No one likes to feel guilty.

I said something to my adult son. I didn’t mean it to be hurtful but he broke into tears. Was it my need to get back at him for something he did and I didn’t recognize it? I’ll probably never be sure one way or the other but I felt guilty for what I did.

Guilt happens when you believe you did something wrong. You hurt someone, whether you meant it or not. Or perhaps you stole something from a store, you didn’t make an important deadline or you recognize something about yourself you don’t like. Or you feel guilty about feeling guilty or being too happy.

You can feel frustrated, disappointed, sad. If you don’t pay attention to your emotions the feeling may live inside until you do something about it.  

It is true that its the negative emotions that stay with you, are hard to let go of. We churn them over and over in our minds. One thing we can do is identify the feeling the made us feel guilty. Such as – I shouldn’t be frustrated, disappointed, angry—and so on.

The other possibility is forgiveness. Can you forgive yourself? We are human and humans make mistakes. That is how we learn to do better.

How many people have you offended?

Did this help you and if not what would you like me to write about?

A COMEDIAN’S VIEW OF MEMOIR

The Alan Zweibel Writing Exercise

Put the ‘me’ in memoir  It seems like right now almost everybody has a story to tell. This is like the Age of Memoirs.

My theory is that post-Watergate we realized we can’t trust the government. Post-911 we feel like we can’t really trust the media to know (or tell us) what’s really going on either. So who can you trust? Only the personal testimony of credible individuals. To me that explains the rise of the written memoir.

So what about your memoir? If you’re interested, I’ve worked with a number of first-time writers to plan, write and re-write their stories and have developed a simple 5-step plan (which I also think would work for any book project). Here it is:

1 – BULLET POINTS: Start generating ideas (just nubbit of the story or character or rant). Notate these in shorthand phrases which might only be comprehensible to you (“green shoes”, “party pad”). Do not edit anything out. Go for quantity.

2 – BASKETS: In the course of generating your bullet points you probably noticed the ideas clustering, either around chronology (“my summer in hell”, “5 minutes in heaven”, “my mis-spent youth”) or concept (“mom”, “food”, “fantasy”). We often default to chronology but stay open to themes and topics. Each basket gets it’s own file, then just toss the related bullet points in. The basket titles can change, combine or sub-divide. They are probably the chapters or sections of your book. It probably needs a serious edit, but that’s a rough outline.

3 – BENCHMARKS: You need deadlines to give you a sense of momentum, to see things adding up  because otherwise you just won’t get anything done. It’s great to have a teacher, coach or writing buddy, writers group or class to answer to and to give you assignments if/when your momentum flags, but you can do it yourself.

Pick one bullet point that seems essential to the book and write a draft of it this week. If you find yourself avoiding it when the week deadline is up, at the last second pick a different bullet point that seems fun and easy and draft that. The point is to expand one bullet point into a written draft every week, no matter how crappy that draft is.

4 – BEAT YOUR HEAD AGAINST A BRICK WALL: Any brick wall will do. Your insecurity that you don’t know what you’re doing. Your fear of being judged a fool and incompetent. Your revulsion at how bad your writing really is and how far short it falls of the book you imagined. Your inability to say what you really mean.

5 – ABANDON SHIP: After a heroic struggle you finally give up in frustration, admit you can’t do it and abandon the project for today (or for good). Then, in the shower, on the treadmill or eating that lunch, you suddenly see it, now more clearly than ever. You remember the detail that unlocks the scene or realize the point of the whole book!

Apparently, this is a known dynamic of the creative process and each step is important. Maybe to wear down your conscious filters? You beat your head against the wall first, then get frustrated and give up. No wonder so many artists are alcoholic!

Now go back to Step 3 and write some more, or Step 1 and generate more bullet points, this time getting more specific, and repeat the cycle.

Were you neglected or emotionally abused and don’t know it?

You’re probably pretty confident that you’d be able to recognize whether you or your child was being physically abused, but what about emotional abuse? Abuse is abuse no matter which form it takes. And according to experts, emotional abuse in the form of childhood emotional neglect can actually be one of the most harmful.

“Neglect is the most damaging of all,” says Dr. Diane Robert Stoller, also known as “Dr. Diane,” a Boston-based neuropsychologist. Neglect is not being seen.

As Dr. Rahil Briggs, PsyD, at Albert Einstein College of Medicine explains, there is no distinction between emotional and physical abuse. All types of abuse fall under the umbrella of trauma. And trauma encompasses everything from physical trauma, like a child being beaten or hurt, to emotional pain and neglect.

“Trauma is not just a house fire or a car accident or something very headline-worthy,” she adds. “It can be very traumatic to children to consistently, constantly, and in a predictable way have their emotional needs disregarded. Or even worse, be told that they shouldn’t have them as children, if they are just asking for basic care and comfort.”

The effects of emotional trauma: Unlike physical scars, the long-lasting effects of emotional trauma are harder to see. Emotional neglect can take place in the form of a family that provides all of a child’s material needs, but never takes the time to get to know them. Emotional trauma can be in the form of a parent battling the demons of addiction who is unable to be fully present. Emotional trauma can look like a parent who favors one child over another, or a parent who is too busy to attend any of his kid’s sporting events. Emotional trauma, is the repeated and consistent neglect of the emotional well-being of a child.

There is a lot of interesting research on how childhood emotional neglect affects both our mental and physical health. For example, one study found that childhood emotional neglect actually increases the reactivity of the brain’s amygdala, which controls how we interpret and respond to stressful stimuli. But all types of trauma can lead to a wide range of negative effects, both in childhood and later in life, including:

  • Higher rates of negative behavioral activities, such as drug use
  • More physical health diagnoses, like cancer and heart disease ADHD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mental health disorders
  • According to Dr. Diane, childhood neglect is more likely to cause a child to grow up in fear, learning to either become very aggressive or withdrawn, and turn blame inwards. And because that consistent trauma triggers the autonomic nervous system, neglect also has long-lasting physical effects, as well. Dr. Briggs likens the physical toll that emotional trauma takes on the human body to a car being driven at top speeds 24/7 without a break. “The car would break down faster,” she explains.

What does emotional neglect look like? Ironically, as I am talking to Dr. Briggs, I essentially ignore my 3-year-old as she clamors for my attention. So, am I neglecting her? Am I ruining her forever?

Dr. Briggs assures me that ignoring your kid now and then when you’re on the phone is not a problem. A repeated pattern of neglect that causes damage.

“It can be quite overwhelming to parents; there are 24 hours in a day and if you think to yourself, ‘Well, I have to be emotionally responsive to my child all 24 of those hours’, that’s a benchmark that no one can, nor should, meet,” she explains.

She suggests starting with something as simple as talking with your kid at the end of the day and remembering that some positive stress for kids is necessary for children to learn and grow. Dr. Diane also points out that children require different emotional “watering,” just like plants.

“That parent is supposed to be able to see … when to water it and when not to,” she explains. “Certain plants you need to water every day; other ones you need to water every week.”

I was relieved to discover that I wasn’t a horrible parent after all, but not so relieved to discover that my daughter had adorned her entire body in green marker while I was on the phone.

How to identify emotional neglect in yourself: One issue adults may encounter is coming face-to-face with their own childhood trauma once they become parents. Because so many people have yet to recognize their own emotional trauma and the subsequent impact it had on their lives, it can take an event, like becoming a parent, for that trauma to come flooding back.

If you notice yourself having “abnormally intense” reactions to your child’s crying, or if you are unable to parent the way you want to, you may have some repressed childhood trauma that needs to be dealt with. She even adds that parents who have had trauma in the past tend to struggle intensely with sleep training, simply because they can’t handle the thought of their baby crying.

You might even recognize the effects of emotional abuse in yourself in something as simple as how you react to acts of kindness-compliments or a hug. Ask yourself:

Do you immediately stiffen up when someone reaches for you in a hug?

Do you have a hard time getting close to people?

Do you think someone is lying if they complement you?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, a history of childhood emotional neglect may help explain why. “If you’ve been neglected, someone being nice to you feels uncomfortable,” Dr. Diane says. Other symptoms include excessive independence (because you learned quickly that you couldn’t count on anyone for your own needs. All of these things can lead to the creation of an emotional wall that prevents you from allowing people to get close to you.

If you suspect that you may be a victim of childhood emotional neglect, there is hope. Parenting effectively starts with assessing your own mental health with a mental health provider.

Does any of this sound like you? Please leave a comment

POEMS THAT MAKE YOU THINK

EAST COKER  By T.S. Eliot:

I said to my soul, be still,

and wait without hope

For hope would be hope for the wrong thing;

wait without love

For love would be love of the wrong thing;

there is yet faith

But the faith and the love and the hope

are all in the waiting.

Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought;

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness

the dancing.

LOVE AFTER LOVE by Derek Walcott, 1996 Nobel Prize winner for literature

The time will come, when,

with elation,

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door,

in your own mirror.

And each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, “Sit here, Eat. Relax.”

You will love again this stranger who is your Self.

Give wine. Give bread.

Give back your heart,

to itself,

to this stranger who has loved you

all your life,

whom you ignored for another,

but who knows you by heart.

       KNOW THYSELF By Paul Murray

 There is a world within you

no one has ever seen,

a voice no one has ever heard—

not even you,

as yet unknown,

you are your own inner seer,

your own interpreter.

And so without eyes and ears grown sharp

for voice or sign,

listen well,

not to these words

but to that inward voice,

that impulse beating in your heart like a wave.

Turn to that source and you will find

what no one has ever found,

a ground within you no one has ever seen,

a world beyond limits of your dreams’ horizons. 
 
 

Please note: the words for this poem were taken from an audio tape and so the exact format of the poem is not correct.


WHO THE HELL AM I AND WHAT WILL I DO WITH MY LIFE?

I’m pacing. I’m jumpy, unable to settle down. I want to do something and don’t know what. I would like to write but my head is empty. The guy is coming to fix my bathroom but that is not for another 45 minutes. What do I do in the meantime? This is how my days go, little or no direction, unless I make one up.

Today feels a little different and I’m not sure why. I force myself to sit down at the computer hoping can allow something, anything, to come into my head. “Just write,” I tell myself, “it doesn’t matter what.” The two words that come to me are startling. Nothing and enough.

It’s not like I’ve done nothing with my life, it just feels that way. I have three grown children, and two divorces. But it never seems to be enough. I had a modest career as an opera singer and I did get to sing in major opera houses and with almost all of the prestigious names in the business. I sang major roles with all of the smaller opera companies in New York. I loved the singing and even liked doing the smaller roles but wished they were bigger. Yes, I know ego, ego and more ego.

Then I established an office as an agent for opera singers and relevant personnel. I had a lovely group of talented young singers but grew to hate the business because also was not satisfying. I turned it over to a woman I knew who was interested.

I moved on to the next career which was singing and acting as ship’s hostess on cruise ships. At least I was back doing something I loved.That lasted for a few years. I relished the glamour; the gowns every night, the caviar and turtle soup, free use of the beauty shop, and free drinks. Who could ask for more? But life there was like a fantasy. I missed my family and walked away from it. I grew to realize that I needed to have my feet on the ground.

TUNE IN NEXT WEEK FOR MORE

Have you ever felt that way? At odds with yourself not knowing what you wanted to do or who you wanted to be?

ANXIOUS FRUSTRATED I’M NEVER ENOUGH OPERA WRITING

HOW LUCKY CAN YOU GET?

My dog, Star, was introduced to you, but I didn’t tell you how she came to live with me. The beginning really started with another dog named Teddy – which happens to be my eldest son’s name. Although the owner told me about Teddy’s aggressiveness I chose to not hear her. One look and I was in love with that gorgeous animal. Needless to say, the nine months I had him was hair-raising.

He got into fights with other dogs in the community and hurt two of them. I also got hurt (never told my children) by just trying to stop the fights. Neighbors came running. The police were called. The police person was a woman and you could see the fear on her face when she came to the door. Teddy laid down while we were talking and she was surprised. I invited her in while we finished our talk and she remarked about how good he was. What she didn’t know was that he was an angel… but only in the house.

We went away for the summer that year. I convinced myself it would be different. It wasn’t. He got into three fights. This time no one was hurt. But I had had it. When we got home I called and told the former owner that I had to bring him back. She understood and came to get him herself.

It took most of the year to rid myself of feelings, both good and bad. I did the best I could and loved him madly. I also knew I was foolish for thinking I could handle him or change him. Who did I think I was?

It took almost the whole next year for me to realize I wanted another dog. I looked in a few places but those dogs were not the right ones. I went to the Broward Humane Society online. One dog interested me because of her description, but there was no picture of her. This time I wanted a gentle female. I was told that Star was being hosted at someone’s house and the lady would bring her the next morning.

I had mixed feelings as I drove there. Was she the right one? Or was I going to have trouble again? Star didn’t make the decision easy. The hostess told me she gets overexcited but quickly settles down. And she did get excited. She was all over me and my son, and jumped all over the small room we were in. I must admit that what sold me was the fact that she was brought into the Humane Society on my birthday! For me, that was a sign that is was meant to be.

It was one of the best things I ever did.

I Can’t Believe It!

I can’t believe what just happened. I am on 23&me and the following is a copy of the messaging I shared with a man who figured out that we are Second Cousins! The gentleman who made this happen is Rick Leavitt of Southern California and we share  3.49% of our DNA.

Rick: Hello, I noticed that we are potentially 2nd cousins. Would you like to share information?

Me: Yes. According to the chart we may be connected on my mother’s side. Her mother was born in Belarus and married first husband Alexander Yoslowitz who died of a crane falling and hitting his head. Does any of this sound familiar?

Rick: My grandfather was Wolf (William) Yoslowitz from Grodno area. I don’t know of his brothers except I just connected with Jessie Yoslowitz to find out that Harry was a brother. Wolf lived in NY City and immigrated in (circa)1908. He married three times, two of which was because he became widowed. Was Alexander your father? Does Irving Yoslowitz sound familiar? He was Wolf’s son from his third marriage.

Me: I would have been his granddaughter so what does that make us. Who is Wolf? I’m in Florida where are you?

Rick: If Alex was your grandfather and Wolf was my grandfather then you and I are second cousins. My mother, Nancy (Joselowitz) Leavitt would be your mother’s first cousin. I live in Southern California.

Rick: Hi Irene, I just found out that Wolf had many siblings of which one was your Alexander. If you are his daughter then you and my grandfather are 1st cousins and we share the same ancestors Isaac and Gussie (Nadelstein) Yoslowitz. That makes you and me 2nd cousins once removed. Is your mother’s maiden name Yoslowitz?

Me: Not daughter, granddaughter. Yes, but I did not know that until I was in my 50’s.

Rick: Furthermore, that makes Marc Alexander your first cousin once removed. I have Alexander born in 1891

Me: I just found his Death certificate and YES 1891. I knew none of his relatives. After he was hit in the head from the crane he spent the rest of his life in an insane asylum from water on the brain. He died on Apr. 25, 1962 and was the family’s BIG SECRET. Sad life. Are you near LA.? I will be there in Oct. for a wedding. Who is Mark Alexander?

Rick: Did you know of any of your grandfather’s siblings?

Me: No. Don’t know if my mother did.  All I ever had was his death certificate found after my mother died.

Rick: Wolf Joselowitz(yoselovitz) my grandfather, Alex’s brother. Do you see any family resemblance. I know it is a long shot.

Rick: Well at least we figured it out. Nice to know you my second cousin, Irene: Me: Same here.

Rick: Very cool indeed. It’s unfortunate that my mother never knew of her biological parents until I found them about 10-12 years ago through research. She would have enjoyed talking to your mother. My mom died 2 years ago at 98. I live in Rancho Mirage, Ca about 2 1/2 hours east of LA, but raised in Seattle all my life. Do you have any photos of Alex? I can send you a photo of Wolf if you’d like to see it to see if there is any family resemblance. Also I can send a photo of my mom who is your mom’s first cousin. I will need to send it to an email address.
Me: Please send it. bocairene@comcast.net and stay in touch.

Rick: did they come through?

Me: I do not see any resemblance with either.

Me: Yes. Who is the man again?

Rick: Wolf Joselowitz(Yoselovitz) my grandfather, is Alex’s brother. Do you see any family resemblance. I know it is a long shot.

Me. I would not know. I never saw him and there were no pictures. As I said – only the death certificate.

Lost Family Contact Birth Grandfather Found History

HELLO

As you can see the picture is of New York City, my home town. I was born in the Bronx in 1934 – therefore the almost a century subtitle – and lived there for most of my life. Florida is now my home, I have been here many years, and I love it.

Perhaps I should have started with my family, but my kids are not kids anymore and have their own families. My grandchildren are not kids and I have a brand new two month old great-grandchild named Noah.

I started this blog because I learned a lot by living so many years. In first grade the principal asked me why I talked so much in class. I told him “I have a lot to say.” I’m a newbie at blogging and I guess we will have to see if that is still true.