Looking back and thinking forward

Month: May, 2007

Losing my voice to find it again

Quote of the day:

There is no blogging, only writing. Too many of us attempt to straighten this form into a single genre and then feel low when we grow stale. There’s more here than the asynchronous rhythm of post and comment, comment and post Frank Paynter at Time Goes By

Self expression causes me to lose my voice. Yes. It does. When I was sixteen, at a youth movement seminar, I was overheard singing in the shower. I used to sing all kinds of folk, civil rights and freedom songs. The youth leader wanted me to sing at the concert that concluded our retreat together. But I was terribly, terribly shy and afraid. So he told me to sit with my back to the audience and sing without looking at anyone. I remember it as clearly as if it was today, sitting up on the little stage on a stool with my back to the audience and singing my heart out a cappella for everyone to hear. I was a hit! It was excruciatingly exciting for me, at the time, because most of my young life until then, I had felt invisible. I could not believe that people wanted to hear me. From then on I was asked to sing at all our youth movement functions, and around camp fires late at night. After a short while I was able to face my peers when I sang and was often accompanied by guitar pals. Later I would sing now and then in piano bars or coffee shops and once I even won a talent contest for singing one of my favorite songs: The Dove, and appeared on television in Rhodesia.

But after each time I would sing, and especially if I really, really derived exquisite pleasure from the performance, I woke up the next day as hoarse as could be and, even, sometimes with a sore throat.

I hardly ever sing publicly any more. Ever so seldom when T pulls out his guitar (and he is truly one mean blue grass guitarist), I warble a little and think back to those younger times.

Writing has become an important medium of self expression for me now. Especially blogging. Just as, over forty years ago one summer night when I sat with my back to the audience shyly singing for everyone to hear, nowadays I sit alone hidden away in my study, house silent as could be and type on my blog for everyone, out there somewhere unseen, to read. And now and again, if anyone reads or comments, links or just stops by to find out what I am saying, it feels less invisible and good to be heard.

Very often, after I have enjoyed writing a piece, or felt it was a deep expression of my self, I discover that I have become hoarse, as if I had been singing. I remember writing about that back in March, 2005.

Freedom of expression without punishment has always been an important political, social justice issue for me no matter which country I have lived in. After years of self-observation and reflection, I understand how it connects with me personally and psychologically. For, time and again, I have experienced the pain of punishment and exclusion (even recently) for saying how I feel. And so now, I embrace the hoarseness, as my way of self punishment for self expression, and yet, at the same time, as a way of having the courage to find my voice again and again.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: The voyage was bon, bon, bon

Looking back and thinking forward

Quote of the day:

Nostalgia is a sentimental remembrance of things that never happened. F. Scott Fitzgerald from Ageless Marketing

Some of my family members have had the hardest time with me as I reflect on my past. They want me to get the facts straight. They want me to see it the way they did. It is difficult to see things the same way. I would venture to say that it is probably impossible.

I remember helping my son when as a little boy, he wanted me to play with him with his Lego. But I wanted to facilitate his play because that is what I had learned in early childhood classes when I was young. And so, I would sit by him cross-legged on the floor and help him find Lego pieces for his creative constructions. He would tell me which piece to look for and then I would search among the hundreds of small bricks strewn on the carpet. I would take my time, hoping he would find them himself, thereby behaving as a facilitator rather than an active participant. Years later one evening, when he was in his twenties, my son accompanied me to an early childhood undergraduate class I was teaching. I told my tale about facilitating children’s play and used our Lego-playing memory as an example. He raised his hand from the back of the room and said, "And I always thought you were so slow." Needless to say, everyone exploded in laughter.

Same situation – completely different interpretations.

Life experiences are filtered through so many different lenses: genes, placement in the family, parent’s ages and changing dynamics, perceptions, and interactions, physical environments, personalities, feelings, thoughts, and so much more. We really never know what the other is thinking or feeling. Some of my biggest mistakes over the years have been through assumptions – interpreting what I thought others were thinking and feeling about me. Looking back I have realized that I filtered my life experiences through feeling that I was a bad person who destroyed others by my actions and statements. It has taken almost nineteen years to understand that this aging brain simply needs a new filter. Our emotional memories are developed through repetitive experiences that over and over again confirm what we learn. These past years of maturation I have had repetitive healing experiences that have counteracted those earliest emotional memories developed in childhood, and alerted me that the time is long overdue for a change of filter.

My actions and statements are not destructive. They are unique self-expression. They are my life force that is translated through me into action.

Which is not to say that things I have said and done have not hurt people. Naturally they have. Just as things people have done and said have hurt me. Especially as I sifted them through my old filter of understanding – or mis-understanding. Indeed, communication and relationships are fraught with mis-understandings as we go back and forth filtering our experiences through old, traumatic, patterned, lenses. Someone is always going to be hurt and it is no ones fault.

Thinking forward, I realize that what I need for the future is a good, strong, courageous ear for listening to other people’s interpretations and stories, a great big box of tissues for the tears, bunches of patience, loads of compassion, and a bright, glowing, brand new filter to sift my self-vision to a different understanding.

The Boston blast


Yesterday was a great day to turn 58! Sun was shining and I was with my son. On the train to the airport a couple of young people offered me their seat and I must have looked indignant. The woman said, "It’s not because you look old. I wouldn’t allow my mother to stand!" I laughed out loud and then accepted the seat graciously.

Three days in Boston:

  • Gilad’s concert, walking, talking eating good food and celebrating my birthday with my son;
  • spending hours talking to a new-found friend – a woman I have admired from afar for many, many years; and,
  • finalizing the publisher for my next book – a dream come true

By the time we reached the Pomodoro for lunch yesterday, I literally thought I would burst with joy. Can life get better than this?

Much ado about nothing

Well, well. The hiatus blog post was an interesting test for me: Giving myself permission not to feel obligated; checking whether I would experience withdrawal or loss; seeing how it would feel, in general, to be distancing myself from blogging; gaging whether it would seriously hinder my professional writing time or abilities; figuring it out by putting it down in black and white.

Although it has only been a couple of days, I have noticed that it was much ado about nothing. Just as I drift in and out of reading other people’s blogs when I have time or inclination, so will others react to mine. And I can blog at different times of the day. What a discovery! If the muse arises, I might blog in the afternoon or evening, once or twice a week, less or more, whenever I choose. I have been able to wake in the morning, reach for coffee and write my chapter before blog surfing or blog-a-doodle-dandy-ing. This is not to say that I am not addicted to it. I most certainly am. Happily so, I might add. Addicted to the community, other bloggers’ lives, and the need to express myself. Not only that, I have noticed that nowadays when I sit down to write professionally, it flows much more easily than in the years before I became a blogger. Yes indeed. That means that writing nearly every day on my blog has loosened up my mind, fingers, brain and writing skills, and strengthened my confidence level. It is true, dear readers. You know all those authors who tell us that a person should write something every day? Well, their advice has proved right for me.

It was so much fun receiving all those supportive, "We’ll be here when you get back," type comments. I felt bathed in a community of understanding and acceptance. For Danny‘s "gulp," pretty much summed up how I was feeling about sporadic blog-posting. Thank you from the bottom of my grateful heart to everyone who commented. I am blowing you cyber kisses and sending out smiles and hugs. Your support strengthens my soon-to-be-58-year-old soul – daily.

Almost hiatus or sporadic

So, this is how it must be for just a little while: a few weeks, perhaps even a couple of months. Tamarika’s routine has to change. And even as change makes me a little anxious, including uneasiness in the belly, wide eyes, and shorter breathing, it simply must be done.

All for the good, all for the good.

  • Traveling coming up. First to Boston to celebrate with Gilad at the Regatta Bar. PDI in Pittsburgh, and on to England for my hike! And at some point I want to fit in a small excursion to California to see Danny, Kendall and Leah, and perhaps finally meet Neilochka and his lovely Sophia (after all, Neil owes me a serious game of Scrabble!), and to meet Jacobson family members I have not met before.
  • Writing. Book chapter due to a colleague within a couple of weeks. The first draft of my book must be completed this summer thanks to a fellowship I was awarded from school, for this very purpose.
  • Birthday to celebrate: While I am in Boston and sharing it with my beautiful, sensitive and talented son.

The Tamarika routine of early morning coffee and blogging must change to early morning coffee and reading and writing towards the publications. And so, for a little while – perhaps just for the summer, my blogging will be sporadic. A type of hiatus. I might not get to read everyone as often as I like. It is not that I will be ignoring or neglecting, and you all know me by now – I will never be far away from my blog. Thoughts, feelings, reflections will come up (especially while I am writing the other stuff), which I am bound to want to share with all of you.

Anxiety of separation. For even as this upcoming blog vacation will be temporary, I am reluctant to lose any one of you. I know I will be seeing Jean and I hope, perhaps Natalie, Ernesto, and Andy, on the way to the hike. And I wonder if I will suffer withdrawal as I reach for my coffee early in the morning, but not for the blog.

Oh, and as for Twitter? Hm … I will have to see about that …

Gently, softly, I bid you a temporary and sporadic fare thee well, adieu, and as my mother used to say when I was a child, and which I still say to my own son to this day:

"Good night. See you in the morning …"

A year and a day ago at Mining Nuggets: Bon Voyage

Responsible citizen


Voter Tam.

Erin from The Chestnut Hill Local snapped this shot yesterday as I arrived to cast my vote. Thank you Erin! Kristin interviewed me. She asked me who and why I was voting thus and such. I laughed and said there was not much to interview me about. I am new to Philadelphia and not so savvy about local politics. I was honestly voting based on recommendations from people whose political opinions I respect, and, which seemed close to my own. Then we chatted a bit about journalists and whether they should be or are biased or not, and, of course, I had to mention my book in connection with all of that. Kristin even wrote the title down, and I chuckled merrily. Erin and Kristin were fine young women and I enjoyed talking with them so much. The day was warm and sunny and it felt good to be a responsible citizen.

Every single time I cast my vote, I think of all the people in the world who were and still are denied this extremely important, basic right of freedom. I never, ever take being able to vote for granted.

And, hurray, in the end, Nutter won!

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Face the morning

Blog on through to the other side

Last night T. asked me how I go about thinking about writing. I had not really thought about it before. And so, I decided to think about it, out loud, here on my blog. The question arose because when he came home in the evening, and as we sat down to dinner, he asked me how my day was. I described a few events and then said, "I sat down to write my chapter and realized I did not know how to start it. And so, I went for a swim at the gym to think about writing." He looked confused. A special look with brow furrowed and perplexities written all over his face. "What?" I asked. "How do you go about thinking about writing?" he asked. I replied that I would have to think about that and we proceeded with our dinner.

During the night my sleep was fitful. Every couple of hours I woke up and just lay there, thinking about how I think about writing.

The fact is, I do not feel as if I think a lot about writing. It comes to me. In the shower, while I am swimming, on the treadmill, driving in my car, walking in the woods, window-shopping in the town, staring at the giant oak tree outside my window, and sometimes when someone says something – a student or a child, friend, character in a movie or book, television actor, blogger, family member or colleague – and it strikes a chord inside my brain, makes a connection with life experience, something I have read, emotional memory – anything. And then, I just want to, no, it is more like have to write it down. If I am not near a computer, any piece of paper will do, including restaurant napkins or a tissue in the car.

As I write thoughts come tumbling, flowing, flopping out one after the other – usually in a stream. And then suddenly I stop and look back at what I have written, see the errors, change edit, snip and paste, move from here to there, and then off I go again. Seldom do I create an outline and decide which will come before what. That happens later, after the words have fallen out of my brain and onto the page, keyboard, or screen. I have tried creating an outline and it helps when writing a book or a dissertation. Knowing which chapter comes before the other. Although even that changes in mid-stream too. Recently I wrote a proposal for my new book and carefully mapped out the table of contents. However, as I was writing the first chapter I realized I would have to change the order of those contents. Mostly, outlines are superfluous for me. They make me feel trapped and repressed, choking for air. I need to know there is a way out, a spontaneity that will allow me to fly if necessary. An escape route.

Last week I went to New York City with a friend. She held onto our train return tickets and I became anxious immediately. I said, joking, but meaning it, "What happens if we have a fight and I want to get the hell out of here? I need my ticket!" She laughed, "No. You will just have to trust me." I laughed too, but replied, "Oh well, I could always buy another one if I need to leave!" I explained to her that I always need an escape route. A way that I can leave if I have to. I have felt that way as along as I can remember. When I was a child and things became unbearable for me, I would withdraw to my room to play out my feelings with small dolls. And in any situation that I feel trapped or out of control, when things feel as if they are becoming insane around me, writing has been a way for me to escape. At the very least, a way to hold onto my sanity, validate my experience, or stay connected to some kind of reality. A strength of will to keep my mind my own. Through writing it down.

Sometimes, I am amazed how things fall into place the first time around. Blog posts, for example, are easier than anything else I write. There are times I only have to change the spelling and it feels complete just the way it is, from the start. However, when I do reach a point where I am stuck, blocked, stumped, against a wall of resistance, the best thing for me is to take a walk, have a hot bath, or, lately, go for a swim at the gym. There is something about the warmth of the water as it caresses my body while I swim laps back and forth with a constant, meditative-type rhythm, that releases my thoughts and allows them to flow again. It is almost as if I am giving myself touch therapy. Stroking my body as one would a child who is troubled, anxious, fearful, in pain. Just being there and listening, gently stroking the body and, thus, wiring and rewiring the brain, waking up those neurons and synaptic connections and past, old, even ancient memories.

In conclusion, I suppose that I think about writing all the time. It accompanies me all day and into my sleep, for I am often awakened out of a dream with an idea that needs to be written down almost immediately. As I write about writing here, I realize how much of it is a part of who I am and how I came to be me, connected to my life experiences, earliest childhood, and behaviors and skills I developed to survive my world. Indeed, I wonder how I would survive if it was taken away from me.

Last year, around this time, I thought my writing was being taken from me and the sadness and anguish was too painful to describe. But even as I seemed to be backed into a hollow and somber dead-end, I held my breath, dived deeper and deeper, and when I reached up, gasping for air, I realized I had arrived at the light, discovered a way out, and, yes, I had survived!

A year ago at Tamarika: Peek-a-boo reflections & Going underground

Celebration of motherhood


John left a comment that made me look again at this old photograph of Gilad and me when, in 1975, we were visiting my father in Zimbabwe – then Rhodesia. In fact, while I was out walking by the Wissahickon on this exquisitely beautiful day – sun shining, cool breeze in the clear, fresh air and many, many people out and about walking, running, jogging, cycling, all ages, colors, sizes – indeed, while I was out walking on this gorgeous Mother’s Day, I was starting to become wistful, realizing that this was one of those times Gilad will be forgetting to remember and acknowledge my mothering day. And then suddenly I thought about John’s comment. And also Richard Cohen came to mind as I have been reading what he has written about his experience with Byron Katie lately. As I arrived home, before I took my shower, I rushed to open my blog and look at the photograph of Gilad and me once again.

And I realized immediately that Mother’s Day is not about Gilad remembering me or acknowledgment from others. It is not even about how much love I put into my time as a mother. It is about how I loved giving birth to my son. It was a privilege and honor to have him enter into my life and accompany me on my turbulent and interesting journeys. I learned so much from him especially about unconditional love and commitment. It is I who should be remembering him on Mother’s Day, and thanking him for sharing his joys and sorrows, musical talent, truthful opinions, humor and love, and, especially, for being a child of my womb who changed my life in so many ways forever.

It feels exciting to celebrate motherhood in this way today. Am grateful to John and Richard for their reflections and ruminations, opinions and stories. For, with their words, I was guided down a more joyful path.

And now, off I go to shower and prepare for a brunch that Tom is preparing: freshly caught Rainbow Trout (fruits of his fishing excursion yesterday), egg, tomato and toast. I think I will top it off with some Turkish Delight flavored with rose water that I bought as a treat for myself yesterday.

A year ago at Tamarika: A meditation

Yom Ha’Em


Quote of the day:

How many Mother’s Day cards were given in the United States in 2005? 152 Million Mother’s Day cards were given in 2005, making Mother’s Day the third-largest card-sending occasion, behind Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Americangreetings.com

Mother’s Day is coming up. I have such mixed emotions about it. A twinge of anxiety that my son will forget it. Longing for my own mother who is physically far away, and whose love of me has always felt unattainable. A wistful and lonely day. On the other hand, it falls at the end of the semester, when I have the whole summer ahead of me, weather is fine, and it is only a couple of weeks away from my birthday – making it an exciting time as well.

Usually at the end of the spring semester, graduation always seems to fall either on Mother’s Day or very close to it. I am always reminded of my own graduation when Mother’s Day rolls around. At yesterday’s commencement celebrations I watched the happy, proud and excited faces of families and students. I adore the commencement ritual and am both amused and awed by how all us professors toddle around like medieval monks in our colorful robes. I remember feeling such pride and love for my son at both his graduations. They were glorious days. My own doctoral graduation was one of those special days of my life. There are a few of those types of days. Ones that I remember forever as the most poignant and meaningful, difficult to describe. My son’s birth counts as one of those.


I graduated when I was 49, so I did not have my family cheering me on with balloons and flowers. However, a couple of my closest friends together with my Jacobson family, Tom, Dick and Nelle, accompanied me through the pride and excitement of that day. It was a hard-earned day. I had been through so much to arrive at that moment and it felt like I had reached the peak of a very steep mountain. I remember looking out at the audience as I walked up on the stage to receive my doctoral hood from one of my most supportive advisors, Steve Brown. There in the distance my little group of supporters were cheering and waving, and my heart was filled to bursting with joy and love.

This time of year, when flowers are blooming, sun is shining and summer is on its way, is always exhilarating for me. My senses are keenly attuned to all the perfumes, different bird songs and warm breezes. It becomes an extremely sensual time of the year. How fitting! For among all the other feelings of love, duty, commitment and spirituality, sensuality is such an intrinsic part of motherhood: love making, conceiving, carrying the baby within the womb, giving birth, breast feeding, caressing, suckling … sensing, sensing, sensing …

For me the celebrations have already begun. Recently, I received a card from my friend that touched me deeply, bringing tears of gratitude to my eyes. It reads:

You’re a beautiful example of love and understanding … and not just to those who call you mom

… and then she wrote:

Because you have helped me think and talk about being a mom, and because you have helped mother my daughter, and because you are a wonderful mom to your son – happy Mother’s Day!

And yesterday, JJ, my mother-in-law, sent Milja and me this beautiful power point presentation: Download mothersinallcolours1.pps

As one of my friends said to me recently, when we made plans to go out for dinner: "I think it is most appropriate that we go out and celebrate our motherhood together. That actually is cause for celebration since it is a life altering event."

Motherhood is indeed a life altering event worthy of celebration. Giving birth to my son was the greatest day of my life. Wondrous and miraculous. What an achievement! I will never forget the look in his eyes as he reached for his first sip of mother’s milk from my breast, or how I felt as he nuzzled and suckled, love growing between us moment by moment.

As I wish everyone a Happy Mother’s Day, I am aware that it might also be a bittersweet time for many, just as it is for me, mixing up my feelings of love that last forever with those that seem unattainable, or memories that are wistful, lonely and anxious with joy, pride and excitement. Graduation, commencement of summer, and birth days – mine and my son’s – accompany me at this time of year.

And as I relish those complex  moments of life full of memory and meaning, I wish us all, at least in the U.S., a very …

Happy Mother’s Day!

A year ago at Tamarika: Good luck Dr. J. (Update)

Bill Ayers (Update)

Quote of the day:

It’s tough being the cops of the world – "we mean well, and we come in peace …" And then all this killing. Bam bam. Bill Ayers

Well, I am ecstatic.

Bill Ayers has a blog. I think Frank will like it.


And, yes. He does! Frank, I mean.