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identity Memoir writing

All of us

How many selves do we get?

After two weeks, the rain finally returned to Seattle. They said the chances of it staying dry this time of year are one out of 52,000. I kept a foldout chair beneath one of the pine trees and sat there most afternoons with a beer and a book, listening to the leaves drop. When I was seeing a counselor we did hypnotherapy one time, and she asked me to picture myself in the most beautiful, serene place on earth. So I said, our backyard. And she smiled and said that’s nice, because most people pick desert islands or somewhere more exotic. And then I wished I could change my mind but it was too late, we’d already started.

I was in the backyard imagining myself as an older man, what my counselor described as my true, wise self. And then I was on a train with my wise self and the two of us were talking, but it felt contrived. I said I want off this train, can we go back the other way? So we did, and I had to picture a young version of myself but I don’t have any photos from that time so I really had to use my imagination. Soon there he was though, in ’70s attire, wearing a shirt with too big of a collar, hair needing cut, still blonde. My hair was so blonde!

What is he doing, and does he look happy? That’s what my counselor wanted to know. But I felt manipulated, a part of me was still alert to that. I saw the metal frame of that small bed around the edges, the springs: what they looked like underneath. I don’t know why I was going under the bed (was I hiding?); the counselor seemed concerned. The springs were cold and sharp and I could tell my counselor wanted to get inside of that. Like it meant something more than it did, but I think springs are just made that way, cold and sharp. Then another part of me wondered how much of this was really true, and if I wasn’t just making it up because it felt awkward (or worse, because I couldn’t actually remember). And why I was crying. Why I didn’t stay on the train with my older self. How, when I got off the train it didn’t even stop (which didn’t seem realistic). I just changed scenes, like you can in dreams.

With the rain back, it seems like the last of the leaves came down and now there’s this backdrop of gray everywhere. It’s like having the ocean on top of you everywhere you look, an ocean of clouds for sky. When I lived in Erie, Pennsylvania the cloud cover was so low you could feel it pressing down on your neck, this time of year. That’s the first time I felt depressed from the season, but then I joined a fraternity and everything was okay. None of us seemed depressed, we all just drank.

It’s there I found for the first time the therapy in nature, walking a trail through a nearby place they called the gorge, the look of the leaves on the muddy path, smells of damp earth. Maybe I felt more alive and connected, or reminded of something bigger than myself that I was now a part of, released from my thoughts, that cramped apartment I shared with two guys. How one of them had maybe three cassettes to his name, Steve Miller’s greatest hits.

I have no pictures of that trail but I remember it this time of year, the same look of the leaves mottled and mashed up underfoot, the sound of my boots swooshing through the maples. Enjoying what light we can, when we can.

How many selves do we get? And are they like the leaves that fall and recombine, come spring? Some the same as last year, some worth saving in a book.

I come to the poem that the collection is named after, Raymond Carver on the time he visited James Joyce’s grave, in Zurich:

All of us, all of us, all of us
trying to save
our immortal souls, some ways
seemingly more round-
about and mysterious
than others. We’re having
a good time here. But hope
all will be revealed soon.

By pinklightsabre

Bill Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.

10 replies on “All of us”

Love Arches! My wife and I went on a tour of those parks for our honeymoon. Like the image of your feet in the sand, that’s good. I get my therapy just walking to our nearby lake every morning. Heading there now…enjoy your day Jeff.

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Like this one, as though the frame is too fast, or too slow, the audio not synced with the picture, changing time zones.

How many selves do we get? And are they like the leaves that fall and recombine, come spring? Some the same as last year, some worth saving in a book.

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I’m still keeping my eye out for that Carver poem you told me about earlier this year (Money, I think)! Thanks Kim. Happy you popped by. Good evening…

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You disguised your take on the counselor so well that I can’t tell which side of the line you fall on, or how far from it. Was the fear/uncertainty/frustration/whatchamacallit more with yourself or with the counselor? Curious. I’m not sure either how many selves we get, but I’m inclined to say it’s however it takes.

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I like your take on selves. No issues at all with the counselor. She’s wonderful. That was all the BS going on in my head (or a sample of it) trying to participate and make the best of it. The counselor (as you know) is a guide, but ironically they’re guiding the patient through their own labyrinth and neither really know where they’re going, don’t you think? It’s complicated, and very interesting to me.

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Love the way your writing weaves in and out of things, from sitting in a chair under a pine, to a therapy session, to the philosophical questions about our very existence. It’s all easy transitions, which isn’t easy at all to achieve in prose. Beautiful Bill.

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Hi and always lovely to hear from you down yonder Ilona! Thanks for saying that…word…! You enjoy the night. Bill

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