In honor of Mother's Day - this post from last year is as true for me now as ever ... http://tamarika.typepad.com/mined_nuggets/2015/05/please-dont-hurt-me-i-want-you-to-love-me.html
In honor of Mother's Day - this post from last year is as true for me now as ever ... http://tamarika.typepad.com/mined_nuggets/2015/05/please-dont-hurt-me-i-want-you-to-love-me.html
How do I write about children's need for attention without remembering my own childhood experiences with that? For where and why do teachers perceive children's need for attention as something negative - something in the way of their learning or understanding human relationships? Surely it comes from the way we have been treated as young children. The repetitive subtle and not so subtle condemnations of the ways we sought attention, where we were thought of as too whiny or too needy. These days self-regulation has become an overused catch phrase that is thrown in to any conversation about children who seek our attention. Self regulation requires small children to go it alone emotionally, and learn not to reach out or lean on adults, who care for and educate them. I think of the sensitive and vulnerable kindergartener this morning during his third morning meeting, where he was required to sit still and follow the teacher directed assignments of the day. Clearly he wanted to share his point of view, became excited and passionate about the topic being discussed, and wanted to be noticed - all at the same time. After three times being told to sit still and quietly, he was sent away to sit alone at a table while the rest of his classmates participated in the story and discussion. He even tried raising his hand out there in punished isolation. To no avail. He was being taught self regulation, and any feelings of loneliness or anxiety about being excluded - well, he would have to deal with them alone. It was no wonder that later, once he had completed the assigned task of cutting and pasting, he would not make any extra effort to color in the pictures he had glued on the teacher pre-cut-out orange and green paper representing some sort of large carrot. His anger was palpable, although I could tell he was swallowing it down into his emotional memory somewhere far away in his brain. I thought about how one day all those repressed and swallowed angry feelings would probably have to bubble up and out somewhere - somehow. And would he be alone with those feelings, or would someone be around at the time to support him through understanding them in time before the veritable storm he would rage? Or would he just become chronically ill allowing those feelings to eat him from within?
There has to be a balance of needing attention and learning to delay gratification and become an adult. I understand that. But this has to be taught through connection and relationship, not by exclusion and punishment. No one is born with that balance intact. Child development is just that - developing, evolving us into the adults we will one day become. As the adults we have become, we can share what we learned along the way with children in our care with love, in friendship, and with guidance and support - or we can admonish and scold with cold punishment and harsh rationalism. It is our choice. We don't have to repeat the pain we experienced over and over again. We can change it, and try something we did not experience but nevertheless, really would have liked to - really have always longed for. Our choice becomes a gift not only to the children in our care - but for future generations.
This morning was business as usual: coffee, computer, Internet Scrabble with friends and family, watering house plants and feeding the cats. And then I picked up a Jewish prayer book, and read the first early morning prayer of the day, and I remembered spirituality. Yoga days, lighting candles and incense, and quiet meditation before the day began. I realized that lately I had given all that up. In fact it feels like for almost a year. I wonder why I had pushed it all aside. Perhaps it is because I have been focusing on my feelings, and that has been all consuming, at times even excruciatingly painful. Indeed, for the past year or so I constantly allow myself to feel what it must have felt like for me when I was a child. When flashbacks and memories rise up nowadays I sit with them solidly facing them all squarely and vividly. This has been a challenging year for me emotionally, but as I reflect on all the facets of each day, I realize that life feels fuller and more authentic than ever before as I enhance and deepen relationships as well as clear the way for my new transition: retirement.
Allowing myself to experience emotions has been time consuming, for when a feeling presents itself it takes moments to hold still with discomfort, anxiety or pain, and explore where it is coming from - the past or present - and to sift through and make connections. I have been taking care of children - others - since I was very young, for the first child I ever started to care for was my mother. And even as I became proficient in listening to and observing her, and able to put myself aside in order to be there for her emotionally, I realize now how much I must have always longed for someone to care for me.
Spirituality has always been a way for me to privately take care of me, especially my inner life. It was a place I could turn to when loneliness or hunger for love became overwhelming for me to bear. And so, this morning I light candles and a stick of Nag Champa, and breathe deeply. And I reread the the early morning prayer again:
Morning I will seek you,
my fortress rock, each day.
My song of dawn and dusk
before you I shall lay.
I stand before your greatness,
with trembling I’m fraught,
because your eyes can enter
my heart’s most secret way.
What can be done, by heart
or tongue, what can one do or say?
And how much strength lies deep
within my body as I pray?
And yet you find it good
- mere human song – and so,
I thank you for as long as shall
Your lifebreath in me play
I had a lousy childhood. I was a scapegoat for my mother’s anxieties, fears and rage. She birthed me at a most inconvenient time for her during a very brief second marriage with a man she hated, all the while having an affair with my future stepfather through the four or five dismally volatile years she lived with my father. Once she married my stepfather she spent the rest of their married life in and out of rage at, or fear of abandonment by him.
She needed me in the mix like a hole in the head!
And she let me know it, warning me not to make too much noise or eat too much food lest stepfather would notice. When they had my younger brother I was eight years old, and whatever was left of my miserable birthright vanished immediately and forever. I remember my childhood as a dark and fearful time; all the while doing everything I could to go unnoticed. Now and then when I attempted to make a stand for myself even as a young child, I sought attention through outbursts, migraines, or sickness. Alas, it was in vain. For mother’s attention came at me in the form of terrifying wrath shaming me into believing I was a destructive and hateful being.
In my first marriage my husband disliked me. I know for many different reasons. But most importantly he blamed me for making him marry me, and forced me to have an abortion early in my second pregnancy threatening to leave me if I refused. I agreed to everything because I believed I deserved what he doled out. My mother had taught me that I was worthless, and that I should feel grateful to anyone who would want me at all. I believed her theory about me, that a “black star” hovered over my head.
That abortion broke my heart for the rest of my life.
Knowing what I know now about early childhood development, care and education, I am aware that young children believe they are at fault, and that they deserve abuse from their parents. Therefore, I understand that it was impossible for me not to believe that at my core I was a worthless and unwanted being.
Looking back as a sixty-six-year-old woman with silvery hair, and as an accomplished early childhood professional, author and teacher, I realize that somehow through all the abuse I managed to hold onto an audacity to hope that I could deserve better. As a survivor, I developed resilience through searching for support through the kindness of strangers. Growing up, I discovered ways to belong by joining organizations and groups whose ideology included compassion for the human condition, and a belief that we are all in this together. Each time I tried to love or help others feel included I retained pieces of the feelings for me.
Sitting around hating and whining never became my shtick. Lately as I continue to heal, I seek out those who are non judgmental, or able to accept me as I am. Of course I still struggle with self-acceptance or self-compassion.
And I realize that at some level I probably always will.
A year ago at Mining Nuggets: It's all about compassion
What with one thing and another, I have been thinking about storms. Perhaps it was the frenzy in the supermarket last Friday as everyone stocked up with food, milk, water - anything - in preparation for the impending power outages as snow would start to fall early evening of the same day. It was predicted to last for tens of hours, and who knew what might happen.
Maybe it was watching at the window as sheets of snow fell endlessly under dark grey skies. It brought out the best in us: Cooking up a large pot of nutritious and delicious soup; or neighbors teaming up to dig each other out of piles of snow in driveways and on sidewalks. Forced to stay indoors I met new challenges: Like how to just do nothing; or finding myself like a robotic, zombie sitting on the couch in front of the television screen staring at hours of weather reports.
Last night I dreamt of high seas and rolling waves. Especially the kind of tsunami like wave that rises up high suddenly and crashes over walls swallowing up crowds. I woke up and lay quietly in bed wondering about storms. The calm or frenzy before, and picking up the pieces to return to old routines after. Are we always just the same after a storm? Or have we learned anything? Did the trauma or exhilaration change us? Or do we pick ourselves up and move on as if nothing happened?
I am always amazed at how I survive over and over again. I have lived through snow, rain and thunder storms; divorce and death storms; health scare storms; breaking up with darling friends; or losing people I never thought I would lose. Storms within and without. Each time picking up the pieces has a different feel. Sometimes I limp for awhile or stretch out bruised hands from bashing at piles of ice blocking access to our driveway. There have been times when my heart felt broken, and I feared I would never smile again.
After the storm there are torn and broken azalea plants or trees with shattered limbs, and yet when the sun shines feebly through the weakening clouds, I seem to rise up over and over again, returning to old, familiar routines ... feeding the cats, watering plants, answering telephones and texts ... and face the new day with some small, renewed sense of patience, understanding, or, even wisdom.
Although all that becomes clear much later ...
A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Living the rewrite: Part II
This morning I remembered that I have been writing this blog for a decade, and as I reread some of the posts written these past ten years, I realize the theme has been constant: Deciphering behaviors, interactions and feelings, and understanding the emotional script I developed about myself since I was a child.
In a blog post about "rewriting my script" a year ago, I did not realize how challenging it would be in practice. Awareness is one of the first steps toward any kind of change. But, with awareness comes an awakening of emotions I had held in check for a long time - repressing feelings that as a child were dangerous to express, or even to experience.
As I look back over this past year I see that the more I have been allowing myself to feel some of those hidden emotions, the more my indoctrinated brain has done all kinds of antics as it tried to warn me of imminent danger. What a conflict! Experiencing the feelings are almost always accompanied by fear, or uncontrollable weeping at unexpected moments. For example, a couple of days ago we were having breakfast in our favorite restaurant. I noticed a small child sitting between her parents. She was alert and curious, her eyes searching the room as all the while she babbled to them as if reporting what she was seeing. I could not take my eyes off her. Her father was quick to respond and engaged her in gentle conversations. At one point he took her on his lap and they gazed into each others eyes lovingly. Suddenly I felt an overwhelming sense of loss and longing as I realized I had not experienced those kinds of interactions when I was a child, and felt the lack of being loved like that deep within. Tears streamed down my cheeks uncontrollably surprising me as if coming out of nowhere. Emotional pain was unbearable for those few moments. Shortly after that brief cathartic experience I felt angry that I was robbed of my childhood. I experienced a whirlwind of emotion, which passed as quickly as it came, leaving me feeling both released and empowered. There was no need to express any of it openly to anyone, nor did I want to act on it. Just allowing myself to feel the feelings was a revelation.
As I become aware of my emotional life script, and allow myself to feel repressed childhood emotions, there is no turning back. It's real, and yes, I am actually gradually moving out of the darkness and into the light. What a sensation.
Of course, my psychological journey is nowhere near over, but the foundation on which to continue my uncoveries feels solid. And so at this juncture all I want to say is: happy 10th blogaversary to me.
Recently I logged into my blog, and read through the past few posts of this year - written sporadically - once a month or so. I noticed a theme through them - one of release, gratitude, and forgiveness. As the semester winds down for the holidays, and I have a few moments to sit quietly with myself, I realize that I have successfully made it through one of those periods in my professional life that tested my confidence and will, and discover that I have arrived at the other end with my integrity intact - true to what I believe to be most important about education of young children. I must admit to feeling fortunate and grateful for a number of dear friends and colleagues, whose support has buoyed me up through these last few months, swaddling me in a community of love, respect, and acknowledgement.
I also realize that I have not been able to write much of anything substantial - either on this blog, or in other professional or personal spheres. Creativity has eluded me as I went about my practical work of teaching and training. Am not sure why. It is not like it has been at other times in the past - a feeling that I will never write again. It is more like a time-out as I regroup emotionally. There have been a lot of changes for me this past year and a half or so, and I have experienced a genuine shift in how I perceive myself.
So, probably if you have made it here to read this post, you might want to "watch this space," for I sense an urge, a tickle or a twinge of more writings to come ...
A year ago at Mining Nuggets: December Days
Quote of the day:
Now it’s a different kind of giving up: the attempt to atone for being born as me. But I am ready. I can feel it in my bones. I no longer believe that I am broken. Geneen Roth
I fell in love with the New World 28 years ago at the beginning of autumn. Of course, at the time, I was not consciously aware that I suffered from a wounded soul. I made my way across oceans and continents in the hopes of opening doors and discovering new opportunities. I was as green as I could be. Indeed, America felt wide open to all manner of possibilities. As much as I studied, worked and journeyed on my way, I was yet to start healing for I was dragging my unwanted and neglected self around with me heavy with ancient notions and ideas about who I was. The past accompanied me everywhere I went with whatever I did, my childhood ever present rising up to greet me in all my endeavors and interactions. It was excruciating at times. I mostly felt culturally illiterate whether it was shopping in a mall or learning how to survive in academia. The simple act of opening doors or turning on faucets would leave me helpless and confused. Everything was so completely different from anything I had done or known before. Education blew open my mind presenting me with options I never knew I had. It was confusing and exhilarating, terrifying and glorious.
This past week I have been thinking about that time 28 years ago. For it is the anniversary of my first trip to America, the year before my son and I immigrated permanently. I spent a month in Western New York and New York City trying it on for size. When I returned to Israel, my young teenage son asked me how it was. "Like a perpetual sit-com," I responded. "Like the movies, without the background music." Kmart seemed like paradise for one as poor as I was at the time. I bought a red corduroy coat as soon as I entered the front door. It hung on the rack at $15 or so, and I exclaimed, "What a deal!" Looking back I understand it was not an easy ride working and studying long hard hours to realize a dream. Some along the way supported and cheered me on, and there were a few, who tried to hold me back. But I pressed on regardless somehow sensing all the while that redemption was at hand.
Lately, I have been looking ahead as I contemplate future retirement. Sitting quietly in my study this morning surrounded by books, potted plants, blooming violets, cats contentedly sleeping, a steaming cup of coffee, pictures, hand made rugs, and the recurring, chilly breeze of the autumn I fell in love with so many years ago, I experience unfamiliar sensations. It might be fulfillment, or pride, perhaps, in what I managed to achieve thus far. I feel almost healed - not so unwanted and no longer neglected.
A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Integration
'Tis the season. As the Jewish New Year approaches transitions and winds of change are in the air. Days are slightly shortened with a cooler evening breeze, and it is time for self-reflection again. I think about how many times in my life I have weathered all manner of transitions - the list seems endless: changing countries, continents, cities, states; leaving relationships, and entering new ones; shifting professional positions in various workplaces; moving apartments, homes, or offices; traveling or staying close; packing boxes and making sandwiches; hanging up pictures, throwing out old memorabilia, and collecting new memories; repotting plants that have outgrown their space, and throwing out old ones that have given up their ghost; switching titles, name plates, or rewriting business cards.
One would think that I would be used to it by now. However, with each change, reinvention or move, even as I joyously hail in a different era, I experience butterflies in my stomach, and feel a sense of loss. For with each transition, as positive as it is, there is a release of old ways and expectations, and a shift in relationship dynamics until settling down into new routines take place.
Necessary losses are when we shed the cocoon that nurtured our survival, as we fly up and out into unknown adventures on gossamer wings. They are times when we give up old psychological paradigms for new perspectives. Lonely, exciting, and painful ... perhaps ... but nevertheless necessary for emotional growth.
For me, arriving at a new place is hardly instantaneous or coincidence. I have been shedding ancient psychological paradigms these past few years. It has been hard, emotional work, but recently I felt it paying off as I hung up old pictures and posters in my new office, looked out at a different view through old windows, and lined up books on the shelves. I sensed all around me something quiet, peaceful, solid, and authentic. As if I arrived intentionally, and that was exactly where I wanted to be - right there - right at that moment.
A year ago at Mining Nuggets: As in being seized by the moment