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January 23, 2005

 

THE FRENCH QUARTER: A REMINISCENCE


Historic Apartment Row on Burgundy
Very late last night, actually in the wee hours of the morning, I found myself repetively searching for an image of a tiny, tiny house. Finally, a sudden thought of the French Quarter emerged (along with a curiousity about how or why that had occurred). Searching through my memories of last week, I began to realize the context within which this seemingly uncanny recollection had come into view.

Participating in a free-flowing discussion with a small group of adolescents, at a certain point the conversation shifted to issues related to achieving a stronger sense of one's own particular vocational wishes, opportunites or potential choices. These interactions included considerations about the differing, unique paths or journeys that individuals might take during that process. In my own mind, I was thinking (associated with the element of freedom that we have, despite the constraints of "given realities") that any choice that we make inevitably is accompanied by a sense of sacrifice and loss regarding the paths not taken. That sense of sacrifice is amplified by an acknowledgement that those paths not taken are extensively unspecified and indeterminant.

One of the adolescents, knowing that I had originally come from a deeply antebellum part of the South, asked me whether I was happy that I stayed in Chicago after completing my training as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst. I responded that I was extremely pleased that I had stayed.

"But, if you could go back and make that decision again," I was asked, "where else would you have most greatly enjoyed living and doing your clinical work?" Emphasizing that this was, of course, within the realm of wishful thinking (as emotions about Thomas Wolfe's "Look Homeward, Angel" surfaced in the background), I said that I probably would have chosen to settle into the French Quarter, describing some of the many imagined enjoyable experiences living quietly in a tiny courtyard apartment there. They all laughed in a cordial way and observed, "But you have so many things, even here in your office, it's so cluttered, though in a warm and pleasant kind of way!" "And you can just imagine what it's like at home---clutter, clutter everywhere," I answered, "but it manages to provide an atmosphere in which I actually can work in very creative ways."

For me, the most important point to be taken from the overall commentary presented here is how the initial lack of any conscious sense of understanding about how or why my focus upon finding a satisfying image of a "tiny, tiny house" shifted to a thought of The French Quarter. And, of course, the reference to a "tiny" courtyard apartment in The French Quarter during the reported group conversation of last week enabled me to unravel some of the previous ambiguity about the how the seemingly unassociated flow of ideas did contain a meaningful connection.

Perhaps all of this might strike some readers as an overly-long account of a seemingly minor event, but from a different perspective it might be understood as one particular example of the many, diverse ways that we all create in our attempts to organize the "clutter" with which we are continually confronted during the experiences of our everyday lives.

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