Archive for February, 2013

Sixth grade seating

February 28, 2013

When I was in sixth grade, my teacher kept seating me with a particular boy.  The boy had been held back from the year before, but he didn’t seem to have obvious difficulty learning.  I thought he might have been out sick or something.

Well, we all used to look forward to having the seating plan changed every month.  There was some excitement to all the moving around and getting to know other kids and having new people to chat with or pass notes to easily.

So the third time in a row Miss Robbins sat me next to this same boy, I kind of noticed.  He was shy.  We chatted a bit.  He had a heart-shaped face, straight brown hair, he dressed a little more formally than most kids, as I recall.

Then one day he showed me the scars on his wrists and told me he had walked through a glass porch door.  I accepted what he said, even if it didn’t make much sense to me even then.

Eventually at some point during the school year I got a different seat mate, although I think the boy and I got paired up again later in the year.

It reminded me of how my piano teacher used to open up to me about her problems when I was seven, write me letters even over the summer when I didn’t have lessons.

I am not sure what I did for these people as a child.  I was not aware of doing anything in particular other than just being me.  My mother sometimes thought people were crossing lines with me, and I quit taking piano lessons from a different teacher when I was fourteen because the man held my hand too long after he cut my finger nails or showed me some approach to attacking the keys.  I was never sure what that was about, but he, a single, middle-aged gentlemanly man at the time, got married the next year.  I missed seeing his father’s huge paintings in his house, and he had some lovely pianos, too.

Anyway, as I child I was aware of being taken as some sort of trusted confidant, some sort of emotional bulwark.  Gita has tried to explain to me what it is I am doing, or how I present, that people are responding to, but I can’t say I get what it is even when she explains it.

When I try to see my life as a unified whole, and to find a common thread running back to childhood from what I do now, I guess that would have to be it — this way people respond to me, and the way my experience of whatever it is I am doing is quite different from theirs.



February 28, 2013

This Amazon Cloud business is full of surprises for a dinosaur like me.  I’ll select a song and then go off to do something in another tab in my browser, and all of sudden some other song comes on that I haven’t selected and had no idea I ever acquired on a CD.

I could try to learn how the website works, but I kind of like the surprises.  As I was saying the other day, sometimes it’s quite nice to let somebody else, or something else, create the playlist.

Angry comments

February 27, 2013

I comment regularly on the NYTimes website, and I have become concerned that one of the styles of comment that seems to garner popularity is the style that involves anger — the anger of the author, it would seem, and the passions of the readers, I am presuming.

What concerns me is that I associate this dynamic with conservative talk radio and such (and with negative consequences to its audience and to governing, social interactions, and the economy), and yet here it is apparently put in service to liberal or progressive or Democratic causes.

There is a school of thought that sometimes fighting fire with fire is appropriate or necessary.  I think even some religious leaders with tremendous insight and wisdom teach that sometimes a situation calls for some sort of hissing from us.

But here’s where I think the issue to be improved may lie:  does the return fire come out of reactivity — out of neediness and damage — or out of a place of calmness — with wisdom and compassion and sense for the big picture and the greater good?

Just as giving service will drain us if it comes out of the wrong place within us, but will be self-sustaining and even leave us feeling stronger in return if it comes from elsewhere within us and through us, so too, I think, the process through which we return fire makes a difference.

Either that or the religious leaders are wrong and we should never return fire.  For me, the jury really is out on that one.

The only justification I can understand for returning fire is mirroring:  sometimes we do our part by reflecting back to our partner, including an adversary, their own behavior.  If it’s spouting fire, then maybe returning fire is apt.

But it does make me uncomfortable.  I don’t know whence that comes, damage in me or strength and willingness.

Expecting too much

February 27, 2013

I have been thinking about how I fall into the pitfall of expecting more than a person’s level of emotional development allows them to give.  This is in connection with a pattern of how relationships often run aground in my experience.

It’s for me the equivalent to a man at a club realizing, before it’s too late but after he has already got his hopes up, that the young woman he’s got his eye on actually is underage, just all dressed-up, all made-up to look all grown-up.

For me, the key is how I can find an alternative way of getting my needs met if structurally in my life the person in question is the one who could meet my needs.  With minor children, we use foster care and adoption when their parents can’t meet their obvious needs.  What do we do when other people in our lives can’t meet our less obvious needs?

Insisting that they do I have never found to be effective.  Walking away at least gets me out of my expectation that they will and allows me not to be damaged further.  And walking away opens up the possibility that someone else will enter my life who might.

That somebody else might even be God.

The piece I can actively work on is seeing the person more clearly the way they are, and not having unrealistic expectations.

If I can go back to my club analogy, if the other person has the trappings of maturity — older than I am or materially successful or claiming to be smart or inter-personally astute, for example — I assume a level of emotional maturity that actually turns out not to be matched by the child that they actually are operating as.  This image is actually somewhat accurate — they are operating as a child under the make-up of success or age.

The helpful thing for me is that it is pretty easy for me to have compassion for a “child,” regardless of their age and success.  I can love that damaged child, feel compassion for them.  I may not stick around to enable them to remain a child or to damage me further, but I also wish them no harm and in fact I wish them all the best, including healing.

If they lash out at me if I “leave,” whether metaphorically or literally, or if they become angry with me or even retaliate if I indicate my damage, dissatisfaction, or negative experience of them, then I can have compassion for that, too.  I’m sure I have my own moments, too.


February 27, 2013

I bought a few CDs on Amazon today and received an email about their Cloud Player.  So I asked Jordan about it, and voila, I have music from the cloud this evening.  Lots of it, I guess courtesy of previous purchases over the years.  I’m listening to Jethro Tull.

So I enjoyed the little echo sound I heard when I read the title for Maureen Dowd’s column tonight:  “Get Off Your Cloud.”

And Passover, too

February 26, 2013

And as long as I’m on the subject of dressing children for Jewish holidays, these are two of my all-time favorites.  They’re from Passover.



And with my parents:


Purim, Pharaoh, and Moses

February 26, 2013

I was thinking about Purim costumes after reading about other people’s misadventures with one, so I thought I’d post photos of two of my favorites.  It’s Jonas as a pharaoh


and Jordan as Moses


Struggling with technology

February 25, 2013

I was using a tax software program yesterday.  In its running summary of my progress, it did not include all the information that had been entered according to its instructions.

Some of that information turned out to be there, and indeed landed in the proper boxes and lines on the forms.  Some of it I had to re-enter manually.

So it’s not just on my end, the software has idiosyncrasies.

At one point, I was on hold waiting for customer service, and I started wondering why I seem to have such a struggle with technology.  And I thought, maybe other people feel the way I do about technology, about something else that I actually feel comfortable with.  And maybe my struggles with technology are a gentle reminder to be more understanding of others who struggle with those things, and to be clearer in my explanations if I am trying to help them with that.


February 25, 2013

When I listen to the radio, I am aware of listening to another person’s (or a machine’s) playlist.  When I choose a CD to listen to, often I choose it for a particular song.  There are CDs which I love from start to finish (and can listen to over and over again as I drive a long distance).  Then there are more modern ways of choosing individual songs and making our own particular compilations of songs.

But today it occurred to me that I can be in the mood to listen to an album that I think I don’t really like all the tracks on, and listen with an open mind to being surprised, and pleasantly surprised, at what I hear and its effect on me.

I think that could be used as analogy to going along with God’s will (to use one set of vocabulary — surfing the waves of the universe might be another) or insisting on our own:  listening to the album as is , or exercising our free will and, for example, playing one song repeatedly and skipping over others.

Some days maybe we’re more open to accepting letting the play list be chosen by someone else, not by us.  And not by an equally flawed human being with their own issues, either.  That makes a difference for me, at least — the same thing understood as serving a greater good I have an easier time accepting than accepting it because some other person is trying to force me to agree with them.

And that brings me back to worldview.  I can see helpful results from difficult experiences which other people might dismiss in purely negative terms.  The continuing challenge for me is maintaining my own perspective while listening to theirs.

Second mother

February 24, 2013

Someone who was like a second mother to me from the time I was eight until I was in my mid thirties sent me a note recently, on the occasion of my father’s death.  She offered condolences for Willy’s death, too, noting their belatedness (he’s been dead almost ten years).

She included two phone numbers, a request to call, and a reference to a “hurtful misunderstanding.”

It took me most of a day to realize that Emily Post doesn’t encourage making requests of people addressed in condolence notes.  My initial reaction had been joy, thinking how it would feel to go back to the old relationship.  Then I felt misgivings when it occurred to me that I couldn’t assume that I would experience the person with whom I had that relationship.  Instead I might encounter the one with whom that “hurtful misunderstanding” arose.

I still don’t know what I’m going to do.  My actual mother suspects the other woman feels guilty and seeks forgiveness.  What I’m not interested in doing is having yet another person ask me to pick up more slack.  I can see that she did the best she could twenty years ago when the parting occurred, but her behavior caused real damage.  The damage had consequences.  I live with all that on a daily basis.  I don’t expect her to do anything about it, but I also can’t be involved with someone who ignores the damage either.

So I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

I find it helpful to look at this as old karma.  I’ve felt betrayed by all my mothers, the two mentioned here and my mother-in-law, but I’ve also been aware that this has happened before and with more painful consequences.  So I see progress.  And as for what to do in response to the note, I will wait until I see what I feel called upon to do.