It started with a printer problem. For mysterious reasons, my printer refused to print. My tech wizard husband, Dave, did his best with little success. Occasionally it would print something hours later. My computer would declare the printer was offline when it wasn’t. Turning the printer off and on didn’t work. Although the printer was wireless, we decided to move it closer to the computer to find out if using a cord would work. This meant moving the two-shelf bookcase on which the printer sat across the room to where the empty four-drawer file cabinet sat next to the computer and vice versa. Accomplishing this task included much dusting and sweeping. We tried plugging the printer into the computer with a cord. No success.

A new printer would be needed.

But in order to move the bookcase, two shelves of stuff had to be taken off, stuff I hadn’t looked at in years. What was there? I had no idea but I suspected that I didn’t need this stuff anymore. Time to sort into recycling and trash.

And from there I fell down the rabbit hole of memories encompassing most of my adult life.

There’s an old saying: If you know how to read, you will never clean out your attic.

The first things I found were hypnosis training materials. Early in my career, I had attended several workshops about the work of Milton H. Erickson, MD. He had brought hypnosis back into clinical practice with amazing results. Erickson died in 1980, but those who had trained with him spread his methods enthusiastically. I learned that hypnotic trance occurs naturally, like daydreaming. Unlike hypnosis used for entertainment, you can’t be made to do something you don’t want to do. But the mind can be a powerful ally in creating the life you want. Like daydreaming with a purpose.

Someone in a workshop once asked the difference between hypnosis and meditation. The trainer responded: to get to the beautiful mountaintop view using meditation, you take the long slow meandering road. To get there using hypnosis, you take the superhighway.

Sorting through these materials, I smiled as memories of clients with whom I had used hypnosis surfaced. One woman who wanted to become a Physicians’ Assistant had a fear of needles. With hypnosis, I helped her conquer that fear. I felt I would always be a student of hypnosis, finding my way in the dark, bringing the light. Helping clients use their minds for healing felt thrilling to me. It also helped me tame my own imagination, a runaway truck at times, a useful skill after I retired.

Next I found Imago Relationship Therapy materials from trainings and workshops. Beginning years before, I met regularly with four colleagues for peer supervision. We had developed a close bond, talking freely about personal and professional challenges. At that time, I was unhappy in my marriage and expressed my frustrations about it often in supervision. One day a colleague handed me a book off her shelf, saying: “You need to read this book.” It was Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples by Harville Hendrix. I read it in three days. At that point, I had dragged my husband to couples counseling repeatedly, yet still we struggled. We had a child among us taking notes, so repairing the marriage seemed even more important. A weekend Imago workshop was described as equal to six months of therapy. I asked him to go with me. He scoffed but went. There were 48 couples in a hotel ballroom. We were given manuals with exercises to do alone and with our partner, with many more to do at home as needed. The twenty hours were comprehensive, leaving no doubt about how to create the relationship of your dreams.

I fell in love with Imago. Sadly, my husband didn’t, and we eventually went our separate ways. I went on to become a certified Imago Relationship Therapist. Sorting through the bookcase shelves, I found my Imago training manual from 1992 and more from workshops for singles, for couples I attended as a therapist assistant and with subsequent partners, one of whom I married in 2015.

All this sorting stirred up a wide array of memories and feelings. My fascination with the wonders of the mind, the heartbreak of divorce, my challenges as a single parent (the Imago dialogue works wonders with a teenager!), the fulfillment of helping couples learn to communicate and transform frustrations into healing and intimacy, the joy of finding a loving and devoted partner who would do this work with me.

I filled my recycling container to the brim. Newly emptied loose leaf binders wait to be donated. Saying good bye to these parts of me caused me some pangs. But they all contributed to the contented life I now live. Learning to tame my imagination led me to my present life as an author. The top shelf of the bookcase today holds copies of my first novel, The Poetry Cure.


  1. Caroline Romano on April 14, 2023 at 5:23 pm

    Great Job and very cathartic. I continue to do downsizing slowly, but start and end each day with a walk. It makes you realize how far you have come and brings you back to the present.



  2. Hart Pillow on April 14, 2023 at 5:51 pm

    Your experience sounds familiar.
    I would like to start downsizing some more but my activities seem to take priority.

  3. "Kammi" Kuldip Kuwahara on April 14, 2023 at 8:33 pm

    Alice, this is wonderful! Thanks for forwarding it to me…..the writing life is a good life, and you have it! Would love to get together with you soon to continue the conversation….Cheers! Kammi (aka Kuldip)

  4. tom driscoll on April 24, 2023 at 7:11 pm

    Inspirational! i will put cleaning up my bookshelves and papers on my “to do” list. Thank you!

  5. N Maxine Soloway on June 19, 2023 at 1:45 pm

    Thank so much for sharing parts of your life I hadn’t known. It has been wonderful having you part of my life all these years. Maxine

  6. Louise Hobbs on September 21, 2023 at 3:27 am

    Going through things is cathartic. It is a time to reminisce and be inspired. I love the end result.

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