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“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.”
~ ÉMILE ZOLA

here my voice

Until very recently, I felt silenced.

For those that have known me through my college years and beyond, they may not believe me. But it is true.

I always believed that I wasn’t smart enough, articulate enough, or worthy of voicing my thoughts. I wanted and sometimes still want to be perfect. I hate when I make mistakes or when I share my thoughts only to realize that my thoughts are not clear when the words leave my mouth. AND I know that I am not alone here; none of us want to feel like we sound stupid.

While I could blame the fact that as a young child and teenager, I often went unnoticed or ignored. I also now understand that I ultimately had to find my voice. This came from keeping my eyes open, listening to the world around me, and probably growing stronger with each step I took. Finding my voice took time, a lot of time.

Over time I have learned to accept the many realities of dichotomies of life. Life is complicated. So much of what we perceive is not as clear as we hope. Once I came to grips with that I found that I could speak up and wrestle out loud. The world is really full of challenges that need our collective attention. Finding my voice meant that I can be one of the people standing up for humanity.

Humanity is a mess right now. We are struggling with:

  • food and water,
  • disease and human suffering,
  • economic disparity
  • religious, race and sexual orientation conflicts
  • human rights
  • government accountability, transparency, and corruption (US and beyond)
  • communication
  • climate change
  • and so much more

And here is the thing, any skill we learn evolves as we grow and learn. Being static isn’t an option for me, so I have learned to embrace what I love and to navigate the ebbs and flows that are part of living. We need to be having hard conversations about all of the challenges that humanity is facing.

One of the major keys to thriving, even as I often stumble, is that I surround myself with radiant souls. The people that I choose to be part of my tribe may or may not be from my family, my spiritual practice, my socio-economic circle, political circles, etc,  but they are all kind and supportive loved ones. I am held and loved even when I feel unworthy.

I am aware that the world doesn’t always make sense. Nothing about it does. And yet, I am ok with the journey. . . I am ok with navigating the hard stuff, for accepting that which is complicated, and for making beautiful moments whenever possible. I am finding peace with expressing myself from wherever I stand. AND I appreciate when I am enlightened by others. I am also ok when I have conversations in which I learn the “other” point of view. All of us need to be talking to one another.

AND yes, I know that life is complicated, but I am on this journey and I am doing the dance that I think makes sense. My job is and always will be to share my voice with the purest of intentions and with an open heart.

I choose to keep showing up – again and again. My voice matters. Hineini, I am here. I am alive to live out loud.

Onward with love, light, and blessings,

 

Day 11BChava

 

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . 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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Our Bodies Tell UsWaking up this morning, my body had so many messages it was screaming at me. And for the first time in a long time I am listening.

While I slept well, I woke too early with a bad cramp in my leg. With my spirit in a good place, I simply chose to move slowly, drink a ton of water and stretch. Upon reflection, I realized that I have been so absorbed with everything other than my heath that I have been neglecting my stretching and other self care. For someone that was told I would need more back surgery within a year of my surgery a few years ago, I can never let my guard down. I have to remain vigilant in taking care of myself.

I am giving myself 30 days to change the trajectory. If i can’t, I will need to return to my orthopedist for an MRI. I think this could be serious, but can be renegotiated with self care. The funny thing is. . .I  am actually relieved to focus on self care. 

My body isn’t the only thing that needs nurturing. My entire being is feeling raw and struggling. I have my hands, my heart, and my spirit in a wide range of areas from human rights, to racial and economic equality, to climate change, to immigrants/asylum seekers, to domestic violence, to education, to homelessness, to local politics, and to world politics especially around Israel. I also am being drawn to my writing my book Thriving: No Option. . . and creating healing retreats that will be birth as my book is being birthed.

Yesterday I realized that I also needed to go back to painting my little cards daily.  When I painted my little cards on a regular basis, my entire being was more creative and I could negotiate my funks with so much more ease. I am simply not doing what I need to do to remain centered and grounded in the holy work of living.  

What’s actually funny is that a couple of weeks ago I wrote, “Our bodies often tell us what we need to hear. Our job is to lean in and listen.” I was so proud of this reflection that I created the little picture/card above. Yesterday I was reunited with the card and realized that I need to listen to my own wisdom.

Yes, the world is feeling broken, but I have to figure out how I can best show up in the world while seriously taking care of my own physical and emotional needs. Who knows maybe I can even begin taking some time to make healthy food from scratch.

Today I am listening to the many messages that I have been hearing. I will be stretching more, creating more, taking more naps, and nurturing my body. Today and through the coming days, I will allow myself the space to do nothing.

Mostly I will allow the for a little more quiet in my soul. Perhaps in the coming days I will also figure out how I can best show up in the world while also loving myself with more conviction.

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . 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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Life is really messy.

Around every corner there are ups and downs. Moments when you are soaring and moments when you are flopping around like a fish out of water. And if you are intense like me, it may feel like your life is bouncing around as quickly as some people can flip a coin.

Sometimes I wonder if I walk the world this way because my childhood didn’t teach me many tools for coping with life’s grit. And as a young adult and later a young mother, I learned to live as a chameleon. I buried many of my emotions and did what was expected of me. And for the most part I pulled it off fairly well. Or at least I think I did. Of course, what do I really know about how I was received by others.

To be transparent, my life has probably always been far from normal. As a young newly married woman, I faced nine miscarriages, several failed adoption attempts, an adoption, buried my parents, navigated serious illnesses for my children, employment struggles for the family breadwinner, and so much more.

Nonetheless, I engaged in living and doing whatever needed to be done to propel my family forward, support my community, and keep a smile on my face. I simply plugged away at living. I am not sure that I found it easy because interspersed with some really tough moments, but I had dinner on the table every night. We welcomed people into our home nearly every Shabbat. I cooked meals for those who were ill and organized our community to help families in the midst of health crisises. I even kept my home  clean, laundry done, and always held down a part time job.

I had an I can do ANYTHING spirit, only inside that is not how I felt. I used to wonder why everyone in the world could keep their houses clean, nurture their children, and have a full life.  Everyone seemed to do it with an ease that ALWAYS escaped me. It is only since I started following social media closely that I realized that I was never alone. All of us have our own personal struggles.

Fortunately social media, Oprah, and podcasts have helped me realize that I am so not alone in this very real struggle. Only over the last five or so years have I  been introduced to the wisdom of three people that rock my world as creatives because of how honestly they shared their struggles of living in the messy middle. They inspire people to:

  • Live in the “marvelous messy middle”. ~ SARK
  • “Embrace the glorious mess that you are.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert

And to understand:

  • “Life is brutal. But it’s also beautiful. Brutiful, I call it. Life’s brutal and beautiful are woven together so tightly that they can’t be separated. Reject the brutal, reject the beauty. So now I embrace both, and I live well and hard and real.” ~Glennon Doyle

Each of these amazing women choose to share their personal journeys of living in the midst of life’s sometimes very challenging realities while being aware that moving forward doesn’t always present us with easy solutions for living according to what society deems “normal”. They continually inspired me (and still do) to show up in my world as authentically as possible.

Hiking BootsI feel blessed to now walk with ease in my own messy middle and the outer banks too. While it took me over fifty years to emerge fully as myself. I ultimately found my voice through writing, chanting, drumming, and only in the last year through painting little cards.  I am the woman I am because how I have chosen to navigate my own rocky paths.  I am so grateful that I learned to live out loud by sharing my life experiences without apology, accepting that I don’t fit into any box, and loving myself for who I am.

I have also done some really hard stuff including leaving the traditional Jewish community, moving cross country with my sons, divorcing my husband, and publicly changing my name when I realized my parents lost their right to name me.  I wanted a name that honored who I am today, so I gave myself one.  I am Chava Gal-Or. Chava means life because I am a woman who thrives regardless of what sh*t crosses her path and I become empowered by whatever life tosses in my direction. Gal-Or means wave of light; this is my reminder not only to be light, but to find the light in whoever and whatever crosses my path. Perhaps the hardest thing I am doing right now is sharing my life stories via my writing; I am not holding back, I am diving deep and navigating some really harsh realities that have lead me to rise as the woman I am.

Yes, I live in the messy middle. I feel deeply. I struggle to breathe when life overwhelms me. I often believe I don’t do enough to make our world a better place. I wonder if I love enough and do enough for my family, my work, my beloved friends, etc. I struggle with believing that I am worthy and yet I understand that the Inner Demon speaks loudly to me and it is my job to show up and keep showing up. On a good day, I quiet that voice and stretch my arms wide open to life. On a bad day, the demon wins, but I push forward anyway. I am learning.

Living in the messy middle has become a norm for me and I am OK with that. I am “perfectly imperfect” as Anne Lamott would say.  Hineini, Here I am!

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . 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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I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
from Mary Oliver, “When Death Comes”

I had a profound response to my earlier life which had been plagued with harsh realities.  Somewhere along the way to growing up, I decided that my life had to amount to something. I had to find a way to impact the world for good. I don’t think this was a conscious decision on my part; I think I simply started tripping over opportunities to do my part and then showed up as best I could. As time progressed, I started not only seeking the opportunities, but creating the opportunities as much as possible.

Denver Lighthouse by Aryeh

Photo Courtesy of Aryeh Grossman

Being a light in a world that is so full of darkness was so important to me. So much so that when I changed my last in my late thirties, I changed it to Gal-Or, which means wave-of-light in Hebrew. The feeling that I wanted to bring sweetness and light to this world has been growing with each passing year. I simply can’t seem to do enough.

Of course, doing enough, being enough, and giving enough has always been my challenge. While I may understand that I do as much as I possibly can, I struggle because I believe I should be doing more. The more I do, the more I want to do. Our world needs me, our world actually needs all of us!

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . 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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“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”
― Vincent Van Gogh

Have you ever been paralyzed by taking your first step in something that you really wanted to do? Of course you have, we all have!

Tonight as I was talking to my dear friend Sami (not her real name) when I intuitively felt drawn to share with her that it is time for her to get out of her own way. I strongly suggested that she choose to do‘4 ACTIONS IN 4 DAYS’.

The goal is simple. I suggested that my friend stop allowing herself to get stuck in the ruts. In fact, I specifically told her to stop hugging the ruts. We all do this sometimes; I am no different. For me, my challenge is staying in loving relationships with men that are beautiful, but not available for me on a soul level. This realization has been with me for a while, but it is only over the last several weeks that I have finally found my voice, realized what I had to do, and become empowered to release and heal from my previous cycles.

Creatively, I have also had a few ruts. Some of these ruts include:

  • Fear of painting and sharing my work. For that I started #The100DayProject after listening to the most amazing podcast, The Chase Jarvis Live Show, in which he interviewed Elle Luna. The two interviews that Chase did with Elle Luna lead me to do my own #ActivistCardsByChava. You can google it if you want to see a few examples. Needless to say that this 100 Day Project stayed with me for well over 100 Days AND it has opened several new doors for me.
  • Sharing my writing was really difficult for me at first.  After hearing a professor of a graduate level writing class tell me that I was a horrible writer and that I should give it up, that is exactly what I chose to do in early twenties. And then after over a decade of refusing to write, I started writing again after my second son was born when a few magazines wanted to publish his story. BUT I wasn’t writing with any regularity. That all changed in March 2009 when I started this blog.
  • Choosing to take care of myself has often been one of the hardest ruts I have had to navigate. Today, I openly share my weight journey, track my steps, and reach out to friends so that I can ask for creative solutions for moving forward. Success has come as I have actively embraced my health journey by eating better, moving more, and losing about 85 lbs. I am literally growing into a healthier person.

In my conversation, I suggest that she simply move forward tomorrow by deciding what 4 actions she’d like to do over the next 4 days. For me, I can say that while I may have been thinking about each of these possible transformations for a long while. Once I realized it was time, I didn’t look back. The plans came to me in moments and I simply started taking one step and then other.  I literally opened my eyes and my heart and without looking back I found my way.

The most valuable lesson can be summed up by the wisdom found when Chase Charvis  interviewed his friend mountaineer and philanthropist Melissa Arnot Reid:

Day 15 - Walk up hills slowlsyStanding still will not propel any of us forward. I am so hoping that Sami can find the inner strength to take one step and then another. May my friend and all of us find the actions we need in order to transform ourselves in a way that helps us become more grounded while soaring as human beings.

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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Over the last several years, I have learned that creating a practice for myself is spiritually nurturing and enables me to navigate life with more ease.  A few of my daily practices that have nourished me include:

  • not eating gluten or sugar
  • writing morning pages or journaling
  • writing love notes to my IWS (inner wise soul)
  • chanting
  • drumming
  • writing affirmations
  • creating daily mandalas
  • making my bed in the morning
  • drinking water with apple cider vinegar every morning
  • thanking the universe for special moments before closing my eyes at night.
  • and so much more . . .

Creating these daily practices has helped me to become more grounded in living. Just in the last month or so, I have added walking 5 miles in the morning while listening to inspiring podcasts and eating much better than I have in years. With these actions, I can see my overall health improving; I am thriving in so many ways!!!

I am not sure when I found podcasts, but this fairly recent phenomena brings me immense joy and even balance. I know that I feel deeply and process life’s journeys a little longer than maybe I should. The good news is that when I listen to some of the better podcasts, I realize that I am not alone in how I walk in the world. AWESOME podcasts jazz the deep and sometimes dark crevices of my soul while inviting me to stretch, to grow, and to evolve as a human being.

IntroOne of the recent podcasts I tripped over was with Chase Jarvis interviewing Elle Luna who co-wrote the book, Your Story is Your Power. During this interview I realized that I had actually read Elle’s first book, The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion. No wonder some of the teachings and ideas sounded familiar. After listening to Chase interview Elle for her latest book, I had to listen to an earlier interview with these two exquisite visionaries. If you want to listen to either of the two podcasts that helped birth the #The100DayProject here are the links.

You could also explore it via Dr. Google, there is great information that can be found on the internet. Here is one of the better pieces with links and information/ideas.  https://thegreatdiscontent.com/interview/elle-luna-100-day-project

My hope is to inspire some of you to do this project with me. I am still figuring out the process, but here are my “rules/non-rules”. Basically you do what you want and have fun, but if you want to join me here are some guidelines that you can use:

  1. The only premise is that participants have to do the same action every day for 100 days, and for those of you that want to share the process and have accountability, you can document it on Facebook and/or Instagram. Feel free to tag me or to add your photo onto my comments of either social media platform.
  2. My start day is Sunday, August 12/1 Elul through Tuesday, November 20/12 Kislev . The Hebrew start date comes from the Jewish calendar and is meaningful to me because it is a time of reflection within the Jewish calendar. This is not meant to exclude anyone, it is just that I am making note of it for myself.
  3. While #The100DayProject is an opportunity to be part of a larger group, it can be as solitary of an activity as you would like.
  4. I will be sharing my journey on Facebook (@Chava Gal-Or) and Instagram (@NeshamaWriter) using two hashtags #The100DayProject which is a hashtag that all of us can do and for my personal project, I will use #ActivistCardsByChava. My suggestion is that you make a hashtag for your project if you plan on sharing it via social media.
  5. Finally, if you choose to keep this project private, consider documenting it for yourself. AND besides, if you would like to share with me, I’d really love to see what you’re up to.

My Project:
#ActivistCardsByChava are cards that I will be creating to motivate  people (or perhaps just me) in the journey of making the world a better place. There are a lot of moving parts that go into making a difference. Simple smiles, rallying for human rights/dignity, making phone calls, writing letters/articles/social media posts, quotes, and self care are all possibilities of what will be included in the Activist Cards. I have been thinking of doing this project for a few months and now I have the opportunity to make it happen. Ultimately, I hope that these cards are full of inspiration. (Note: I am open to suggestions if you have another suggestion of what to call these cards.)

I am so excited about pushing myself differently than I ever have. While I love to write and doodle, I have rarely shared my doodles with others. I am using the #The100DayProject to play and see how and if this evolves in any way. Regardless of how this project works for me, I am so excited to be stretching in a new way.

As an activist, I have decided to add one more part to my project. While I am being transparent, I have no expectation that anyone has to join me in this. At the same time, feel free to do so. I will be making colorful pictures with simple designs with sweet sayings in Spanish that I can ultimately pass on to DMRS, Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services. HUGS is a creative heart initiative for sending loving notes to 300 kids, 0 to 17 at four detention centers in Texas. If your card contains images only, like you art and/or loving drawings you can send directly to:

DMRS
2400A Yandell Drive
El Paso, Texas 79903.

If you are writing words or letters, feel free to reach out to my friend Dana at danablechman@yahoo.com or make sure that you have another Spanish speaker check your translation.   If you are interested in joining me in this second part of the #The100DayProject, here is some information:

  • Do not use on-line/computer translation. If you do not speak Spanish fluently or know someone who does, Dana has offered to help.
  • Suggested size is 1/4 page on cardstock
  • Keep cards non-political
  • Make the card as creative or as simple as you’d like
  • Remember that there is a wide range of ages who will be receiving these cards.

In any case, feel free to join me in the #The100DayProject. Just the thought of having you join me makes me really happy.

Onward with love, light, and creativity,

Chava

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Sometimes life hurts. There is no way around this reality. The question is not whether or not we will hurt, the question is how will we walk through the storms?

Turning my wounded heart towards living out loud has been my soul work.  Except for the times that my loved ones needed me to focus, I have always shown up in any way I can. I simply open my arms and do what needs to be done. There are a myriad of tasks that need my love and attention. Our country, my neighbors, my friends, my family, and our world.

In the last month alone I have:

  • taken care of a sick friend recovering from a double mastectomy.
  • called our politicians.
  • visited with friends who needed a pick-me-up.
  • picked up trash.
  • given mezuzot, ritual objects, to those who lost their homes to disasters.
  • mailed chai (life) clothes to people who were suffering.
  • wrote politicians as well as blogs and Facebook posts to make people think about things differently.
  • helped rebuilt a house destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.
  • donated money to several causes.
  • watched two different friends puppies so that they wouldn’t have to board them.
  • helped a friend who professionally needed the guidance.
  • rallied/resisted against Trump’s policies that allowed for children to be torn from their parents’ arms.
  • tried to help a young woman reunite with her son and find a stable home.

Did I miss the mark in different areas? I’m sure. But the point is that I have chosen to live differently as an adult than what I experienced and saw in my youth.

For me, my life challenges seemed to have been ingrained on a cellular level. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the moment of my conception was what started the train wreck that has often overshadowed me and in truth it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that on most days I have navigated life’s journey and embraced the hand that showed up. While I am not sure that I had a choice, from a young age I seem to have decided to wake up each day and take one step and then another.

Although there are moments when I wish that things could have been different, they weren’t.  For the most part, I have reached this time in my life and found a way to absorb the blessings reverberating from my soul.

Living out loudI am alive. I am thriving. And I have emerged to be the woman I am today.

Thriving or simply surviving has not always been a given. At each and every stage of my life, I faced some harsh realities. If it weren’t for my inner strength, I may have found myself devastated or worse destroyed.

I’ve been battered both physically and spiritually; I have seen violence and watched my children navigate ICU on multiple occasions and even sat by their bedsides expecting that no tomorrows would ever come. And yet they did come.

My heart has been shattered and sometimes trampled beyond recognition. And yet somehow I have found my breath. I have learned to inhale the light and exhale the pain and darkness. And nearly every time I needed, an angel showed up to make a difference in both small and large ways.

Much of my life, I have felt like I was rock climbing up extremely treacherous terrain. The only problem with that is that I was born with two left feet; I am a total klutz in every way.  The fabulous news is that even as I have struggled to find a healthy place to stand, I’ve have always found the solid ground I was seeking.

With my past as a guiding force, I find meeting new people challenging. My life is full of skeletons that are harsh for any person to absorb. Yet each and every story has opened doors for me and made me the woman I am. Instead of wearing a mask, I want to touch people as I transcend the darkness with my resiliency. And I want to take what I have learned from all the pain that has hammered my life and bring light into the world; in as many was as possible, I want to make our world a better place.

Today, I allow myself to ‘live out loud’. I share my thoughts, my pain, my politics, my soul.  I share my writing, my art, and my spirit without apology. Today I climb mountains and accept the fact that I may fall. I know that I am surrounded by my sons and other loved ones. I am not alone.

My inner wise soul has turned life’s monsoons into the vibrant beauty that often follows a storm. Instead of hiding behind the shadows, I have actively chosen to ‘live out loud’ in every aspect of my life by loving deeply and engaging in the world is what drives my spirit.

Hineini, here I am!

 

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