Looking back and thinking forward

Month: January, 2012

Seven year itch

Well well, I realized yesterday that it is seven years since I started blogging … who would have thought I would keep at it for so long?

Certainly not me.

Over the years I considered giving it up, and there were times when I know my family wished I would! But lately, I feel good having the blog to accompany my thoughts and feelings as I continue to explore the emotional memory of my brain. I am not quite as prolific as I was back in the old days of the Tamarika: In and Out of Confidence blog, which helped me emotionally navigate the move from Buffalo to Philadelphia. And I certainly do not have the number of readers I once had a few years ago. But, still, I know there is a purpose to my continuing to post on this blog – I feel it deeply somewhere inside my writer's psyche.

I have reached some kind of writer's block. It is psychological (isn't it always?). Indeed, I feel as if I have come up against a wall of fear about self expression. I recognize when it started and why it has happened. Of course, it did not happen overnight. It has been gradual, and has taken about two to three years to build up. Right about now I stand shrinking and small smack up against the wall. I look high up at it, as it seems to reach the skies.


"Will I have to climb up and over it?" I think to myself, "Or could I just crash through?"

I identified the wall clearly this past weekend early on Sunday morning, and cannot wait for my therapist to return from vacation. I have much to discuss and uncover about my discovery. 

And so …

… Happy Bloggaversary to me!

I must say that I am looking forward to mining a few nuggets of wisdom as I crash through the wall to the other side.

Patterns of behavior

Just when I think I have changed radically from year to year, I read a post that I wrote on this blog about a year ago. I am always amazed at how similar the issues are that I am writing about. It might leave me discouraged, but then I notice a tiny difference, a tweak of a change in attitude or feeling that I experience now since then. So, there is movement albeit at a snail's pace. It is a type of progress I suppose.

Maturity is a complex process indeed. A constant negotiation with my inner child of yester-year. The challenge is mostly because I can never predict when the early childhood Tamarika will jump up into my adult Tamar's brain. Half the fun is working out why emotional buttons get pushed when they do, or catching them before they strike! I wish it was like with a cold. After all, I can feel a cold coming on. There are all sorts of symptoms and warning signs: fatigue, burning eyes, scratchy throat, sniffling, or little aches and pains in the bones. When my emotional buttons get pushed it seems as if there are no warning signs. Suddenly there I am, feeling like a six to ten year old child just as I am sitting in an important meeting surrounded by all kinds of academic and intellectual people staring at me waiting for a response. If only I could grab a mirror at that moment to remind me that I look like a life-experienced, educated woman in her sixties, instead of feeling like a fumbling, terrified, fragile little girl. I wish there was some warning sign like burning eyes and a scratchy throat – even a sneeze or two would help. It is so sudden and immediate that there is no time to negotiate with the little person I have emotionally regressed to. I am on the spot, all eyes on me, and I stumble and stutter, forgetting how to speak the English language, and garble some incoherent sentence so softly that people strain to hear me.

Lately, I sense a movement or a slight shift in my inner response to these situations. In the past, when that would happen to me, I would become angry after these incidents occurred, silently scolding myself and feeling badly about what an idiot I must have sounded like. This type of denigration would go on for what seemed like hours.

These days I am more compassionate with me, and am able to shrug it off with an understanding sigh. Sometimes, I even become aware of what is happening to me as it occurs. And then I am able to breathe deeply and find my way back to the me of now, sending the little, inner Tamarika back to rest quietly, safely in the recesses of my mind.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: The good mother

Burn out …

Quote of the day:

This is your life. You are responsible for it. You will not live forever. Don't wait.” Natalie Goldberg

Write for ten minutes … go …

Nothing left to say. I've said it all. Passion is depleted. Paradoxical to write about burn out when I feel burnt out. Writing is all about self expression, inspiration and passion. How does one write passionately about burn out? It is a little like taking a horse to water and then forcing her to drink. Pushing the head down into the bucket and holding it there. The horse does not fight it. Just lays there and opens her mouth slowly lapping the water softly at first, aimlessly, mainly to please the owner. Which reminds me that I awoke out of a dream where the "powers that be" had thrown away all my clothes and left instead a number of garments that looked exactly the same. Like a uniform. I thought to myself, in the dream, I am in prison. At first I thought it doesn't matter really because I am old. But what about the young people with me? It wasn't fair to force them to wear a uniform. I started to shout at the authority figures in the dream. "You can't do this!" … and then I awoke. I lay in the bed trying to experience the atmosphere of the dream through my senses, and slowly rose to drink coffee, play Internet Scrabble and water the plants. There was an aimless, resigned feel to my actions until I sat at the computer and found myself writing this post.

About burn out.

Of course … suddenly I discover what all this is about. Yesterday I pitched my idea for a new book. I had been excited about it for days – felt alive and alert and looking forward to the writing of it. But, oh well – someone had just recently done a book very similar to what I was proposing. These things happen, and of course I can still write it – perhaps for a different publisher. Because, write it I will – write it I must. It feels like a legacy sort of thing and something I want to do for teachers of young children out there. And as I write this piece now, I realize that at some level I struggle with the feeling that I am entitled to leave a legacy. I mean, who am I after all? Just some teacher educator somewhere. So, where do I get off thinking my legacy is worth anything. 

And now I see that I am not writing about burn out at all. Because even if my captors throw away all my beautiful, new clothes, and force me into a uniform of my old-ways-of-thinking-about-myself-mind, I can shout out to them, "You can't do this!" 

Because I deserve to leave a legacy of my life's work as an early childhood educator, and feel my worth in this way.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Last looks

Attention getting – Update

I do not know how many times have I heard a teacher or parent say: "Oh, she/he is just doing it for attention." Indeed, it is way too many times to count on all my fingers and toes of both hands and feet. And, I am sure that if I have not actually used that expression myself, I have certainly thought it – about others, and about myself. And, it is not usually in a positive way.

From the very earliest years, we silence children, trivialize and humiliate them. We scold them for wanting our attention, and shush them at every chance we get. We think that good children are silent, who do not take up too much of our time, energy … or … attention.

Children need our attention to survive – to feel loved and worthwhile. They would die without our attention – some do. They want to know what we think about them. They desire our validation, acknowledgement and support. And when they do not receive it, they compensate in all kinds of ways: repressing their needs and wants, shouting and becoming aggressive or violent, going underground and harboring resentment alone, or seeking it from anyone who will give it to them. Children feel invisible when they are unnoticed. 

Don't we all want attention? Don't we all want to have our feelings, ideas, and self expression validated, acknowledged, supported, or related to in some way? I think about blogging, Twitter, or Facebook. We love the attention! Posting our thoughts, photographs, birthday dates just so that others out there in the Universe will see, hear, and respond to us – immediately, if not sooner. I often find myself thinking or even saying out loud to myself – "Am I just doing this [whatever it is] for attention?" I feel shame when I seek it, and I constantly hear people judging others for being attention-getter's.

We all were children once, and, as adults, probably carry within us different ways of dealing with repressing our need for attention. Half the battle to understanding this very basic need, would be to acknowledge it as important in the first place, and then give ourselves permission for desiring it. It might be helpful to try and remember what we did as children to gain attention, be noticed, and feel important to the significant people in our young lives. 

I think I tried to gain attention by serving others and putting my needs last. And then, if I was noticed for my "goodness," I felt worthwhile. I have dragged that style with me right up until now! The trouble with this method is that I have to serve and sacrifice for a long time before I am noticed for my "goodness." By then, I am exhausted, frustrated, angry and resentful, and after briefly feeling worthwhile, I lash out much to the amazement of everyone around. Then I feel ashamed and guilty for my outburst, and immediately return to serving and sacrificing. A full cycle of attention-getting behavior that might have helped me survive as a child, but is quite unproductive or, even, destructive for me now.

So, let's go into this New Year more aware of our own emotional development … and give support, validation, acknowledgement, and loads of loving attention to all those youngest children out there – starting from the day they are born. Let's relate intelligently to what they say and do, and help them feel worthwhile and accepted through meaningful and authentic relationships.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Focus


Recently I received an email as a comment on this piece from one of my blog readers. Of course, I was deeply moved by this reader's kind words to me, but more than that I very much appreciated the sharing of a personal story.

I was given permission to post it here:

today I had to write to you. And It couldn't be a simple post or comment. Today you struck a nerve with your post about children wanting attention. You pulled something from deep in my soul and I felt I had to write to you to tell you this. 

I am a mother of six children. At this point half of them are nearly grown. But I also grew up in a large family and so many things I experienced as a child have stayed with me in much the same way I see that you have retained your childhood impressions. One thing in particular made an impression on me. The lack of attention from my parents. My parents, and many of their generation, did not pay attention to children. It was considered a weakness I think. I remember many nights being afraid of the dark or other nightly terrors that only can be conjured up by a 4-year old imagination. I would tiptoe to my parent's room. Their room was locked carefully each night to keep us out. I would curl up on the cold, hardwood floor outside their room and listen hopefully to their murmurs or the soft sound of their slumbered breathing. But I would be cold and scared still, curled in a tight ball outside their door on the floor. When I finally grew too cold I'd creep back to my bed to slowly allow exhaustion to come and then…. sleep. 

Today I have had all my children in bed from birth. Many frown on this I know. But the crowning glory is when I hear my now 21 year old daughter say that she wishes she could crawl in bed with me at night during a hard time in college. Or when I wake up and see my now 19 year old daughter standing at the side of my bed, ready to snuggle after a bad dream. Can this be real? This is the stuff of better dreams. This is what parenting can be if we attend to the needs of our children at a young age. They will still seek us out as adults, secure in the knowledge that love can be attainable and that the mutual attention we give to each other is a blessing and not a curse. 

You really get kids. You really get adults. Don't you? If you don't know this… let me tell you…. you do. 

I wish you had been my parent growing up. I know the lessons I have learned have been hard earned on the heels of my parent's upbringing. I should probably say I wouldn't trade it for the world. But the truth is I had a cold and scary upbringing. I wish you'd been my mother. I bet I'd be sharing tea with you now. You're a good person Tamar. I'm glad to know you through your blog. Blessings in this new year! Thanks for letting me write to you!