Looking back and thinking forward

Month: February, 2010

The error of my generosity

Quote of the day:

A grown-up can be no [person's] disciple: The most important things that each [person] must learn no one can teach him [her]. Once he [she] accepts this disappointment, he [she] will be able to stop depending on the therapist, the guru, who turns out to be just another struggling human being. Sheldon B. Kopp. (On the back cover)


I give too much

Or, perhaps, it is that I force my giving when it is not wanted. 

I suddenly remember, when I was in my twenties, a close friend of mine saying to me, "Oh God, don't start raping me with your kindness again," and I did not understand what she meant. I think I understand her now – too late.

Did I do that for my son? [I weep as I realize this] Did I try too hard to compensate for whatever it was I imagined I was doing wrong for him?

I might be starting to understand some of the reasons why I seem to give too much again and again and again … 

  • Anxiety and fear about doing wrong? 
  • Guilt and the need to compensate for my sins? 
  • Needing to be liked and acknowledged?
  • Denying my anger?
  • ?

It is eye opening and startling to think about how much I want to relearn and change about my Self before I become too old to enjoy a different way of doing, seeing, feeling, and experiencing my life. Indeed, it feels exhausting and challenging. 

But fun too …

I watched the squirrels scurrying about under the bird feeder this morning. I had left them quite a lot of food on top of all that snow out there. "How can they get food through all that ice?" I wondered aloud. Life partner smiled. "It sure helps," he said gently, and continued, "Although they have their little squirrel secrets, I'm sure, about how to get their food in the winter."

I thought about what he said. 

Perhaps I just do not trust everyone enough - 
to have their little people secrets about 
how to get their food in the winter
I mean, 
perhaps I just do not have to put that much food 
under the people feeders any more …

Hm … I wonder … 

Surrender to my Self …

Quote of the day:

And remember, too, you can stay at home, safe in the familiar illusion of certainty. Do not set out without realizing that the way is not without danger. Everything good is costly, and the development of the personality is one of the most costly of all things. It will cost you your innocence, your illusions, you certainty. Sheldon B. Kopp. (Page 10)

I have been reading Kalilily Time recently, where I learned of: If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him! The Pilgrimage of Psychotherapy Patients

I am so glad I found this little book – small in size, but not in value of content. 

I especially adore many entries in the partial register of what Kopp describes as his eternal truths (Page 223):

  1. This is it!
  2. There are no hidden meanings.
  3. You can't get there from here, and besides there's no place else to go.
  4. We are all already dying, and we will be dead for a long time.
  5. Nothing lasts.
  6. There is no way of getting all you want.
  7. You can't have anything unless you let go of it.
  8. You only get to keep what you give away.
  9. There is no particular reason why you lost out on some things.
  10. The world is not necessarily just. Being good often does not pay off and there is no compensation for misfortune.
  11. You have a responsibility to do your best nonetheless.
  12. It is a random universe to which we bring meaning.
  13. You don't really control anything.
  14. You can't make anyone love you.
  15. No one is any stronger or any weaker than anyone else.
  16. Everyone is, in his [her] own way, vulnerable.
  17. There are no great men [or women].
  18. If you have a hero, look again: you have diminished yourself in some way.
  19. Everyone lies, cheats, pretends (yes, you too, and most certainly I myself).
  20. All evil is potential vitality in need of transformation.
  21. All of you is worth something, if you will only own it.
  22. Progress is an illusion.
  23. Evil can be displaced but never eradicated, as all solutions breed new problems.
  24. Yes it is necessary to keep on struggling toward solution.
  25. Childhood is a nightmare.
  26. But it is so very hard to be an on-your-own, take-care-of-yourself-cause-there-is-no-one-else-to-do-it-for-you grown-up.
  27. Each of us is ultimately alone.
  28. The most important things, each man [or woman] must do for himself.
  29. Love is not enough, but it sure helps.
  30. We have only ourselves, and one another. That may not be much, but that's all there is.
  31. How strange, that so often, it all seems worth it.
  32. We must live within the ambiguity of partial freedom, partial power, and partial knowledge.
  33. All important decisions must be made on the basis of insufficient data.
  34. Yet we are responsible for everything we do.
  35. No excuses will be accepted.
  36. You can run but you can't hide.
  37. It is most important to run out of scapegoats.
  38. We must learn the power of living with our helplessness.
  39. The only victory lies in surrender to oneself.
  40. All of the significant battles are waged within the self.
  41. You are free to do whatever you like. You need only face the consequences.
  42. What do you know … for sure … anyway?
  43. Learn to forgive yourself, again and again and again and again

And so the weekend begins … 

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Early morning

This emotional life

Quote of the day:

Thank God downs don't last forever. From a friend at lunch the other day.

Whether by synchronicity or coincidence, sometimes timing is everything. My DVD order of This Emotional Life arrived, and I have been watching it all weekend. Just at the time that my therapy is kicking in. Indeed, I am starting to get it. That is, to understand what my therapist is talking about. 

This morning I wrote about some of what I am learning in an email to a close family member:

… I have been working hard in my therapy lately and have discovered, to my surprise (surprise because after all these years of therapy I can find something new about myself !!!) – that I fear feeling anger. It's not the expression of it that I fear as much as the feeling of it 

As I watch the PBS special, I hear time and again that it helps to confront difficult feelings and earlier emotional memories not necessarily to be cured but, rather, in order to manage them in healthier, happier ways. It amazes me that even though I know this stuff – indeed, I have been writing about it myself for years – it feels new and different, and cuts deeper into my own emotional issues. 

Indeed, I realize more and more, that it is precisely because it is so difficult for me that I research and write about it so much. For I am discovering, to my surprise and amazement, all the ways I use to avoid feeling uncomfortable emotions – namely, anger. 

Avoidance of these feelings is big, but denial of them for me is huge. 

So, lately I tread gingerly, with very small steps, and am starting to notice twinges, itches, rumblings, murmurs, whispers, shadows, … hints at angry-type feelings. They are coming out in the form of headaches, muscle spasms, hunger, teeth clenching, burning eyes, or vivid dreams. My body surely knows they are there! With help and support in the safe confines of my therapist's room, my mind is starting to pull out the feelings for me to examine in the open. One of the aspects of all this that I like so much, is that I do not need to react to the anger or express it to anyone. The beauty of it is that once I allow myself to feel it for myself, understand and examine it, I can put it aside and have a wonderful, peaceful day. 

I think that, perhaps, I might be allowing myself to really deal with it … finally … for the first time?

Doing it differently

Regrets … I've had a few …


Ah the joys of becoming 60. 

Much of it has to do with looking back and thinking forward, sifting out the regrets and learning how to forgive myself. The process is not easy. Indeed, it is often quite painful. Although clearing away the mind-clutter, and realizing different realities sometimes becomes both exhilarating and comforting.

For example, when I was young I thought all I would need to do is love my son unconditionally. This was paramount for me. Whatever we would go through as a family, whatever he would go through growing up, all he would need from me was my emotional support to accept him as he was. Now I realize that was not enough. 

My child also needed so much more to grow, develop and thrive. 

He needed:

  • Parents with self-esteem, confidence and self-worth.
  • His mother to have known how to choose a strong, stable life partner – a role model – one who would love and respect me, be my best friend, and stand by us as a family through thick and thin. 
  • Clear boundaries – for me and for him.
  • Support from extended family.
  • Money!

There has to be more to that list, I am sure. More that I will uncover as I explore my regrets further. 

I surely cannot fix all that has gone before. I am acutely aware of that lately. For awhile I felt shame, and wondered how I had the right to teach students or make keynote speeches about child development and rearing. 

However, as I grapple with regrets, and learn to forgive my past, I sense that not only have I knowledge and experience to offer others, but that the more I share what I know, the more I learn about me.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Treadmill reflections

Leaping (Update)

Quote of the day (from CCIE):

All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience. Henry Miller.

While sipping my first cup of coffee this morning, I had to laugh when I read that quote. "Have all my acts been spontaneous and unpremeditated without benefit of experience?" I wondered. Some of the biggest ones. Indeed, some even felt as if there was no choice other than to act! Although in a moment of self criticism, I might call those types of acts "impulsive" rather thanspontaneous. Do any of us have the benefit of experience in decisions we make about the future? After all, the future, by virtue of being in the future, is unknown. And sometimes we become cautious and guarded based on previous experience, when the past has no relation or bearing on future actions anyway. For once there has been a first time, can there ever be that particular first time again? Each time after will be different, unique, connected to that moment in time, related to different sets of people, always within a slightly changing context.

So, I wonder, "What good is experience anyway?"


Some reflections on the subject from my friend Marion this morning:

Your comments about "experience" and the "future" remind me of Magda Gerber, an infant educator, who once said (not a direct quote but pretty close), "we raise children with the knowledge of the past which is absurd since we cannot possibly prepare them for a future which we know nothing about. So if we accept the absurdity of that, is there anything we can give them that is good for their unknown future?" … And the answer (from Magda) is Respectful interactions.

I think we grow and change from all our experiences and they are just that, our experiences. It gets all wonkie when we try to pass our experiences on to others in an effort to save them from uncomfortable moments, making mistakes, or we want them to feel joy, happiness, success from the experiences that gave us those feelings or results.  We get into trouble when we assume our experiences constitute some kind of knowledge base that is useful for informing others of how to act, feel, or respond in their life. I'm remembering the example Magda gives by asking us to think about what happens to a baby who is perhaps sadly experiencing some slice of life in their own way (frustration, upset, sadness, anger) and we swoop down on them and remove, distract, change, or alter the environment based on our experiences thinking it will be better for them. The message we send is their experience isn't as important or valid as the experience we've recreated and now wish them to have. You haven't respected their need to have their own experience, in their own way, at that moment in time. 

It's such a simple concept but we screw this up a lot of the time. I guess my answer to your question would be (from my experiences of course), experience is a personal growth catalyst/change agent that is individually encountered. Depending on the type of experience encountered the benefits seem maximized, or the obstacles minimized, when it occurs without interference or intervention from others (unless of course it is potentially harmful or life threatening). The more we are asked to interpret our experiences through the scripts of others, the less authentic or true to ourselves we become.

Positively love

Quote of the day:

I stay positive because I am creative, and more importantly, very easily deluded by myself. Writers know that there are always new twists, new characters, and new loves as the plot grows. So, even when things turn sour — it’s no problem; it is not impossible for a bag of gold to fall into your lap the next day, on the way to work. Neil Kramer

Holding hands with Ada this morning:


Happy Sixtieth to my darling life-long friend Jan, who celebrated mine with me last year – in Paris!

Jan is the one on the far right of the photograph. We have been friends since Upper High School years, and every year since we have called each other on our birthdays no matter where the other lives. While Jan currently lives in Italy, I caught her at 11:00 p.m. her time while visiting in Australia to celebrate her birthday. It was 7:00 a.m. my time this morning. Joyeux anniversaire, darling friend!

A friend wrote on Facebook this morning:

Love like mad! Don't take ANYTHING for granted! It's going to be a beautiful day!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: For Molly

Sifting through

Quote of the day:

I've been sifting through the layers of dusty books and faded and papers that tell a story I used to know, it was one that happened so long ago. Kate Wolf, Across the Great Divide.

This morning I spent a few hours going through my old memory box, which is full of cards, letters and gifts that I have been hoarding for years, from family, friends and loved ones. Items and expressions that have buoyed me up and given me strength and courage to keep the hope alive. It seems I needed to review them as some events have caused me painful, emotional abandonment feelings. In fact, there were many things I threw out, and some I sat quietly and read through, feeling a sense of where I have been and how I arrived at this point in time. I remembered how recently an acquaintance had admonished me for self-piteous whining about how anonymous I always feel, and how no one knows who I am because I keep moving from country to country, state to state, town to town. Indeed, she instructed me that it does not matter if people know about my past or not. It is important to realize for myself how I came to be who I am today, and that all those things and stuffs that happened in the past went to making up who I am now. Great words of wisdom, which although painful to hear at that moment, are gratefully accompanying me since.

And so, I threw out quite a few cards and letters, gifts and items that are not necessary for me to hold onto any longer. 

It feels lighter somehow. 

I must be entering a new phase. 

Indeed, when I look at myself in the mirror, I see a different me. While, I still feel like the old me deep inside, on the surface I look like someone else completely:


Photo 3

[even further before]

[even more recently]

All those pieces of me are firmly within my sense of self and my old emotional memory box. I no longer need to hold onto external stuff to tell me who I am. It is becoming clearer and clearer inside my gut, how I feel, but more importantly, how I interpret my feelings. 

My new therapist is an expert, an artist. Even as it feels almost as if I am writhing in agony, as I weep openly, copiously, he holds still watching me, relentlessly, coaxing me back to my deepest feelings, and invites me to confront them head on. I am starting to understand that he trusts my courage to do this. Indeed, he should, because I am hungry to learn. Turning sixty has made me realize, more than ever before, that there is no time to mess about with this stuff! I want to work this through and come to some peaceful state of mind before I die. 

No time like here and now … here and now … here and now …

The urge to write

Photo 5  

As evening falls and the darkening sky settles on the white blanket of snow outside my window, the urge to write rises in me. Not being sure what I want to write about I sit at my computer with only the light from the screen shining gently on the keyboard. Ada sighs and relaxes into a deep sleep seeming satisfied that I will be spending some time near her click clacking at the keys. Shoulders and arms ache – a healthy pain of long, hard snow shoveling with all the neighbors in our parking lot this afternoon. A community of women and men, wrapped in coats, hats, scarves and gloves, shoveling and brushing, maneuvering the cars in and out while helping one another prepare for the regular work day in the morning. 

So much laughter as the sun shone onto car roof-tops and snow blew down on us from the old, huge Chestnut Hill trees. These small moments of camaraderie mean a lot to me. For I have always enjoyed the kindness of strangers. Someone called me a saint as I pushed and lifted huge shovel loads of snow out from under their wheels. I chuckled aloud. "I am not a saint!" I called out, "I am repenting for all my past sins!" Wild shouts of laughter from all around. Scrape, scrape, shovel, shovel, crunch, crunch. As we finished with one car, on we pressed to another and another until all were cleaned up, shiny and wet and ready for the new day ahead. 

I stumbled back into the apartment muscles complaining from areas in my arms and legs I had forgotten about. I took a long drink of cool sparkling water and looked around the kitchen. 

What to do next?

Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: The peace train

Snow day (Update)


A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Quote of the day (Update)