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Archive for the ‘Memoir’ Category

Have you ever had a devastating day? A day that leaves you feeling shattered and beyond words. . . . unable to take a deep breath or physically move without intense emotional pain. Unfortunately, I have faced these days too many times over the course of my life. I am sure I am not alone here. These are the days that crush my spirit. I can often remember the day of the week that the emotional trauma occurred.

There was the morning after what I now refer to as Black Monday; it forced me to navigate some of the most challenging pain I had in a long time. As soon as I opened my eyes the morning after, I began doing what Pema Chödrön calls the ‘journey of the warrior’ by staying on the (metaphoric) mat. There really was no option, I was born to thrive.

Later in the morning, I sat in awe as I realized that regardless of how raw my heart was feeling and how my spirit was reeling, I was navigating:

I woke up this morning
I took a deep breath
And another

I put my feet firmly on the ground
I took another breath
And I reminded myself…

I can do this heart thing… I can do this hard thing…

I stood up
What I really wanted to do was crumble
I stood up anyway
And then I took one step
And another

I can do this heart thing . . . I can do this hard thing . . .

I fed the dog. I watched him do downward facing dog.
I wondered….Can I do that?
I don’t even know if I can move.
But then I did . . .
I painted.
I went out for a walk
I even spoke to two different neighbors and petted their dogs

I can do this heart thing . . . I can do this hard thing . . .

All I have to do today and any tough day is just keep taking one step and then another. I believe I am on the journey of what Sheri Salata calls the “ongoing becoming’.

~ ~ ~

Looking back, I am amazed that I have learned to stand when I feel broken. I may want to hide, but that is not the only option for me. Life has challenged me, but it has also invited me to negotiate even the cloudiest of days.

Yes shit happens, but shift can happen too.

I can thrive. I am thriving. I will always thrive.

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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We make our habits, and then our habits make us.”
John Dryden

Life is a journey that can totally deplete us, but can also empower us to stretch and grow. Personally, I do a much better job once I realize that living consciously makes a profound difference with every step I take. Sure, I wish my heart never shattered and my body didn’t hurt, but sometimes they do. Damn.

There are periods of time when I feel broken and ill equipped to navigate life, but once I realize my role in the hard stuff, I can plunge right into action. That starts by taking a deep breath and beginning to put the puzzle pieces of my life where they need to go. While at first it may be painfully challenging, it is also a non-negotiable . . . although there are moments when I forget this reality. The truth is each of us need to go through our pain; I am no different.

Healing is holy work.

The beautiful news is that once I open up to the possibilities, I can choose how to proceed. My deep sadness, my physical achiness, or my overall intensity doesn’t have to take over my spirit – at least not on a permanent basis.

And yet, how often do I go to unhealthy defaults. For me, it may mean eating the wrong foods or not doing what I need to be healthy. Over the years, I have often forgotten that my habits can either keep me healthy or burden me. Without question, I believe that everything I do matters.

With that in mind, I want to share a few of the ways, I cope with some of the deep sadness that I have been feeling since March. In March, our country lost our norm with COVID and my heart broke when a beloved relationship needed to dramatically shift. Both left me treading water and crying big ugly tears. And on a bad day, both still do.

Pain has a way of causing watershed moments and at the same time, water has a way of healing.

As much as I cry big, ugly tears and tread water to stay afloat, I also run to the water when my spirit needs calming. And when my body aches, it is water that seems to ‘oil’ my body so that it better functions.

Running to the water – always

Water is one of the hugest gifts in my healing toolbox.

  1. I ride waves daily and sometimes I simply tread water. I do what I need to do.
  2. I drink a ton of cold water and sometimes warm water to help me stay hydrated, clear headed, and physically malleable.
  3. Whenever I can, I run to the water (ocean, bay, river, or lake) and just stare out to the soothing waters – sometimes for hours.

AND there are a few morning practices that guide me daily or nearly daily:

  1. As soon as I open my eyes in the morning, I start moving. For the most part I rarely use an alarm clock, instead I wake up when the universe shakes me up and then I start functioning.
  2. I always make my bed as soon as I can (or as soon as my puppy, Magic, allows me). This habit allows me to always be successful at the start of my day.
  3. Do The 5 Second Journal – This journal invites me to reflect where I am and to plan my day too. For the most part, Mel Robbins’ journal opens my spirit while easing me into my day.
  4. Stretch my very stiff body. Ever since I had back surgery a few years ago, I can’t seem to leave the stiffness behind, but I am grateful that my stretching routine helps me feel to keep moving.
  5. On a good day, I walk 3-5 miles. I love when the cooler weather conspires to have me meet what has become a daily goal.
  6. Thanks to Chase Jarvis, creativity has become a daily part of my life. Since hearing his amazing podcasts, The Chase Jarvis Live Show, I have found a creative rhythm that propels me forward, inspires happiness, and keeps me grounded.

Holy living is possible because I have learned to honor my journey to healing and ultimately to life. Yes it’s hard at times, but I always get to choose how I will negotiate moving forward.

Holy living is a gift. AND water has a way of making nearly everything better.

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 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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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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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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December 2016 - looking outThis is what I know. . . .

Life is hard.
I am here for this moment and that is the only given.
Tomorrow may never come.

My spirit is raw.
My passions run deep and so does my pain.
With every fiber of my body, I feel.

This is what I know. . . .

I am driven beyond words and failure is not an option.
With each step, I strive to make a difference.
I strive to be enough.
And sometimes, nothing works as I want it to.

My heart is wide open.
I always listen to the stories that surround me
and to the possibilities that exist at every turn.
Each story  I hear, gives me a reason to thrive and sometimes a reason to hide.

This is what I know. . . .

Tomorrow feels like a dream, just beyond my reach.
Yet I have chosen to move forward.
I take one step and then another.

I soar with joy and drown in the muck.
I wrestle with my demons and celebrate my angels.
Yet. . . in the silence, I struggle.

This is what I know. . . .

I am alone.
Navigating the world in the best way I can.
I take one step and then another.

And if I am lucky,
I will make a difference
and often I fall flat.
Sigh.

This is what I know. . . .

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. 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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Each day, I open my eyes with an awareness that life as I know it is gone or if it’s not it will be soon. Nothing lasts forever. . . . everything changes and evolves. That thought often leads to initial despondency, but ultimately I can’t stay in that place or I won’t be able to move my spirit and body to where it needs to go.

With each breath, I realize that moments of calm are fleeting. My once content loved ones may be wrestling with serious illness, broken hearts, or devastation over the course our country has taken. I am also be aware that the people I once felt loved by may have drifted away. Or perhaps the body that allowed me to run miles and miles can no longer move in quite the same way. Or maybe a practice that always helped me find calm isn’t working as it did.

 

img_2747And even with all of this knowledge and sometimes pain, I am impacted by the very real possibilities that waking up may open for me. Relationships may be salvaged. New friends may be found. A new love may enter my life. A beautiful moment may ignite my spirit. A solution may be found for something that once seemed impossible. Or perhaps, waking up that day will be enough.

While giving up and curling up into a cocoon may be exactly what my spirit craves, it usually only helps things for a brief time. Instead I endeavor to live each morning with intention. I visit the darkness only to push it aside (on most mornings) and then I stretch my limbs and allow gratitude to flow. I can move.  On a more hopeful morning, I embrace the words and melodies that fill my head. As the words and melodies fill my brokenness with what often becomes a burst of light.

I am alive. I am thriving. I have made it to this time.

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. 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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