That’s what he said to me when he saw me. It’s true. He’s right. The circles we move in we are bound to see each other. I suppose when the moon and sun see each other it might be what they say. When one lives in the same circles one is bound to have some interlapping geometry.
I haven’t seen him for well over five years. The last time I was him was him right before we moved to Chicago. I felt like before we moved I should see him and tell him that I was going—-considering everything we had been through. I had seen him for nearly 11 years. He had been there when I moved from my twenties to my thirties. He was there when my dad died. He knew a me that was less mature and much more flibbertigibbet. The me he knew, who is no more, was much less secure and much more neurotic. That me would have never had the nerve to go up to him at an event. That girl would have hid from him and done her best to avoid his gaze and then obsessed about the anxiety she felt at being so close to the man who knew so much about her, in a place other than his oddly decorated and under-dusted analytic suite. I would have spent sessions exploring that anxiety. Actually I would have spent sessions not daring to talk about that anxiety and I would eventually, after much sturm und drang, admit to having seen him and then I would timidly discuss how uncomfortable it was to see him out of the context of our work and why that was—and how embarrassing it was to admit all of that.
Just last Monday I had dreamt of him. See one of the therapists I met at the Hillman conference told me she sees my old therapist for supervision. I could hear in the way her voice filled with light when she spoke his name that she idealizes him. I recognized it because I used to do it too. So when I got back from Santa Barbara my old analyst was on my mind. I dreamt about this Jungian analyst who I had not seen for five years and who I had seen for eleven years before that—the Jungian analyst who told me I was difficult and who I often found difficult to understand the point he was making in his pedantic rants about Persephone. In the dream it was now and I had gone back to see him and I hated being there. I didn’t want to be there anymore. I didn’t want to go back(noticing a theme?). I was hugely pissed off as I knew I didn’t belong there. When I told Igor about the dream he said, “I think this is a good sign.” I decided to agree with him even though I wasn’t sure how he came to that conclusion.
So when I saw him yesterday, standing tall in a crowd of those there to see Hillman talk about the Red book, the first thing I thought was that he looked older and the second thing I thought was that he is still wearing plaid shirts. The first time I passed him by he was in line with his peers, two other Jungians I had some less significant interlapping geometry with and yet enough to immediately remember their names. It wasn’t the moment to say hello and even as I decided that I felt none of the anxiety that the old me would have felt in this kind of proximity.
A short time later, as my friend and I were walking through the courtyard of the Hammer museum, I saw him again. He was right there to my right. He was too close to ignore. I walked up to him and said hello. I extended my hand in a way that said “if you are up for a hug I could be into that.” He awkwardly took my hand as if it was a lobster whose pinchers were not bound by a rubber band. I think I started the conversation. I think I said, “Hi, how are you?”
I think he said, “Fine.”
I think I said, “Good to see you.”
I think he said back, “It’s good to see you.”
Then an awkward feeling came, that moved in like a fast moving cloud. I could instantly feel that the awkwardness was his and not mine and as soon as I identified the source of the feeling I felt strangely liberated. As soon as I realized that it was him that was uncomfortable and not me I could feel all the evidence of the work I have done with Igor.
He asked me some questions that all sounded like statements:”You’re back from Chicago?You’re here in California? You’re living where?You’re practicing?”.
Even as he asked me those questions I could feel all the questions he didn’t dare ask: “Are you happy? Did you have a baby? Why are you back in Los Angeles? Are you less difficult? Is your mother less difficult? Do you still suffer the black dog of depression?.
As he asked me all these questions and didn’t ask me the others, I couldn’t stop staring at his teeth as much as I tried to force my eyes away from his mouth. In all the years that I had seen him I had never before been so close to him. We always had an analytic distance and that distance had prevented me from seeing his teeth. I know this sounds terribly cruel and petty but objectively and unquestionably my old analyst has some very bad teeth. If you saw him it would be one of the first things you noticed about him. He is a kind and warm and very bright man, you would likely notice those qualities too. You would also likely notice that he is somewhat socially awkward. But his teeth—you would have definitely noticed his teeth. What, I guess, astonishes me about his teeth is that I had spent two hours a week for a decade with this man and I had never before noticed them.
When I walked away from him, after telling him for a second time that it was good to see him, I was aware of the momentousness of the moment. I had seen my old analyst and he could see that I was a different me. It was obvious. I wasn’t the girl he had known before. I wasn’t at all uncomfortable seeing him. It was he who was uncomfortable seeing me. I wondered if he wondered how I had become the me who stood before him. I’m sure he did as the change was too significant to be missed by someone of his clinical curiosity. I’m sure he took some small credit for my new found confidence and yet I feel sure he was wondering who or what else might have happened that also deserved credit for this change.
For hours later, and even today, I feel a little puffed up with pride in witnessing myself in this interaction with my old analyst. In seeing him, in his plaid shirt and his awkwardness and how he feels very much the same man I said goodbye to five years ago, I felt even more aware of how far I have come. And to be really honest I can’t get over the shock of his teeth and for reasons I am not really able to articulate I think that that is a good sign.