When we last met we were talking about the book and publishing and what all that means to me, as you know if you read Friday’s post. But on Friday I didn’t get to the part in the session in which I was telling Igor my personal myth and how this myth seems to run in my mind like a kind of fatal error that I don’t know the html code to reprogram.
“So here is my myth,” I said it like some grand pronouncement. I left space after I said it with full awareness that what I had just said had been an incomplete sentence. Yet I knew that there needed to be space between the introduction and the actual content and that if I rushed it and didn’t leave my listener hanging for a bit that the importance of what was to follow might be missed. I know enough about comic timing to wait for the laugh, only I suppose this myth isn’t really very funny.
“It goes like this: I am loaded with potential. I am the one in the class who was told she would publish in the New Yorker. I was told by professors that I was the one they were sure would “make-it” and I was told by my infertility doctors that I had fantastic eggs and had an excellent response to the stimulating drugs and that our embryos were all grade-A and that they were very hopeful and then nothing happened—no baby. I am the girl who has loads of potential and no fulfillment. I am all promise and no completion. That is my myth.”
“And what I worry that the same is true with my writing. I have lots of potential and yet I will never publish a book.” I said that much more ebulliently than was fitting for what I had just said. Therapists are always on the look out for times when clients say things that should be loaded with emotion and are said flatly or for times when there is a dissonance between message and meaning. This was one of those times.
I went on, “This thought is always there in the background whenever I think about my writing and the better things are going the more that the myth seems to pop up like an unwelcome weasel. It is there in the back of my mind, running like the text scrawl on the bottom of the screen on CNN, even as everything is going great and the big picture looks really-really good—the myth is there reminding me that all this potential and promise is nothing but a set up for a cosmic joke. Only I am not at all sure who has set up the joke and who is finding my failure to fulfill my potential as so fantastically funny.”
“So what if you gave up?” Igor asked.
“What if you told yourself whatever I create goes into the void? What if you embraced that? What if you told yourself that your myth was true and you embraced it”
Igor might as well have asked me to jump from the ledge of his fourth-floor window, “Are you kidding me? It would kill me. Are you saying to live without the goal of publishing? I couldn’t.” I got antsy and sweaty and I took off my cardigan. I was reacting like an addict who had just been asked to get off of his/her drug of choice.
“No, seriously. I couldn’t. If I gave up hope on giving up on publishing it would kill me.”
I could see in Igor’s face that he didn’t believe it would and so I reminded him of times in our work together when I had lost hope and how depressed I had been and how much despair I felt—and how horrible those times have been.
“Yes, I know that it feels that way. But every time you have let go of the goal something has happened.”
I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask him for examples. I want examples. I want them written down and alphabetized and notarized. I want a document that proves that what he is saying is true. As for today I am still completely unsold on his suggestion. In the session I ignored his assertion and moved on to what I have already given up on. “I gave up on having kids. Isn’t that enough? Should I give up on hoping to publish too? No, I couldn’t. Really, it would kill me not to have a goal.”
“Would it really kill you? How would your life be if you gave up on the goal of publishing this book? How would it be different?”
My thoughts raced and I wasn’t able to answer his question directly, I only knew that I felt like he was asking me to give up my life preserver and that my life-instinct was feeling particularly strong and that I had no intention of giving up on hoping to publish. Only he wasn’t really asking me to give up on that hope—he was asking me to embrace the myth that I was already holding onto and to see what would happen if I did.
A few months ago after a particularly bad bout of self-doubt, He-weasel and I were at my favorite Peruvian restaurant. As I devoured spicy muscles and bits of octopus with hedonistic gusto, I told He-weasel something straight out of a Disney comedy. I wished out loud to have my desire to be a writer taken from me. It is a wish I had made many times before about having a baby. If I couldn’t have a baby I wanted to no longer have the desire to have one—it seemed only fair. In the Disney movie version of my life in which I would have been played by Lindsay Lohan( pre-jail), I would have instantly lost my desire to write and then I would have learned how valuable it was to write and by the end of the third act I would be desperately trying to get the wish to write back by the end of the film I would have learned my lesson and I would have gotten my writing mojo back and I would have gotten a book deal. Only this wasn’t the Disney version of my life.
He-weasel responded to me in a way that made me want to pick up the empty mussel shells that sat on my plate and throw them at him. “You can’t. You can’t give up. You are a writer. It is who you are. No matter if you publish or not, you are a writer. If your laptop was taken away you would write on paper. If your paper was taken away you would write on the wall. If there was no wall you would write on your body…writing is what you do. You can’t not write.” In that moment I felt like a somewhat modified Salieri. I didn’t want to be a writer if I wasn’t a writer with a published book. Instead of throwing mussels at him I went home and wrote about being mad at him and how he didn’t understand and how awful it was that he used a double negative. But even as I vented to my journal about how he didn’t understood me, I knew he was right.
I am not far enough along with all of this to know what it means. And as of yet I am not able to take Igor’s advice. I can tell you that I have been thinking a lot about hope. I have been thinking about how Igor says that holding hope for clients in psychotherapy can be sadistic. I have been thinking about what my boy-friend, James Hillman*, says about hope, “Hope is an evil. It was the one evil left in the box when Pandora snapped the lid back shut. Hope is about the unknown future. It’s like the promise of salvation in the afterlife…I just think we should pay attention to what is here right now. It’s this hope thing that has gotten the planet into such a mess. If we paid attention to what was true right now, instead of what we hoped would be true in the future, the world would look very different.” I am not sure how this relates to everything I have said before, maybe you do and if you do I invite you to tell me. The only phrase that comes to mind is a Latin one, sorry if that sounds fancy-pants, but it was the phrase that my psyche gave me and my psyche does have a tendency towards fancy-pants, it is Amor Fati which means “love your fate”. I wish my psyche would think of something else, something more constructive. And if my psyche doesn’t have anything nice to say I wish it would just shut up. If it doesn’t I will reward it for its bright ideas by watching “The Real Housewives of Washington D.C.”, that’ll teach it to bust out Latin on me.
* Just in case you are new to the blog, I have non-dangerous and completely harmless delusions that James Hillman is my intellectual-boyfriend( i.e. the boyfriend of my mind). Hillman doesn’t know anything about this and it is probably best that we keep it this way.