(It’srainingoutside. Eachdropontheskylightabovemyheadremindsmethatsummer has endedtoday, thisafternoon, afewhoursago, whenIfirstheardrainoutside. Thesilenceonthisislandoftwohundredsomeacreshasbecometoomuchforme, orperhapstheinnernoisehasbecometoomuch.)
Come on, write me. I’m not ready. Sure you are. Just write. Isn’t that what I’m doing? How did you write when you were ten, twelve, and fifteen years old? I can’t remember. Come on, the memories aren’t outside of you. I don’t want to give you what you want. I didn’t write a short story until I was a teenager. It was based on memories of a weekend trip with my family. I always wrote. Something. Anything. I would start writing in journals, then stop, and most of the pages would remain blank. I lacked something essential as a writer until my early thirties: imagination. It was in me, buried, trapped, in nascent form. I wasn’t born as a writer until my early thirties. Who are you? You don’t sound familiar. That’s the problem. I’m an unfamiliar part of you. We don’t speak often. When have we met? How often do you write? You mean you’re part of my writing voice? I am your writing voice. If that were true, I haven’t been writing very well, since I’ve been unfamiliar with my own voice. You’re discovering your voice, like every other writer. When I was ten, twelve, and fifteen, I knew I wanted to write. Wanting to do something is different from doing it. One Christmas when I was a teenager, my parents gave me an electric typewriter with a small screen on which appeared each word as I typed it. I lacked imagination. I’m your imagination. I was here then. We just didn’t speak often. When did we speak? Moments while you wrote. I’m also your mind. You can’t avoid me. I think I understand. You’re me. I’m you. I’m speaking to myself.
Vacation brings to mind a memory of hours in a crowded airport terminal waiting to board a plane. Anxiety and fear become this sentence, as if I were reliving the memory. Imminent departure probably didn’t come to mind that afternoon at Heathrow. Or maybe there was too much noise in my mind for me to hear and think about those two words. Those hours of pacing the terminal and sitting in an airport bar seemed to last forever. I’m afraid that I’m attempting to retell a story that I’ve yet to tell. A memory of someone becoming angry with me comes to mind. Last night I read that the self is a narrative construction. A memory, too, might be a narrative construction. These sentences have become confusing. I should say “to me” since, at this point, I’m the only one who has read them. Me is missing. I’m here. I’m struggling to create a narrative. No I’m not. There’s a story here. Imagine it. I’m too disorientated to imagine anything. Maybe that’s the story.
Fictive isn’t a word I use every day. The writer in me says: perhaps it should be. Am I afraid of fiction? The writing of this narrative about what’s happening in my mind has been a sort of imaginative vacation from moment-to-moment reality. I will be on vacation for much of next week. I won’t be at any airports. In a way, I won’t be on vacation, since I’ll remain right here, in my mind. Imminent departure isn’t possible. All of these sentences together might constitute a narrative construction. No one has become angry with me. At least not in this version of the story.
I need you to listen to me as if you were a priest. This sentence surprises me for several reasons. I have never experienced confession. I don’t know you. What might I need to confess? We can’t see each other. But I know you’re listening. I’m afraid of being misunderstood. This experience involves both of us. Some subjective truth will emerge somehow.
I’ve struggled to remain with these sentences while I’ve written them, as if I have yet to arrive here in my mind. This experience feels new. Maybe I am confessing something. Here feels like a home I haven’t seen in a while. Perhaps interruptions in my own creative process have delayed the possibility of these moments happening between you and I. If you’re not a priest, then who are you?
I imagine that you and I have remained silent for minutes that feel much longer. A thought comes to me: writing is a process of discovery that is about rediscovery. I am trying to discover something, which I glimpse as I write this sentence: patience with myself.
We’re not in a hurry, are we? Each of these sentences has taken its own time in coming to me, as if to remind me who’s not in control of this process. I might be in a hurry, but the words that come to me don’t have to be. Perhaps both you and I need silence. You have read these words. I have read and reread them. I imagine myself as my own priest. I have listened to my own confession. And you have also listened. Silence returns. You’ve been patient with me. I must be patient with myself. Perhaps you and I are one. I’m one. That’s my subjective truth for today.
I wish I wasn’t alone in the waiting area. I’m not. I glance at the green hardcover journal in my hands. It’s a warm Tuesday mid morning in Seattle. In a minute or two I will walk up the stairs to Mary’s office. I often forget that I can ride the elevator. The stairs feel more private. These sentences surprise me. This might be the first time in two years that I’ve recorded my thoughts on paper moments before I leave this waiting space. A waiting area is a special kind of space, isn’t it? Space seems significant. I’m writing. Soon I will be in another space, speaking or remaining silent, with no one before me. The couch is one of the distinguishing features of the psychoanalysis that I experience. I almost wrote disorientating instead of distinguishing. Disorientation can distinguish one experience from another. Separation comes to mind. In a way, the couch separates me from Mary. In another way, it helps me become aware of how real she is to me in my fantasies. I imagine space and area merging to form a single word. I close the green hardcover journal. I stand up. I’m not alone on the stairs. Two therapists are ahead of me. I wrote two “other” therapists and then reminded myself that I’m a patient (I prefer the word analysand), not a therapist. Perhaps I regret not finding a job as a therapist after completing my master’s in psychology twenty years ago. I sense there’s a fantasy or fantasies in these sentences.
I know that our fifty minutes together are real. I’m less certain about what happens in my mind and between our two minds. We’re not talking about concrete problems in my life, not today. I’m struggling with saying whatever comes to mind. Without warning, I stop speaking. An inner dialogue continues. This is my private space. I imagine that it protects me from the fear I have of outer silence. Minutes pass without spoken words. I am experiencing something new. Mary remains silent in her chair behind the couch. We’re in one space, yet I also feel alone in my own private space. The word fantasy returns. What else fills my head?
The workings of my mind shouldn’t seem like a new concept. What I’m experiencing feels new, though: observing words leading me in unexpected directions. Work brings emotional experience to mind. A waterfall appears. Energy and work appear alongside each other. I want concepts to merge with experiences. Thought might then become unnecessary. Or thought hasn’t happened yet. The workings of my mind isn’t a concept. Experience returns. I’m reading TheFeelingBrain: SelectedPapersonNeuropsychoanalysis by Mark Solms. Reading is an experience. So is imagining what I’m reading. I imagine words, such as concept and experience, playing with each other. Am I ready to observe whatever might happen next?
I was always afraid of the workings of my mind.
Disruption and interruption appear. Will an eruption follow? This kind of mental work feels new, as if I weren’t working at all. Maybe I’m not. Words are in charge, aren’t they?
What happened to the waterfall?
It’s as if I’m afraid this image has disappeared, never to return. What might it say about the workings of my mind right now? A waterfall returns. It’s an image. Images appear and disappear on their own. I seem interested in the mind and its workings. No. I seem interested in my own mind. This is a waste of time. Is observing a waterfall a waste of time? An image of one, of another one, answers the question. Words aren’t necessary.
How many books are in this room? I imagine myself counting each one on the shelves and each one in the stacks of softcovers and hardcovers on my desk. One thousand appears as an image, as if these two words were alone in my mind in pictorial form. The following sixty minutes are mine. I imagine giving these 3,600 seconds away to a stranger on a sidewalk downtown, as if all of the seconds together were a second-hand paperback that was of no value to me.
How many discoveries await me in each of my books? I imagine grabbing one book from a shelf, then another, until my hands are full of books. I’m afraid of losing anything, which in my current state of mind becomes everything. I now have less than sixty minutes left in this room. I want to write about a real experience in a dreamful way before leaving the apartment. Subjective experience is real, isn’t it? The fifty minutes I spent on my psychoanalyst’s couch yesterday are waiting for me to record them on paper. I reread this last sentence. I reread it again. For a moment I believe that those fifty minutes really are waiting for me. A fragment from yesterday’s session returns in images, in which I was attempting to recount a dream that I’d written down that morning. In the first image, I’m rowing around an island. Then I’m rowing away from a beach. I start writing about this. I wonder whether these words and sentences appearing on paper are a record of anything real. Psychoanalysis as a form of psychotherapy is as real as all of the books in this room. The check I write to my psychoanalyst each month is real.
I imagine a depressing thought asking me not to write it down: how many seconds in my life have I wasted? I do not want to think about this question. Where did the idea to write about each psychoanalytic session come from? It doesn’t matter, I hear myself say aloud. Then I write down what I sense won’t be the final sentence: What I’m writing right now is as real as any of my softcovers or hardcovers. Much of my life seems to consist of subjective seconds. What could be more real than that?
My lapstrake rowboat Pepito is twelve feet long (the name is carved on the transom). If I were much taller, I wouldn’t fit on the couch where I lie several times a week for fifty minutes (and I’m 5 feet 6 inches). I feel comfortable in the small boat, without a motor, which surprised me at first since I can remember, as a child, being afraid of the water. Pepito and I will be together in the water in a few days, when (unless something unforeseen happens, which of course happens every day) I’ll travel on bus and ferry and bicycle from Seattle to a small community in the San Juan Islands and then, after launching the boat, row from one island to another. It was probably twenty-four years ago when I first imagined myself free-associating in a psychoanalyst’s office (the spring of 1994 comes to mind, and one afternoon I emerged from a second-hand bookstore with what, except for Irvin Yalom’s Love’sExecutionerandOtherTalesofPsychotherapy, were my first two psychological books, one on Freud, the other on Jung). Pepito was built by students at a wooden boat building school near Port Townsend while I was living in Madrid. A dream was one of the reasons why I wanted a lapstrake skiff (another was that, as a child, I was fortunate enough to spend time at my grandparent’s cabin in a Norwegian fjord where lapstrake boats were common). Psychoanalysis was a dream to me for years – I never stopped reading about it; in fact, I read more and more as time passed – and then, two years ago, five years after moving back to Seattle from Spain, I realized that I wasn’t going to wait any longer.
An hour ago I had no idea what I was going to write about, although I sensed that something was awaiting me within. I’d written two pages of notes based on what I’d read in two books, which is unusual for me, and I assumed that the images, facts, and thoughts on those two pages would help me write a narrative. Maybe they have. My psychoanalyst and I don’t meet on Fridays, the day I’ll travel to our cabin, and I won’t have to work on that day either. Pepito was ten years old last month. The dream I had before the idea to have such a boat came to me took place in the water between the two islands where I will be rowing on Friday (if all goes according to plan, which rarely seems to happen). In the first image, I was driving a speedboat as fast as possible toward the nearest marina, while in the second and final image I was rowing in the same direction. I’m tired, and I have other work that I must finish before the end of the day. Most of what I’ve written here is based on what I consider to be facts. But I might be lying if I were to say that there is no fiction in these sentences. Perhaps I’ll reread them this weekend in the islands and find out.