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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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I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

Song Writer: Paul Simon

December 2016 - looking outBeing alone allows me to ground my spirit and find center. It gives me the space to think, to cry, to create, to feel, to dance, to understand my many dichotomies and then to emerge from my alone-ness when I am ready.

 

While I love people, I also believe that being by myself much of the time is natural and perhaps how I was meant to be. From the moment I was born, I was thrust into a world of alone-ness. Perhaps it began in utero and then continued as the family of my birth didn’t have the skill or wherewithal to raise me in a healthy environment.

 

From my earliest memories, I was blessed to learn how take care of my spirit. There was no one to hold me, to nurture me, or to love me into the person I was meant to become.

 

As early as I can remember, my young life was filled with tears as I learned that the best thing to do when in distress was put a pillow over my head so no one could hear me cry or even scream. At one point, I remember believing that even God couldn’t hear my pain. I think that was the beginning of me wrestling with whether or not God had a role in my life. I am still wrestling with that today which is to say that there are times I am completely aware of how alone I actually am.

 

I always wanted to be like a rock or maybe like an island. I believed (and sometimes I still do) that I was safer navigating the world alone, turning inward, and being silent.  The idea that I could surround myself with my poetry, my books, and even my creativity, was profound. I could navigate this world alone.  All I ever wanted and still want is safety. I want to feel the cocoon of love and softness around my spirit.

 

My childhood and teenage scars remind me that safety is never given. If I want to be safe, I have to love myself enough to honor my needs at any given moment and to shield myself from harm whenever possible. I’ve got this!!! AND I am also a part of many loving tribes including my family, my friendship circles, my faith based communities, and activists.

 

Love is so complicated. Those we love have the ability to hurt us more than anyone else ever can. And the older I get, the more I realize that I don’t have what it takes to recover from the pain that I once brushed off with ease. The good news is that this has led me to nurturing friendships that truly fuel my soul.

 

For the most part being alone is not sad for me. I thrive on all that I love to do and how I walk in the world. I treasure those people in my life, I just find it easier when I am in my own little cocoon breathing, creating, and being in the fullness of who I truly am.

 

My work will continue to be honoring my need for alone-ness while not getting stuck in the alone-ness that I learned as a young child. I need to keep doing the holy work of living. AND to fully live means that I have holy work to do! I need to keep listening to the inner voice that both reminds me to take time to thrive in my alone-ness while also remembering my love for humanity.

 

And while I may constantly be developing my foundation so that it is as strong as a rock, I also have to keep showing up to the table – again and again and again.

Hineini, I am here!

 

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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broken hearted(Trigger warning: This excerpt may be harsh for those who have experienced childhood trauma or who love me.)

My mother tried to kill me.

I don’t say these words lightly nor do I know if my mother’s intention was in fact to kill me. I will never know that. And in truth, the moment she started swinging the butcher knife towards me may not have been a conscious one for her. Marilyn was mentally ill, a drug abuser, and a very sick soul.

But none of this matters. What matters is that I had no where to go to be safe. No one loved me enough to take me in or to protect me from the barrage of eruptive energy that I faced daily. I was alone. Or should I say that I felt alone.

The feeling of loneliness has never left me. My childhood impacted me on a cellular level and while I have family, friends, and tools that fill me with love and often show up when I need to be physically or metaphorically held, it doesn’t always help. The shattered feeling that has been part of my life since birth is still part of my life; it just is. And the good news is that I have filled my world with so many beautiful people that I can usually push through my default sense of loneliness.

My work is to keep showing up, living authentically, and sharing my stories so that others don’t have to be alone and so that we can all inspire one another. And today, I know I can reach out to my tribe. While I will not necessarily ask for help or even share the specifics of what is hurting me, I am so much better at letting those who love me know that I am having a hard time and that I need to be held. Perhaps one day, I will learn to better ask for help.

Back to the knife . . .

As a child I used to love living across the street from my synagogue and celebrating the Jewish holidays. Judaism was always in my blood and the fall holidays when I was in 8th grade were no different. I would walk out of my house, turn right and walk up Pikeswood Drive. I knew just about everyone who lived on my block. Once I got to the traffic light at the top of the street, I felt somehow more relaxed, safe, and free. I would cross over Liberty Road and my synagogue would be awaiting my return. I loved Beth Israel.

The deal had always been that I could stay home from school on the Jewish holidays if I went to Beth Israel for services. This was a no brainer; I loved going to shul, which is what I called my synagogue growing up. I loved everything about the congregation. I loved the services, the onegs (nosh after services), my friends, their parents, and all of the older members. As long as I was at Beth Israel, I felt a sense of solace in my stressful life.

Nearly every Shabbat/Saturday, I went to the morning services and on most every holiday too. After services were over, I would read and do homework during the afternoons and evenings.  By junior high school, now known as middle school, I was a fairly good student. I did have some challenges, but I generally tried to do well.

On the night my mother came into my room swinging a butcher knife, I was so worried about a biology test I had coming up. I hated the teacher who seriously had it out for me. I was hyper-focused and trying to learn the material; I didn’t want to fail. But life took a dark turn that would forever impact any false sense of security I had.

Initially, I was hearing my mother screaming, slurring her words and banging something against my door. This was not unusual, so I tried to ignore it or maybe I screamed that she shut up. By junior high school, I was done withstanding abuse, but that didn’t really change anything. I was bigger and stronger which helped, but my mother was still a mentally ill addict.

When the noise didn’t quiet down, I opened my door in exasperation and was stunned at what I saw. A huge knife getting ready to come down on me or into me or wherever. I was scared shit-less. All I remember is somehow pushing my mother down and hearing her yell obscenities at me as I ran out of the house and to a neighbor. I can’t imagine what my friend’s parents thought of me when they opened the door to see me sobbing and shaking.

Sadly, I only have a vague recollection of what transpired over the next few hours. The police came followed by social services and I was taken away to temporary foster home. As time went on, I realized that no one in the foster care system believed that a young Jewish child could be abused by her Jewish mother.  The nightmare was horrific, but the aftermath was even worse.

Without anyone there to believe me or see me, I was forced to navigate the world differently. And my mother was mortified about all that was going on and begged social services not to put me into a Jewish home. She was really worried about what would the neighbors think. So they did the next best thing, they took me to live with a couple that were active in their beautiful Methodist church. So during my time in that foster home, I went to church every Sunday. Sigh.

So not only did I lose my home, my school, Beth Israel, my friends, I lost my spiritual home. I was really on my own.

Not being seen and not being heard started me on a path of self-destruction. I did drugs with little or no worry for what I was taking, I climbed moving trains and jumped off the top of them, and I had little regard for my life. I wasn’t worthy enough to be heard so I started to embody a life that reinforced just that. I also learned that my voice didn’t matter, so silence became my closest friend. Over time I stopped sharing my stories and started lying. Nothing I said mattered so I learned to share what I thought people wanted to hear.

Months later, I returned home. The alternative was going to a girls’ group home where the girls were brutal to one another. At least at home, I only had to keep myself safe from my mother not another 15 – 20 teenage girls. The good news is that I don’t remember as much violence once I returned. The eruptions never stopped, but I don’t remember any more physical pain upon my return.

But 14 years of hell and many more years of volatile outbursts caused a lifetime of healing ahead of me. While I accepted that I was broken, I also understood that I was a thriver and actually quite whole too. I am a work in progress. My work has always been to keep taking one step and then another. I had lived through hell and I had ultimately found my voice.

And the good news is that my mother didn’t kill me.

Hineini, I am here!

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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