(I am exploring what I might mean when I say that I write experimental vignettes.)
Two images, an open door and a closed one, appear in my mind as if they were on the paper before me, as if my imagination and the world outside of it were one and the same.
The blank sheet of sketch paper on the desk hasn’t moved. I’ve been writing on pages without lines for an unknown number of years for reasons that thought has yet to communicate to me.
I picture a short, robust man whom I’ve chatted with recently at the grocery store, less than a mile from where I’m writing this sentence, about the bathroom in his home that he’s remodeling. “I’m in a hurry,” he says as he runs into a room that he realizes he doesn’t recognize. “Where am I?” he asks me, as if I could open the door that has closed behind him.
These images unsettle me. I don’t want to imagine such a situation. I remind myself where I am, in my mind, an observer as I write. Then I realize that I’m trying to forget about the images of the short, robust man, who told me once that he works as the store manager six days a week. Doors open and close in my mind while I write seven days a week. What else am I going to do?
I don’t, as if my body shouts: “I can’t!” Then: “I won’t!”
He can’t stop me. I’m unstoppable.
Am I separate from everyone in some deep and permanent way?
Shock with the appearance of others. A Disapproving Other.
No! Stop! I move without stopping, until the moment of stopping.
Anger. Loud words without thought. Thought has stopped. Or has it yet to be born?
I’ve discovered this afternoon that frustration can become thoughts when I feel as if there’s enough time to experience it. A clock on the wall tells me how long I’ve been writing in my sketchbook. I try to forget how soon I’ll have to leave the coffee shop. Something troubling has been on my mind for days and I’m writing about it, or I’m attempting to write the words that come to me. The more sentences I write the more anxious I feel. I stop writing and reread the page of words. I seem to be saying: I’ll solve this problem by getting rid of something, as if I could throw an acre of land out the window and be done with it. My sentences show that my mind moves beyond this conclusion, which surprises me. How often have I been able to spend enough time with frustration and anxiety so that they can express themselves in other emotional languages? I’m about to finish my coffee. I must leave in a few minutes. My frustration hasn’t vanished. I still want a solution to my problem now. Yet, as I write this sentence, I feel mental space that didn’t seem to exist a few minutes ago, as if I have spoken all of these sentences and someone has listened without interrupting me. Throwing land out the window in my imagination helps. Perhaps I will sell the land. Maybe I’m discovering why I’m going to keep it. I glance at the clock one last time. The words “hopefully frustrated” come to me. No. Hope and frustration haven’t become friends in my mind yet. It might not be possible. I imagine hope as a flavor of frustration. I experience them together for long moments, as if they weren’t separate.
I went online instead of remaining offline. I sat on my psychoanalyst’s couch instead of lying down on it. I didn’t doubt that I knew what I was doing. I knew which online newspaper I would read. I went to Twitter, to WordPress, to this blog. I didn’t think about, let alone question, my online identity. Such a thought was miles away from consciousness. Fifteen or thirty minutes later, while I was writing and drinking coffee, I imagined meeting a few of my fellow bloggers, all of us together in a room. How would we react to each other? How many beers would I need to be myself? Today my psychoanalyst and I spoke face-to-face for a few minutes before the work of the fifty minutes began. Or maybe the work that was done in those initial minutes was the most important part of the session.
Above I asked myself how many beers I would need to drink before I could be myself with a few of my fellow bloggers if we were to meet for the first time. I wanted to delete the words “to be myself.” “To relax” sounded better, no? It helps to see my mind in action in words. To someone who has never experienced a session of psychoanalysis on the couch, it is difficult to describe the intensity of the experience. I look at my psychoanalyst only when I enter and leave her office, and usually neither of us speaks during those moments. Today we spoke before my experience on the couch. I was surprised and relieved that I was more or less relaxed. I felt as if this inner experience of mine was connected to changes that had been happening in my mind.
I have remained offline while I have written these sentences. Am I more in touch with reality right now than I would be if I had spent the last fifteen or thirty minutes reading things and communicating with others online? This question feels impossible to answer. Reality itself feels more complex than I think it is. I imagine a group of us fellow bloggers meeting each other for the first time. These images aren’t more real than anything I would experience in my mind while reading blog posts online. I seem to be experiencing online and offline as states of mind. Where is my mind? I’m here, whether or not I’m connected to the Internet.
“It sounds as if you had a twelve-minute psychic bike ride.”
The sentence wasn’t part of a dream. Or maybe it was. I couldn’t see the woman as she spoke these words. There wasn’t much furniture in this fourteenth floor office in downtown Seattle. The couch was always the first thing I saw as I entered and left my jacket on the chair just beyond it. I often imagined standing before the bookshelves that covered one wall. In reality, there wasn’t time.
My use of the word reality reminds me that I uttered it on the couch this morning. I think my words were: “I know that the phone conversation I had last night was real, but it didn’t feel as if it were.” It was cloudy outside. Perhaps it would be raining when I left the building some forty minutes later. Rain brought to mind last night’s dream, in which I’m walking on a downtown sidewalk during a rainstorm without an umbrella. This dream image felt important, yet time wouldn’t allow me to talk about two things at once. Time itself seemed on my mind. Space was also occupying mental room. I couldn’t picture the space I would need for a psychic bike ride.
“You’re referring to my phone call, aren’t you? A friend called and I made the mistake of telling him what I was writing about, about biking on a road in my mind, feeling lost. Somehow I knew that I had only twelve minutes to find an exit.”
I glanced at the clock on the windowsill beyond the couch. Twelve minutes remained, not eleven or thirteen. It was raining outside. I used to ride my bike a lot in the rain. How many decades ago was that? My friend remained silent after I said that I was writing about biking in my mind. The psychoanalyst seated behind the couch also remained silent after I asked her my question, until she spoke. “There’s a lot here to think about. And you’ve imagined all of it now?” I have imagined all of this at my desk. Is my imagination done with me for today? I’ll have time to talk about it tomorrow on the couch.
I’m realizing that I’m uncomfortable with my own creativity sometimes. The thought comes to me that perhaps I should focus on how I’m uncomfortable in my mind. The adverb “sometimes” at the end of the opening sentence suggests that I’m not being honest with myself. Writing in the way that I often do, without controlling the narrative, as if someone else were creating the sentences I write, becomes an anxious experience. And it’s much more than that. It’s exciting to observe how my creative mind works. Confusion and frustration don’t last forever, although it sometimes feels as if they do. A confused and frustrated me must remain at my desk (or I walk around the block or prepare myself coffee or tea) long enough until I’m not afraid to write a word, phrase, or sentence that will become known to me only after I’ve written it. Another uncomfortable thought appears: I have faith in my unconscious mind. What might that mean? I’m faced with more uncertainty. I’m uncomfortable. And uncomfortable is what I must be when I write in the way that I do.
I imagine that a fictitious event happens when I enter my psychoanalyst’s office this afternoon. Once I’ve crossed the threshold of her consulting room, she asks whether we might try something different today. “I’ll lie on the couch and you sit in my chair.” Moments later, I hear her say from the couch: “Now tell me what’s on my mind.”
Maybe I can read minds in my imagination. I’m comfortable in her chair. The view of the room is expansive from here. I never thought I’d sit behind a psychoanalytic couch.
Silence from the couch seems to suggest that she’s waiting for me to speak about her mind. I was about to write “speak her mind.” Is that what telepathy means? Thinking someone else’s thoughts as if they were one’s own?
This must be a dream. Can a dream be about two minds? A possible response to my own question comes to me: what you have imagined is not fictitious. It’s your mind.