Voices From the Past (Guest Post by Beth Schulman)
This week, I’m excited to share a guest post written by author and teacher, Beth Schulman. Beth’s debut memoir, The Gold Mailbox, was published in March 2016. You can find out more about Beth at the end of her post, but first:
Voices From The Past
On Tuesday at 11am, I got back into bed to read. Then I fell asleep until 1pm.
When I woke up from my mid-morning nap, I felt an overwhelming sense of panic.
I did what I always do when panic strikes- I called my sister.
“I just slept for two hours in the middle of the day! What’s wrong with me?”
“Nothing is wrong with you,” she said calmly. “You are on sabbatical and you don’t have any commitments right now. Taking a nap is totally permissible. You are allowed to relax.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. My sister understands the guilt and shame we both felt growing up in a home where our primary caregivers equated stillness with laziness. When I was eleven years old, my mother woke me and my older sister up at 5am every Saturday and Sunday to help load the truck for our work day at the flea market. If I wasn’t moving fast enough or I sat down to take a break, my mother’s boyfriend mocked me for being lazy and would throw a box at my head to get me moving.
Here’s the reality:
I am 48 year old single mom raising two teenage sons.
I’ve been a full time elementary school teacher for the past 25 years.
I have a part time job teaching graduate classes and workshops for professional teachers in best instructional practices.
I’ve written and published my memoir.
I am no slouch.
But those critical voices from our past can come back to haunt us at the most inconvenient times. These past 4 months I’ve been on sabbatical from my full time teaching job. I’ve taken the time to promote my book and enroll in graduate courses. This is the first time in my adult life I’ve taken a break from work. And so, when I find myself taking a nap on a Tuesday morning I wish I could just relax and enjoy it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how successful I become, those negative tapes from long ago are embedded in my brain. This is true for so many of us who have survived childhood abuse and neglect.
Over the years, the voices have quieted down, but there’s no denying they’re still there. In my twenties and thirties, I’d second guess myself constantly wondering if my perceptions were real. I’ve learned that this is common for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and neglect. When you are lied to as a child, you begin to doubt and question everything. When you are told repeatedly that you are crazy or selfish or stupid by the adults who are supposed to love you, you begin to believe them.
I started writing my memoir, The Gold Mailbox in my mid thirties and got it published in my mid forties. That was a turning point for me.
The voices will always be there. But when they start taking up too much space in your brain, just stop. And breathe. And remember, sometimes a nap, is just a nap.
Ms. Beth Schulman is a mother, teacher and avid reader and writer. She graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Individual and Family Studies and from Cabrini College with a Master of Education Degree, with a focus on Early Childhood Education. She has been teaching elementary school students for over 20 years. Beth has devoted her life’s work to creating supportive, creative and literacy rich learning environments for young children. She has also worked with professional teachers at The University of Pennsylvania through The Penn Literacy Network (PLN) as an instructor and literacy coach since 1997. Beth lives in the Philadelphia area with her two teenage sons, James and Ian. The Gold Mailbox is her first book. Read more about Beth at www.bethschulman.com and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
Beth- this is a constant struggle for my wife (@wavemistress, A.K.A. “Cimmy”) and I. To further complicate matters, our voices from the past tend to lead us to cross-trigger each other (e.g., my Mother Wound to her Father Wound).
We both have voices of equating stillness to laziness, and we both took on slightly similar psychological roles as eldest children. But our reactions are very different, despite both being driven by shame. Both my grandmothers were rabid perfectionists, so I tend to want to keep busy on a compelling sense of family honor, and social expectations of work. But Cimmy is much more resentful; her younger siblings, especially her brothers, had a habit of making themselves very scarce or unavailable, and her parents would tag her for chores more readily. She was not able to hide herself.
We talked about this fairly recently, within the past few days of this comment.