tamarjacobson

Looking back and thinking forward

Month: January, 2014

What’s it all about?

Not to sound too despondent or pessimistic, but as I was squeezing juice out of my grapefruit this morning, I had the feeling that I have been doing this every morning for years. Granted, when I lived in Israel, over twenty five year ago, I squeezed juice out of oranges every morning, so in a sense there has been some change. In those days I squeezed many oranges for their juice because I was preparing a healthy drink for my son and husband at the time. These days I only squeeze one grapefruit, and it's just for me because Life Partner would probably find it too acidic. 

Back to squeezing my grapefruit this morning, because as I did so it occurred to me that when I die, I will not remember the endless squeezing of grapefruits. Nor will I remember all the tiny routine chores I do robotically each day. The rhythm of routine and chores suddenly seemed pointless to me, and I looked up from squeezing and thought (almost out loud), "So, what's it all about?"

Of course, that is a question for the ages. Many famous philosophers, theologians, and psychologists, not to mention all kinds of regular folk, have thought about this question from various points and dimensions. Some actually believe they have found an answer. I must admit that this morning I have no response to my question. Indeed, I have no clue what "it's" all about. I just know that some days I have enormous amounts of energy to continue with my tiny, routine chores, and at other times I look up to the sky, or ceiling as it was today, and think, "What's it all about?"

I wonder what I will think about before I die. Of course, I cannot know if I will lie languishing and pondering the end of my days, or if I will be snapped out of life in an instant. But, still, I can't help but wonder what might be my last and final thought. I suspect it could well be something as mundane as squeezing my grapefruit on a cold and wintry morning, for who knows how the mind works and what associations I will have with what is occurring at that time. Plus, I may not know that in the next moment my life will be over.

I read through what I have written and sigh. Ho hum – Much ado about nothing. Life goes on. Some days this, other times that. And yet, I can't help it. This morning, I am still left wondering, "So … What's it all about?"

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Back in time …

Bath time ruminations

I look across the classroom at the faces of undergraduate students. I think to myself, “I wonder if they realize that I was a child once.” For, now I must seem old to them. My short gray hair, cheeks sagging a little, and there is a slow limp to my step. I stand before them talking about syllabi and schedules, expectations, and attendance grades. They take notes and gaze in my direction. Some seem alert and even pleased to be here. Others look weary and lonely; probably wishing they were anywhere else but here. I think about ways I might connect with them so that they will believe me when I try and teach them about compassion and kindness for all young children in their future classrooms …

Revelation.

I have been going to therapy for years for self-alteration. To become a better person. Not to become happier. Indeed, therapy was a perfect avenue for me because I could say to myself over and over again – there is something wrong with me and I need to fix me. Now my therapist explains in a way that I can hear. He says he is always telling me (at times he thinks it must seem as if he is trying to bash me over the head) that I am more than okay. He goes onto tell me that this information should make me feel better, and yet I argue with him. Over and over again he has been explaining to me that it is other people who have hurt me over and over again. Instead of me realizing that and allowing them to own their behaviors and insults to me, I take on the problem as if it is my fault. I tell him that I came to therapy to fix me, and now he is telling me there is nothing to fix, nothing to alter.

I posted this one year ago, and I can't get over how it is completely relevant to me this morning. The only thing for me to add is that I totally understanding why I have been so angry and full of regret this past year. Because of wasted time. Of course, over wasted time and energy! So, now – no more regrets. New Year's resolution: onward and upward!

Time to like me, and enjoy life to the fullest!

Family ties

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On one of the snowy afternoons last week, I rummaged through photo albums and piles of old photographs to gather pieces of my family for a collage frame I had just purchased from the small camera shop up in Chestnut Hill. I spread out all the pictures around me while seated on the carpet in my study, and felt as if my life of 64 years and before were visiting me in my home. I laughed at this one and cried at another, snipped and tucked each carefully chosen photograph into place, and then raised it up for me to see.

It all started recently while I was visiting the family in Israel. For, one day I discovered on my sister's wall a picture that had long ago hung in my mother's little sitting room, where she used to keep her books and records, and where I would often sleep when visiting her from Jerusalem, first as a student, and then from Ramat Hasharon, where I lived before emigrating to America. I loved that room. It faced a small front porch and a view of wisteria growing wild over the roof of the garage. It was small and snug and felt full of literature and music. When I was in my early twenties living in Manchester, I sent my mother a photograph of me pregnant with my son. She said it reminded her of a Van Eyck painting, The Arnolfini Wedding. And so, as soon as I could find one I sent her a postcard of the print. On my return from England with my new, young infant, I found she had combined the two pictures together in a silver frame. From then on, whenever I slept in that little room, I would look up and see me and Van Eyck together on the wall. It gave me such a good feeling, because I wasn't used to her acknowledging me very often. As I stared at the picture on my sister's wall in her little room she calls her "Rogues Gallery," many memories, which I had long forgotten, came flooding back.  

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I was amazed at how easily I had forgotten so many things. As soon as I returned from Israel, I decided to recreate that picture. I found an original photograph of me so young and hardly recognizable to me now, from back then pregnant with my son. I printed out a copy of the Van Eyck portrait, and placed the two pictures in a frame. After it was hung on my wall, I stood and stared at it for a long, long time allowing memories to wash over me.

And then, there I was, as if in a dream suddenly creating a gathering of pictures of my family. As I raised the completed, framed collage for me to see, I realized that I am a part of a rich history of family members, each complex, interesting, and unique. Indeed, I am tied to each and every one in important ways that combine to make me who I am today. 

It had been a sad week for me visiting my 97-year-old mother, who lay sleeping most of the days I was there. It felt as if she was fading away, and there was nothing I could do to hold onto her. During the process of pulling together the collage, and allowing memories that I had tucked away these past twenty five years to return, I keenly felt her strength and presence in my life through the images and eyes of all those different and amazing people in the photographs. 

Now, having created my own little "Rogues Gallery," I pass the pictures many times a day as I go up and down, to and from my study. Sometimes I stop and stare at them, and when I do, I find that I feel full and whole – tied to my family in ways I have not experienced in a long, long while.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Blinded by the sun

Feeling versus acting out

Sometimes, when emotions become too intense or uncomfortable, I feel the need to run away, rather than hold still and confront them within me. I am probably not the only human being on earth who feels this way. Some people call that "fear of confrontation." With me, it is also a fear of confronting my own feelings – especially anger. And so, if I sense a twinge of anger rising in me, my first and most immediate reaction is, "Get out of here!" I do that in numerous ways: taking myself to the kitchen to wash dishes, cleaning the house, running to the bathroom, going for a walk, calling up a friend to help relieve the discomfort, jumping in my car and driving around for awhile, taking myself to my room – like a sort of self-punishing time-out – and crying alone. More often than not, I solve the whole thing by sinking into self-hatred, and turn the anger inward toward my self. 

That is why therapy can be excruciating for me at times. When feelings of anger rise up during the course of the session, I have nowhere to run. I am forced to face them, hold still, and experience them head on. When I try to flee toward self-hatred, my therapist points that out immediately, and I have no recourse but to express outwardly to him what I am feeling within. If I am able to get that far (which is not often), the result is followed by enormous relief accompanied by a surge of energy that invariably produces feelings of love and forgiveness. It is quite magical!  Because, in those moments, no action has to be taken. I am able to experience the anger, understand it is just that – a feeling – and it does not translate into my being a bad human for having the emotion. Once I accept that, I find the space to take control of my actions. I can decide: Should I react? Will it help to "Get out of here?" Is it better to talk it through? And so on.

Growing up I was rejected or abandoned for expressing my anger, so it is understandable that those emotional memories haunt me as an adult, and make me want to run for my life from even experiencing the feeling. But, I'm thinking that at age 64, with all I have accomplished, it is time to shed that fear. Rejection at my age is disappointing, but not a catastrophe. It is sad if someone cuts-off from me – even for years – and a loss for all of us – but not the end of the world. Besides, saying I want to leave is different from actually doing it! Lots of us at many different times feel like we want to cut-off or run away – and might even express that wish. That includes me – a style I learned as a young child imitating significant adults in my life. But, I realized recently – almost like a revelation – that very few actually act on it. As I age, I understand that those who act it out are probably afraid of confronting emotional discomfort, and their action has very little to do with the person they are cutting off from.

So, I am heading into a new era – and it couldn't happen at a better time. After all, at my age, there is no more time to lose. Yes indeed. I am practicing shedding my fear of rejection, and who knows? Maybe one day, hopefully before I die, I will actually not fear it for real.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Exercising my writes

Blog-aversary 2014

Today is my ninth anniversary of blogging.

During 2013, I enjoyed spending time reading past blog posts and observing my psychological progress. Indeed it is almost a decade since I have been exploring how I feel and understanding what has made me who I am now. At times I have been very open with my psychological process. It felt good to share my ramblings and reflections. 

Sometimes I think, "What a waste! I could have written three memoirs instead of eight years of blog posts!" But my blog importantly feels like a safe haven – a home to experiment and explore – more public than a private journal, and yet still within my control enough for me to delete or expose as I want. 

It is almost 11 years since the publication of my first book. While I was visiting my family in Israel last week, to my surprise I came across a copy of that book, which I had sent as a gift to my mother back in 2003. It was sitting on a shelf in my sister's house. I had inscribed a loving message to her in the front of the book. When I opened it, a card that I had written to my mother at the time fell out onto the floor. It read:

"August 27, 2003

Dear Mom,

I could not have written this book without the care and education I received from you! You have taught me so much about so many things and your strength and courage throughout everything has been a phenomenal model for me.

This book is about my perceptions of my life – not about your realities. You have contributed to my honesty and professional strength in enormous ways.

I am forever grateful.

And I love you,

Tamar"

I wondered sadly how my gift to my mother had landed up on a shelf in my sister's house, and took it with me back to America, as a memento of my relationship with my mother. This morning, I realize that writing that book started me on a journey of authentic self identification and acknowledgement about who I am. My second book was written about a different subject, but still was in a similar context, written as an extension of what I began in 2003. Both serve as a type of personal memoir, even though they were written professionally for teachers of young children. My card to my mother, written with love and sincerity did not help! And, even though I was shamed, shunned and punished by family members for writing down my story as a model of internal ethnography for teachers, I did not give up self- exploration through this blog during the past nine years. 

I am particularly grateful to all those who have stopped by, with good will, to read my stories, and especially to those who have been supportive and encouraging over the years. For it has been quite a painful journey at times. Writing for others to read, helped me believe how I feel, and gave me a voice, which was denied me growing up. More than that, it reinforces the importance of the work that I do with teachers to develop supportive and caring relationships with children, and helps me in my continued advocacy for children who are emotionally abused.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: At the top of the 8th

Holding still

Quote of the day:

… like any photograph, [it] interrupts experience to mark the moment. In this, it shares something with all the other ways we break up our day …

Technology doesn’t just do things for us. It does things to us, changing not just what we do but who we are … [photography] makes us accustomed to putting ourselves and those around us “on pause” in order to document our lives. It is an extension of how we have learned to put our conversations “on pause” when we send or receive a text, an image, an email, a call. When you get accustomed to a life of stops and starts, you get less accustomed to reflecting on where you are and what you are thinking. Sherry Turkle

After reading Turkle's article in mid December, I decided to begin the New Year with a new attitude toward self and Facebook. It coincided with the skill I have been acquiring these past five years or so: holding still with feelings. To be more specific, I have been learning to feel my feelings, acknowledge and validate them before I choose to react or act on them. It was always so much easier to diffuse the discomfort of my emotions by pushing the feeling out and away from me and onto anything outside of me, or through punishing me with self-hate for having them in the first place. Holding still is always the challenge. Sitting with discomfort, getting to know the where's, why's and what's of how I am feeling, slowly uncovering the source, thus enabling me to make peace with some of my most difficult emotions – especially those that were deemed evil by significant adults in my early childhood.

Turkle made me instantly aware that I was becoming addicted to sharing all kinds of moments in my life without actually allowing myself to experience them. For example, this morning I was walking on the beach. The sun was shining on a clear, chilly day in the Middle East, with the Mediterranean Sea calm as glass, shimmering with rich, deep blue, turquoise and teal colors. Suddenly I noticed about a dozen large, black cormorants ducking and diving into the water. About three of four of them stood out on the rocks staring out toward the sea. They spread their wings out as wide as they could so that the sun warmed them from behind. I gasped and whispered out loud to myself, "Morning angels." A deep, spiritual feeling overwhelmed me bringing me comfort with my words, as I had been experiencing some challenging emotions during the evening and early morning prior to my walk. It immediately became uncomfortable for me, and I searched anxiously in my pockets for my iPhone to take a photograph of the cormorants to share on Facebook.

Then I stopped in my tracks and smiled to myself. Thank goodness, I had left my phone camera behind in the guest-room where I was staying in my sister's little wooden house. I stood still with the moment in awe of the cormorants sunning their enormous wings by the sea. I held still with all the complex emotions I had been feeling since my arrival in Israel a few days before, and allowed myself the full experience of awareness, and acceptance.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Peeking out over the top