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Archive for the ‘Thriving: No Option. . .’ Category

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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I’ve come a long way in 39 years. . .

Thirty-nine years ago, I hit rock bottom with nowhere to go. Literally. At fourteen years old, my world came crashing down and I went to one of the darkest chambers of my being and straight into foster care.  During the preceding months, life had gone from really from terrible to hell. I was repeatedly beaten by my mother (both verbally and physically), living in fear of all that life had to offer, continuously being molested by the man who would later rape me and who’s family had wanted to become my foster family.

My life was far from safe and my spirit was crushed. I was alone and scared. AND yet, even though I did not have all the tools I needed, I was ultimately strong enough to save myself and find the strength on that dark, cool October evening. I left my house before my mother could hurt me yet one more time. I dodged the knife she was using to ‘teach me a lesson’ AND I ran. I made it to my neighbor’s’s house where I felt more alone than I had ever felt before. I knew that everything I knew was gone. I didn’t know who would love me or if I would ever be safe. I did know that there was no going back. The experience traumatized me forever.

Thirty-nine years ago, I stayed home to celebrate my favorite Jewish holiday called Simchat Torah. On this holiday, I went to my synagogue, danced with the Torahs and my community, and celebrated the yearly cycle of reading the Torah. At Beth Israel, my synagogue, I was surrounded by joy, laughter, song, and love. My home-life was everything but that. When services were over, I rushed home to study for whatever science test I had. Only my mother was nuts that night, even more than usual.

While I had suffered at the hands of my mother for my entire life, her abuse was escalating. What amazes me is that I had the fortitude to leave even though I had no where to go – not really.  In the end, my mother didn’t destroy my spirit. Her actions helped me to develop the tools I needed to be who I am! I am alive. I am thriving. I have made it to this time.

My roots go down. . . .MY RESILIENCE HAS ALWAYS PREVAILED!

Resilience has guided me since I can remember. This doesn’t mean I am always able to keep my shit together, but it does mean that ultimately, I keep finding the inner strength to do what I need to do.

Life has thrown me some serious punches, some of them more devastating than others. I have experience serious illness of loved ones, including my sons. I have lost many pregnancies and navigated a hard divorce. I have buried friends and lost friends to life’s circumstances. I know I am not alone in what I have navigated what’s above and so much more. The beautiful reality is that through it all, I have continued to show up at the table – again and again.*

I think I am who I am because the roots of my childhood have kept me grounded. I am resilient.

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.

(*Note – I have been saying so much of what Rising Appalachia says in their song. I LOVE this song; I can’t stop listening to 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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“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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I am a Jewish professional, a community organizer, a writer, an interfaith warrior, a political activist, and an artist; I am a visionary, a mother, a sister, and a friend. Above all else, I am human. I want to make a difference as I take my own Journey to Tikkun – Healing Myself and Healing the World. I am a work in progress who works tirelessly to become the healthiest that I can be as navigate the world around me too.

With each step, I am driven to stand with humanity as I show up at the table – again and again. There is so much work to be done and quite honestly, I can’t do enough. I am driven and I am inspired by the amazing people that I keep meeting and hearing about.

Lately, I have been amazed at how people keep showing up to guide me to make a positive impact in the world. In truth, what I have learned is that I don’t have to be creative, although I hope that I am. What I do have to do is listen to the world around me, remain present in those interactions, and finally to build bridges with others whenever possible.

Tonight, I was inspired by Tarek Mounib and his documentary, “Free Trip to Egypt”. I believe that this may have been one of the most impactful documentaries I have ever seen. I was riveted from the moment it started until the moment it ended. I didn’t want it to end. In fact I went up to the creator, Tarek Mounib and asked him to keep writing about this journey.

The film reminded me that I need to leave my bubble and connect with those that walk in the world differently than I do. While I may think of myself as open, I need to make sure that I remain open, leave my bubble, and interact with people that may or may not share my beliefs. I need to listen to what that are saying with an open heart, allowing my silence to be for the purpose of listening and not thinking about what I can say to enlighten those that think differently than I do.

There is so much holy work to do and so many bridges to build. I need to do a better job of building bridges and mending fences. I have so much to learn from others and perhaps the most important lesson I need to remember is that we are all human. Regardless of race, religious/spiritual practice, socio-economic background, education, or gender identification, we all have bodies, minds, souls.

Over the last several weeks, I have found myself drawn to showing up to a group of people with various political beliefs for something that we are calling Hard Conversations; I am also becoming more involved in a beautiful organization called Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom and finding my voice within the work of climate change, immigration, and interfaith work. There is no end to what I can and want to do to make our world a better place. And while I keep thinking that I need a little more discernment about how I want to show up in the world, I am profoundly aware that I want to do it all and to do it while I am working on my book which I am currently calling Thriving: No Option . . ..

In the movie ‘Free Trip To Egypt’, I was blown away by Tarek’s vision of bringing people with differing religious and life experiences together. He and his amazing team created the opportunity for beautiful souls to come together and wrestle with how to interact with those that walk in the world differently than they do. How often does that happen? I don’t think it happens nearly enough.

With this in mind, I want to see what I can do to continue my work of Journey to Tikkun (healing). I want to make sure ‘Free Trip to Egypt’ is shown again and again throughout the United States and beyond. This documentary needs to be seen by those that are actively engaged in making a difference and those that are not yet doing this work. This film needs to be shown to middle school and high school students and it needs to be shown to those that are living in their own corners of the world. There is so much wisdom that can be gleaned by every minute of this documentary. Over the coming weeks, I will figure out how I can do my part in getting this documentary viewed by every person I know and those I don’t know yet.

#PLEDGETOLISTEN

In the meantime, consider taking the pledge that was inspired by this documentary. Let’s all #PLEDGETOLISTEN. You can find more information at:
https://www.freetriptoegypt.com/pledgetolisten#what

Onward with peace, salaam, shalom,
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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