Change without a Sound

My narrator doesn’t have to make the same mistakes I do. Perhaps he learns from what I do in anxious moments when what feels most pressing is that I do something, anything, to relieve myself of the tension that I imagine threatens my mental survival. If only life in the imagination were so simple. I imagine the two of us alongside each other, each one lying on a couch, struggling to say whatever comes to mind. Is there anyone seated behind us, listening? This last sentence might suggest the source of much of my daily anxiety. Am I alone in my mind? Who says this, me or my narrator, or both of us simultaneously? We’re in this therapeutic process that I call my writing together, aren’t we? Writing these paragraphs is therapeutic for me. The image of him on a couch alongside me changes things in my mind. How might my narrator and I learn from each other? I don’t think my words on the couch create change in him. Something inside my narrator, who might be part of my unconscious mind, changes before or after words, or both. And in a mysterious way, when he changes I change, and vice versa. We impact each other in a nonverbal way. I imagine that I say all of this on the imaginary couch, and my narrator, alongside me, experiences my words in his body instead of in his mind. Mental work happens later. In this metaphor for how my mind works, my narrator and I have the same psychoanalyst, who listens to both of us simultaneously. Maybe I feel listened to when I write my paragraphs, which becomes therapeutic, and sometimes leads to mysterious inner change.

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Wait without Waste

The few minutes I had to create word wisdom on my iPad felt like a lifetime. An image of my narrator had come to me moments earlier, as I entered this building. Instead of using the restroom as I’d planned, I sat down in the nearest chair in the waiting room, removed my iPad from its bag, and waited for words to come. Somehow, I knew they wouldn’t disappoint me. The phrase word wisdom in the opening sentence surprised me as I wrote it. I’d intended to write noise. I was afraid that my typing would sound like noise to the others waiting to see their psychotherapists. Word wisdom, as it appeared on the screen, was new to me. It was the opposite of noise. An image of my narrator came to me, as I sat with my iPad on my lap, waiting for words, and he was also in a waiting room, to see his therapist, and I imagined his mind full of noise. My narrator thought of it as mental noise. His mental pain was real to me. My mind was real to me as I wrote these sentences in the waiting room, before the few minutes were up.

Sentences in a Second

Twenty years ago in this situation I might have lit a cigarette. My head felt as empty as my stomach, and I kept glancing at the clock. In fifteen minutes the laptop would be alone again. I had to shower and start the real part of my morning, as if this work in my imagination wouldn’t affect everything else I did during the rest of the day. These sentences in my head frustrated me. My writing wasn’t real? I was trying to get words on the screen before finishing my first cup of coffee because I knew, more in my body than in my head, that the experience would help make everything I did during the following ten or fifteen hours easier. One clear sentence would be enough. I couldn’t do this on my own. Maybe one of my favorite thinkers could rescue me psychologically. My hands knew where his hardcovers were on my shelves, and my unconscious mind seemed to sense which book could help me. Seconds later, I was leafing through a volume of his correspondence with Freud, and then I was reading a letter he wrote to Freud in March 1911. I was still on the opening sentence when I sensed this wouldn’t be an ordinary reading experience. The reader in me was doing something unusual. He wasn’t focused on the words. His imagination seemed in control. My imagination became his imagination, or vice versa. I pictured Jung at his desk, late at night, writing to his older colleague in Vienna. It was as if I were inside his mind, and I saw more images than words. Seconds, or a minute later, I was back at my laptop, and several sentences seemed to appear on the screen all at once. My writing work was done, for now.

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.