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Archive for the ‘Writing: A Window Into My Soul’ Category

Closed doors have always had a way of blocking me from wherever I wanted to go. Yet few shut doors have kept me from doing what calls to me. Once I can visualize what is possible, determination and perseverance propel me forward.

From my earliest memories, I struggled to function like “normal” children. My home was not the only challenge in my young life. With almost no coordination and poor hearing, I seemed to live in my own little world. Walking didn’t happen until I was well over 2 years old and I don’t remember hearing much until I was 5 or 6 years old when my tonsils and adenoids were removed along with some other surgical procedure on my ears. 

Somehow the little girl that could barely find her place with others learned that she could do almost anything she set her mind to do. Can’t was not part of my vocabulary and it still isn’t.

  • After nearly nine years of speech therapy, I learned to talk with clarity.
  • Somewhere around 8 or 9 years old, my second grade teacher taught us to write in cursive. I really struggled; I just couldn’t do it. So each and every night, I would go home and practice writing late into the evening. The more I practiced, the better I was able to write.
  • Around 10 years old, I was mortified that all the girls in my class could jump rope. I couldn’t – not at all! So instead of giving up, I went home every night and practiced jumping rope from the moment I got home until the moment it turned dark. The GREAT news is that I did learn to be an excellent jump roper; the BAD news is that within a day or so of learning, I woke up to the worst pain I can ever remember. My leg muscles had totally seized up and I could not take even one step. One of my sweetest memories of my father was when he gently picked me up and put me into the hot bathtub to try to loosen up my muscles and ease some of the pain. It worked.
  • Better late than never, at 11 years old, I decided that I would learn to ride a bike. With my friend Elizabeth by my side, I remember feeling freedom and joy as I biked down Pikeswood Drive for the first time. And that feeling returns each and every time I get on a bike.
  • In junior high school, I decided that I wanted to be able to do at least a little gymnastics. It was hard for me to watch all the other kids do front rolls and back rolls during our Physical Education class. To say that I was being a dreamer is an understatement. And yet, I’ll never forget trying to strengthen my muscles, teaching myself to do front rolls, back rolls, cartwheels, and even backbends! After weeks of practicing in class and at home, I was finally able to do all of those things, but also create a really AWESOME routine for the uneven parallel bars. The best moment came when Mrs. Brown, my PE teacher, yelled, “Slow down, you are moving too fast for the spotters to keep you safe.” I never could walk across the balance beam, but that didn’t matter to me. I was so proud of all I did accomplish through sheer determination and perseverance.
  • I always dreamed of being a runner. It didn’t matter to me if I was slow, I just wanted to be a runner. So, at 16 years old, I took up running. At first I could barely go one time around my high school track, but that didn’t last for long. A short time after starting to run, I was able to run three miles daily until I decided to run for 10 miles daily which lasted for years.

Walk Up Hills Slowly 1In reality, I had a lot of time to myself growing up. I didn’t have too many friends until I was older and my family wasn’t there for me either. So I learned to use the time I had to work on becoming a stronger and better me. Every time I was led to believe I couldn’t do something, I responded with silently telling myself “Watch Me!” If I wanted to do something bad enough, I found the inner strength and character to do it.

In truth, I wish I could say that I no longer struggle with poor coordination or bad hearing, but that would be a lie. To this day, I am sometimes sad that I don’t have the coordination to do serious hiking. That doesn’t mean that I don’t go hiking, it just means that I am honest with myself about what I can do. A few years ago, I decided to hike by myself in Madera Canyon, outside Tucson. When I came home, I was pretty battered with some “war stories”. My sons who were in their late teens and early 20s lost it with me. AND they were right. So now, I do a better job at honoring my abilities with honesty.

And to this day, I am initially anxious nearly every time I stand up to speak in front of others. I worry whether or not I am articulate or making sense. When I am really tired, I know that I don’t speak clearly. This doesn’t mean that I choose to be silent, it means that every time I stand up in front of people, I take a deep breath and I do say what I have to say. And for the most part, I have learned that even if I am having a rough day communicating, it’s really good enough and sometimes great!

I live my life by believing that I can and then I do! I take one step and then another. I rest. And then I do it all over again . . . and again . . . until I have accomplished my goals.

One of the things that has impacted me more than I thought previously possible, has been listening to the wisdom of so many others over the last several years. Through reading a lot and really listening to great podcasts, TEDTalks, etc., I am inspired! With nearly every written and spoken word, I am gaining insight and ultimately choosing how I want to better walk in the world. Ironically, my most profound lesson came from the first United States woman to summit Mount Everest without oxygen after trying to do so five other times. Melissa Arnot Reid said, “I walk up hills slowly.” AND that is what I have always done and will always 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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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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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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