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Hello Darkness

Moon May 2015Prologue: What does a writer do when she wakes up hours before dawn? 🙂 She writes and then writes some more.

~ ~ ~

Spinning a cocoon of darkness can be beautiful. In that darkness, awareness comes, skeletons are recognized, and insight is found.

Darkness isn’t necessarily filled with only sweet memories and reflections.

I will never forget the all night vigils of the summer of 2001. For several nights in one week, I was told that my father’s death was imminent and that I should stay by his bedside. The night skies and the dark halls that enveloped me also filled me with sadness. I was saying good-bye to my father and I felt all alone. I was all alone. And yet there are some beautiful memories and angels that showed up when my spirit was in need.

Years later, as my son Aryeh struggled for life, I also grew to despise the darkness. There were no words of comfort only the hours of watching my child suffer an enduring pain. Knowing that there was nothing I could do to help was devastating. The good news is that my son ultimately made it through and is one of the most amazing thrivers I know.

And then there are the realizations that come from sitting in the quiet of the darkness. It is in those moments, that I often come to grips with what I know, how I feel, and how to move forward with all of life’s moving parts.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

When I was a little girl, my father would gently place his hands over my ears and whisper, “Listen to the quiet.”  I guess I always needed the quiet. Today, it is the darkness that often offers my soul the quiet that I yearn for.  Funny how that works.

Darkness always provides me with a cocoon of protection to be truly where I am.

(Note: Sometimes I have to look deeply into the darkness before sparks of light can emerge.)

 

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BreatheThere are days and weeks when I know that I don’t belong – anywhere. The loneliness seeps in and I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am alone. The sadness settles deep inside my core until I can take a deep breath and navigate the jagged edges of my soul.

I know that I am not alone when I say that certain seasons are a trigger. The good news is that after decades of being reintroduced to the darkness every year, I have learned to ride the waves and trust that these feelings will not last forever.

I have learned to breathe deeply.

This week has been really tough in some ways, but profoundly enlightening in other ways. I have allowed myself to ride the waves of emotions and to take the time to face whatever I am feeling at any given moment.

And yes, I am alone, but that is ok.  I don’t believe most people want to hear about what the winter holidays were like for me growing up. And I don’t think anyone wants to hear what I was doing 28 years ago this week. The stories are part of what was, but not really who I am today. And yet. . .

The memory is a funny thing. Even when you think all is ok, you find out that it isn’t when the watershed opens at the least expected moment.

Earlier this week I had the honor of joining an Episcopal church for Christmas Eve services. From beginning to end, it was a really beautiful service. Except there was this moment that triggered a flood of emotions. The only problem is that I stood paralyzed by my inability to cry, to run, or to scream. As I listened to Hymn 97, I remembered 37 years prior when I was forced to solo sing the chorus of that very hymn in front of a congregation in a Methodist church.

At the time, I was a young Jewish girl living in a foster home somewhere in Arbutus, Maryland. The family made me go to church every Sunday; I don’t know if I realized that I could say ‘no’ or that I could simply refuse to go. I didn’t have the tools and no one would have heard me if I did.

While the memory flooded my spirit on Sunday night, I also had this incredible moment that that hymn was transformed into something beautiful instead of the memory of a young girl who was alone at one of the hardest times of her life.

No child should be forced to practice a faith that isn’t their own. No child should lose their voice to a system that is broken, but the good news is that the story didn’t end there. On Sunday night, I was able to get lost in the memory only to be ignited by the beautiful passion that that same hymn was able to transform a beautiful community into a holy one. In a spiritual moment, I was able to transform a dark memory and create new memories.

So while I sometimes feel alone, what I know today is some beautiful things can evolve from a moment alone. May I be blessed to remember that while I may have moments when I feel alone, I have a village to hold me tight and love me for the person I am.

Breathing deeply – now and always,

Chava

Mendocino CA-Sandra G. Wortzel

Mendocino, California Photo Courtesy of Sandra G. Wortzel

. . . .some days are just hard. Regardless of how upbeat I usually feel, there are days or parts of days when I struggle to find center. I am human.

I believe that at some point in time or another, this is a reality that all of us face, but that doesn’t make those down moments any easier. And yet while it is important to allow ourselves to feel however we are feeling, we also need to allow ourselves to actively navigate the depression so that we can land in a better place.

The beautiful tree to the left flooded my spirit with  so many emotions when I noticed it on my friend’s Facebook page today. Literally, I started bouncing all over the place. I found myself finding center, feeling sad, loving the water, wanting to do tree pose, or Vrksasana in Sanskrit, for balance and centering. And then I found myself taking a deep breath and breathing in the sunset over the water in what of my favorite areas of the country. While the photo is absolutely stunning, it also reminds me of the deep loneliness that I sometimes feel. Remember, I did warn you that this photo took my emotions all over the place.

And yet, I rarely feel lonely for long. Today, I reached out and asked for help. I let my Facebook tribe know, “Inspiration Needed. . .  All pick ups welcome (sayings, stories, TedTalks, songs. . . ) My spirit needs a lift.” And with that,  I received nearly a dozen suggestions of what to sayings, photos, TedTalks, beautiful reminders to let me know I am loved, and reasons to laugh at life’s absurdities at the expense of adorable babies and kittens.

Yes I am sad, but by acknowledging how I am feeling and reaching out to my tribe, I can start moving forward and finding balance. While I understand some of my sadness, I also know that my spirit needed to go inward this past week and I didn’t really have the time, so I am paying for it on my last day off for a while. AND I am aware that although Houston is my home now, everyone is busy and I have yet to find chanting/drumming circles or hiking trails and friends that want to go with me. (Note: When I lived in Tucson, I used to go off on my alone a lot until my sons found out. It was one of those days, I tripped, skinned my knees, ran into a fox, struggled climbing down a mountain, and then found a scary snake in my path. 🙂 Needless to say, my sons now forbid to hike alone. Oh, have I told you that I am a total klutz?)

Reality Check
Since starting this blog, my spirit is lifting. I was able to share my spirit with the most amazing Torah Study Group EVER! I took some time to shed a few tears. . .ok, I didn’t have a choice. . .the tears came whether I wanted them or not. And I just found out that Door l’Door was in Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle this week and with that came an email saying that someone wanted to support my efforts. Around that same time, another friend, a rabbi in New York, reached out to me to share that he and a couple of his congregants will be supporting the work of Door l’Door.

Time to stand a little taller, ground myself a little more deeply, and to reach my arms out into the universe. I got this. Hard days come and challenging days go!

What I learned today is that if I show up with the both the vulnerability and authenticity that drives my spirit, I will be held until I can better hold myself.

Onward with blessings & light,
Chava

 

 

Life is amazing and full. AND with that fullness comes gifts and challenges.

Over the years, I have chosen to follow my calling which was originally coined by Émile Zola:

Sonia's Sunflowers

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world,
I, an artist, will answer you:
I am here to live out loud.”

Literally. I embrace life openly and share my full spirit when possible. This means that when someone asks me how I am, I answer. It also means that when I want to share on social media, I do that too.

Hiding behind a shadow of my making is something I gave up doing long ago.  That doesn’t mean that when I am at the grocery store or at work that I spill my guts, but it does mean that I am open to being authentic when I am on my own time.

This disposition creates fascinating exchanges for those that walk through life with preconceived notions of who I am or who I should be. My transparency and intensity often confound those that hold me to expectations of their making or simply don’t understand how I walk in the world.

And yet for people to fully know me, they need to listen to this verse from John Legend’s song, All of Me:

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you.

These words may be the words of one lover expressing his love, but they are also the words of all healthy connections. When we engage fully in relationships, we have see the realities of the person in front of us and they see our core being if their eyes are wide open.

Life is messy and beautiful. Being real means that in every closet there are skeletons. They may not all be dramatic, but they are there.  There are sweet moments of sunshine and harsh moments of rain. There are moments of health and moments of illness. There are your opinions and my opinions. The question is how do we as friends and acquaintances choose to navigate each individual in our lives.

In my transparency, I share my thoughts and my soul work in my writing and on social media.  My heart and spirit are open whenever I feel comfortable sharing. In return, people receive what I share through their eyes.  And I love how in any moment, I can hear completely diverse insights into how I am perceived. Examples include:

  • “You are always so happy. I love your posts on Facebook.”
  • “I know you’ve had some ups and downs and I hope you are doing better.”
  • “Looks like you have had a lot on your plate. Are you doing ok?”

On any given day, I can hear variations of each of the above comments. In truth, I love that people care enough to reach out and I often wonder if people are really able to see the world outside of their own tunnel vision.  Yet regardless of where people are coming from, I love that people embrace and sometimes wrestle with how I show up.

Shouldn’t we all try to see those in our world for the people they are instead of who we think they should be?

What I have learned from how people both get excited or struggle with what I share is that it is my job to really listen what people are bringing to our conversation or what they are posting on Facebook.

Yes, my life is full and I feel deeply, but I am also hanging on for the ride of my life and embracing life with open arms.

ASK & I WILL TOO
If you really want to know who I am, what I think, and how I am feeling – Ask. . .don’t assume. AND if I want to know anything about you, I will ask you and not assume.

Beautiful relationships come when we are open to sharing the fullness of who we are and when we open our arms to the fullness of whoever is in front of us at any given moment.

Looking forward to getting to know you better!

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS: YES – LIFE IS REALLY FULL RIGHT NOW! 🙂

  1. Door l’Door is thriving
  2. Loving my work
  3. Aryeh and Dovi . . . .
  4. Writing a ton
  5. Finances are tight
  6. Engaging in my health journey (again)
  7. Simplifying daily
  8. Emerging from some darkness
  9. Navigating connections
  10. and, and, and

Speaking Out: #MeToo

Related image

24 hours = 500,000 #MeToo tweets + 12 million #MeToo FB posts, comments & reactions. #MeToo is about women screaming out and saying that they were sexually violated. This has been a profound experience for because it took me decades to find my voice and tell anyone what happened.

As a young child, a neighbor who was also a friend’s father molested me on a regular basis.

And then at 14 years old, my best friend’s step-father molested me multiple times and raped me. There was no one to talk to and no one to listen. I was alone. This came at a time when the foster care system became my stomping ground because my mother couldn’t control her violent rages. Tracy’s family had wanted to take me in and treat me as their own, but Gary believed he had the right to do as he wished with my body and ultimately my soul. And he did.

Years later, I don’t really relate to the acts as being sexual assault; I seem them as violent acts. I was forced to endure what no child or adult should experience. In my mind, I was violated and thrust into the world of #MeToo.

Sunday night, I found myself in a total PTSD (or post traumatic stress disorder) meltdown. As #MeToo unfolded and then became viral, I found myself reliving the agony of those experiences and later the re-surfacing of those experiences. For just a couple of hours, I was temporarily back into the devastation mode. I remembered. I hurt. But I and so many others were being heard. How beautiful is that?!?! I was touched each and every time I saw a Facebook status line that said, “I believe”, “I hear you”, and “I am sorry”.

I’ve done a lot of healing work over the years. I also have done my part to empower young women as a way to break the cycle, and now I am sharing part of my story. And perhaps the best thing is that I have parented two amazing sons that understand that they have a responsibility moving forward. And after this past weekend, there a whole lot of women that know that they are not alone and a large group of witnesses to support them.

May we do this work together. May #MeToo become #NoMOre.

Image result for #MeToo No more

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking,
what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.
What I want and what I fear.”
~ Joan Didion

Shift happens. One day you wake up and you realize that your world is changing and you have a choice for how you will navigate the journey. Will you do it with open arms or will you fight what may ultimately be the inevitable? My guess is that throughout my life, I am not alone in that I have probably done both options and variations in the middle.

While I am unsure of exactly where I am going now. . .metaphorically speaking, I am certain that my health journey will involve my body, mind, and soul in ways that are developing as I go. The intensity that is flowing through my body and soul right now is beautiful, harsh, and a little scary too.

What keeps coming up for me as I move through what I call Post Hurricane Harvey is that life is fragile and sometimes fleeting; I know that I have yet to impact the world in a way that works for me. I am not sure when I began to see my presence as insignificant, but I am so aware that I have more holy work to do. And that if I don’t operate with more intention, I will spend my life standing still or riding waves that take me nowhere. OK, let’s get real, I will never ride a wave, at least not via surf or body board. 🙂

In truth, this transitioning is rolling fast and furious since Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Houston, but it started in March when walking and functioning felt nearly impossible. My body was telling me what my mind wasn’t willing to acknowledge. I wasn’t living according to my values. I wasn’t eating right, moving enough, or nurturing my spiritual journey in healthy ways. This led to back surgery followed by 6 weeks of intense healing which is continuing to this day.

In order to thrive, I have to not only have values, but live according to them. That means breathing a little deeper, moving a little more, being intentional in how I spend my time, and listening to the quiet chatter that never stops. Funny that this is coming to me as I am (again) home – this time with a respiratory infection that hasn’t let up in three weeks, in fact it has gotten worse until today. I do believe that healing can happen with more ease when you take care of yourself better and for me that means opening my eyes and really seeing what I need to see; it also means that I need to rest/sleep more, sit quietly, and write from heart. And as soon as I can catch my breath, I need to move my body.

BreatheBreathing has become a metaphor for this journey.

Inhaling Life by writing, moving, dreaming and healing.

Exhaling Life by releasing all that doesn’t serve my essence.

All is for good!

Yesterday, I received an email that supported what has become a driving force for me. People. Touching their lives by being present and supporting them in their life’s journeys. At this moment, I seem to be able to touch people’s lives simply by giving them a mezuzah and supporting them as they navigate loss or devastation of home.  A family member of a clergy leader in Santa Rosa reached out to me and said that she wants to do something for the thirty families that lost their homes as they were incinerated to the ground by the wild fires that scorched their homes this month. Looks like I have more mezuzah scrolls to collect, for more info https://door-ldoor.blogspot.com.

My heart holds a lot of pain for the loss that is facing our world and specifically the United States at this moment. The disaster in the White House, natural disasters that are happening at break-necking speeds, and the very troubling human dynamics that are eroding our climate. This doesn’t mind that I am not also devastated by the rest of the world – I am.

My job is to remain present within my own beautiful world. I am blessed with a beautiful family and precious friends. I am healing from what ails me. I am finding my life’s purpose. And I am beginning to touch lives that extend past my own little world. And through it all, I am finding the time to honor my body, my mind, and my soul by choosing life by doing whatever I need to do to best human being I can be.

I got this!!! Will you join me? If so, how?