In my childhood backyard, there were large ferns beneath which I existed for long hours in the summer, imagining and tending to a world of dirt, potato bugs, and the layer of cool air under the canopy of fronds. I’ve only thought recently about what kind of longing comes over me when I pass by a randomly situated copse on the freeway and have an urge to simply be in it. And I’ve only recently thought about this longing in the context of climate breakdown, walking alongside a creek and coming to a place where the banks form an enclave, where I can transport myself momentarily to a world after collapse, a post-apocalyptic state of survival, one that is “prior” to the aliveness of this world.
Shock occasions change. Five years ago ROOM flashed into being as an immediate response to the 2016 US election. Psychoanalysts who had never written before felt compelled to write. ROOM has remained a participatory community platform, grounded in a psychoanalytic understanding of how change happens. Each issue archives a new moment. Each is a “working-through” of that which has already passed. But now we are struck anew. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine occurred during the final weeks of production of this anniversary issue. Still, the questions posed by the contributors in ROOM 2.22 are eerily prescient and speak collectively for all of us. Each looks toward a future none can envision.
Whenever I dismounted at Lydia’s home of gray boards and dried palm grass, her son hastened to hitch and water my horse while Lydia offered me lemonade and a spell of rest. Then she would walk with me among the shacks of her community, introducing me to other villagers and discussing her concerns about the health needs of her town.
Lee Jinglei, the ex-wife of Wang Leehom, a Mandarin pop superstar for the last two decades and an immaculate top idol in the Chinese-speaking world, has emerged in their recent public divorce row as a darling among the netizens on the Chinese social media platform Weibo and Instagram. […] People thanked Lee for “defending the dignity of women and mothers.”
Most of the graduate students I teach are preparing to work in the Catholic Church. Many of them think, without question, that hope is always a good thing. This is understandable, given that they, like Christians from other denominations, believe that hope is a virtue and despair a vice.
One afternoon, several years into my tenure at Wayne State University, I got a phone call during my office hours from a journalism student who wanted to meet with me. When I asked her what it was about, she explained that one of my colleagues from the English department had given her my name because she thought it could be interesting to interview me, as “a woman of color,” about my experience at Wayne. When I heard that, I thought, A woman of color? Is she talking about me, or has she confused me with someone else?
All of us are regularly asked to engage with the past in some way. The world is saturated by history. But, then, a simple question: What is history? Ask fifty people and you’ll get, typically, fifty shades of the same answer: History is something about a past. Whether as myth or memory, narrative or science, or found in gradients in between each, the most common denominator is a starting place in an ambiguous past, a “before now,” which is given meaning only insofar as it is connected to other things either similarly before now or, sometimes even more strangely, to things happening “now” or “later.”
[…]in 2006, I received a phone call from Dr. Tong in Wuhan. She had read my work on female psychology and development. They had a big problem they thought I could help them with.
Distance is nothing new for psychoanalysts. Except for all the unimaginable newness, of course. The profound losses to be reckoned with for the training—and frankly, the life—I had imagined having before the pandemic. But I have been distant before this. […] To be at a distance is to still be at, to still be located, not completely untethered. This has always been the analyst’s task.
Looking out the window from my airplane seat, I anticipated seeing the familiar landmarks of the valley city below—Phoenix, Arizona—as they came into view during the flight’s descent.[…]But then there was a sudden change into the unfamiliar. The body—my body—has a way of communicating when it’s thrown from the familiar, dislodged from regular rhythms. I quickly felt disoriented. A second later, as my mind caught up to what my body already knew, I started to worry. The plane rolled.[…]In the (re)ascent, each individual’s seemingly solitary world gave way to a collective sharing. Suddenly we were all very aware of one another.