Looking back and thinking forward

Month: March, 2007

Early morning thoughts

How life disappears. All that was so important once. Now gone. Blown away like a puff of smoke. I remember twenty years ago Passover in Israel: spring flowers, spring cleaning, warm, sunny days, the odd khamsin, days off from school, gifts, new clothes, families gathering for a festive, ritual meal. All gone. Memories remain but huge pieces of life disappear. Out of sight. Swimming in the pool, feeling lithe and weightless, making long, strong strokes. I rise out to a reflection of myself in the window and see standing before me a short, round, older woman who moves slowly weighed down by memories of life that have disappeared. Sink into the hot tub and feel the weight melt away. Hot, swirling waters envelop the aging body, as I slip and slide into the here and now, allowing the past to fade away.

Crashing to an authentic self


Quote of the day:

Eventually, as the teacher-student relationship matures, the student manifests these qualities herself and learns to stand on her own two feet. The projections are reclaimed. What we saw in him is also inside us. We close the gap between who we think the teacher is and who we think we are not. We become whole … This projection process also can get more complicated if we haven’t individuated from our original parents. Natalie Goldberg (page 91)

Yesterday I read Natalie Goldberg’s The Great Failure, on the train into the city, in the waiting room of my dentist, and on my return. I felt as if I could not take my eyes off the pages. I even carried it around as I was walking between the kitchen and my study, or up the stairs to collect our mail. I loved how she described her father’s reaction to her revelations about their relationship, in a letter written to him after "hours of group and individual therapy." She wrote to him describing how her childhood had looked to her, what a terrible father he had been and how she hated those years. She writes:

Two weeks later I received a thin envelope addressed in my father’s crooked hand. I imagined a gorilla gripping a pen. "I don’t know what you’re talking about, but don’t worry. I’ll never leave you." (page 30)

I burst into tears when I read that, recognizing pieces of my life. My mother and I had gone through something similar when my own book was published. Even though she absolutely hated it, and after I sent her a copy, in which she was acknowledged in gratitude and with love, she had called me to tell me so. She had said over the phone, right after calling me an anti-Semite (because I had written that I was Jewish growing up in racist Rhodesia, and that her husbands were Jewish) almost on the eve of my coming-out book party: "There are two Tamars. The one who is my daughter who I love and adore, and the other, a terrible woman who wrote this vile book." She concluded an almost hour-long tirade at midnight with a final defiant statement: "It is an anti-Semitic racist book against whites!"

But, the fact is, after all was said and done (and a lot was, believe me!), she did not leave me. I have always admired her courage for that.

Goldberg writes how if a person wants to learn the truth and become whole, we have to write about the people we are closest to, so that we might have "contact with our wrinkles, our scars," because by touching "the dark nature in someone else," we might know it in ourselves. She quotes her teacher, Dainin Katagiri Roshi: "Don’t worry if you write the truth. It doesn’t hurt people, it helps them."

But I especially love how she opens the book with a discussion about success and failure:

Downfall brings us down to the ground, facing the nitty-gritty, things as they are with no glitter. Success cannot last forever. Everyone’s time runs out. This is not a popular notion, but it is true.

Achievement solidifies us. Believing we are invincible, we want more and more. It makes us hungry. But we can be caught in the opposite too. Human beings manage also to drown in the pool of despair, seeped in the mud of depression. We spend our life on a roller coaster with rusty tracks, stuck to highs and lows, riding from one, trying to grab the other.

To heal ourselves from this painful cycle – the severe split we create and the quasi equilibrium we try to maintain – we have to crash. Only then can we drop through to a more authentic self. (from the introduction)

I have always felt sorrow for people who do not allow themselves to crash, who hold on so tightly to the illusion of self-control, and who never have the opportunity to "drop through to a more authentic self." Indeed, it is what I have always cherished in therapy – grappling with some of my darkest shadows. Each and every time I came out of the pain, as excruciating as it might have been, feeling stronger and more whole.

A new chapter of your life beginning

Quotes of the day: (from CCIE)

Kindness is more than deeds. It is an attitude, an expression, a look, a touch. It is anything that lifts another person. C. Neil Strait

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. Dalai Lama

This morning I was reading through postings from April 2006 at my old blog site. I came across this piece I had written:

The story goes that I was a really easy birth … came right out as quickly and smoothly as can be … in a bit of a rush, as I understand it. Couldn’t wait, I guess! Wanted to be there, experience, see it all right here, right now. Apparently as a young child I would not fall asleep at night. I stood up in my crib craning my neck to see what all those adults out there were up to. And this is one of those characteristics that has not aged with me at all. I still want to be a part of everything that is going on around me.

Hm … come to think of it, that is probably yet another reason why I simply cannot seem to give up blogging. I still want to be a part of everything that is going on. Not only as an observer and listener but, more importantly, as a participant. Yes indeed, participating, and not only the act of participation itself, but being permitted, encouraged, invited, wanted to participate makes me feel included.

I wonder if other people ever feel that way.

And then and there, as I read the words from my own hand and heart a year ago, I realized, "Well, of course this has been a challenging month for me. Being asked not to participate in an important event, an event that I will never again be able to participate in, strikes at the core of who I am!"

It’s amazing what self-understanding can do. For, I immediately became calm. Confusion at my surprise at the past emotional storm lifted. Reality checked. And I thought, "Hey, I survived! Integrity intact. Emotionally stronger." And even though it has happened to me before, this time there is a change in the air, a shift inside me. A new chapter beginning. I remember a vibrant discussion with my students about philosophy of education and the meaning of life.

One of them wrote in a paper recently, in a different context, and yet, somehow, it just seems like it is all connected:

in my experience, I have learned that feeling out of place means a new chapter of your life beginning

Self emancipation


Driving to work I heard an interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Marty Moss Coane – you can listen to her here. I was inspired totally and completely, and will not try to quote her because the message is also in her voice – a voice that is strong, clear and constant.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s voice is one I want to hear in my mind forever.

I await her book with bated breath.

I stand with her against the subjugation of women.

[in the face of death threats] … the fight I am engaged in is worth it Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I have evolved into an atheist

A year ago at Tamarika: Ooh … and I forgot to bring the camera

Becoming fit for life

Quote of the day:

There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrain of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.
Rachel Carson

These past few weekends, I have been accompanying T. to his health club. I am not usually a fan of fitness centers. Mostly I love my own personal work-out regime that I have created in the cozy confines of my home, and treasure my alone times. It usually takes me just about two hours with the treadmill walk and jog, free weights, yoga asanas, and pranayama, and while I might not always be in the mood or muscles particularly achy, most of the time I love every minute of it.

However, this past month I decided to pamper myself a little bit more than usual and went along as T’s guest to Fit Life down the road aways. And me oh my, what a great time it has been. I think I might just have to become a weekend member. The treadmill is large and sturdy, weights and stretching areas are comfortable and inviting, but most of all down stairs there is a pool and hot tub. My body relishes the warm, strong laps in the spacious swimming pool and when I immerse myself in the swirling waters of the hot tub, all those pains, old and new, are exorcised from body, mind and heart. Down there, in that little aquatic sanctuary, soft, gentle music plays in the background and a water fountain tinkles in accompaniment. My breathing exercises never felt so good right after a soak in the hot tub when all the muscles are supple and relaxed.

This month turned out to be more of an emotional challenge for me than I had expected, what with one thing or another, and T’s friendship and support has been of exceptional comfort. I must admit it has been fun to look across the room as I march along on the treadmill and wave to T. moving along up there on his own equipment. It has felt friendly and comforting. After our showers and when we get into the car to return home we seem even more connected, my emotional wrinkles ironed out, and good humor all around. We invariably create a healthy, tasty meal together afterward, and relax into the evening.

A year ago at Tamarika: Denver bound

Far out!

Quote of the day:

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life. Well, not small, but valuable. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void. Kathleen Kelly, in You’ve Got Mail.

Take my advice, I don’t use it

Quote of the day:

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. Carl Jung, from over at Andy‘s place.

I pretty much divide people up into those who give advice and others who listen and support. I realize that all those advice-givers are doing what they do because either they are uncomfortable with another person’s pain and think they need to fix it, or, perhaps, they just get some kind of kick out of hearing themselves talk. However, when I am in emotional pain, the last thing I want to hear is how someone else knows how to fix it. Because, obviously, if I could solve it I would! And most often the advice offered has nothing to do with who I am or what my fears are.

On the other hand, when someone just listens to me with authentic caring and support, and validates how I am feeling, I have the space to explore my problem, and who I am in how to deal with it, and very often am able to find the way out on my own later.

Advice givers always say: "I know how you feel."

"No, you don’t. How can you? You are not me, with my complexity, life history, fears, ways of looking at things. You cannot possibly know how I feel, judge myself, or experience the world around me. Ever. You can only know how you feel and what works for you."

So, just listen to me as I tell my story and I will listen to you as you tell me yours. And then, perhaps, we will be able to shed some warm light on each other as we struggle to find our way through this complex journey we’re on. A community of supporters, without judgment, just being there for one another, kindling light through the darkness of mere being.

Talking about narcissism

Quote of the day:

Naturally, there is something narcissistic about blogging. You have to believe that what you have to say is important enough for other people to hear. Twenge’s claim that the ability to express yourself actually “fuels” narcissism, rather than attracting narcissistic people (as does acting, journalism, and other careers—ahem, teaching—that require personal performance) seems to me to be more than a little premature. But what about this: are we all becoming narcissists? Alex Halavais

Lilian Katz questions whether teachers of young children, in trying to help them "feel good about themselves" might, in fact, be encouraging narcissism instead.

I wonder if I am also tending towards being a clinical narcissist like Alex?

  • I have a natural talent for influencing people < –> I am not good at influencing people.
  • I think I am a special person. < –> I am no better or no worse than most people.
  • I will be a success. < –> I am not to concerned about success.
  • If I ruled the world it would be a better place. < –> The thought of ruling the world frightens the hell out of me.
  • I see myself as a good leader. < –> I am not sure if I would make a good leader.
  • I like to start new fads and fashion. < –> I don’t care about new fads and fashion.
  • I sometimes depend on people to get things done. < –> I rarely depend on anyone else to get things done.

Check out his entire post here.

A laugh?

It is always worth visiting Listics. I do, daily.

A year ago at Tamarika: Memed again

Bits of me

Ooh, this is fun. I found it at savtadotty. Here is mine:


A year ago at Tamarika: A guest in your house