Three days ago I thought I lost my mind. Four days ago I thought I’d found it. Both of these mental events happened here, at my desk, which makes me wonder what might happen next. I thought that my mind, or body, or both, had become more predictable. Change doesn’t happen only outside of me. It also happens on the inside, where mystery prevents me from knowing with certainty what happens moment to moment. Am I curious to know what might happen next, or am I afraid to face the uncertainty of what kinds of inner experiences I’ll have today? Rigidity and frigidity come to mind. I don’t want to change how I experience my mind or my body. An unwelcome sentence arrives: this attitude sometimes leaves me cold or unimaginative, as if my mind and body were agreeing on something. What might that be? Perhaps that repetition likes things to remain the same. I almost wrote religion instead of repetition. In high school, I forgot what happened the day before religiously. Who wants to remember losing one’s own mind? Another word demands to appear on the page: congeal. As a high school student, fear seemed to block me from imagining and thinking. In this paragraph, I’ve struggled to form thoughts from images and words. Yet I don’t feel as if I’ve either lost or found my mind. It’s been here all along.
I was waiting to pour myself a cup of afternoon coffee when an unexpected sentence formed itself in my mind: I can’t stop writing. I was standing motionless, my hands unoccupied, when these words came to me. It was an unusual day for me in that I’d yet to write a single sentence. Yet it seemed as if sentences had been writing themselves in my mind all day, beyond conscious awareness. They’re sentences for the future. I wanted to write this last sentence down before I forgot it. Sentences for the future intrigued me. I left the kitchen with my cup of coffee and was about to start focusing on the editing work I had to finish before the end of the day when another thought arrived unannounced (I almost wrote uninvited): the sentences themselves aren’t important. The books that they’re leading you toward are what matter. I was more frustrated than I realized. My eyes told me I had a lifetime of books on my shelves. I stood in my office, glanced at hardcovers and paperbacks before I sat down and returned to work, and I thought: my reading future is before me. Then I was seated at my desk, editing words someone else had written, when a related thought came to me: the books themselves are less important than the new attitude I might develop from reading them. I didn’t have time to wonder what this new attitude might be. The words time and attitude seemed connected. Sometimes time brings us new attitudes. This was another sentence that seemed to say: I couldn’t concentrate on my work. Something else seemed more important, and that something else was part of my future. There was something in me, an attitude, that was unborn. Now I was ready to focus on the editing I had to do on the screen. Sentences might continue writing themselves in my mind. As a writer, I couldn’t complain about that.
When I read that the psychoanalyst of Budapest celebrated his fortieth birthday on the day he wrote the letter I was reading, I wished I could forget how old I was when Spanish became my second, or maybe first, language. Sándor Ferenczi sounded sad in his letter to Freud. I was sad before I’d finished reading the opening paragraph. Translation has seemed to become part of this writing experience of mine. What kind of translation is at work here? Emotional translation comes to mind first. Ferenczi’s letter, written in July 1913, has affected me in a way that remains unclear. I was sad. I am sad. I was thirty-five when I moved to Madrid and immersed myself in learning a second language, which I’d failed at in high school. This last clause appeared on its own. I seem to be doubting myself. Ferenczi wrote of inner struggles in his letter to Freud. When he mentioned his psychoanalytic work with patients, I was uncertain how he felt about the work. Uncertainty can lead to creativity. This last sentence helps me remember that my heart beat faster when I read that Ferenczi had turned forty on the day he wrote the letter to Freud. Freud has become part of the uncertainty I’m experiencing as I write this sentence. For years I struggled to read Freud. I still do. His correspondences discovered me one day in a Madrid bookstore a decade ago, and I’ve been reading them ever since, both in Spanish and in English translations. I also have several volumes of Ferenczi’s correspondences. It’s as if these books on my shelves have something to teach me that I’ve done my best to avoid. I’ve been avoiding Freud’s major works, such as The Interpretation of Dreams, less this year than in the past. Another of his works, Psychopathology of Everyday Life, has been my evening reading for a few days. Changes seem to be happening inside of me. I hope the translator in me can keep up with them.
I don’t know what to do with this desire. If I were speaking, I could stutter, and frustration would make me forget everything else. Would frustration make me do something? I’m becoming frustrated as I write this sentence. Desire seems to have this effect on me. I started to write derisive instead of desire. Perhaps part of me is contemptuous of these kinds of sentences. I imagine someone whispering in my ear that what I’m writing is worthless. Twenty minutes ago I was taking notes on a letter Freud received from a friend and colleague in July 1913. A minute ago, I decided not to mention who wrote the letter to Freud. For some reason this is difficult to admit: Ernest Jones might not interest enough readers. He and Freud wrote letters to each other from 1908 to 1939. Is thirty-one somehow an important number to whatever it is I’m writing? Maybe I desire to be thirty-one again. What is the desire that I alluded to in the opening sentence? I’m immersing myself in something here. A memory comes to me – I pause while I remember how old I was in September 1997 – from when I was thirty-one: I spent three days alone at what was then our family cabin in the San Juan Islands and struggled to write about what it was like to be alone in the woods. My desire to discover my own writing style might have been born on those rainy days thirty-one years ago. To remind myself: I mentioned desire in the present tense in the opening sentence. Words come to mind, as if they had been waiting for me since the opening sentence: I desire to discover new ways to immerse myself in the reading of Freud’s and Jung’s correspondences on my shelves. Maybe I should reread these sentences to see what I’ve been discovering.
I was so anxious about setting foot in a psychoanalyst’s office for the first time that I didn’t imagine what might happen while I was there. I’m not thinking clearly, which means that I’m not writing clearly. This wouldn’t be the first time I’d set foot in a psychoanalyst’s office. It would be the first time I would speak with an analyst about the possibility of me becoming a patient or analysand on the analytic couch. Perhaps the confusion I’ve experienced while writing these one, two, five sentences reflects the confused state of mind I was in both before and during my first face-to-face conversation with a psychoanalyst about transforming a dream into reality. This last word, reality, makes me pause. In rereading the notes I took last summer while searching for a potential psychoanalyst in Seattle, I didn’t sound confused about reality. When I’m in a dream that is happening to me, reality remains far away, no? These last few sentences remind me of what I discovered later on, when the dream had become reality, and I spoke on the couch a few times a week, with only windows in front of me, my analyst seated out of sight, behind me. Speaking, or writing, without conscious control can disorientate me. I’m disorientated right now. Last August, a psychoanalyst and I spoke on the phone on a Friday, and we met face-to-face for the first time the following Tuesday. There seemed to be no hurry for me to lie on the couch. Yet I was in a hurry to set foot in her office. Before I appeared unannounced at her open door, she’d known only my anxious voice. In this way, our first session started a minute or two early. I shouldn’t have let the waiting room. I blamed my confusion on anxiety. I couldn’t remember whether I was supposed to wait for her in the waiting room or appear at her door at the designated hour. Thought was far away. The part of me that demanded certainty won, and I appeared at her door, which was when thought returned, and I realized I should have waited in my seat in the waiting room. She wasn’t ready for me. She let me enter. I was safely inside what had long been a dream space to me. Where was reality in this image?
His words were doing something to me. Did I just say his? Her words were moving my imagination in unexpected directions, which was a good sign. The therapeutic process was in motion. Yet part of me seemed unprepared for this receptive role, which alarmed me since listening to others was at the heart of what I did. We’d been in the room together for eight or ten minutes. In therapeutic time, hours remained before we would say goodbye. Or maybe there wouldn’t be a goodbye, the images of which made me anxious: she would walk out of the room without glancing at me, or the look on her face would make me doubt that I would see her next week. Part of the reason I’d been in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis myself for years was to learn how to deal with such inner conflictual moments. Yet here I was, struggling with images in my mind and emotions in my body, while the woman across from me remembered a trip to Rome with her family years earlier. On some level, was she speaking about wanting to escape from daily life? This didn’t feel right, at least for the moment, and once again I thought: her words are doing something to me. Minutes were disappearing into what would soon be a previous session. The trip to Rome years ago had become part of the present in her mind. It was the last time she remembered having enjoyable moments with both of her parents. As I listened to her say this, something inside of me started to change, a moment to moment kind of change. Everything happening inside of me was fluid. Fear had disappeared, for now.
What I write about my day is often about much more than what the words seem to express. The words my day make me feel that I’m writing about trivial matters, as if the details of one’s daily life were unimportant. The daily details that might seem unimportant are often the ones that affect us the most emotionally. I sound as if I knew what I was talking about. I wish I could speak in sentences as short as the ones I sometimes write. I realize that a fact has been hiding itself from me: I’ve been keeping a journal for over eleven months without admitting to myself that’s what I’ve been doing. I wrote the first entry on a Tuesday, June 21, the day I contacted a psychoanalytic society here in Seattle. I didn’t realize what I was doing until I heard a voice on the other end of the line. I was afraid of doing what I desired: to experience psychoanalysis myself. Yet I was following my desire. The woman and I spoke. The process of finding a psychoanalysis had begun. I meant to write psychoanalyst instead of psychoanalysis. It wasn’t the first time I’d contacted this psychoanalytic society. Three years earlier, in wintertime, I’d contacted the same society, and I wrote in my journal last June that perhaps I spoke with the same person on both occasions. Maybe I was surprised that three years had passed so quickly. On that winter night three years earlier, after the phone conversation, I’d decided not to pursue the matter further. I was afraid. Three years later, I called again, and psychoanalysis found me. And I started to write about my psychoanalytic experiences in a journal. Nearly a year has passed since I contacted the psychoanalytic society for the second time. I feel my own fear in the sentences that I wrote on that Tuesday last June. Am I going to reread the several journals that I’ve written since then? Words alone won’t decide.