tamarjacobson

Looking back and thinking forward

Month: April, 2007

When you’re in it, you just don’t know it …

At certain points in our lives, we are faced with choices that lead us in different directions. At the time, we do not realize that a chance meeting, involvement in this or that relationship, personal or professional, are moments, incidents or situations that develop who we have come to be right here, right now.

At breakfast on Saturday, as a friend and I talked about the roads less or more traveled in both our lives, I murmured reflectively, "Hm … When you’re in it, you just don’t know it … " We both smiled as I reached into my purse to rummage for a pen. Almost at the same moment we said, "There’s a a blog post in there somewhere."

A year ago at Tamarika: Peace in the valley

The middle or both ends

04292007_09_11 

[note: my name was Tamar Meyer in 1993 – long story – for another time perhaps]     

On November 10, 1993, my letter to the Editor of the Buffalo News was published. I was ecstatic! It was my first ever official feminist reply to anything. I was 44 years old. As I re-read it this morning, I realized just how many times I used the word: Dominance. Can you tell I was awakening? Becoming aware? Declaring my own personal Aha?

This letter immediately jumped into my mind as a reply to Winston after reading his comment on my blog this morning. I dropped everything I was doing and rummaged through my papers to find it.

I would write it a little differently today. I mean, just for starters, I probably would not use the word dominance as many times in the same sentence. In addition, it comes across as having the tone of a teenager who has just realized her parents are no longer the moral Gods she imagined them to be. So I probably would tone it differently.

But, still – a lot of it rings true. Don’t you think?

I guess what I am trying to say, Winston, is that it is really easy for those of us who have grown up as the privileged gender, culture or class, to sit in judgment of others struggling for liberation or to find their voice. By the same token, it is difficult to hear those struggles or voices with compassion and understanding because we have never walked in their shoes or suffered the same types of injustice and inequalities.

At the same time, I agree with Frank‘s comment:

elimination of privilege is necessary for achievement of equality, and I think that inclusivity is necessary too,

and reiterate my own ideas:

Dominance and privilege causes everyone terrible pain. All are punished. We have to get together, young and old, men and women, girls and boys, and drive Patriarchy out! Out of our psyche, hearts, minds, societal structures, and, yes indeed, even our blogs.

Let us just agree to acknowledge that we can never possibly know what it is like to walk in any one person’s or a whole people’s shoes, but that we will listen to all our stories in the hopes of understanding one another more and more.

Meet me in the middle

For some reason Frank Paynter's recent post got me to thinking about how I became a feminist. I came to it late in life. In 1992 to be exact. I remember the day, the hour, the very moment. Up until that time I had believed that the woman's place was to settle behind the man, taking care of children and hearth, and sacrificing career and education so that the man could better himself first. Indeed, I had practiced that fervently, doing everything in my power to get it right. I remember when I was twenty three or four, back in the early seventies, sitting in my brother's living room in Manchester one evening after dinner. His intellectual friends were sitting around, everyone talking, discussing current issues of the time. All so much more scholarly and intelligent than me. And yet, when one of them talked from a feminist perspective I became indignant and waxed prolific about the joys and delights, the duties and obligations of a dedicated wife being able, nay privileged even, to wash the floors making them clean for her husband's well-being. I blush to think on it. I had always been an avid activist, believing in social justice and equal rights for all … all that is, except women, but way more personally … except me.

A few years later when I returned to Africa with my toddler-son to visit my aging father, I spent the day with the mother of my friend Jan, Nan Partridge, a woman who had tremendous influence in changing the way I thought about social justice. Nan gave me a book to read called: Meet Me in the Middle. I felt the twitchings of feminism as I read the book at the time. It felt comfortable to read about women and men being interdependent. It was enlightening. I did not realize then that I would first have to emancipate my own mind towards the notion of me being equal, to come even vaguely close to the idea of interdependence. The journey ahead was about to be long indeed.

It would be almost twenty years before the moment I would embrace feminism and start the journey of self-emancipation and liberating my mind of the Patriarchal system that had been hammered so deeply into my consciousness growing up. Later on, in my own book, I wrote about bell hooks describing the "strongest patriarchal voice" in her life as that of her own mother. I identified very strongly with her description as it was true for me too.

In fact, the books that transformed me into a feminist were Mother-Daughter Revolution but, more especially, Educated in Romance. The latter I read for a course on qualitative research in graduate school in 1992. The former I read two years later and it solidified my becoming into a fully-fledged feminist. As I was reading Educated in Romance I realized the authors were describing my life. From the decisions I made to the way I viewed my place in the world. The authors describe how young women start out college with ambitions and dreams to become architects, political scientists, anthropologists, etc. And then, quickly change course towards nurturing professions like teaching or nursing in order to follow their romantic partners wherever they might be sent, sacrificing their own careers for those of the men they have fallen in love with. Some of the things the women say in their interviews might have come directly from my own lips. The book spoke to me deeply because at the time I was experiencing much guilt for having left country and husband, and dragged my teenage son with me across the world so that, finally, I could give myself the education I had always dreamed of. I remember gasping as I read, tears streaming down my cheeks, feeling validated and supported, fear and guilt pushed aside for a few moments.

Of course, I understand that it was not the book, per se, that changed me. Rather, the words read arrived at a point in my life's journey that was the culmination of events, my therapy, and psychic development. It became a huge "aha" moment and I have never been the same since. I always laugh to myself when my mother says I am not a reader (of course she is referring to the fact that I don't always choose to read the books she tells me to read). For, in fact, books have been the catalyst in changing my life in most significant ways.

On the one hand, I do agree with one of the comments at Frank's post: "I’d like to see more Human Beings come to the realisation that there are aspects of life that are simply Not About Them." For me, being a feminist means freeing ourselves from the Patriarchal system, choosing against dominance, elitism and exclusion, but opting for empathy and compassion for all Human Beings. It means realizing that women are often our own worst enemies because we have, understandably so because socialization in childhood is so insidious and powerful, bought into the Patriarchal system. Revolution very often, therefore, calls for drastic and extreme external actings-out in order to counteract that awesome, awful societal teaching in our early years for men and women alike. After all, it is less than a hundred years since women got the vote. There is still a lot of relearning to do. Dominance and privilege causes everyone terrible pain. All are punished. We have to get together, young and old, men and women, girls and boys, and drive Patriarchy out! Out of our psyche, hearts, minds, societal structures, and, yes indeed, even our blogs.

Let us just agree to acknowledge that we can never possibly know what it is like to walk in any one person's or a whole people's shoes, but that we will listen to all our stories in the hopes of understanding one another more and more.

A year ago at Tamarika: #5, #5, #5 …

Where is Tamarika?

In two weeks I will be at the point where a year ago I felt shamed into changing my blog. And so, I have been reading the posts that led up to that time, re-feeling the feelings and feeling them again. The sense of betrayal was acute. I am comforted to realize that those feelings have lessened considerably. I am one year older and a tiny bit wiser, I imagine. It was a period of pain which, I believe, in the long run, strengthened and matured me. And brought me face-to-face with a reality I had been trying to avoid with childish delusions.

What was even more intriguing to me was reading where Tamarika was one year ago today. I gasped out loud. For that is what I am feeling – exactly, in almost those very words, right here, right now …

Today.

For today’s post I am right back where I started one year ago: Blog or book

Only, this time is a little bit different.

  1. I don’t want to give up the blog. Just write less often
  2. I might want to start writing about different things – more externalized: ideas about children and teachers, a bit of politics, feminist stuff, aging, poverty … maybe … opinion pieces
  3. Something must get written: book, chapter, or article … I was awarded a summer fellowship for that!
  4. Something should get written. My recent keynote speech has given me the confidence and support I needed to reinforce the new direction in my work.

I was ecstatic when one of my colleagues sent me an e-mail received the next day from a teacher who had heard me:

I loved Tamar. She inspired me to want to write my life story, to try to really remember things that went on in my life as a child, from my perspective of course (which I consider truth, because how children perceive things is their truth!). I started, but it really is a scary thing, I feel like I’m writing down things that are deeply personal and almost feel vulnerable doing it. I feel like I need to, my own type of therapy … Friday I really focused on building relationships with my kids, and not so much on the academics. I enjoyed it so much more!

I was inspired by the teacher’s words. Because I feel an urgency to remind teachers about the quality of their relationships with young children. I believe these relationships are affected by uncovering their own inner lives including emotions, biases, and early childhood experiences in general – helping teachers understand why they do what they do. Creating an emotionally safe space for authentic interactions that are respectful, loving, nurturing, compassionate and forgiving.

And so. It is on with my work! Re-energized and excited, the passion for it returns. The heck with past shames and ancient hurts! The blog might suffer a bit, but abandon it I will not …

Back in town

Mira_and_me

Some pictures just in from Mira (above with me). The end of the second "speech."

Sharing

Listening to a poignant story – with gratitude for the sharing.

This girl is back in town. And what a welcome I received when I arrived home. All the hyacinths, tulips, cherry blossoms in full bloom. Gold finches sparkling at the feeder, the city bathed in warm sunshine and people everywhere. It felt like a festival!

Ada has been pitter-pattering next to me keeping me in her view in case I slip away again, which of course I will do. I mean, I have to go to work. The next couple of weeks is end of semester craziness with everything happening at once, all on the same days, all day long, it seems.

My heart and soul is full to the brim from spending time in the Buffalo sun with friends:

crying,

laughing until we were crying,

talking,

eating,

hugging

drinking,

walking,

sharing,

being and being and being

together

A year ago at Tamarika: My grading helper

From the depths

As I travel around my old haunts, my lonely soul is being warmed and filled to the brim with friends old and new. The power point went quite well although, at the end, the kind and supportive pod-caster and techie fellow suggested that I might want to "simplify" in the future. I knew what he meant! I had been playing and experimenting as I prepared for the speech and words were flying in and dropping down in myriads of colors. The Idan Raichel Project accompanied me with MiMa’amakim (Out of the Depths), reminding me of my roots from Africa to the Middle East and back West to America, as I told my emotional tale and implored the audience to consider relationships with young children as crucial for their education and development.

Afterwards, we went out for dinner and became quite happy. I wish I could have looked more the part of a "featured speaker" instead of giddy and hysterical. Mira took the pictures.

It was so good to see Jack again, …

Fredonia2

… and very, very good to meet Clara and Jen, who seemed to enjoy breaking bread with me even after my comments about literacy and curriculum.

Fredonia

Today will be full again. Yet another talk, and after that Marion will drive me to Buffalo for a committee meeting to decide the recipient of The Charles Haynie Memorial Student Award. Quite a whirlwind schedule including dinner with David, and late in the evening I should arrive at Bob and Cheryl for the rest of the weekend.

And all this I relate to you, friendly bloggers and others who happen by, from my spacious and comfortable room overlooking Main Street in my beloved White Inn.

No wonder I cannot sleep and awake even before the robins call.

My heart is full to bursting with joy.

Emotional power

Quote of the day:

This is one aspect of teaching I hadn’t thought of until now – the emotional power teachers hold over children. [A student in class]

Tomorrow, I am on the road again, traveling back to my beloved Buffalo to see numerous old friends. But first, on the way, I must deliver a keynote speech. It is something different and I decided to use power point. And so, lately, I have been playing and experimenting with a lot that power point has to offer. What fun it has been! I decided to test out the almost final product with my students yesterday. They split up into groups representing faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and administrators, taking their roles and duties seriously and writing feedback for me at the end of the presentation. I felt supported and encouraged by them, not to mention learning much from their valuable suggestions.

"Emotional power," one student wrote about at the end. I have been thinking about that since reading her words. I decided to place her quote right at the beginning of the presentation. Because, for a long time now, I have known that our emotions have an impact on our relationships with young children, but when I read the word, "power," it elicits a different dimension in the discussion.

More dramatic, even, urgent.

I’ll be away for a few days and am not sure about blogging time. I think I might be enjoying myself way too much, bathing and enveloping myself in the warmth of old friends who knew me then, and still know me now.

A year ago at Tamarika: A decision is made

Have a laugh!

Quote of the day:

Sometimes when life gets turbulent, a friend’s touch is the only thing that keeps us going. Oprah Winfrey

Tamar_paul_3

Click on picture to enlarge [thanks Sandy]

We had dinner last night with friends and I got to meet, Paul, one really classy guy. I could almost say I met my match in direct-ness and oh my, how he made me laugh.

Have a joyful week, everyone …

A year ago at Tamarika: Paradigm shift

Relationships

I have been focusing my mind towards the Origins of the Future. The semester starts to draw to a close and the work intensifies. I try to free and clear my way to large thoughts about the bigger picture, and, instead, am pulled back to piles of grading or last minute obligations. I have been wondering why I am so fascinated with research on brain development, specifically the parts about emotional memory. Perhaps I have always been a curious person. And yet, I have never seen myself that way. I know that I adore discovering things, uncovering, rediscovering. Have always felt therapy is like that, unraveling something deep in my mind. It feels like walking out of a dark cave and into a strong light. It feels like I have always known it somewhere, almost as in a dream. It feels like an awakening into the dawn of a really hopeful new day, a glorious morning.

While I was away, I attended meetings that gave me hope for young children’s futures, mainly because of the many great people who are concerned about, and who are tirelessly working for them. My own work becomes strengthened and confirmed after each gathering like that. After a surprising dinner with a colleague, which was both shocking and sad, I understood what Perry has been saying all along. It is all about relationships.

Indeed, origins for the future lie in our relationships with very young children.

But, for now, I must work on these bigger picture and other seemingly smaller duties of the week. Sporadic blog-posting is what I see ahead of me this week. But who knows? Life is what happens

… ah, but you know the rest?

A year ago at Tamarika: Changing plans

Away

Quote of the day:

For the most part, I don’t spend a lot of time beating myself up over things done or not done in the past. But I do want to try to learn from the past, using the feelings the past brings up to figure out how I want the future to be different. [An e-mail from my friend, Cheryl]

I am away for a few days. Limited access to a computer. But I am checking in. If you want to hear more from me I am telling my stories today at Ronni Bennett’s new site: The Elder Storytelling Place.