself for a few sentences. Then the words stopped. It was evening, work was behind me, I wasn’t in a hurry, or so I thought, and I walked toward the kitchen to fetch a beer. Why couldn’t I write about the images in my mind? His fourth floor office might have appeared in my mind first. Then came the bookshelves, the windows with views of downtown Seattle and Puget Sound, Martin’s desk with books and a laptop on it, and the couch. Maybe the couch appeared first and last and a few times in between. I was afraid to tell my friend that I was in psychoanalysis. Across from the kitchen, in our apartment, are the bookshelves, and I stopped there before opening the fridge. Seconds later a paperback found me. We knew each other. I’d read it last year, before discovering the desire in myself to contact a psychoanalyst. The author had the experience that I was having, six years and four-times-a-week of the experience, and his account of those years speaks volumes about the uncertainty involved in becoming a patient or analysand. I almost wrote that his book was about the risks one takes on the couch. The opening sentences of this paragraph felt more welcoming when I returned from the kitchen with alcohol and a paperback. As if the sentences yet to be written had their own plan, I started to write before realizing that I was doing so. My old friend wouldn’t care that I was lying on a couch a few times a week. I became sad when I remembered how much time had passed since the last time I’d written her words. Maybe I’d been afraid of feeling sad. Writing can make me sad. I finished the beer as I wrote the final sentence. The paperback and I would now have some time together.