Looking back and thinking forward

Month: December, 2016

Where I am III


[Post card from Syracuse Cultural Workers]

It’s the end of an era for me. Here I am heading into 2017 … into the politically unknown. I feel uncertain, and more than a little worried that hateful rhetoric and mean political actions will hurt those most vulnerable.

On the other hand I am drawing on faith that the past eight years have also taught us a lot more about acceptance and understanding of the Other. For let’s not forget that it began with an appeal to our better angels:

What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives – from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry – an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels. Barack Obama, January 17, 2009

I took that sentiment to heart, and have tried to live it every day since then. I feel sure that I am not alone in this. In our community where I live, I have met and become friends with many people, who live with this sentiment daily. I see pasted on doors, posted in yards, and on local business windows signs that say: All are Welcome: Hate has no Business here.

I always love the lines in Kate Wolf‘s song, Across the Great Divide:

The finest hour that I have seen, are the ones that come between, the edge of night, and the break of day – that’s when the darkness rolls away …”

… for I believe that light has a way of making its way through the dark.

So, here I am – hoping that we will continue encouraging light to creep in and shine the way as we embark on a new year … new era … new political journey.

Where I am (II)

Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open. Natalie Goldberg

One of my most fervent beliefs is that, as teachers, our earliest, childhood, emotional memories affect how we interact with children – especially when dealing with discipline, and more specifically with accepting and understanding the many varied ways children express their need for attention. The greatest challenge in writing about memories is being as true to my own experience even if it is painful to confront. It is no secret that we all experience a similar event in different ways based on how we emotionally interpret situations, or how we learned to express ourselves. As I prepare to write a book about children and adults needing attention, I realize that my greatest challenge will be writing about my childhood experiences, so that adults reading the book will have permission to reflect on theirs. When writing my past books, being true to my experience has been difficult for those closest to me to accept. For their experience is just as true for them, and most often as different as can be.

My experiences with attention giving or receiving as a child and adult, and especially in my work with children, teachers and families, make me realize that this might be at the center of my own childhood pain. Recently, during one of my therapy sessions, I reached in and gently tapped at this core. It wasn’t surprising really because my therapist and I have been chipping away at this for awhile. Of course through his support and acceptance of who I am, I was finally able to lean in and trust him and me enough to allow myself to feel the edge of a pain, which probably goes way deeper. Indeed, it was an amazing feeling.

So here I am this early morning, two days before entering a new year, realizing that if I want to write about: what disturbs [me], what [I] fear, what [I] have not been willing to speak about … (Natalie Goldberg), I am going to have to understand when those closest to me might be angered or hurt by it. There is something larger at stake for me here. I want to explore and share this subject with teachers, because I believe it is important for our relationships with children. And, in addition, I sense I will uncover more about my own life that, in the long run will help me continue to heal. So … where I am this morning?

…  willing to be split open

Where I am

Writing exercise with prompt from Saundra Goldman: Where I am … ten minutes – go …

Today early morning here and now visiting family across the nation in Seattle area. Enjoying good foods that are different from the every day of our lives in Philadelphia. Special Christmas cookies, especially those small round snow white ones filled with butter and pecans. The kind that melts in the mouth even before I am able to wrap my teeth around the first bite. Enjoying different trees lit by soft white lights. Both family tress I witness here are decorated very simply with just matching balls and soft colors. I think about our humungous tree back on the east coast every year with all kinds of odds and ends, and knick knacks from everywhere: angels of all kinds, one made of metal and wire from Kenya, and one made only from straw. Even a miniature Starbucks cup dangles from one of the branches and a large glass mirror that has inscribed on it “2007” from the year we bought our large angels from Pottery Barn. We were living in different apartments still and each had our own tree. The angels, one pink and one burgundy sat atop. Each year I buy one new ornament. We merged our lives together over twenty years ago – life partner and me. Bringing with each of us different traditions – his of Christmas in the Pacific North West. Me from being Jewish and also nothing really – sort of atheist – somewhat spiritual – Buddhas in every corner of my life – a collection that has built up over the years. Our holiday time has a large Buddha face staring over the Hannukiah twinkling with candles right next to our knick, knack filled tree. I stop writing to think a moment. Merging our cultures has not been easy at times. My way emotional and stormy, his stoic and quiet. And yet somehow we cross the stormy lines and come out the other side together – stronger. The hardest part is always, in the end, accepting that each is different from the other – that we don’t have to be the same. We are able to express ourselves differently and still understand one another.

In the bigger picture of where I am, I face the reality that I am now a Senior on this life journey – with wisdom and experience to accompany me on the next twenty years or so. But whenever I think that I may be through with the past, inevitably I discover so often that the past is not through with me. My childhood is always peeking in even as my hair turns whiter, and wrinkles embed themselves as little lines about my eyes and mouth. Dawn has arrived and soon others will stir. Facing a large clear window in the living room, I observe the soft white and orange lights of Seattle city beginning to fade as the day light struggles to push its way through the clouds.

A wintry mix

End of the semester arrives, and with it the beginning of phased retirement leave for the spring. Mixed feelings: on the one hand, exhilaration to be free to write, walk, read, discover who I am becoming as I get older; on the other, I will miss the students and coming into the sacred space of my work office with all its precious posters and nick knacks collected over the years.

The freedom feeling wins me over. For having just signed a contract to write a book on a topic I have been reflecting about for a couple of years, I am excited to get going with that. As is my way, I will give teachers, or any other adults who live or work with children, permission to explore their own psychological development and emotions, by sharing mine. And this topic, children needing attention, while near and dear to my heart – also breaks my heart. So many children need our attention in the form of authentic relationships – so many do not receive it. So many teachers overwhelmed not knowing what it feels like themselves, having never received it either. So many of us learned to accept being invisible, repressed, filled with feelings of longing and desire for attention, or acting out just to be noticed.

Are we forever confused, ashamed or guilty about even wanting attention in the first place? Are we numb to the longing?

At a very young age I know I learned to lower my expectations to become unaware of how much I longed for attention.

Since I started thinking about the how’s and why’s – the ways I received attention as a young child, I have started to feel less and less needy for it. This, in itself is a phenomenon that intrigues me. Am I giving myself the attention I did not receive as a child simply by thinking, remembering, and allowing myself to feel the deprivation – now, as an adult?

Much to think and read about as I formulate chapter upon chapter. Am excited to explore the topic but fearful at the same time as I know it will give me pain to remember my own childhood. On the other hand – what catharsis and healing!

I have some goals for my New Year. They are part of my wintry mix: writing the new book, sharing my emotional life with others, allowing myself to face more and more of my uncomfortable or frightening feelings, and becoming more healthy – physically and emotionally.

Winter’s darkness and cold will inevitably bring forth warmth, light and rebirth, and accompany me on yet another journey back in time to hopefully emerge more enlightened than before.

New blog

Well, this is it.

The new format and address of my new blog.

Thanks to my editor and friend, Danny Miller, who suggested I try my hand at blogging, in January it will be thirteen years since I began.

It’s a quiet, cold and rainy day – but it feels new and fresh to me as I embark on a different writing adventure with a new book in the works. I took myself to one of my favorite bakeries for a latte and walnut, gorgonzola cheese scone, and uncovered the wonders of “WordPress.”

I hope my old faithful readers will follow along here at my new site, and welcome any newcomers, who want to journey aways with me.