How Does It Feel ...
Some people may wonder what it feels like to launch a new book. This particular debut was filled with feelings not previously experienced with my five psychoanalytic publications. Of course, it’s not that my clinical books lacked personal revelations. In fact, I candidly shared my failures as well as my achievements throughout those academic volumes, as I did in my published papers.
This sharing was an effort to teach colleagues and students through my own experiences since, although each patient and therapist have a unique therapeutic relationship, much can be learned from the mistakes and successes of others and may prove useful at some point in the future. I must confess that I too benefitted from my own thinking in retrospect and reflecting on the past.Now that I look back, my psychoanalytic compositions were indeed a type of memoir writing
However, my latest publication, "The Most Beautiful Place in the World, a Memoir of a Psychoanalyst and the Realization of a State of Mind”, is a true memoir in the literary sense. Although a memoir is novelistic with an unfolding story line or plot, and scenes intermixed with narrative and a story that unfolds. It differs from fiction because it is my story, not the story of someone I know or characters I’ve created for the page. I’m certainly no Proust, but the phenomenon of “involuntary memory” is clearly active in my memoir. Emotions and sensual experiences repeatedly bring back buried recollections and lend new meaning to past happenings as well as those events, places, people and experiences that took place in the four year spanning my decision to retire and the first three years that my husband and I lived “At Home and in Paris”.
The above quote from the famous French poet, Paul Valery, translates as follows:“The life of man is divided between two literary genres. One begins by writing his desires and ends by writing his Memoirs”. This quote fit me to a tee as I had always felt an intense desire to practice psychoanalysis. Now, in retirement and on the first day of the first Covid-19 confinement in France, I was provoked to began to write a memoir.
It felt then, as it feels now, that I was able to devote a year of my life, 6-8 hours per day, to this work of literature that was intended to be centered around just four short years of my life, laced with sudden, involuntary evocations of autobiographical memory. It included a full range of sensory and emotional expressions that dated back to my early childhood, skipped throughout my teens, into a complex adulthood, and on to what I now refer to as my eldership. Looking back, as I have done during those ten plus re-writes of the book, I feel as if the act of writing this memoir functioned as a third analysis for me. I feel much of significance was uncovered that hadn’t been in quite the same way as it was during the crafting of this tale. I gained many new realizations of a sudden and surprising nature, and I still feel as if I unearthed an altogether new layer of my psyche, a new understanding of events, people, and places in memories, both new and old. The most interesting realization for me was that the most beautiful place in the world, that for nearly 40 years I had thought was the city of Paris, turned out to be a state of mind, one that I was fortunate enough to discover during what otherwise might have been some very dark and unpredictable days.
The memoir began with a nightmare within a nightmare. As I wrote in the prologue, "It was originally intended to tell the unlikely story of an American psychoanalyst who retires from her private practice in Los Angeles and moves to Paris, something everyone says that nobody does”. However, it was as if my hands were placed on a ouija board rather than a computer keyboard, as the mysterious forces of my unconscious "linked everything since my retirement to...the past, and in any order it [damn well] pleased...interrupting the flow of my intended story” and leaving something that was meant to be linear in a crazy mixed up maze of past and present that bit by bit began to appear like a work of art. When I started to write, I could only be certain that I had no intention of going beyond the end of the year 2019, diving into the murky waters of the terrible, unthinkable pandemic that threatened humankind and still threatens to change all life as we know it going forward. Whether in a state of fear or one of scientific curiosity, I felt then as I feel now that we have no choice but to learn to accept the unacceptable and to expand our imaginations in order to make way for the unimaginable.
As of launch day June 1st, I have many feelings about the final publication of my memoir. I am joyful to have finished a 326 page book, half again as substantial as each of my previous five volumes; I am proud to have been able to manage my distress and my fear of the unknown through engaging in a creative endeavor; I am hopeful that the product of that endeavor will be an interested readership who will find inspiration amongst the stories of my own transformations; And finally, I am content in the knowledge that I am still able to contribute productively to society in some small way.