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 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.
Perhaps I still want the life I could have had. I could have written about this. Then a wall appeared in my mind between pen and paper and the next sentence I would have written. There are reading lives awaiting me that I’m afraid to live. Experience inserts itself in this sentence, both the word and the experience of experience. Change has appeared in this sentence. A thought come to mind: Experience and change are related to your reading in more ways than you have imagined, which is one reason why you should keep a journal, to record the aliveness of your reading experiences. I have been reading a book while I’ve been drinking coffee and writing these sentences. Another sentence surprises me: This book knows you better than you think. We’ve known each other since 2004. But I was afraid of intimacy, and I might still be. I was living in Madrid, reading mostly in Spanish, and when I came across a few of this British psychoanalyst’s books in Spanish translation, I bought them without thinking that I might also read them one day in the original English. For several years I struggled with these volumes, not with understanding the sentences in Spanish, but with understanding them in relation to my own emotional experiences. I had never experienced a session of psychoanalysis, and I thought I never would. Yet this psychoanalytic author and his books remained important to me. Now, years later, I am in psychoanalysis, and one of the only facts I know about my psychoanalyst is that she trained at an institute where the writings of this thinker, Wilfred Bion, are taught. I should have prepared myself stronger coffee. I’m reading him now, in English. I’m growing as a reader, which experience has taught me will make me a better human being.
It was as if I saw her face for the first time. Both of us were silent as I walked past her on my way to the couch. I glanced at the side table alongside her chair where she spent her working hours listening to others. The coffee cup and the bottle of water felt important as potential sources of imaginative information about my psychoanalyst. It was ten o’clock on a Monday morning. My glance at the side table felt adventurous, as if I’d never let my eyes move freely when I walked the several feet from the door to the couch. For a few minutes I spoke about something that had been on my mind since the last time I’d spoken like this, lying on my back, looking out the windows in front of me. Then, without warning, something that I had not done over the weekend came to me in the form of an image, of me not answering a call from someone important to me. And then I listened to myself wonder aloud why I’d avoided speaking to her. Several of my sentences surprised me. There were no easy answers, which frustrated me. Truth seemed to appear in short sentences. “I still don’t know how to be separate from her, to be myself with her. Even as adults, she and I have sometimes related to each other through our parents. Now we’re caring for them. And there’s no one between us and our emotions.” Soon the fifty minutes were up. I was on my feet. As I walked toward the door, I glanced at my psychoanalyst’s face. It was a familiar face. And I glanced at the coffee cup and the bottle of water. This was her working space. I felt more comfortable inside of myself, in my own inner space.