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Archive for September, 2017

December 2016 - looking out into waterSometimes I am blessed to open a book of poetry to the perfect poem, a magazine to an article that I needed to hear, or just maybe, the person I most need to see shows up in an unexpected moment. Today seemed to be that day for me, in fact in a weird way all three  of these scenarios seemed to be covered when I opened up the book Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown.

Isn’t it funny how life works? I found a passage spoken by poet Maya Angelou and I read a chapter of a what I believe will be a great book written by someone I have no doubt could be my friend if we crossed paths. A few minutes before opening the book, I felt myself go into a dark place as I realized that I have never belonged anywhere – not really.  On a good day, I find peace with myself and enjoy what surrounds me. On a tougher day, I feel deep loneliness that feels like it shreds my heart. On most days, I see-saw back and forth between feeling like I belong and knowing I don’t.  While the journey can feel daunting, I often ride these waves with ease, finding balance along the way.

Post Hurricane Harvey has been challenging. Harvey gave me a lot of time to worry about what I may lose and accept that most of it didn’t matter or at least didn’t matter much. That lead me to reflect about what actually matters to me and who matters. Harvey also brought me face to face with some painful realities and impending losses. I guess you can say that this storm shattered my heart and right now I am taking the time to cry, to heal, and to embrace new opportunities in how I walk in the world. None of the specifics matter in this moment, but this journey has reinforced that I really fit no where and yet I can fit everywhere.

What’s surreal to me is that I do have beautiful villages of people that surround me. For the most part they are somewhat connected while often not connected at all.  Each village gives me places to go when I am looking to surround myself with beloved friends or when I need shelter from a brewing storm, but I am so aware that at any point I can leave without my footprint being missed for too long. This could come from the fact that I am a wandering Jew who has lived in many different places over the years – rarely settling in one place long enough to plant serious roots.

In Brene Brown’s newest book, she quotes Dr. Maya Angelou from an interview she gave Bill Moyers that aired on public television in 1973, she said:

You are only free when you realize you belong no place–
you belong every place–no place at all.
The price is high. The reward is great.

Why is this coming up today of all days?

In part this is emerging because today is Yom Kippur and I am not feeling well enough to be in services. And besides not feeling well, I am having what has become my tug-of-war with this time of the year. I question EVERYTHING about what this time of year means. So. . .what does someone that doesn’t necessarily believe in God do with this energy? How do I navigate what I believe with my love of Judaism and the Jewish people?

On Yom Kippur, traditional teachings tell us that on this day God will decide who will live and who will die. The problem is that I have never believed in THAT God or quite honestly, I don’t really believe in God at all.  For me, Yom Kippur is a time to go inward and to reflect on how I fit into the world and to question do I do enough to make this world a better place. I do believe in the power of the universe, but my faith allows me not to have all the answers, instead I am ok with the unknown and I don’t have to look for God in my life. Instead, I simply chose to adopt an attitude of love for creation and a desire to have a positive impact on the world I live.

For the most part, I have come to accept that even though I have a strong suspicion that I don’t quite fit in to any Jewish community or anywhere, I am still confident that I can navigate nearly any road and visit with ease. I can struggle with God yet still inspire a love of creation and a devotion to Judaism.

Through my writing, I have learned how and when to be a chameleon and when to let my true self shine.  My writing gives me an outlet to comfortably share my vulnerability instead of hiding my views behind my silence; I no longer want to have secrets that force me to be what I am not. Like so many others, I have done that too much in my life.  I guess that is why I am choosing to share what I truly believe about God: I don’t focus on what God is or isn’t, instead I root myself in Godliness or God-energy.  (More on that in a future blog. . .)

Belonging would be lovely, but for now I think it is better that I remain rooted in myself, perhaps even belonging to myself. This way I can be the woman I am — striving to stretch and grow with each and every step I take.  And at the same time, I have found the few friends I value deeply while embracing others that are simply a beautiful part of my life. I guess you could say that while I sometimes feel dark, I am (mostly) content for what I do have.

Have you ever opened up a book that was perfectly aligned to what your spirit needed at the time? I am so grateful that I was able to do exactly that on the holiest day of the Jewish year. I am fairly certain that Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown will continue to motivate me to write more blogs.

Sending love, light, & blessings,
Chava

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Chava's Shadow 17January2016Tonight I went to sleep early. After navigating Hurricane Harvey for nearly two weeks, I crashed. For three precious hours, I curled up into a ball and slept. I needed it too!

And then in an instant, I was awake again. For the next three plus hours, I tried to catch up with the world. And for the most part, I felt like a spectator watching my heart break.

Ironically, just as I was facing the darkness that was surrounding me, a new storm emerged. Outside, thunder and lightening shattered the quiet night skies, water started to rise (again), and the lights started to flicker.  While this was reality, it was also a metaphor for how I was experiencing the world.

Being openly vulnerable as I navigate the many storms feels right in this moment. While recently some of my friends have referred to me courageous and brave, they have little idea what is sometimes lurking below the surface. I am feeling ill equipped for the life that surrounds me.           

Hurricane Harvey
Trump
Devastation
Traffic
Deep Sadness
Defending DACA
Nuclear Weapons
Lost Friendships
Changing Realities
New Beginnings
Loneliness

Baseless Hatred
Storms
Normalcy
Hurricane Irma
and so much more. . .  

Life is challenging, as it often is in the middle of a storm. And with each breath, I am becoming calmer. And yet, I am also acutely aware that in this moment, the troubles of the world and my soul are closing in. This is the reality of being alone in the middle of the night as a storm threatens to encroach on your sense of well being.

Navigating vulnerability is what follows both the devastation and the kindness that I have seen since Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Friday, August 25th. This pain also comes from seeing who in your life will show up and who will not. In some ways, everything has changed; in other ways nothing has changed.

The good news is that after 51 years of life, I am aware that calm will come after this storm has passed. For now, I am simply acknowledging where I am.

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Flooding 1Life is forever altered.

(Note: Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant address this again and again in their book, Option B. If you haven’t yet read it, rush to purchase it and embrace the wisdom.)

No one ever wakes up one day expecting a moment (or many moments) can change the course of life, but sometimes it happens. For us living in Houston, Hurricane Harvey did the job.

Option B is my new norm and has been for just over a week. Although, it has only been over the last few days that I am feeling the long-term impact. Our new norms have left me unable able to take a deep breath (literally); I have, at least temporarily, shed the calm armor of grace and bravery.  AND I do know that at some point soon calm waters will appear. I have faced enough challenges in my life to trust that somehow I always find a way to navigate new norms.

Here is just a short list of how life has been altered:

  • The air quality is making it difficult to breathe.
  • Four or five hours of driving time have been added onto our daily commute. Although we will be looking for ways around this.
  • The possibility of flooding is a constant fear. With water levels so high. . .
  • While Houstonians are resilient, they are also bone weary.
  • Time to take care of myself via exercise and whole food cooking is gone. Although, a recent physical has dictated that I make some significant changes.

These are the biggies, but their are so many more.

Last night, the new realities hit me or should I say sucker punched me – knocking all the air out of me. The good news is that today, I am reflecting on how to navigate the new norms without allowing a sense of despondency to envelop me – Option B. I have NO doubt that my family will find new norms that work and a healthy new center.

Keep sending your prayers and sweet visions our way!

Even with the stress, I am immensely grateful.  We have our home and I have a widespread village to support me. While the harshness of the new landscape is not easy to integrate into my life, I am hoping that those that love me will be able to handle that I am a little more sensitive than usual.

Maneuvering Option B is going to take some time, but it is happening – a little by little each hour. And the only way that I can do it is with my amazing village by my side.  While my village is extraordinary, I want to share some insights and advice for better supporting me.

  • Sometimes I just need a ‘witness’ to listen.
  • Being transparent on Facebook is what I do, if you want to know how I am. . .check out my status; it will probably let you know exactly how I am.  AND for the meantime, I will continue to do my Facebook Live at 5 (or as close to 5 as I can).
  • While I know that I didn’t lose my house or anything of significance, this new norm is hell. I don’t need to be reminded that I should be grateful. I am. AND I am also acutely aware that Hurricane Harvey is even more devastating for others. Still, I have a right to feel as I feel.
  • Suggesting that I take care of myself doesn’t serve either of us well. In the early days of the disaster, I was constantly on the phone and connecting with those in need. Drumming and chanting would have been great, but when I had time, I needed to sleep/rest. The one thing I do multiple times a day is journal. Trust that I will find the pockets of time and embrace them. Telling me to take the time is a reminder that time is not what it once was. And hearing that again and again by the same people makes me crazy.
  • Social media offers so many gifts. At any moment, I may choose to engage or disengage, that is my prerogative.  I love the support of it, the information I glean, the sayings, the inspirations, and stories/music shared.  Telling me to unplug is infuriating; I am more than capable of deciding what I need to do at any moment.
  • While I love the support that surrounds me, I am fairly clear about what I need. If I ask you to connect with me or not in a certain way, please listen. I won’t be demanding or disconnected for long.

The vulnerability I feel right now can be earth shattering at times. The new norms petrify me. I can’t explain it all just yet, but I will over time. I am comfortable with transparency, but I am hurting right now and I am not always clear that I have the resiliency to navigate.  Yet I have a long history of thriving and my guess is that Hurricane Harvey will be no different.

Hineini, here I am, riding the waves. . . .  I don’t have Option A any longer, so Option B will simply have to do.

A few days ago, I shared that I am finding myself creating and humming a lot of niggunim, wordless melodies. There really are no words to adequately describe the mixture of emotions that each and every person in Houston is feeling. Today was my first effort in writing.

Moving forward. . .

Tell me, what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life?

~Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

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