Looking back and thinking forward

Month: December, 2012

A writer’s blog

This morning I was reading through past blog posts, when I came upon this one titled: 

An interview: me to me 

It was written seven years ago to the very day.

Reading it, I realized three things:

  1. Just how much blogging and my blogging community has changed;
  2. How much I still love writing – blogging in particular; and,
  3. Good grief! I am heading into my eighth year of blogging.

1. In 2005, I received 18 comments for that blog post, from a steady and constant group of fellow bloggers. We were, indeed, a community of pioneers, supporting one another through all kinds of writing challenges as well as life experiences. Sadly, I am reminded that at least one of those people, commenting on that piece, has since died. In blogging, I discovered a place for self expression, where I could try out all my writing skills to share immediately with a group of cyberspace friends. I even dabbled in Haiku! Eight years later, most of my companions from that time have either moved on, or joined a much wider community through Facebook. Nowadays, if one or two of the old guard stop by to read a post on my blog, which they found announced on Facebook, they make their comments directly to my Facebook page – if at all. 

2. From time to time I wrote about the experience of writer's block; here; and here. Nothing new in that, as so many writers are blocked from time to time for all kinds of reasons. Mostly, though, I love writing. In fact, recently I realized that not only do I not want to stop writing, I really do need it! For, through writing I am able to explore and uncover pieces of myself that I did not realize were lurking in the crevices of my mind. In addition, it helps me clarify feelings that are confusing and uncomfortable. Just a few days ago my sister and I were chatting about our childhoods. She described playing with a kitchen set when she was a child, which excited her for future cooking experiences. Suddenly I remembered that I had played at being a teacher when I was a young child. In fact, the idea of grading or, rather, "editing" someones work had appealed to me at a very young age. I had taken some of my story books and written all over them making corrections and comments, like, "Well done," or, "Try and do better next time." It was not so much the imparting of knowledge that engaged me in the role of teacher, but rather, the ability to edit someones writing! Blogging seems like the perfect venue for me. While I love writing books and articles, columns or letters, and even personal journals, blogging seems like the perfect balance of journaling, self reflection, and sharing with the public my written expressions of things as I perceive them. Feedback used to be immediate, and, more often than not, supportive, thus helping me build confidence as a writer, as well as practically supporting me to improve my writing skills. I suppose that is why I continue to blog while writing books, and even with the waning of readers and feedback. It is the act of writing out loud in the blogosphere that gives me so much satisfaction and joy. 

3. And so, here it is. Eight years later. In a few days time it will be my eighth blogging anniversary. And whether people stop by to read this post or not, I have enjoyed looking back on my writer's blog. Most likely I will continue to tap away at the keys of my trusty computer companion – usually early in the morning, but sometimes at different times of the day when the urge to write a post just bubbles up spontaneously from hidden corners of my brain. In a way I miss the old blogging community, whose members were spread out all over the world discovering a brilliant new way to hook up, communicate, and share our stories. But recently I discovered that I have always been a kind of loner, a type of introvert, and suspicious of any club that would have me, even though, at the same time, I yearn to belong to a loving and supportive community. Such is the complexity of being human! Indeed, blogging, for me, is a wonderful way of combining all those worlds together. I can still be a loner, while at the same time, share my stories and writing expression with the entire world community – mostly, without ever seeing or even hearing from anyone out there!

Alone in our library on this bright, cold, winter morning I look out through large, wide windows at a white blanket of snow covering bare trees, bushes, and Ada's little grave under a withered chrysanthemum nestled up close to the garage. Silently, I raise my coffee cup and make a toast to eight years of blogging – and still going strong.

Slipping quietly into the day

I love the early morning.

Even before dawn has a chance to light up the night sky.

I love the silence, which surrounds and envelops me while Life Partner sleeps, anyone, who might be visiting is asleep on the third floor, or even when I travel away, friends or family members sleep on into the morning. It is as if I, and I alone own the new day. It is a time just for me.

Cats are hunkered down close by as I sip my coffee and reflect on past feelings and future plans. 

The New Year is on my mind as it beckons just two days away. This past year, like so many others, has been filled with personal, political, and professional happenings, accompanied by so many emotions that I am finally allowing myself to feel. It has been a busy time, and as I reflect back I realize how quickly it has all gone by, or how moments are already forgotten, or stored away to think on for another time. I am already making travel and presentation plans for 2013. I wonder where I will be this time next year, or what I might be working on professionally and psychologically by then. This cycle, marking time as I do from year to year, is constant and reassuring as I bid farewell to the past, and move on towards the future. Life changes and shifts, yet all the while remaining the same in so many ways. Reading over past blog posts I am reminded how my psychological issues seem to change ever so slightly, and I almost feel as if I have not moved beyond anything at all. 

I don't think I will be making any resolutions for this coming year, just two days away. For, lately, I think of life as a continuum, continuing and flowing from one moment to the next, in and out of days and months, and into yet another new year. I am grateful to continually uncover layers of my Self in therapy, allowing me to see more realistically who I am, what I am capable of, and most importantly understand more clearly what I feel. I do not fear grief as much as I used to. For, I realize it will always accompany me as I leave behind then, or move beyond now. For example, this past year I have said goodbye to my son the child, discovering him as a man. I have bid farewell to the perception I had of myself to uncovering someone I am learning to like, worthy of making an effort or taking a stand for. Letting go of perceptions and expectations of friendship, or the notion of family.

With each farewell, letting go, or moving beyond, there is some sadness in the loss of habits and illusions created to defend a seemingly defenseless and lonely soul. Life is, as one of my advisors used to say, "All about grief." And as I allow myself to become more and more aware of my feelings, my experience of joy and happiness is deepened as well.

And … well … my lonely old soul is just not so lonely any more.

The popular girl

I was never the popular girl at school. I had one, or maybe two friends, but mostly I stayed to myself and slunk around trying to be invisible, a little like my new kitten, Oscar. I envied popular girls. They seemed to be so much more confident, smart and pretty than me, and everyone wanted to be with and like them. In particular, I remember one popular girl in high school. She teased me and called me names, especially when her group of groupies gathered around. Mostly anti-Semitic type names. It hurt to the core, and I tried to keep out of the way when I could. Even as I think back to those times, I feel a surge of anger. I wish I had had the strength at least to ask someone for help. But, I think I might have been ashamed, and as I still do, probably thought they were right about me, or that I had done something, just by being me, to deserve their scorn. As I reflect back fifty years ago, I still feel those painful feelings as poignantly as I did then, as a young teenager in my old Rhodesian high school. High school was not a happy time for me. Mostly, I felt threatened and afraid, but, more importantly, I felt that I could not match up to all those people ever so much more beautiful, confident, and smarter than me.

Lately, I find myself confronting all those past, painful emotions once again. They have been welling up almost daily since my trip to Italy in October, where I was faced with similar kinds of behaviors and reactions from a person I thought had been close to me. It was devastating for me, and those feelings have remained with me until now. It surprises and dismays me to experience such ancient emotions now at the ripe old age of 63! As soon as I sense a twinge of anger at having been treated badly, that old shame floods in as it used to when I was a young girl back in Africa, struggling to fit in, find a place, or feel belonging. The same old ancient shame that the person was right about me, or that I had done something, just by being me, to deserve their scorn.

Everyone needs attention and acknowledgement. It is not something to be ashamed about. As I look at the inner child in me, as a teacher or counselor, I understand what I needed and did not receive as a child. The more I learn these things about myself, the more I realize how critical our relationships with young children are. Especially with regards to neglect. Young children need attention from us in order to learn about their identity and self worth. When they are quiet, or try to make themselves invisible, we need to seek them out, and remind them how valuable they are to us. There are many children out there strutting and showing off their smarts and talents. That is their style of seeking acknowledgment. They know how to snatch up the attention they need from people around them, probably having learned at an early age to compete for their parent's acknowledgement, just as withdrawing children learned to keep their heads down, or stay out of the way of the unpredictable or violent rages of their parents.

Still, it is remarkable, really, how such old habits and ancient feelings still affect me when I am becoming as old as the hills. When I look at myself objectively and realistically, I see an accomplished older woman, who contributes to improving the emotional lives of so many children and their teachers around the country. I write, teach, and give presentations and workshops all over the nation, even internationally.

And yet, when someone is mean to me, I collapse in a heap, as distraught as I used to be when I was thirteen or fourteen years old!

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Resolutions

Blocking the writer

Who knew? I have discovered that anger blocks my writing.

Or rather …

I should say: shame about my anger blocks my writing.

What is it with this anger thing?

As an early childhood educator, I know cognitively and emotionally that anger is simply one of all of many feelings human beings experience. It is not good or bad. It just is. Indeed, anger is necessary to feel, in order to make a stand about being hurt. I teach teachers about accepting children's anger and helping them to express it productively. I write for teachers about learning to recognize and accept their own anger, while, at the same time, helping them to express it productively.

And yet …

When I sense even the smallest twinge of anger in myself, for any kind of injustice large or small, I immediately become ashamed and blocked – paralyzed in any kind of action, developing headaches, and even becoming depressed.

Thus …

… blocking myself in expressing it.

Thus, becoming unable to write. 

And so, I think I am developing a New Year's resolution.

I want to allow me to become my own supervisor – a friend to my Self. I want to look at myself from a distance, as if I would a fellow teacher, a family member, child, colleague, or friend, and treat myself as I do others. I want to teach myself how to accept my anger, while at the same time helping me to express it productively. 

I realize this will be difficult, for very early in my childhood I learned to feel ashamed of just about any of my emotions, especially anger. Indeed, shame creeps up and into me almost immediately, thus blocking me from feeling angry, or, and this has been a most amazing discovery lately, even joy and pride at my accomplishments! Unlearning what I learned in my earliest childhood will be tough indeed. For, as my therapist reminds me, undoing "brainwashing" ain't easy. Especially since I have discovered, I was a diligent student when I was young, and what I was taught to feel, stuck – stuck hard and deep!

So, this coming year, 2013, starting this morning, I am going to take my "inner child" by the hand, and gently and compassionately help little "tamarika" accept that she is, like all other humans, allowed to feel uncomfortable feelings – especially, and including anger.

At the same time, perhaps, drive away the dark shame that blocks and binds me to ancient, early childhood fears.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Blimey, what a year that was

Letter to Ada

Dear Ada,

This morning, as I was taking out the garbage, I glanced over to the area where we buried your ashes almost two months ago. The chrysanthemum we planted over your grave has been cut back in preparation for winter, and all the leaves raked away. It looked bare and cold, especially because of gray skies and chilly winds today. I thought of how I miss chatting to you about what I am thinking or feeling. Indeed, I miss singing to you. You seemed to like that so much, especially when I whistled a tune. You would start following me about, chirping and responding so sweetly. 

I want you to know that a lot is going on in our house lately. You see, I brought home two new kittens. I think they would have driven you crazy, because you had become older and quieter and, at times, I noticed you hopped up the stairs slowly with jumps and steps that were almost painful for you. I wonder, had you already developed some kind of arthritis? The kittens are called Oscar and Mimi, and they are very busy racing around inspecting each and every item. They chase each other up and down the stairs, under couches and cupboards. Sometimes they rough and tumble play with a wild type of aggression that makes me want to weep with worry, until I realize, as Diane from the Kitty Adoption Team (KAT) told me recently, "All kittens do this."

Dear, sweet Ada, Oscar and Mimi adore playing with little toy mice, soft colored balls, and they especially love running after a laser beam, a red point of light, which I can shine on anything. Of course, over Thanksgiving weekend, Gilad and I both thought it was a bit mean to have them chasing after a light that disappears as soon as they achieve their goal of finding it, sometimes jumping high in the air to try and catch it in a corner of the wall. But, I have discovered that they get quite a bit of exercise that way, and they seem to enjoy the task. 

I miss you at night, Ada. You slept at the foot of the bed, tucking yourself into my legs and feet, adjusting to fit in whenever I rolled over, or moved in my sleep. Lately, I wake up suddenly and search out in the dark for the form of your soft, furry body. Each time I realize you are no longer with us, I feel an emptiness, a type of longing and loneliness that makes me weary to the bone. Not tired enough to fall back to sleep, but fatigued from the ache of missing you. This morning, at four o'clock, I had managed to fall back into a fitful sleep, when I heard a little warbling type of chirp. It was so soft I almost did not hear it. I looked down and noticed little Oscar staring up at me from the floor by my bedside. I smiled down at him and said quietly, so as not to wake up life partner, "Good morning, little fellow. Do you want to come up?" Oscar sprung up like a teddy bear as the "Jack" from a Jack-in-the-box, and slipped under the covers, pressing his soft body up against my side. I held him in my arms and we slept together, deeply, for about an hour or so. When I awoke again, he was playing with my fingers with his paws, while gently nibbling on my wrist. 

By that time Mimi had also come upstairs, and the three of us went down to the kitchen together, me as slowly as you used to be, Ada, and Mimi and Oscar, bounding and tumbling like the two toddler kitties they are. As they slurped up their food with an energetic hunger, delightful to behold, I stood close by sensing the pain of yearning for you subside slightly into the background. Ah, sweet Ada, my darling old friend. I will never forget you, you know that. But I want you to know that you taught me how to love openly and unashamedly, and now Oscar and Mimi will inherit all that knowledge and emotion that you helped me develop and enjoy when you were alive.

After Mimi and Oscar fell asleep in the dining room, each on a different chair, just like you used to do when I would leave for work each day, I went up to our study and checked my email messages. There was one from Diane. She had written to cheer me on as a response to my grief and despair these past two days. She sent me this poem, which, although it is written for dogs, seems extremely suitable for you, Ada … and me.


[Click on the picture to enlarge]

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Becoming includable