I’m deep into The Importance of Being Iceland, a collection of travel essays in art, all by EM herself. I got it in September, but I only started reading it in early October. I have dog-eared a lot of pages, and tumbl’d a lot of quotes. This book is resonating with me, in significant ways, and often. Here are excerpts that really hit me, from an essay she wrote about going to therapy. Jim Fahey is the name of her therapist.
I had a job, but I didn’t have enough money for say a hundred dollars a week. I needed a cheap shrink. The whole thing was beyond me, but I really was in trouble and was willing to pay somebody to be on my side. That was how I felt about it. Everyone was either Jewish or middle-class in new York and they all had shrinks. So I was going into the inside room in the world that I knew. It was not church, it was not God. I was pretending there was an inside of me, and it could be found in a room in the world. (page 256)
I had amazing moments with him [Fahey]. I remember the morning, honey coloured, the room got mellow and deep when he asked me Eileen can you tell me any time in your life when you did feel safe. It was like a thunderclap. Before my father died. It was like my life folded. I did have an inside. I just hadn’t been in it for most of my life. I had a home. It was gone. It was devastating. (page 257)
I was doing a performance and I invited him. I didn’t know if it was right. but I did. And there I was performing and looking down I saw Jim and I’m not sure it was a good feeling. I didn’t know if it was right. And when we talked about it he told me that after I performed I looked at the audience and I smiled, but it was an uncomfortable smile. Not open, maybe kind of false. I think I smiled in response to that and he said like that. I felt like I knew what he was talking about but I didn’t need to have him tell me about how creepy I was. I mean it was already hard to have this kind of dry heart, or feel you looked that way, like a hard window. (page 258)
Yet who reads to bring about an end, however desirable? Are there not some pursuits that we practice because they are good in themselves, and some pleasures that are final? And is not this among them? I have sometimes dreamt, at least, that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards - their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble - the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.”