tamarjacobson

Looking back and thinking forward

Month: June, 2006

Realizing my dreams

I love dreams. Not because they contain messages from former lives, or predictions or omens of what might happen in the future. Rather, they are the vehicle through which my subconscious talks to me about myself right here and now. Reminding me of deep emotional memories stored away long ago, answering questions to problems I have been struggling with, or confronting fears in manageable, sometimes humorous ways. Dreams are like thrillers or detective stories challenging my brain as I unravel the symbols and clues provided to discover meanings for the stories I tell myself about me.

I remember last year going with Judy and Alan to Strindberg‘s A Dream Play, and adoring the fast, flowing absurdities that portrayed the very essence, the stuff of magical mysteries that make our dreams so fascinating, exciting, intriguing, terrifying, alarming, humorous, and vital for self-understanding.

Ah, last year seems like a long dream away.

This morning, very early, I awoke out of a vivid dream, remembering very few details. Something about a basket of cats and boiling heat. Stretching and yawning my way to the coffee machine I look out the large living room window. Mist is rising over the huge old trees after another stormy, wet night. There is a wild bird call that I cannot recognize as I stumble onto the enclosed sun porch. A couple of cats rubbing against my legs sleepily and I sigh. The air pushes out from somewhere deep in my body, relief released from my brain, and my eyes widen to the new morning light.

"Be careful what you wish for," escapes from my lips in a whisper and I almost turn around looking for who said that.

Wishes and dreams. There was a period of life about seventeen years long, when I was working and studying ten or twelve hour days, and wishing that I could have time alone to think, reflect, read and write. I yearned for such a luxury, which, in those days not long ago, seemed like a very basic necessity for mental and physical health.

This morning, after my basket of cats-boiling dream, on the misty porch through my deep, relief sigh, I became aware that my dream has been realized. For I have buckets of time. Hours and hours to spend alone reflecting, reading and writing. In fact, I have had it for over a year. Time for learning and knowing myself. No wonder I have been reluctant to reach out and make new friends. Each moment away from my home, the woods of the Wissahickon, or Molly and Ada has been excruciating. Indeed, it has been confusing for me as I am usually so gregarious and outgoing. The reality is that this is the first time in my life that I have time, space, and peace for me.

All the moments of sorrow and fear at leaving Buffalo, learning to be alone, missing and yearning the company and busy-ness of my work-a-holic life, have, in fact, been screening the very realization of a long-awaited dream.

Reality is here and now.

Excitedly, I realize it is not too late to embrace my dream with joy, and protect it with gratitude. In fact, I can’t wait to continue … as my choice … consciously, aware, intentionally …

Blogging in the rain

Ark_angel_1

Last night it rained so hard, for so long that at one point I began to think we were headed for The Flood. I lay awake thinking of all the things that would happen and how we would gather the cats to safety. The sound of drops storming onto the awning roof was strong, passionate, relentless. Then I got to thinking about coincidence, probability and fate. For example, was receiving the parking ticket right after I bought a huge piece of chocolate cake, yesterday, a sign? Punishment? A reminder to be good about eating right? Or simply because in Chestnut Hill the parking meter police are thorough?

And if a great flood was coming my way, was it directed solely at me or everyone? Are we all in this together? I mean are we ALL in this TOGETHER?

After awhile the constant, thunderous water began to soothe and rock my soul. I heard the cats sigh out loud, Molly at my feet, and Ada somewhere close by. I turned over, smiling to myself as I realized, "Well so what. What is … is," and went back to sleep.

Ignorance as bliss?

Quote of the day:

Assumption, my dear Mitz, is the mother of all fxxck-ups. The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Yesterday there were a few links to Mining Nuggets. Always good for the stats and fun to watch as the graph rises steeply for a day in the life.

Two of the links mentioned me in ways that moved the cockles of my heart to be genuinely warmed and nourished. I felt gratitude to Ronni and Frank. No. Much more than that. I was deeply honored.

Well, and then there was a third link, an attack on my personal opinion. This is all … er … well and good. Isn’t that what a healthy democracy is all about? different personal opinions? Oh yes, and name-calling? You know, something about my being a "wing-nut" or something.

But then came the bigoted ignorance part: assumptions based on one sentence in my about page that mentions my life partner. Tsk, Tsk. Too bad. Too bad. Pity that there’s so much ignorance out there.

So many bent inferences, so little time.

What it’s all about

Quote of the day:

Jay Rosen says that blogging is emotional, it’s about freedom… he calls blogs “the little first amendment machines.”  Listics: A Sandhill Joint

Emotional life drives: Social competency, academic achievement, spirituality, confidence levels, self-esteem, sleep, weight, addictions, ability for problem solving, attitude, values, beliefs, work ethic, world view, politics, religion, bias, health … relationships, relationships, relationships …

And yet in education it is avoided, ignored, denied, silenced, repressed, or overlooked.

Lately, the only thing I care about when I teach teachers, is how emotional life affects their interactions with young children. It is more important than reading, writing, curriculum, science, or math.

For emotional life affects everything, begins in the earliest of the earliest, emotional memories of our lives, and lasts until we die.

Coreopsis

Coreopsis20verticillata20c18 The Coreopsis has started blooming. Susan gave it to me the day she heard Charlie had died. I was standing in my back yard when all of a sudden, there she was in my driveway holding the tender flowering plant.

And all of a sudden, two days ago there she was again in the Philadelphia airport!

062206_1143  Yes indeed. Susan came all the way especially and only to spend two full days just with me. Just like that!

I showed her my digs, including my newly-found beloved Longwood Gardens and even the Liberty Bell. All the loneliness vanished away as we talked and talked. I became animated and excited, passionate about my ideas again, as we shared our lives, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs, and, from time to time, fell into that kind of crazy laughter that only the old familiarity of souls remembers and understands. I had almost forgotten what it felt like to be cared for as Susan noticed, listened, and reacted to me whether it was opening doors wherever I went, or gently understanding when I became emotional about some news I had just received from a loved one. She reminded me about turning wishing for into anticipating and shared her love as wide openly as any friend has ever done.

Yesterday we sat on the porch together quietly watching in wonder as a goldfinch alighted on the bird bath and took a little sip before flying off like a flash of golden light into the trees.

This morning when I awoke it was strange to find no Susan and my old life back. But when I went outside, I noticed that two more bright, yellow flowers had opened up on the Coreopsis bush she gave me back in 2001.

Personal Growth

Quote of the day:

Life is like an onion.
You peel it off one layer at a time;
And sometimes you weep
.

-Carl Sandburg

100 Bloggers is having a carnival about personal growth. What a great idea for a celebration! Gee I wish I could be prolific about this. But then I think my whole blog is about growing … personally.

What I really want to say is this:

The more and more I grow, the more and more there is to learn.

(that’s all she wrote)

Self-Portrait

So many intriguing, artistic, poetic, humorous, dramatic, and haunting self-portraits out there! I have been trying to keep track:

Over at Brenda, Jean, Mary, Natalie, just to name a few …

I tried. Yes indeed. I sat by the mirror, pencil and paper in hand, sketching and erasing and then erasing so much more. Just could not get it to come out in a way I felt was presentable. Then I tried using pastel crayons for an artistic flair, phone and other digital cameras for dramatic reality. I tried holding the camera up high, to the side, behind and in front of me. Yoga came in handy as I squirmed, twisted, and contorted my body for this exercise.

Finally, I decided to give up the artistic flair part and just share a few pictures to portray my self …

Selfportrait1 This is me, Tamarika of Rhodes, squinting into the sunlight and trying to smile. Am completely and absolutely hopeless at smiling for the camera. I see a graying haired woman in her later fifties with dark rings under the eyes, lines and wrinkles that share life’s stories gloriously and unabashedly.

If I look closely, focus deeper into the soul I remember a me of a different period lurking behind those wrinkly eyes:

Tamthebeautiful_4 See. Some of you might remember this picture from my old Tamarika blog. Same curled up into the sun eyes. Not trying to smile here. Reflective though – wondering what life is all about, learning to be a single Mom, facing the shattered dream of life without Trimurthi and a "broken home" for my beautiful son.

Yarivtamar_2 This me lurks behind the eyes of the now me, forever haunting, niggling, shadowing.

But as I search for the self I am trying to portray in old pictures that lurk behind the me of now, I always return to what an old friend of the family used to call, "Baba Tamar."

Tamwithdoll2  For she lies within my soul behind all those curled up, squinting eyes, wrinkles, and angst. I see her as the core, essence of Tamarika, and the potential of what I could be, might still be (sometimes am): playful, ecstatic, joyful, bright eyed, humorous, clear, and not afraid to smile for the camera! (Hey! and do you see what I see? Those chubby cheeks and jowls of then are returning to my face of now) I often return to this picture and remind myself of what lies within. As I gaze at it I feel stirrings of that little inner child and I become quite excited, and impish, and feel confident enough to conquer the world!

Roll on … sweet baby

YEAH

Like an old machine
Sputtering along
Wheels don’t turn as fast as they used to …
… So won’t you roll on
Sweet baby, roll on
Roll on
Sweet baby, roll on
Keep on rolling
Sweet baby, roll on
Lead the way again

The Little Willies and hmm … Yum! Norah Jones

Feeling good …

I’m riding out …

To Rider

Today

To see what it’s all going to be about …

And accompanying me, sweet baby, roll on …Download 07_roll_on.wma

… mmm … and Lead the way again

Oh, and one more thing. Byron Katie has me thinking:

Much of our stress comes from mentally living out of our own business. When I think, "You need to get a job, I want you to be happy, you should be on time, you need to take better care of yourself," I am in your business. When I’m worried about earthquakes, floods, war or when I will die I am in God’s business. If I am mentally in your business or in God’s business, the effect is separation … and I realized that every time in my life that I had felt hurt or lonely, I had been in someone else’s business. If you are living your life and I am mentally living your life, who is here living mine? We’re both over there. Being mentally in your business keeps me from being present in my own. I am separate from myself, wondering why my life doesn’t work.

Inclusion of strangers

Talking with Bob when I was in Buffalo recently, has been on my mind. Especially when he suggested how I was a stranger in my family. It helped me understand some of the things that have been difficult for me to process lately. For example, the concept of loyalty, or in the re-frame as rubbishing. During my first couple of years in America at the start of the Gulf War, I was invited to participate on a panel with an Egyptian, Palestinian, as well as an Israeli Rabbi at one of the area colleges. We were discussing the Middle East and prospects for peace. I shared my opinion about the pain of human tragedy on all sides affecting the prospect for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. It was a lively debate that involved students from the audience. At the conclusion, the Palestinian participant approached me and shook my hand, looking directly in my eyes and thanking me sincerely for what I had said. He asked to keep in touch with me for future dialog and, perhaps, friendship. The Israeli Rabbi came up to me and told me that I was disloyal to our homeland. That the things I had said were all well and good to be said "back home," but "out here in the Diaspora" I should be careful not to blacken Israel’s name. I was dismayed and ashamed.

Years later I attended a keynote speech of a well-known early childhood expert, Valora Washington, a person I admire greatly. At one point I raised my hand and talked about white privilege as being one of the obstacles in eradicating racism. I explained a couple of points that were pertinent in the context of her speech. Washington asked me to come up to the podium and share what I had said in more detail. Some of what I said then relates directly to these two pieces from Chapter Two of my book Confronting Our Discomfort:

My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture. I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will … whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work which will allow “them” to be more like “us” (McIntosh, 1988, page 1)

Assumed superiority for whites is very much a part of one’s identity in a society of white privilege. How could it not be? My high school friend, Jan, wrote to me after attending the Non Governmental Organization Forum conference parallel to the United Nation World Conference against Racism in Durban. South Africa:

We white westerners are not racists because we wish ill towards people different from us but because we have benefited from a racist system which has advantaged us on the plunder and profits made by the West over the last centuries, that we continue to make and regard as rightfully ours. Growing up in Zimbabwe, I as a white child had sums spent on my education 14 times greater than the sum spent on a black child. That is one way to quantify my debt, and now I can work out how to use my wealth, education and privilege to promote basic human rights for everyone, especially the right to self-determination. Every act of solidarity with the oppressed is a step forward (Jan Delacourt’s “e-mail” to me, 2001).

At the end of my words, Valora Washington came up to me and shook my hand, thanking me for talking about white privilege. She said that if she, as an African American woman, spoke about it, white people would think she had a "chip on her shoulder" and not take her seriously. Whereas, when I, as a white woman, spoke about it, others might identify with me and understand the need to confront the issue. A number of people came up to congratulate me on my courage. A couple of white women approached me with indignation. They termed me "disloyal" and told me I had no right to speak for them. They were clearly outraged. I apologized for offending them and reinforced that it was my opinion based on my life experiences and education and that I was not acting as a spokesperson for them. I was dismayed and ashamed.

In both those instances I felt dismay and shame instead of frustration at being misunderstood. For my intentions were the exact opposite of those ascribed me by the Israeli Rabbi and enraged white women. In the first instance, it was precisely because of my love of Israel that I felt the need for negotiations with Palestinians. More than that, I expected a country I loved to do the right thing. In the second, it was precisely because of my love of all humankind that I want us to confront what I believe to be some of the fundamental obstacles that prevent us from eradicating racism.

It was not my fault that in my earliest childhood years I was branded a stranger by being named derogatorily: Sephardi. But since I became one, it seems that at times I was able to step outside the box and see it differently from others. Indeed, it was always difficult for me to accept a "party line" without questioning. For it is my very love of The "party," family, organizations, country, that makes me question, hold us up to the greatest scrutiny and expect the most from ourselves. Which brings me right back to me. I had not quite thought of it this way before but I realize that I do, in fact, care about and love myself. For I hold me up to the greatest scrutiny of all – hence the dismay and shame at being misunderstood. For it is my very love and loyalty that makes me ask the toughest questions of us all.

My good friend, Marion, made a speech before presenting me with an award last month. One of the things she said made me weep:

She [Tamar] became a strong advocate for change. That wasn’t always popular or comfortable for people. She, however, never asked more of us than she asked of herself.

Bob made me weep too – with relief. For he gently explained to me, that being a stranger is not at all a bad thing. There is no shame for me if others misunderstand my motives or expression of loyalty. Frustration would be more fitting perhaps. Even better is realizing that everyone understands loyalty differently. To me, airing the laundry seems so much healthier, than hiding it in the basement! I always adore how my mother responded to one of the people in her village after my step-father had died. My mother and step-father had a stormy relationship where, at the end, they were estranged for many years. When the acquaintance asked my mother how she was doing, my mother exclaimed in words that went something like, "Wonderfully! Thank God he’s dead. I am free at last!"

I was ecstatic when I received an e-mail this morning:

The ‘who’ that you have shared in the time (perhaps a year or more) that I have been reading has meant quite a lot to me. I want you to know that. Particularly (but not only) your whole approach to children (and hence, humans in general, since we are all children, after all). There have been dozens of times I wanted to say something, but did not. There have been many times you have moved me to tears. There have been times, perhaps because of my own history of abandonment, foster care and abuse in my adoptive family, that your words have been a true healing salve.

It is my personal opinion that you have a gift in how you value children – the child in me feels it in her heart, so I know others must as well. I don’t know quite how you do that – reach into an adult and soothe the injured child.

Naturally, my heart was uplifted for being understood and appreciated. Yes, yes! And this made me even more grateful – for this is what I’m talking about – right here:

Please don’t think that means I expect you to be anything other than gloriously human and fallible. The best part of reading what individuals write is always, at least for me, when they share their real and imperfect process of becoming human themselves. And when they share their gifts.

Downs and up again (Update)

Quote of the day:

It’s not having what you want
It’s wanting what you’ve got

I’m gonna soak up the sun
I’m gonna tell everyone
To lighten up (I’m gonna tell ’em that)
I’ve got no one to blame
For every time I feel lame
I’m looking up
I’m gonna soak up the sun
I’m gonna soak up the sun

Sheryl Crow

I am a very fortunate person. For I have had the wonderful opportunity to take two years sitting quietly, alone with myself and digest the therapeutic process of a few years ago. I mean really come to grips with it. Face it down and understand. And then there is my life partner. A true friend who supports and challenges me in every aspect of living together; who is prepared to open up our wounds in pain and anguish and then watch them start to heal with each moment that we commit to hanging in there with one another; the moment after, love refueled and strengthened.

How lucky am I! Discovering a rich, deep, traditional heritage in the lands of Aegean seas and brilliant sunshine. Realizing that I received (learned?) strength and courage, observation skills and ability to search for awareness from my mother.

Grateful I am. For this day. Ada curled up on the chair next to me as I type, Molly basking in the sun. Thinking of my son as he soaks in family and friends in our beloved homeland, listening to his music, and wishing him fulfillment in new ventures that are bound to come his way. Realizing that thoughts about exclusion, unlovable-ness, loneliness or homelessness are just that – thoughts – not reality – not truths. Stuff of the brain and mind which I can either choose to reinforce by excluding myself, making me unlovable, lonely or homeless, or have the freedom to turn around.

Does that mean I can include myself, love me as I am, feel the vibrant community of humankind all around, and allow myself to belong where I am right here, right now?

[And I haven’t even read the book yet!]

Happy Father’s Day to all who celebrate today. I send a special wish to Dick. How lucky I am to have such a supportive, encouraging, kind and loving Father-in-Law!

Update:

Talking about including myself, I wrote more about that at 100 Bloggers, where I am included as a contributor today.