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Archive for November, 2013

מַה־נּוֹרָא הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה – How Awesome is THIS Place (Genesis 28:17)

With each breath, I am acutely aware of the beauty the surrounds me at any given moment.  While life is often a struggle, it is just as often full of beauty if I remember to open my eyes and take note.

I am blessed to live in a desert that truly comes alive at all times of day and night.  The wind blows, the coyotes howl, the surrounding skies keep my heart racing with anticipation.  The colors and the textures warm my being and remind me to breathe deeply.  While I miss the changing seasons, the oceans, and the falling leaves – I never tire of waking up to the surrounding mountains or vivid skies.

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Catalina Mountains (near Tuscon, Arizona)       Late November, 2013

Today as I sit reflecting on the rather intense changes my life has taken in recent years,  I am also taking notice that I have found profound gifts at every turn. Wherever I step, I experience a sense of awe.  New friends have replaced those that have left; my children are growing into both loving and wise men; writing and chanting continually jazz my soul; healthy living keeps me alive and thriving.  I am blessed.

How truly awesome is this place.

May we find light within each step as our journey continues.

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Last night, I read and then posted an article that inspired me to reflect about my childhood.

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2013/11/families_dealing_with_mental_illness_need_support_too.single.html

I remember as a young girl, my mother bounced from rehab for drug/alcohol addiction to ICU for cancer and other serious illnesses. Whenever she was ill with medical emergencies, everyone offered help; whenever she was in recovery for addiction, I sat alone for weeks or months on end as my father had to take care of his work and then visit his wife…..

Memories

In truth, life was easier for me when she was in a recovery setting.  During those weeks, violence and pain did not surround me, nor did harsh words and angry energy.  My mother was a violent drug/alcohol abuser when she was awake or she was passed out on the floor or wherever else she landed.  My home environment wasn’t pretty.  And when she was in the hospital, no one let me stay home alone.   If I was home alone, my brother would often visit from Israel because of the serious nature of whatever was going on.  Those weeks or months were awesome; when my brother was visiting, I somehow felt protected and emotional safe.

Growing up in an abusive home was never easy.  I didn’t know how to tell anyone what living was like.  So I retreated to a silent place.  I often wonder if “my friends” liked me growing up or if the kids just tolerated me because they had known me all my life.  I know I had friends, but the daily pain of surviving was really too intense for me to remember what it was like to go to class or to hang out with others.  At a very young age, I learned to be an actress; I learned that no one would understand what I was facing and that no one could help.  In truth, many of my neighbors and some of my relatives had a clue, but in the end it was only once I reached about 16 years old that I began to feel supported by adults that could make a difference.  Yay!!

May we each reach to find the beauty that surrounds us.

My mother died when I was in my early 20s…..nothing prepared for my life or her death, but in the end, I found the power to be what I am today. While the journey is truly never ending, I am blessed to be where I am -most of the time.  The single most reality that brings a smile to my face is that I am grateful that I didn’t become her in any way; I found the inner-strength to emerge into the person I am today.

When I was a child there were few words to express what I faced.  My friends would have never understood and others didn’t want to get involved.  Yet, I had many pockets of time in which my friends gave me a safe and sweet haven (mostly unknowingly).  During those moments, I could laugh, eat a healthy meal, and not have to look at what was behind me.  I treasure those moments when I truly felt safe.  Unknowingly, friends gave me reprieve from what I faced even if they didn’t know what they were doing.
As a young adult, I didn’t share my stories.  Instead I was healing from the rawness I had once felt.  While the nightmares were still part of my life, I treasured the daylight hours when I was safe.  Over time, I was able to move forward and heal.  Having a family and a community of my own gave me roots for the first time in my life.  Only when I was in my thirties could I find the words to share the reality of what had been a part of my life.  My guess is that I needed a few years of silence before I could speak of the darkness that surrounded my earlier years.
For my friend that asked if she was an ostrich, please know that I was a wounded child that didn’t know how to let people into my cocoon.  And you were a child living your life.  That is what children do!!! The good news is I am ok now and I have friends that can listen when I reach those sad moments of reflection that some days visit me.
No one should feel sad or guilty for not knowing….abused children are masters of disguise and I was no different.

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From beginning to end, yesterday was challenging and full of gifts too.  Sigh and yay!!!

The only thing that got me through was drumming and chanting niguunim (melodies).  As my heart was hyperventilating, I took time to release the energy through drumming and chanting.  With each beat of the drum, I released the tension in my soul; with each deep breath followed by my chanting, I felt my sadness leave me.

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The drum of my dreams. . . .

What affected me the most deeply was the deep sadness that surrounded me at nearly every turn.  So many folks were struggling with real darkness and others were just creating challenges through their actions.  For those that were struggling with their own darkness or perhaps their own demons, I found myself wishing I could share with them this beautiful rendition of Katy Perry’s Roar by Olivia Wise who is currently suffering from brain cancer.  http:/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_An8xNwupo

Olivia’s rendition of Perry’s Roar brought tears to my eyes and deep pain to my heart.  Imagining what Olivia and her family are facing hurts; I can relate and yet I can’t.  After years of the deep pain that accompanied Aryeh’s illness and to the pain that has at times accompanied my life, I couldn’t stop crying.  Life is such a gift and some people can’t find the gifts that are in front them.  Olivia made this video so that those who love her will always hear her ‘Roar”.  How beautiful is that?!?!?!

As I write, Olivia is more unconscious than conscious; her wakeful moments are few and far between.  What her family is telling the world is that Liv woke each day seeking light and finding light too.  While none of us can do that all the time, I wish more folks would go out of their way to find light and make things work with each step.

If I could make a difference for even a moment, I would shatter the illusion that there is no way around pain.

For nearly four years, I watched my son struggle for life and yet I almost never gave in to the darkness.  I always, always, always reached for life and light even as I accepted what could have been inevitable.

With every ounce of my being, I wish that the people around me could find the gifts in the challenges instead of reaching for the darkness and letting that darkness be their guide.

Choose life.

The rhetoric of the anti-abortion world and the teaching of Deuteronomy is perfect for this moment.  While I am far from the anti-abortion world, I do choose life.  Every day, I choose to wake up and find the light within the challenges.  Darkness rarely encompasses my heart and soul.

Choosing life is what I do.

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire

‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar

Louder, louder than a lion

‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar.’

Katy Perry’s Roar

My son Aryeh is alive.  How ironic it is that Aryeh’s name means lion.  He is alive. In spite of a fatal diagnosis at times, he has always decided to be a thriver that is very much alive.  We are all alive; each and every one in my family is alive and thriving and yes, even roaring.

Yesterday as I sat in the midst of so much pain, watched some folks make troubling choices, and also experienced little things getting blown out of proportion, I wanted to help others find the light when only darkness seemed to persevere.

There are so many people like Olivia or Aryeh that choose life until no more breaths can be made.  There are so many folks that have chosen to thrive as opposed to bury their head in the sand.  May those folks be our role model.

May we all find our ‘Roar’.

PS – I forgot to mention, I saw some beautiful vibrant life yesterday.  I met people on the street that grapple with life and win.  From a distance, I watched my dear friend and his wife move towards the impending death of their father and father-in-law.  I also watched beautiful young minds embrace their own love of learning.  And finally, I had a delightful evening with my son.

While darkness surrounded me, it wasn’t part of me.  Still, may I and those that are part of my life always remember to ‘Roar’.

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