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The truth does not always matter.

One of the first lessons I learned as a child was that no one ever heard my cries which left me feeling unheard and unseen. Sigh. I can still remember how my tears would fall uncontrollably with only me to soothe and quiet my spirit. This reality left me feeling shattered with a sense of aloneness that has stayed with me to this day.

Sadly, even though I feel supported and loved now, the past remains a quiet voice within my head. It reminds me that I am alone; I will always be alone. The open wounds of my earliest memories have never left. While there is no question that I was loved and adored by my brother and father, neither of them kept me safe from my mother’s wrath. Mental illness and addiction had a stronghold on my mother and made her a volatile monster. I don’t think that I ever had a moment in which I felt safe in her presence.

December 2016 - looking outMy adult years have been profoundly different. Even though the sense of aloneness seems to always be part of my inner being, it shouldn’t be. The truth is that today, I feel love surrounding me – always.  And thanks to social media, I always feel seen and heard; in fact, I can’t hide. 😊

Case in point, I was totally blown away with the support I was being offered when I had to have a hysterectomy about ten years ago. At the time I lived in the Washington, DC area where I had a close-knit group of friends. But my close friends from my Jewish educator circles wanted to come in from New York, South Carolina, California, and Washington State. I could not have asked for anything more precious then to be loved by these friends. In the end, my friend Idie from New York stayed with me and tried to keep me from pushing myself post-surgery. I am kind of surprised that our friendship sustained that experience; I’ve never been known for my patient ways.  Another distinct memory I have from that surgery was waking up alone in the hospital room with intense nausea. I felt horrible. But I wasn’t alone for long. A friend of mine showed up to take care of me. Pia held my hand, put cold compresses on my head, and loved me until the nurses could get my nausea under control. That’s love.

Again, when I lost my job in Tucson, Arizona in 2014, my friends supported me financially, making it possible for me to survive. One friend allowed my family to live in her second home without cost to us. Other friends helped me fundraise what I needed to make it through. Another two friends found me contract positions which allowed me to support my family. People showed up to help us unpack our car and to simply be with us. When we had to put down our beloved dog Shachar, our friends David and Jennifer drove two hours to make sure we were not alone in our sadness. While losing my job in Tucson was scary, it was made so much easier because of the love that was showered on the Gal-Or/Grossman household. I will never forget how blessed I felt.

Over the last several decades, I have story after story of how my beloved friends showed up for me.  And yet, those earliest memories remain. It doesn’t matter that I know the beliefs are total bullshit.  Intellectual knowledge can’t replace the imprinted memories of the inner child that was so battered and bruised.  My friend Mary put it beautifully when she said, “It sounds like your support network helped diminish the volume of those painful earlier memories.” I think she is 100% correct.

Now my work is to trust the “real truth”. I am surrounded by love; I am not alone.

I got this!

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Living Out Loud: A Thriver’s Journey. If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, AND if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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The power of practices has been profound to me. It has help to give me to remain grounded while also soaring. In  my post, “Every Day I Choose Life”, https://wp.me/pthnB-3oh, I was able to unpack the inherent wisdom that comes from creating practices around my life.

One thing I know for certain is that without daily practices I wouldn’t be able to thrive as I now do. As a matter of fact, I believe that creating daily practices has given me the ability to handle reality when I’d rather curl up into a ball and fade away.

For those that know how deeply I love, they wouldn’t be surprised to know that after nearly every loss I have faced either by death or a devastating crash. I have crumbled for months if not years. I have gone inward, thought I would die of a broken heart, and simply wanted to give up. To say that I handle all loss with deep devastation is an understatement.  I love forever. AND I never seem to be able to let go of friends and lovers that have died or chosen to walk away. I almost never end a relationship; I love forever.

Nearly each and every time I face loss, I find myself stunned and lacking the emotional maturity to handle it.  Perhaps not having a nurturing childhood left me stunted emotionally. I suffered from loss right out of the womb with a mother who never really knew how to love me. As a mother, I can’t imagine. Although to be honest, I did nearly puke on Aryeh, when the doctor tried to hand him to me right after he came out. BUT it’s not my fault, I didn’t handle the medication from my C-section too well. Luckily that was short lived and I am blessed that he has no memory of this moment.

Seriously, when I allow myself to reflect, I have a sense that I still feel the loss that comes from being stripped of love from my earliest memory. Which is so silly because look at the sweet love that I always felt from my father and brother. Yes my father failed to keep me safe, but I think this reality will always be a complicated one. And from the time I moved to Israel in 11th grade, for a year abroad, through today, I have been surrounded by love. I have this amazing tribe that holds my spirit however I am showing up in the world. I am blessed.

AND the other truth is that although many angels showed up along the way, they could never erase the pain I experienced from enduring such a violent and traumatic childhood; they tried. This truth will be forever etched in my memory leaving treading water when I should be able to swim. Maybe I will never be able to swim, but at least I can tread water.

broken heartedRecently I lost a relationship that while I knew it had some major challenges, I was left profoundly sad when it had to end. And yet in that instance, I have come to understand, for perhaps the first time ever, that while my heart is literally shattered, I am also truly treading water and not drowning in my sorrow. The beautiful practices that I have created have given me the strength to visit my sadness without letting it overtake me.

Hurting isn’t easy, but knowing that I have gained the tools is making a difference. Today, I can get lost in a chanting practice or express my inner pain through my painting. Taking a long walk and remembering to do self care can also soothe my spirit. I’ve truly come a long way in the last few years. My daily practices have given me the support to navigate all the moving parts of my life.

I got this. At least I hope I do.

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Living Out Loud: A Thriver’s Journey. If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, AND if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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Hiking Boots

A few days ago, I decided it was time for me to take a look at some of my more recent journaling entries. With a bunch of my writing pieces being in the messy middle and not quite ready to be shared, I decided to reflect on a journal entry from a few months ago that started with the words, “How do I choose life each and every day?”

Daily life can be overwhelming. With every day comes deep feelings, a long to do list, and a desire to hide under the covers for eternity. I am not sure that I have ever totally checked out of life for very long; instead I take one step and then another. I reach for the next best thing and I move forward. Each and every day, I choose life.

I am the architect of my life.  While daily practices sustain me, so does living authentically, engaging in activism, creating a home that nurtures my soul, and by surrounding myself with friends that I adore. Perhaps all of these things are practices.

A rough childhood taught me that I really needed to take care of myself. And I have learned that the best way to do just that is to consciously create daily life practices that ground me one action at a time.

  1. Morning routine
    • Wake-up without an alarm clock by 6 or 6:30 AM (at the latest)
    • Take probiotic
    • Drink water (lots)
    • Make bed, stretch, feed dog, do some quick chores, and journal (30 or so minutes)
    • Take my stomach medication
    • Chant and/or walk for a couple of miles
    • Eat breakfast
  2. Throughout the day
    • Paint inspirational cards, etc.
    • Journal whenever thoughts pop into my head
    • Weave
    • Read
    • Facebook
    • Walk (5-7 miles)
    • Food norms – (This is relatively new for me since I have been doing this only for a few months.)
      • plant based diet (mostly)
      • fish – once a week
      • green smoothies (4 – 6 times/week)
      • no added sugar
      • no alcohol
      • drinking lots of water
      • dinner with my sons (5+ times/week)
  3. Night Routine – Work In Progress (WIP) that needs to be strengthened.
    • Evening walk (4+ times/week)
    • Stretch
    • Golden milk or tea
    • Before bed chanting

Above is not all I do, but it is a skeleton of how I navigate my life.  Without these practices, I would be in rough shape. They provide order when my spirit is in disarray; they ground me so that I can live with more ease. Daily practices always provide me a pathway to healthy living.

Looking Back

I am not certain when I started embracing daily practices as a “thing”. It started slowly, so slowly that I didn’t notice it was happening. Perhaps it can be traced back to when I realized that if I wasn’t writing/journaling then I must be in a dark place. My son Dovi was actually the first person to point this out to me when he was about 8 years old. And ever since that time, he has been the first person to remind me that I must not be writing enough when I am less than grounded, angry, or sad.  He is still the first person to remind me to get back to my writing if I fall off the wagon.

Over time I have learned that daily practices empower me to live life more fully regardless of where my spirit is. And what I love most about them is that they are always a work in progress; as I stretch and grow, they do too.

Every day I choose how I want to live. Every day I choose life!

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Living Out Loud: A Thriver’s Journey. If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, AND if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

 

 

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theLightWhen I decided to write about my life, I truly thought it would be easy. Only it wasn’t. How could it be? The beatings, the screaming, and the fear permeated my earliest years. And yet my entire life has not been dark. In fact, it has been far from dark. But the dark moments seemed to have overshadowed the many gifts. And writing about my childhood plunged me into the darkness leaving me (for a little while) sad to the core.  The pain cut deep and left me treading water instead of being the thriver that I am.

My response to writing about my childhood was to dive deep into an underwater cave that was literally swallowing me up until I realized what was happening. With each passing day, I found myself going further and further underwater until I couldn’t find an air pocket to catch my breath. For over a month, I stopped writing my book and connecting with others more than I had to for my work.

Looking back I see that I had temporarily lost my voice. My voice had become too overwhelming for even me to bare witness. So I stopped talking. I stopped writing. And metaphorically, I was unable to release even the smallest whisper. And during this time, I also physically lost my voice. I am sure this is no coincidence.

As time moved forward, I found a little inner strength. Swimming further into the cave, I was finding the space to renegotiate what I needed to fuel my spirit. While I was still dark, I was learning to breathe a little more deeply and I was becoming more of the person I was meant to be. I was just starting to find a stronger voice from within.

As my voice returned, I saw it as a sign that I needed to do more than speak, I needed to find a way back to writing, “Living Out Loud: A Thriver’s Journey”.  I needed to get back to the holy work of writing my story.

 

My story isn’t easy. In fact, what I am learning about myself is that I am not brave; I am terrified of losing my footing and slipping into quicksand. I often crumble, but I am learning to trust that even when I crumble leaving only cracks behind, light has a way of reaching my soul and on a good day, I illuminate the world with some of my light.

Each year that I remain on this earth, I learn to see myself as a little more beautiful than I ever thought possible. I know how to show up in the world and to add sparks whenever possible.  I ride the waves as I fiercely grasp for life’s many nuggets. And with each breath I take I always try to do the next right thing. In fact that is the only thing I can do on a daily basis.

One of my strongest attributes is that I am resilient. Regardless of what I have had to endure in the past or will have to navigate in the future, I always find the inner strength to show up at the table – again and again. And on I good day, I am able to radiate light as I thrive. That’s my job!

Hineini, Here I am!

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Living Out Loud: A Thriver’s Journey. If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, AND if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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Much of my life I have felt trapped and it totally sucks.

I wonder if you can imagine what it is like to be stuck in a cold, dark cave – day in and day out for years. No one can hear you if you cry out in pain. And you can’t hear anything going on in the world around you. This was my life for much of my first two decades.

As a child and even now, I often feel like I am stuck in that dark and cold cave. Perhaps it is the reality of someone who barely heard until I was about 5 or 6 years old. Perhaps it is the story of a young child who was abused because her mother couldn’t escape her own demons. Or perhaps it is one of the many truths of a young teenager who was raped at the hands of someone who was supposed to support and protect her when the world had let her down.

Shattered - Believe you are whole even within the cracksWith almost no one to hold me or love me through the pain or realities of my life, I learned to dance around the quiet and ultimately to find my footing whenever I was alone. To this day, I stumble with close ones. I probably do this because after living my informative years in a metaphoric cave, I am comfortable there – most of the time.

Since I often still feel that I am alone in that dark cave of my childhood, I can find myself in hot water with friends who don’t quite know when I may be triggered or feel insignificant, unworthy, or silenced. The good news is that today I surround myself with beautiful and loving people who fill my world with sweetness.

The challenge is that once I go down the slippery slope and start wrestling with my own past demons, it takes a “real” friend to ease me out of my darkness.  The good news is that I am blessed; there is rarely an individual in my life who is trying to hurt or silence me.  I wish this reality made it easy for me to navigate tough moments, but the truth is that I can’t help but go there when I am feeling unheard or misunderstood.  When I visit this cycle with friends, I have to do the work of moving forward and the hardest part is showing up to the table and not giving up. In some ways, it is easier to let go of what hurts, but I also know that that is ridiculous. Remember, I surround myself with amazing souls.

Releasing myself from living in my metaphorical cave has been and may continue to be a lifetime journey.  On a good day, I know that  I am ABSOLUTELY not lost in a cave. On a bad day, I find it hard to breathe because there is no oxygen where I am. The good news is that I have come a long way since my beginnings.

But my early childhood often looms over any wisdom that should prevail. Still I keep moving forward and navigating relationships that will allow me the space to be real, to crumble, and to move forward.

Always moving forward; this is my journey.

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Living Out Loud: A Thriver’s Journey. If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, AND if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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Note:
We all struggle, the question is how do we choose to navigate. 

On a good day, I hold onto hope.
I remember:
the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
that the moon is my constant companion and my guide.
the North Star reminds me that I can always connect to those I love.

On a good day, I hold onto hope.
I believe:
that the world is full of beauty and goodness.
angels show up and do all they can to make a difference.
the universe has a tribe working together to make the world a better place.

On a good day, I hold onto hope.
I know that many of us are:
standing up for humanity and against tyranny.
planting seeds and keeping the soil watered.
embracing those who struggle as we love them through their journey.

The bad days come too – again and again.
On those days, I wake up and wonder:
how will I take a deep breath and then another?
what words can I say when hatred seems to be surrounding us?
can sunlight emerge from the stormy skies?

The bad days come – again and again.
On those days, I choose to:
keep moving forward – one step and then another.
connect with my beloveds as we do love together.
create rays of light to illuminate the darkness that often overshadows us.

YES, life is full of good days and bad days.
This means that I will:
navigate each and every road that lies ahead.
nourish the world that I live.
keep hope alive!

sunset beginning bayWill you join me?

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Living Out Loud: A Thriver’s Journey. If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, AND if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

 

 

 

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Day 37 - Choose to ThriveEach and every morning I have a choice about how I will approach my day. In fact, if I am really honest, I have that choice with every breath I take. My job is to keep taking deep breaths and doing the next best thing.

Life is full of gifts and challenges. And while I have grown to accept that life can be really hard, I have also been known to embrace each step as consciously as possible. I know that as long as I am moving forward and doing all I can to navigate life’s journey, I will emerge from most any experience.

As someone who was raised in an incredibly toxic home, I have made the decision to always try to do what I can to make things what I want them to be. And some days, I struggle more than others and on those days I try to remember that I am human. When I am ready to emerge from whatever I am navigating, I will.

I love knowing that I can make life a little more beautiful through how I interact with the environment that surrounds me. This includes:

  • being loving to whoever is in front of me.
  • finding sparks of light in hard and painful moments.
  • actively engaging in actions that I hope will make the world a better place.
  • creating through writing, painting, and in any way I can.
  • opening doors for strangers.
  • showing up at the table – again and again.
  • moving forward even when I feel like I can’t take another step.
  • AND MORE . . .

Even when I was younger, I always did what I could to survive. The difference is that today, more than anything in the world, I want to not only survive, but thrive.

Hineini, Here I am!

Each and every day, I ask myself:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
~Mary Oliver in ‘The Summer Day’

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Living Out Loud: A Thriver’s Journey. If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, AND if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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Note: Triggers are miserable reminders that the past is never far away. And the truth is that they happen all the time. The challenge is to remember to ride the wave without getting lost in the pain for too long; we also need to remember that pain is part of the journey and we have no choice but to go through it. And regardless of how broken you may sometimes feel, don’t forget that you are whole just the way you are.

Shattered - Believe you are whole even within the cracks

Thirty-nine years ago, I faced the most crippling year of my childhood and young adulthood years. For the most part, I have moved forward, but that doesn’t mean I have forgotten the damage that was done to my soul. When I was fourteen years old, my spirit was trampled and no one was there for me. So instead of living my teenage years with the craziness that being a teenager includes, I found myself treading water with the hope that the world would swallow me up.

During that year, I was violently abused by mother, neglected by the father I adored, and drugs became my refuge, my haven from life’s storms. Just as I believed that my best friend’s family would save me and protect me from the raging violence of my childhood, my best friend’s stepfather started molesting me during a family vacation and then ended my time with them by raping me. In an instant, the last vestige of my childhood was ripped from me.

This horrific year left an ugly imprint on my spirit. And yet, even though it was full of pain, it has been an anchor to keep me balanced. Instead of going over the edge when life’s challenges leave me gasping for air, I tend to believe that all will be ok.  I made it then; I can make it now. The pit that nearly destroyed my life didn’t swallow me up. I understand that pain and vulnerability is part of life.

Unfortunately, each and every fall since I was 14 years old, I am often paralyzed by complete dread. On a good year it may last a few days, but more often it lasts for a few weeks. As the summer winds down and the weather turns a little cooler, I can feel the agony like it was yesterday.

In Judaism, we remember the death of someone by saying a prayer and then lighting a candle for their yahrzeit, the memory of their death. I think it is time for me to starting mourning and remembering that fall day by lighting a yahrzeit candle for that little girl who had her childhood ripped thread by thread from her being.

Once Gary raped me, my soul was permanently shattered. While I have emerged, it wasn’t easy. It took decades to plaster my many broken pieces together. AND like an old building, sometimes the pieces need to be replastered. The damage was devastating; it has impacted my every breath and probably my every decision.

And if that wasn’t enough, it was less than a month later that my mother amid a violent and very drunken outburst took what was to be her final blow at me and landed me in foster care. She lifted a butcher knife and tried to stab me – again and again. For those moments in time, I felt fear like I had never known and I was no stranger to my mother’s episodes; I endured physical pain at the hands of my mother on a regular basis. To this day, I am not sure that I have ever felt a worse fear in my life. And to this day, I still cringe every time I see a huge knife. As luck would have it, my older son has had a love affair with knives since he received his first one at age four. I will never understand how I was able to navigate his love and often fixation of knives, but somehow I not only survived it, but encouraged it.

Years passed before I absorbed how being raped as a child forever impacted how I walk in the world. And it didn’t help that a couple of years later, I again came face to face with the rapist, Gary, who threatened my life if he ever caught me alone. (Fuck the bastard!)

Only recently have I begun to navigate the atrocities that my young spirit endured. But today, I am so grateful that I found the inner strength to move forward or to what I now think of as ‘rising like a phoenix from the ashes’.

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Living Out Loud: A Thriver’s Journey. If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, AND if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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