The last three days of being in Zürich...
Wednesday, 9:30 am: Dunbar gives his first lecture of the week at the Jung-Institut; he has visited here before, and he led a session of Nancy's online seminar this spring. His approach seems at first a bit strange, then fascinating – he points out we generally focus on darkness and problems in the psychotherapies, but that 'the good' can also be so highly charged, so demanding or so beyond our normally acceptable range of experience, that it also can be terrifying.
In my mind I seem to circle around his concept of 'the good' – I often feel, especially in the last year, as though good things happen to other people; though I am far easier with that than I used to be. Dunbar himself is one of those gentle, kindly psychoanalysts who seem to operate at a different level than most – one with a lot more light around in it. But he doesn't seem naïve... and it is a powerful idea, and I think I can go somewhere with it, in practice and maybe, occasionally, in life.
In late afternoon, I sit with the intensely direct, grounded Rachel and the gentle English woman with dark hair, in the Festsaal, which is empty; the sun streams in, we talk about everything – the student association meeting, their analysands and training, their lives, what they did twenty years ago. They are both remarkably aware, very present to things – we talk about people, frustrations, pleasures, lectures. Though I am tired, this is where I want to be.
Wednesday, 7:30 pm: dinner with Barbara, Johann, and others at the Sonne – Barbara is visiting to see us all, but can't stay for graduation on Friday. She has golden skin and a beautiful dress, she looks alive, energetic, healthy – unfortunately my energy has thoroughly crashed after too long a day, and I am shaky and diffuse (something I'm accustomed to, but not a state in which to be a social success). They all look at me and visually check my pulse; the conversations are alternately fun and alive, or (from me, I'm afraid) a bit disconnected and unavoidably darker. But we are all there... and the sun, and the lake, and the people cheerful at their tables, and the food is good. There is much light...
Thursday, 8 am: I have a coffee – well, for me, a chilled matcha tea – with Robert, an American countertenor who lives in Austria. We met at a conference where I gave a rather blurry keynote; he has finished his doctorate and is trying to figure out what's next. After he gives me a copy of his newest CD of Handel arias, he tells me he's aware that he's teetering between worlds: old enough that his life in the concert hall and recording studio may start to fade, new enough to academe that getting a job is not certain. On the other hand, he's smart, meticulous, interesting – it's a relief to hear he's not in a financial panic about jobs, but I can't give him solutions, only encouragement. Fortunately, he is also an adult, so that is enough.
A sense of looking back at myself, and across at others, at various stages of processes of becoming, and losing, and changing – and as well at various stages of battling with the world, and with our images of it....
9:30 am: Dunbar speaks again, but today I cannot focus: I look at several paragraphs of notes I've taken in the past hour but I don't know where they go – I am unusually disconnected from the second part of the talk. Is it me, or him, or what? There is a sense that the dissociation is strong enough that I can't just find my way back to some clarity, so I continue taking notes – notes which may not later make a lot of sense – and just tie myself to the situation until its scheduled end. Not quite like the original metaphor here, of Odysseus tied to the mast – he insists on hearing the amazingly beautiful and deadly song, though that is not an entirely sane choice – but my mind floats around the metaphor...
Of those graduating, or near graduation, from the Jung-Institut this July, several are like me – some of us have become suddenly older, more fragile, over the five or six years. Such things happen: but there are also brighter eyes in these cases – a sense of calm.
Thursday, 1 pm: I talk to Julia, our beautiful Hungarian librarian at the Jung-Institut (honestly, she looks like a famous actress casually enjoying talking with 'regular' people) for help in chasing down the rest of the materials on AIDS and death in the small library. She goes beyond being helpful: here is a copying card, you can pay me later, I'll find all these journals for you while you copy that, you might find more materials at... I respond to this kindly, motherly care with an internal relaxation, a loosening of the anxiety that so often drives me from one appointment to another – I am being helped, taken care of, it will all be fine.
I was such a wreck yesterday evening, and I don't want to do that again – so I leave the Institut and go back to my apartment in midafternoon – but first I must pick up something: there is a bead shop in Zürich and, unlike the otherwise apparently normal bead shop in Newcastle, they consider themselves capable of restringing beads. So three of my small strings of stones, carvings and rudraksha seeds are being restrung, and today I can pick them up – a good thing, as I've been trying to get these redone for several years, and the elastic is falling to pieces.
(I could send them back to the ashram in Florida of course... which is unfortunately a lot of postage, takes forever, and keeps resulting in them getting a bit smaller – women don't remember that men's wrists are a bit bigger, do they?... So much for that then.)
Ma Jaya said rudraksha beads were the tears of Shiva – as she said: he weeps for you, so you don't need to.
The shop has used some new rudraksha beads, because some of the old ones had such narrow, irregular holes through them that they couldn't get a cord through; that's okay with me. The bill is a bit higher than expected, in the Swiss manner, but I pay it happily – it is so good to get these back: especially the one I think of as the 'classy' one, as it has black onyx, hematite, rudraksha beads and a small wooden carving of a skull.
Which makes it the perfect thing for Nachiketas to wear to a formal occasion...
Thursday evening: two online sessions with analysands. Both are frankly a bit startling: they both have been traveling, have thought about and experienced various people and events, and have leaped forward over unexpectedly long distances – one has seen something knotty in himself that he doesn't like, but he can look at it straight without flinching, and it changes quality even during the session, because he's patient and tough with it; the other is startled to realise she can enjoy many things more than she had realised....
The kinds of sessions that leave you aware of how huge people's inner lives are: and how vastly they can shift and grow.
Do you happen to know John Adams' Harmonielehre? A beautiful orchestral work – the first movement so charged and astounding in its harmonic shifts... I don't always notice the third movement as much, which is subtitled 'Meister Eckhardt and Quackie'; it ends with a sort of answer to the aggressive darkness of the first movement in high, bright trumpet notes shifting unexpectedly between V and IV.
Quackie was the nickname for Adams' daughter when she was little – it doesn't take long to see the line of thought, or perhaps more accurately the line of expanding awareness, that connects Adams marvelling at his baby daughter and thinking first of Eckhardt, then of impermanence and ecstatic compassion, and of eternity...
Friday, 1:30 pm: I meet Nancy in the lakeside café at the Sonne. She is in a dress buoyed up with taffeta – a beautifully elaborate, old-fashioned rose and black confection of the kind she so enjoys. When we talk about my thesis, AIDS and death and disintegration and its archetypes, she yanks me up to a higher, more disorienting level. For the first time in a long time, I'm a bit lost – and admit it: taking notes, but with a sense that there is something huge and crucial that I'm not getting at all.
I'll try to figure out what my questions are, but she can clearly see some large shape that is beyond me at the moment: at the end of the hour she says, plan on five rewrites. Five... and don't fight it: just assume it will take that many... She is a bit hilarious, a bit mocking: but also pushing me, for which I can only be grateful.
I am exasperated and/or excited: this might be wonderful, or chaos, or both.
During these three weeks in Zürich, whenever I talk with other students or teachers about the thesis, I always see the new computer screen, like a freshly plowed field stretching before me in spring. I keep telling people about finally discovering the simple software that allows me to create multiple desktops, and move them back and forth: in the back of my mind that offers such a sense of freedom and clarity – the knowledge that, wherever else you wander, the important project is always undisturbed, in its own place: and as you return to that screen, your mind returns to the point where you left it, with an inaudible, pleasantly clear and energetic *click*...
Friday, 4 pm: Slowly moving, with many pauses and greetings, from the garden, then the entryway, and up the stairs to the Festsaal at the Jung-Institut. Graduation.
I always forget how amazing it is as so many people, analysts and students and graduates and spouses and friends and children, show up – walking down the streets and through the garden and exclaiming hello and wonderfully dressed and looking beautiful and handsome and happy, gathering like the beginning of the big garden party in a film....
Melissa suggests photographs, so I move to stand at the side where I can frame pictures – not very good pictures, I don't have the family talent for it, but I'll do what I can. Unexpectedly Virginia appears next to me in a beautiful blouse and scarf – especially unexpectedly, as she graduated last year, and is visiting to see us all and see the graduates. We smile and click away on our phone cameras...
In the midst of all the activities, I think: there is something peaceful, stable, about this graduation. Now more than a decade after the Institut split in two with much rancor, there is a sense that the organization itself is finally settled, sure of itself again. There is a stability here...
By five we are in the garden: Wolf makes a semi-inaudible announcement, others speak; we wander and talk and eat and stand in the afternoon sun by the lake, with champagne, the tables of food inside. Many brief hellos, longer conversations, people who haven't seen each other in a year or more and people who have been talking to each other all week....
Friday, 7 pm: as the party winds down I find myself in the boathouse, at the end of a long table with the people who work at the Institut. Not analysts, many have never done analysis – Wolf, Julia, Diego, Ronja, Petra – the brashly cheerful caretaker wanders in and out, as always in transit (I wonder if he ever settles anywhere?), but the shy older country man who carries equipment around has probably gone home. They are cheerful and laughing, on somewhat different grounds than the others outside the boathouse – the sheer relief of finishing the long work of the residency weeks, some are going on vacation, and apparently Diego is leaving for the next phase of his life. They are mostly fairly young – I'm reminded that they are not embedded in the Institut, that they pass through on their way elsewhere: even institutions are just way stations.
As the party breaks up, which takes more than an hour, there are brief or extended encounters with so many people: the lady who cleans, whose name I don't think I ever learned, but we always speak with each other... she had dark hair when I first came, she has white hair now. Camilla and I bump into each other, we connect as we haven't yet; and Thomas and I keep starting conversations, then splitting off to talk to various groups.
Everyone gradually drifts along the lake toward the outside restaurant at the Sonne; we encounter a cluster of the Italians, with Sara and Francesco and their friends, and Luigi and Eva; Thomas speaks to everyone, but he and I are already planning an escape – I am wilting a bit, Thomas wants to talk, and we are comfortable together.
Friday, 9 pm: Thomas drives me from Küsnacht into Zürich: he has an idea. If I don't think I can move to Barcelona or Bologna, it is possible to buy a house in the north of Italy – it is a good time, not expensive – we could go in together. I am always financially uncertain, but I listen with some pleasure. How do you want to end up, in your life? I ask him. He says, of course married!, some kids... Italy perhaps? A psychoanalysis practice, with a family life. And I would be installed as the old uncle.
Later we talk about how many months go by without contact between us, but we immediately pick up the conversation without explanations or pauses. As with Trisha, as with Laura, and a few others: people with whom you're so in tune you just walk right back into the relationship, whatever years and miles stand between.
Going back to my apartment to pack, I wonder: can we do this... I'm not bothered if it's a fantasy; I know people make major decisions based on fantasies, and sometimes that's not a bad thing. And the truth is, my usual chain of anxieties, disappointments, static situations and possible decisions, looks rather – well, flexible: I feel no need for any imagined future to be perfect, and surprises are all right, I think. Current politics have singed a lot of bridges, but I don't mind trying out new ones; but I also don't mind if there isn't time to make any more.
Saturday, 4:30 pm. The taxi driver from the airport is pleasantly talkative: he mentions the flat he owns near my neighbourhood and problems with the cat lady downstairs – he's tried to be nice to her but keeps trying to line the floors with various sealants so that his upstairs flat can be let to tenants who actually have a sense of smell. We laugh about this mess and I say that a friend of mine wants us to go in together to get a place in northern Italy, but I don't know –
He says, do it! It's a good time, and you'll obviously regret it if you don't.
And I think: how many times in my life have I told people: don't wait, go ahead! And I know I'm often right, as is he – in the long run, the best way to go...
As I pull all the luggage and mail up the stairs, I am aware that I don't travel so well these days – I'm relieved the flight wasn't so miserable; and perhaps it was that way because I made a point of eating very little today, just enough to take pills. I wonder if I can dare to travel to Cape Town in three weeks: it feels like a long way...
And the landlord has put in the new windows! The three large windows have had water drops in them, gradually getting worse over the fifteen years I've lived here – but now they are absolutely clear: the outside streams in, sun and green.
The weather is cool, which is a relief – and there is nothing so comfortable in the world as my own bed....
Sub specie aeternitatis: from the perspective of eternity – all these people, the dresses and sunshine and restaurant tables: but, much more than seems guaranteed on the surface, so many of these people are so awake, so present – we know that we are traveling in time, with the limitations and awareness that brings...
I feel very aware of lives, of change, of time: and without sadness.
Sunday morning, time not recorded, not long before the full moon. Odd fragments of dreams, each large and intense: a couple I remember enough to write down, but most are lost – I am left with a sense of unexpected chunks of unknown experiences. I am struck, in a way that I'm not often struck in relation to my own dreams, by the challenging, infrequent reminders in the most intense workshops and lectures, by the most ruthless analysts: that we really have no idea what is going on in the unconscious at all – that all the dreams and messages and chunks of past and nonexistent presents are merely fragments from the borderlands; and that the deep unconscious cannot entirely speak to us, ever.
To write what I know, to aim for what I don't.
To settle here, with this, and have it be enough; or to set out on a new adventure – but not alone, with a friend for steadiness –
To fall far into dreams, to wander across imagination and vision, and memory.