I woke up this morning feeling closer to death than I did last night.
Out of all the sentences I have ever written, the one above seems the most alive.
A glance at my bookshelves confirms that this room hasn’t changed since I went to bed last night. All of the books, softcovers and hardcovers, will be here after my final breath.
“How many more years will we have together?” I ask the books aloud.
An inner voice responds: “I’m right here in front of you! Focus on me!” My eyes return to the desk, to my dream journal. I don’t have to open it to know that last night’s dream has been recorded inside.
When did I write it down? None of the dream’s images come to mind. Moments later, with a new sentence, they do.
A plant is on fire in front of me. Maybe it’s a single leaf. Fear makes my own motion an image for another dream. Motionless, I marvel at the growing flames.
There’s no caffeine in my system yet, and I can’t remember the last time I felt so alive. The following sentence comes to me as if it were a figure emerging from the darkness: My future is in the fire.
The couch in my imagination has been asking me to lie down on it for several minutes. We must talk. I imagine myself standing before Freud’s couch, the one that appears on this blog. Things are evolving in my mind. I can feel it more than imagine it. Perhaps the couch has appeared to help me imagine what is happening. The thought comes to mind: the name of this blog, writingsfromthecouch, chose me. Psychoanalysis on the couch had been part of my life for three months when I created this blog two years ago. The fifty-minute experiences on the couch, my attempts at putting into words whatever came to mind, felt like a dream come true.They still do. Yet words don’t seem enough anymore. The image of a couch speaks more to me than does the word itself. Perhaps the couch in my imagination has been suggesting that I allow images to reveal words to me that otherwise might have remained hidden. An image of the ocean is followed by the word water. In metaphorical terms, am I swimming in the ocean (hopefully near land) while I struggle to speak and make sense of my words on my psychoanalyst’s couch? Maybe I should replace Freud’s couch on my blog with the sea. I wouldn’t want to rename this blog writingsfromthewater. I would be afraid of drowning. The couch asks me: why don’t you continue dreaming in your mind here at your desk? I imagine that I dream while I’m awake on Freud’s couch, both in reality and metaphorically. A realization comes to me: these writings on the couch aren’t finished with me, and they probably won’t be for a very long time. Why can’t I experience images of God on the couch? Indeed, why not? Another question appears: why can’t I experience images of God while I write these vignettes? The couch and I are still talking. And things continue to evolve in my mind.
I wrote a paragraph of words, turned the page upside down, and I was surprised that I could no longer read my own sentences. My hands, as if they were listening to my head, turned the page right-side up, and everything felt right again. It had never occurred to me that I would be unable to read my own writing. This thought brought to mind memories of criticisms I’d received decades earlier for poor grammar in my sentences. Back then I could imagine words and sentences only as they appeared on the page. I pictured myself shaking the page with my paragraph of words on it and watching the letters of all of the words fall to the ground. I would have to start over, which was what I was doing in my mind. I was discovering the grammar of images and symbols, and this thought brought to mind dreams. I had yet to record last night’s dream on paper. I imagined it unfolding in different ways than I remembered it. Maybe these imaginings would lead to new dreams while I was awake. Without warning, the images in these sentences I was writing came back to me, one by one, as if they were suggesting that I was missing something in front of me. Images and words and sentences were leading me toward thoughts and insights. Perhaps all I had to do was continue shaking things up in my mind.
It’s a cold, cloudy, Monday morning in November. My mind feels at home in this room where I work with others in pain. Mental and bodily pain are one and the same in this second floor office, my imaginative home, where I also read and write. I listen and I speak to others, and I read and I write. That’s my working life, which in a real way is my life. I glance at the laptop and at the stack of books alongside it. The desk and chair are only a few feet from where I’m seated in my listening chair. The following unwelcome thought reminds me that I often don’t remain in calm mental waters for very long: it might not be possible to remain seated in one place during the next fifty minutes. The client who is about to call me is also a therapist and is out of town. I might move between the two chairs, both physically and in my mind. She’s a very creative therapist, and I wonder why the word creative comes to me in this moment. I could be more of a creative listener with her. As I listen to this sentence of mine, I realize that the only thing I can do is be present with her, and with everyone else who sits across from me for fifty minutes at a time. She’s far away, in another time zone. That’s a revealing sentence. We’re about to be in the same mental time zone, or so I hope. Perhaps I’m not ready yet. Seconds can last a long time. I’ll be ready. Finally a welcome thought.
Outer space becomes inner space. These words came to me as I realized I was avoiding my new writing space in this cabin that was now ours. I had tried writing in another room, in what was my parent’s old bedroom, and after two days my body said no. Maybe yes would find me up here in the loft, where we sleep, and where there’s space for me to write under a skylight.
Outer spaces can overwhelm me. My father was an architect. He designed this space where I’m writing in a reclining chair. This cabin was probably his idea. The idea of my mind as a home in the woods, which the cabin is close to being, with woods behind it and water in front of it, came to me a few minutes ago as I found myself worried about tomorrow’s weather forecast, which calls for rain and cooler temperatures (there’s been almost no rain in the San Juan Islands since May). My father and I didn’t become close until after he retired. Even then he struggled to understand me whenever I spoke about Carl Jung or Sigmund Freud, the reality of the unconscious, or the importance of dreams in waking life. He knew writing was my passion. About a decade ago, I asked him to read three or four hundred words I’d written. He said he enjoyed the piece, and he suggested I write from less of a psychological perspective so that readers would find my writing easier to read.
The loft has been a comfortable place to write these paragraphs. I feel both apart from everything and inside of myself here. I sleep in the bed a few feet from this chair. Dreams happen inside of me while I’m asleep in bed and while I’m writing, which feels like a new thought. This small physical space of the loft might be the perfect creative space for me. Home has become my mind while I’ve been writing these sentences. Today the sky is blue. Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain. Change happens, outside and inside. Fathers and sons can become close yet have their own separate lives. I need outer space. And inner space needs me too.
I am in a mental room. I don’t want to leave. I’m afraid to stay. There’s no stopping me from exploring in here. This is the identity room, where I can’t hide from who I am. I am afraid of becoming lost. The room remains mysterious to me.
Other rooms are connected to this one. Identity isn’t alone in the human mind. Interruptions and disconnections happen. Movement happens. I imagine the mind as infinite space. Something is missing in here. I’m not afraid of exploring other rooms. I’m frightened of entering the wrong room, as if mental rooms obey our conscious conceptions of things.
Where am I? I wish there was a map of the identity room. A sentence writes itself on the wall before me: identity is who you are. I imagine writing below this sentence: I’m a writer. Then, as if I were responding to my own question above, I write on the same wall: mental experiences have me write about them (when I’m writing well). I’m inside my own mind, which feels overwhelming.
Have these sentences been subjective observations? What have I seen inside this room? My identity as a writer is more complex than I’d imagined.
This has been a bad day for my writing. Concentration has been absent from the experience. I’m afraid of what she might think of what I’ve written. I had planned on not writing today, which didn’t make sense. I write every day. My body seemed to lead me to this desk. Sentences have arrived as if on their own. So why do I feel that I have been unable to concentrate? Things have been out of control in my head. I can’t stop what’s happening inside. Now becomes everything. She’s not in control of my mind. Who is she?
Or maybe it is a he. I must trust my own mind. Perhaps I’m afraid of what she and he might think of what I’ve written. I haven’t written much. I’ve been focused on what comes to mind as I write each sentence. I imagine she and he as parts of my mind. Maybe this has been a good day for my writing. I try not to plan when I am or am not going to write. Words and sentences let me know when they want to be written. I am writing right now. My mind is not going to lose me. She and he know that. And my body has known what is best for me: writing one sentence at a time.
There is some certainty in my life. I create a she, a he, whatever is necessary, so that I can write another sentence.