Learn to be Lonely

There was a time when I would have claimed this as my life’s theme song. I first came across it synched with a Lord of the Rings video compilation that included Galadriel, responding to Frodo saying he cannot do the task alone, by informing him that “To bear a Ring of Power is to be alone.”

My earliest memories, about age 3, include handling crisis situations while either without a parent present, or said parent was an emotional puddle (and likely compounding the crisis). My upbringing nurtured a sense of “otherness.” Being in a culture that didn’t align with my anthropologist views created an “I must have been dropped off by aliens” feeling.

But the wilderness, and the animals in it, made sense. Sometimes I would wander off, sometimes run, heading toward water or trees or both. There, I belonged. There, I still do.

It’s a beautiful song. Enjoy!

 

Learn to be Lonely

by Minnie Driver

Child of the wilderness
Born into emptiness
Learn to be lonely
Learn to find your way in darkness

Who will be there for you
Comfort and care for you
Learn to be lonely
Learn to be your one companion

Never dreamed out in the world
There are arms to hold you
You’ve always known your heart was on its own

So laugh in your loneliness
Child of the wilderness
Learn to be lonely
Learn how to love life that is lived alone

Learn to be lonely
Life can be lived, life can be loved alone

 

No Such Thing as Incorrect Emotion

EmotionsThere’s no such thing as an incorrect emotion.

Sure, it might be based on incorrect information, or you might make a bad decision based on emotions, but the emotion itself is not in question. If you feel it, it is real.

I recently said this to a student I had the pleasure to visit. I more recently said this to a friend who reached out to me in anguish over a personal situation as she questioned the legitimacy of her feelings. The reason it is really on my mind, however, is some work that I have been doing since November.

Because I prefer to be proactive and focus on designing my life for the positive, I don’t like to dwell on the past. However, the past has a way of popping up at the most inconvenient times. Sparing you the details, I am lucky to have survived my childhood, and there were some things I needed to revisit.

When I started the process, I was doing it from my present, 40-something self, with my current knowledge and perspectives. The problem with this is that what I actually experienced was through the eyes of a child. The understanding (or lack of), the feelings, and the things actually perceived, are what impacted that child. My present self talking over my past self wasn’t doing me a darn bit of good. So I finally wrote out memories, one by one, in the raw. No judgment. No editing. Somewhat messy. With each one, a greater sense of peace replaced the previously-felt emotions. I am still amazed by the process.

In this way, I held space for myself in much the same way I advocate doing for students when they have feelings or thoughts to share. What they are experiencing is what they are experiencing. What they feel is what they feel. Let that be heard. Analysis and working with those ideas can come afterward when the time is right. From the minor things in life to greater adversity, honoring oneself and mindfully working through emotions is a life skill often forgotten in the list of subjects we teach.

And by doing this for ourselves, I now realize, we can do a better job in helping others. It still takes practice though. So my New Year’s resolution is to learn more about how to empower one’s voice – my own and others – especially for those recovering from trauma. If you have any ideas or resources to send my way, I will receive them in gratitude.

What about you? Do you do resolutions, New Year’s or otherwise? If so, what is your focus for this next journey around the Sun?

There’s Nothing “Just” About Jealousy

aloneOh he’s just jealous. He’ll get over it. It’s a growing experience. Act jealous back and see how he likes it. Jealousy is a sin; there’s something wrong with you if you feel jealous. Get over it. 

Sound familiar?

The above statements are very common and usually applied in the context of romantic relationships. Today I saw variations of the above applied to discussing a child whose formative infant years included separation from his mother. Of course he’s jealous.

Whether it is this situation, or romantic jealousy, or other scenarios, the one thing we all need to remember is this:

Jealousy is a symptom – usually of needs being threatened or not met.

  • Insecurity – needing reassurance of one’s own value or that one’s needs will be met.
  • Need for time, attention, nurturing, and both physical and emotional safety.
  • Fear of loss, abandonment, and/or being replaced.
  • Competition jealousy – usually another symptom of any of the above. We want to be uniquely valued.

So how do you deal with jealousy?

If you are helping a child, the first step is to talk about the fears that the child has and ways to address them. That takes patience, spending one-on-one time, reassurance of love, and discussing the fears in a respectful way.

If it is a romantic partner or other relationship, it is much the same. Discuss the fears and where they are coming from. Explore ways to counter the fears. The fears could be real too; the person feeling jealous might have real reasons to fear loss, and this fear can even lead to behaviors that are self-fulfilling. If the fear cannot be eliminated, let’s at least deal with the issues in a respectful manner.

There is that word again: respectful. The worst way of dealing with jealousy is with judgment; compassion and respect are required instead.

Yes, some people have a greater tendency for jealousy. And you might decide that you cannot be in a relationship with someone who is prone to this symptom of their fears. Just understand that it is a symptom, especially if you are the one who experiences jealousy because your solution will be to build your self and your life in a way that allows for greater levels of security.

We also want to help our children avoid or counter jealousy, and this is important. Telling them that it shouldn’t happen or that it is just wrong is going to reinforce the jealousy. They are not “just jealous” – they are just exhibiting a symptom of some underlying issues that need to be dealt with. 

Those of us who learned as children that we could not trust that our parents would be there or protect us have some extra challenges. Some of us just don’t allow people to get close enough to hurt us and can proudly claim we don’t get jealous. Can’t be jealous when you don’t have a source of that fear! For those of us who do take that risk, it’s soul-deep.

Personally, I have the benefit of being aware of all of the above from a young age, so I used to not understand – and was admittedly irritated with – people who would get jealous. I had very little patience for it.  That doesn’t mean that I never had fear or hurt or even anger; it means that I always targeted the source of those emotions. Now that I understand why people experience jealousy, I can be more understanding. I can also help prevent jealousy of loved ones by being mindful of the sources, and having a clue on how to address issues when they do come up.

Because they are never just jealous. There’s no such thing.

 

 

 

Student Voice “Undermining”?

RespectHe towered over me, easily twice my size, shaking with anger. How dare I undermine him, making him look like a fool! Having a very large, angry man only inches away from me triggered me into a calm state that he probably interpreted as uncaring.

He had a habit of misinterpretations and making assumptions.

It was my first year teaching in public school full-time, at an “alternative school” for kids labeled at-risk. He was a fellow teacher who had just come out of a large group teacher-parent conference with the student and administration also present. The student was intelligent, hard-working, and mature beyond her years, and also one of my best students. The counselor expressed concern over her not doing well in my colleague’s class, and he then took a turn talking about all the things the student was doing wrong and why.

When it came to my turn to speak, I turned to the student – who was gripping her mom’s hand – and asked her what she thought or felt, and then held space for her to speak.

This is what my fellow teacher was enraged about. I “allowed” the student to speak. And she spoke calmly, intelligently, and gave important information that brought everything into clear focus, and this focus resulted in him feeling foolish for having made false assumptions.

When a kid is acting out or not performing, there’s usually a reason. There’s a backstory to learn. Sometimes it’s mundane yet still important. Sometimes it’s something horrible, and nine out of ten times that story won’t make you angry; it will break your heart.

In this case, the information changed the tone and focus of the rest of the meeting to one of respect and proactive solutions.

Student voice is essential. Sometimes they are eager to speak, and sometimes they need a coach to mentor and advocate for them to find and use their voice. While our school’s philosophy is all about empowering the student, and we have a learning model that focuses on that, I wonder what more we could do to give students opportunity to practice using their voice. Do you have any ideas?

 

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Revisiting Past Trauma: Let the Voices Speak

quotes_silence_writing_1440x900_17474When I try to talk for the first time about a traumatic event from the past, especially childhood, I find it difficult to get any words to come forth. I will open and close my mouth several times, like a fish gasping for air. When I do manage to speak, the word choices are those that I would have used when that age. I am not talking about “baby talk” because I had a ridiculously expansive vocabulary at a young age. I mean that the words reflect my perspective of the time, such as a lack of understanding or what to call something. I can then switch to my current self’s perspective and analyze what was, but I have to leave the mode of describing the actual event itself.
 
When trying to write about events as part of my focus this month, I shouldn’t have been surprised that this same struggle happened. It wasn’t until I allowed for this dual voice to “take turns” that I started to get any flow to the writing coming forth. There are some events that I still haven’t tried to describe yet, and there’s a fear there that causes me to hesitate. I think it’s because I have to, at least once, “go back” to that time and place for at least the first telling; after that, I can retell from more of a distance. There are some places that are very difficult to revisit and I wonder if there is such thing as being strong enough.
 
Why do this? I have found that the events I have been able to describe no longer hold power over me, plus I gain a source of wisdom or power from facing them. If you think of it as a game, this is a way to level up. I have helped hundreds of others, and this is a way of helping myself (which, in turn, enables me to help others even more).
 
Meanwhile, I have to live current day life, so I have to pull myself back together after writing – sometimes easier said than done – to do other things, even go places and see people. There’s been some tough days, but so far I’m making it. Luckily there is a finite number of these stories to transcribe, and this won’t take me forever to do. And then what will I do with them? Stash them away, throw them in the Beltane fires, or share them? Not something I have to decide today. 

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