Looking back and thinking forward

Month: July, 2014

Saying goodbye

I dedicate this post to a very dear friend, who some years ago sent me Nuala O'FaolainAlmost There: The Onward Journey of a Dublin Woman.

In her note that she sent with the book, my friend wrote: "Dear Tamar, I just finished this book. Thinking about you at so many places. Find time to read a few pages each day. I believe you will find it worth the time. Much love …" 

I finally got to reading the book these past two weeks, and I felt a great deal of appreciation for my friend for thinking of me through it.

Quotes of the day:

A memoir may always be retrospective, but the past is not where its action takes place. (Page 52)

because it is a precious thing to be allowed to talk about yourself in public, not for reasons of simple exhibitionism but because the attempt to describe your experience to an audience pushes you forward into an understanding of it. (Pages 60, 61)

Surely the self has begun to move toward health when it takes itself seriously enough to tell its story? (Page 192)

Maybe I'm climbing toward the light all the time though I don't know it … Today it seems to me that there is no closing of the account with parents … I think I will be haunted by my mother forever. It gives me hope, all the same, that I'm not sure anymore that the best thing to do with her is forgive her. There's more at stake now than ever before, and it is much, much later in life. Why not steel myself to split up with her this time? Tell her to manage by herself at last? … I'd say, "Goodbye," and even though I'd never forgive myself, I'd turn my back on her and walk out the door. (Pages 274, 275)

Nuala O'Faolain: Almost There: The Onward Journey of a Dublin Woman

Recently, I read a couple of memoirs of people who survived very difficult childhoods – physically or emotionally. Resilience in the face of abuse of any kind is always fascinating for me. Most recently, my therapist helped me face that I am one of those survivors. Needless to say, it was a difficult session for me, and I survived that too! In fact, it was validation of a kind that I have not experienced before, and ever since that day I find that I am starting to feel a different type of calm – reinforcing for me, once again, that validation is an essential component of the healing process. Just being able to say to myself, "this happened to me," has been so important. Indeed, it has opened me up to a deeper understanding of my mother's life, and more importantly, that her reactions or behaviors toward me had nothing to do with me – I was not to blame – another essential component of my healing process.

Reading the second part of O'Faolain's memoir, I was intrigued by her conclusion (above), where she allows herself to contemplate that saying goodbye and walking away from her mother could be better than forgiving her. I like to think of it as her description of a feeling, rather than the act of leaving her mother behind. I identified strongly with the sentiment though. For, in point of fact, twenty six years ago I did just that. I said: "Goodbye," and left the country. Of course, at the time I was not aware that I needed to physically leave my mother in order to survive. As I look back now I realize that was what happened. Creating that distance in miles helped me discover my own mind, and reality other than what I had been taught to feel and believe about myself. It took years for me to come to terms with all of this – some of the times were lonely, frightening, and very painful. 

In the end though, while I physically turned my back on my mother when I left Israel twenty six years ago in order to save myself emotionally, in learning to validate my experience, and understand my mother's life more deeply, I chose to forgive her.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Bag of guilt

Don’t let go … live it through!

Quote of the day:

One day, walking through a small copse, the skies blackened, lightening flashed and thunder roared and pellets of hail began to rage down on us as we huddled together against a wall of a nearby farm. We were way up coming upon the highest point of the wall, and the weather seemed as close to the sky as it could ever have been.

From: The Walk

Letting go of the past is much easier said than done. People love to say it – and wouldn't we love to do it? "Just let it go!" we say to people, who are suffering, mourning, raging, feeling feelings. But how do we let it go unless we have gone through to the other side? If we pretend to "let it go," or ignore the feeling, it becomes repressed or numbed out, and will surely pop up again at another stage or time when we least expect or want to feel it. Experiencing the past or feeling feelings is like a storm that passes through. We can't push it away. We have to hunker down and sit it out, watching the lightening streak and flash, and hear the thunder roar and roll around the skies above. And when it's over, we find relief out into the fresh, clear air. I remember once hiking along Hadrian's Wall, when a storm came upon us way up at the highest point of our walk. There was no way we could have pushed it aside or continue on with the walk. So we all huddled against the wall of a nearby farm and waited it out. Pellets of hail raged all around us and lightening and thunder flashed and roared about us. When it passed, and we walked on, I remember experiencing a calm and joy that was impossible to describe. 

That sense of peace is what we all would love to feel, and many of us strive toward. As I wander about this life, I experience many people (me included) who become panicked or alarmed by intensity of emotion of any kind, and try to repress or numb it out with sayings about "letting go," or who sound proud when they prefer shutting emotions down. As if this was the mature or courageous way out. I think it is more courageous to feel it through to the other side – hang in there with the intensity, and explore the nature of the experience as it rumbles and swirls through the psyche and body.

Of course, it all starts when we are very young. For example, when toddlers start to have tantrums. That's when it begins! Adults around become panicked. Instead of recognizing that the little child is experiencing an intense confusion of feelings – a type of emotional storm – which must be terrifying for any child – adults punish, ignore, ostracize, condemn, or abandon them for having a tantrum. Oftentimes shrugging it off as just "doing it for attention." I wonder what kind of world it would be if, instead, we sat close to the child and said, "I am going to stay here with you. Right here. I am not afraid of your feelings. You are safe with me." And then, just be there for the child. Help them live through the intensity as if it was a normal part of the human condition, a typical stage of development, and learn that feelings are just that – feelings. Allow them to explore the emotional storm in a safe space, with someone who does not judge them for being human, and then come out on the other side – drenched, but calm. For how can we be rational when emotions are raging within? Only when we experience that calm, can we look back and see how or where it all came from. That way, we can help children experience the emotion instead of having to act it out in horrific ways in later years, while, finally, grabbing catastrophic attention.

When I am allowed to feel the feeling, live through the storm, I am better able to know what I want and need in a peaceful way after it has passed through. And, no … I don't think there is a way to prevent confusing emotions from happening to a young toddler. Their world is new and complex. They are starting to find independence and yet still need us so much – and in there lies the confusion. It is simply a stage that will pass, as the child learns to negotiate and balance out the complexity toward a type of mature interdependence. A relationship where one can be confident and independent, and, at the same time, still need and love another.

Besides, how do I actually let go of the past when it exists in the emotional memory templates of my brain, unless I am able to recognize it when it rises up again and again associatively with my life of now? If I push the past away, I won't be able to welcome it in as a part of who I have become. I won't be able to integrate it into the me of now, if I don't experience the essence, the very core of the original feeling. And I have learned, if I ignore my past, it does not prevent it from visiting me over and over again in a million different ways and at the oddest of moments when I least expect it!

So, in the future, I am going to try to say to myself, "Don't let it go, Tamarika. Live it through. Experience the nature of it, and welcome it into my life of now." And then, I am going to try to have the courage and compassion to give myself a safe space to do just that.

A writer rambles … a little each day

I have been doing a little blog housecleaning since I have had time on my hands. Having a summer cold virus does that for me – gives me time on my hands because it lays me up in bed, or languishing on the couch. So, I checked out links on my blog and deleted those that had become obsolete. In so doing I realized that many of my blogging friends have given up the ghost. It is easy to do. I get out of the habit of writing far too easily to honestly call myself a writer. But as with each label there are varying definitions for each of us is unique. But, honestly, I need to get back into the writing groove because I want to complete a book this year – perhaps before the year is out. And so, once again my blog will come to my rescue. I can practice with it – getting back into the writing groove I mean. I have often reflected on whether I should continue blogging. Very few people actually read it or comment any more, and Facebook type sites feel so much easier to work with – sharing stray thoughts and feelings like little "drive-by shootings." Writing causes me to go a little deeper into an idea or thought – and especially with emotions, for those are full of complexity including whether I am able to feel them at all. Being numb or distracted is often an easier way I have learned to deal with feelings. Defense mechanisms developed to help me survive childhood. The resilience of children, and look how we have all turned out!

Having my say – not towing the party line – throwing out different options for me or others to think about – playing with words – creating literary images – these are some of the skills I have reinforced and developed through my blog. And I return to its site again and again. So, I have clearly decided not to give up the ghost on blogging. In fact, I would say that I have pretty much been writing my memoir through these pages during the past eight years. My own personal e-book of sorts. Today as the fever has finally cleared and the raspy cough is dissapating, eyes cease their streaming, and sneezes disappear, I feel as if I am coming out of some kind of illness storm that took me by surprise. And as I reach out slowly into this bright, clear summer's day, I breathe deeply again, and write on.

The interpretation of dreams

I had a recurring dream last night, one that over the years I have tried to understand to no avail. Today I think I solved the mystery. It came to me as Life Partner and I were sitting comfortably in my study with our morning coffee. I was talking about my latest therapy session, and how I feel as if lately I am touching the very core, the source of emotional trauma from my childhood. I described the pain as both excruciating and healing all at the same time – something I have needed to confront for a very long time in order to be free of the past. And then, suddenly, in the midst of our conversation – there it was – the mystery was uncovered, and I understood what the recurring dream meant to me. 

I chose not to divulge my thoughts about that with Life Partner, just as I choose not to report the story of my dream on my blog this morning. However, I do want to recognize how sharing my inner life publicly has been important for me as a way of validating my experience. Indeed, seeing my emotional life story out there in print allowed me to acknowledge that it was real.