These are my first words on paper in a new writing room. A moment ago I counted the number of days a year I might sit here, and I thought: twenty or thirty days isn’t enough. During the past two years, I’ve spent little time inside when I’ve been at this cabin. I’ve worked with my hands outside. I enjoy being outside here, in the cold, in the rain, in the sunshine. Right now, in what up to two years ago was my parent’s bedroom, I’m seated at a side table that I took from the living room. There’s room for a cup of coffee and a book or two (I always have one or more within reach while I write). I hold this journal in my hands as I write in it. The two windows in front of me with views of a harbor across the water, a small mountain, and lots of trees help me feel at home in my mind while I’m uncertain about a possible new writing idea.
At around seven this morning I left the cabin, walked a short distance on the dirt road that encircles the island, and then entered the Nature Preserve, which occupies much of the center of the island. Near the end of my walk in the woods, an idea came to me: I could write a series of fictional vignettes on a particular theme, with the title, Thoughts between the two of us. An anxious thought followed: I shouldn’t write about that. My experiences with my psychoanalyst are our shared secrets.
It’s strange creating sentences where my parents slept. Dreaming comes to mind. The other place in this cabin for me to write is the loft, where we sleep under a skylight, and I’ve tried this over the past two years, and something was missing. What’s missing now is what I’ve yet to write. The series of vignettes I’ve thought of writing wouldn’t be about what happens in my psychoanalytic sessions. They would be about how the work with Mary affects what happens in my mind throughout the day. She’s on my mind right now.
A fictional version of my psychoanalyst has appeared in my mind. I’m seated at the small table with the beautiful view of water and trees. I wish there were fewer boats on the water. My father designed this space where I’m working with pen and paper. This cabin was his one project as an architect that was his own. He is a practical person. There are a couple of things about the way this cabin was designed that I don’t like, and they are practical things. I hope to learn more about my father from his design. Growing up, I didn’t think of both of us as creative persons. I imagine that Mary studies psychoanalytic sessions. She’s passionate about it. A somewhat fictional version of me would be the narrator of this vignette. So far I believe I haven’t written anything fictional about myself. Or maybe I have. Fiction might be present in these sentences without my knowing it. The following sentence is fictitious, or at least part of it is not true in reality. Four times a week I walk forty minutes from home, where I work, to her downtown office. Some days I don’t know why I’m lying on her couch for fifty minutes, attempting to do what seems impossible: to say everything that comes to mind. Being in psychoanalysis often doesn’t seem practical. Yet I sense I am changing, slowly, as a result of the work.
Perhaps what I’ve just written about lying on a couch, trying to do the impossible, is also fictional. My psychoanalyst studying psychoanalytic sessions might be true. She’s in search of the truth in me that she and I discover together. There’s also the truth in her that, according to a psychoanalytic theory that I think she believes is true – the only thing I know about her with certainty, even with a Google search, is that as part of her psychoanalytic training she has experienced psychoanalysis on the couch – she might also discover during our work together.
Writing in this way disorientates me at times, which is often how I feel on the couch. Like my narrator, I experience my mind on the couch four times a week. Since our first session two Julys ago, I experience much more of what happens in my mind moment to moment than I did before. Sometimes I’m frightened to realize how few facts I’m aware of in my head at any given moment. Fantasy seems a significant part of how I think.
The sunshine, the water, the trees, and all the noise of boats on the water are real. I’m eager to go outside, to work more with my hands. I need a break from working in my head. If only it were possible.