Sadness in Truth

(What follows is written in the form of a journal entry.)

An imaginative experience happened inside of me this afternoon while I prepared myself a cheese sandwich for lunch. I wished I’d eaten earlier. It was two o’clock, and I’d spent more minutes than I was willing to count at my desk unable to imagine or think. I was in the kitchen, preparing the sandwich, glancing at the Olympic Mountains in the distance, when the thought came to me: there’s a better way to prepare for the conversation tomorrow that you don’t want to have. Imagine her. Before my thinking could interfere with the creative process, I found myself picturing her in the coffee shop where three of us will meet at noon to talk about a problem we’re trying to solve together. She was sad in my imagination, not angry or frustrated with me. I knew that this image of her, sipping coffee, spoke the truth. She didn’t want to criticize me.

The image seemed to speak emotional truth. Tomorrow hasn’t happened yet, so it’s possible that my recurring thoughts warning me of an uncomfortable conversation will be right. Yet the reading I’ve done today suggests I should listen to my imagination.

I have discovered or rediscovered the psychological thinker James Hillman, whose writings remind me that my mind is an imaginative place. Hillman was born in 1926 and died in 2011. In the late 1990s I read The Soul’s Code for a course in the master’s degree in psychology I was completing. For reasons that I don’t wish to try to imagine now, I didn’t remember much of the book after reading it. I remember thinking that I enjoyed it. Two images of me twenty years ago come to mind. In the first, I’m reading Hillman’s book. In the second, I throw it into the water. The second image is full of energy.

A reading journal has finally become a reality in my life. The notes I’ve been taking on Hillman’s writings have helped me return to Carl Jung’s Collected Works, which have been with me on my shelves for more years than I wish to count. I’m sad. Perhaps I’ll imagine my sadness. First I must walk to the kitchen to prepare myself a coffee.

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Reading As a Welcoming State of Mind

I read the same sentence in English and in Spanish. That’s impossible. A sentence translated into Spanish cannot be the same as the original one in English. Translation is a form of writing. Translation is an art. No two sentences are the same. I have just counted the number of words in the English version (I wonder why I have called the sentence in English a “version” instead of “in the original”): 54 words. Things have seemed to slow down in my mind. I have recounted the number of words four times to make sure I didn’t make a mistake, as if I were dealing with scientific data. I have also counted the number of words in the Spanish translation (I imagine this version as its own form of original): 47. I’ve recounted the words in español only twice, and now two has become part of this inner conversation.

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The softcover in English became part of my life in Seattle in 2014. I bought the Spanish translation in Madrid in 2003. I have never allowed myself enough mental space or mental time – hopefully until now – to imagine why I might have wanted to read the British psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion first in Spanish translation. Perhaps what I have experienced as the emotionality of Spanish was what I needed in 2003 to be in a welcoming state of mind as I started to read this psychoanalytic thinker whom my intuition told me would help me grow as a writer, which has happened over the past fifteen years.

Writing has been part of my daily life for eighteen years. I’m realizing as I write this sentence that this must have much to do with why I associate the creation of sentences with my own mental health. As if for the first time, I realize that my relationship with Spanish, which began in 2002 when I moved to Madrid, has transformed how I experience reading. Except for those rare occasions as a reader when I have no caffeine in my system, I am, for the most part, in a welcoming state of mind as I read. I want to learn. I’m open to experience.

Writing Home

(This is not intended to be fiction, to the degree that I’m capable of it)

I’m lying on my psychoanalyst’s couch in my mind. I feel safe in this room. The view of the Olympic Mountains from the couch reminds me of the home where I grew up, in this same city, where my parents no longer live, where the future has begun a new past, without me. My own secrets have been revealed to me on this couch, the real one, in reality, which sounds as mysterious as this experience in my mind, which has yet to end. In any given session, I start speaking, then interrupt myself when my own spontaneity makes me anxious, and on good days, when I allow images and words in my mind to be creative with me, my spontaneous speaking returns, and sometimes along with it, discoveries happen.

I’m in the fourth floor office in a way that would be impossible during an actual session. In reality, I’m seated at the round table at home where I do most of my writing (occasionally I leave home with a notepad and walk until images and ideas tell me to stop and write them down), in the room where I read, drink coffee, and take books from the shelves and either hold them or read sentences, paragraphs, or pages when my own sentences refuse to appear on the page. Yet I feel as if I were on the couch.

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The opening sentence of the previous paragraph – I’m in this office in a way that would be impossible in reality – confuses me. I picture myself sitting up on the couch, getting to my feet, and walking out the door, not in anger or frustration, but in fear. I’m afraid of discovering things about myself. Imagining the view of the Olympic Mountains from the dining room of the house where I grew up eating meals and where now another family enjoys meals feels calming from the couch where I find myself in my imagination. I feel free, on the couch in my mind, to experience confusion and then understanding, as if anxiety and calmness were in dialogue with each other inside of me.

I have written these paragraphs with my real voice, or perhaps my fictitious voice has discovered new ways to convince me that reality has always been my writing home.