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Flooding 1Life is forever altered.

(Note: Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant address this again and again in their book, Option B. If you haven’t yet read it, rush to purchase it and embrace the wisdom.)

No one ever wakes up one day expecting a moment (or many moments) can change the course of life, but sometimes it happens. For us living in Houston, Hurricane Harvey did the job.

Option B is my new norm and has been for just over a week. Although, it has only been over the last few days that I am feeling the long-term impact. Our new norms have left me unable able to take a deep breath (literally); I have, at least temporarily, shed the calm armor of grace and bravery.  AND I do know that at some point soon calm waters will appear. I have faced enough challenges in my life to trust that somehow I always find a way to navigate new norms.

Here is just a short list of how life has been altered:

  • The air quality is making it difficult to breathe.
  • Four or five hours of driving time have been added onto our daily commute. Although we will be looking for ways around this.
  • The possibility of flooding is a constant fear. With water levels so high. . .
  • While Houstonians are resilient, they are also bone weary.
  • Time to take care of myself via exercise and whole food cooking is gone. Although, a recent physical has dictated that I make some significant changes.

These are the biggies, but their are so many more.

Last night, the new realities hit me or should I say sucker punched me – knocking all the air out of me. The good news is that today, I am reflecting on how to navigate the new norms without allowing a sense of despondency to envelop me – Option B. I have NO doubt that my family will find new norms that work and a healthy new center.

Keep sending your prayers and sweet visions our way!

Even with the stress, I am immensely grateful.  We have our home and I have a widespread village to support me. While the harshness of the new landscape is not easy to integrate into my life, I am hoping that those that love me will be able to handle that I am a little more sensitive than usual.

Maneuvering Option B is going to take some time, but it is happening – a little by little each hour. And the only way that I can do it is with my amazing village by my side.  While my village is extraordinary, I want to share some insights and advice for better supporting me.

  • Sometimes I just need a ‘witness’ to listen.
  • Being transparent on Facebook is what I do, if you want to know how I am. . .check out my status; it will probably let you know exactly how I am.  AND for the meantime, I will continue to do my Facebook Live at 5 (or as close to 5 as I can).
  • While I know that I didn’t lose my house or anything of significance, this new norm is hell. I don’t need to be reminded that I should be grateful. I am. AND I am also acutely aware that Hurricane Harvey is even more devastating for others. Still, I have a right to feel as I feel.
  • Suggesting that I take care of myself doesn’t serve either of us well. In the early days of the disaster, I was constantly on the phone and connecting with those in need. Drumming and chanting would have been great, but when I had time, I needed to sleep/rest. The one thing I do multiple times a day is journal. Trust that I will find the pockets of time and embrace them. Telling me to take the time is a reminder that time is not what it once was. And hearing that again and again by the same people makes me crazy.
  • Social media offers so many gifts. At any moment, I may choose to engage or disengage, that is my prerogative.  I love the support of it, the information I glean, the sayings, the inspirations, and stories/music shared.  Telling me to unplug is infuriating; I am more than capable of deciding what I need to do at any moment.
  • While I love the support that surrounds me, I am fairly clear about what I need. If I ask you to connect with me or not in a certain way, please listen. I won’t be demanding or disconnected for long.

The vulnerability I feel right now can be earth shattering at times. The new norms petrify me. I can’t explain it all just yet, but I will over time. I am comfortable with transparency, but I am hurting right now and I am not always clear that I have the resiliency to navigate.  Yet I have a long history of thriving and my guess is that Hurricane Harvey will be no different.

Hineini, here I am, riding the waves. . . .  I don’t have Option A any longer, so Option B will simply have to do.

A few days ago, I shared that I am finding myself creating and humming a lot of niggunim, wordless melodies. There really are no words to adequately describe the mixture of emotions that each and every person in Houston is feeling. Today was my first effort in writing.

Moving forward. . .

Tell me, what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life?

~Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

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December 2016 - looking out into waterNote: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5777, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-2NA)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This weekend has been wild. Seriously wild. Our family had to do so much to prepare for a short term guest that had the capacity to destroy our sacred space. I am sure you have had guests like that.

Anyway, our visitor is/was none other than Hurricane Harvey.

We had to do so much to prep for his visit. We had to purchase the perfect foods, sandbag our garage so that it wouldn’t flood as it normally does when the rain comes pouring down on Houston. We also had to gather our most important documents and collect things upstairs that we wanted to keep safe.

The stress was tremendous because car trouble had taken my excess money. Money is always tight, but natural disasters, health challenges, and car trouble are three things that remind me of how difficult it is to navigate life’s expenses. And my sons and I have had all three – again and again – over the last few months. Regardless of how much we struggle financially, we still had to prepare for our guest. His timing may have not been the best, but he was expecting to make landfall on Shabbat whether we wanted him or not.

To say, I was overwhelmed is an understatement. AND yet, I was also acutely mindful of how fortunate I am. We have a home, important documents, and what we need. And when I was deciding whether my sons and I would stay or go, I had friends offering me money, hotel points, their homes, and wisdom/insight. I even had a friend let me know that she has a basement that she is willing to open up to my sons and I on a more permanent basis if needed. I had this amazing village that lifted me up and created a safe container.

As a side note, it was the love that was flowing from old friends, new friends, and even social media friends that sustained me when despondency threatened to take over. As someone who doesn’t remember a lot of love as a child, I sometimes have a horrible default mode that leaves me spiritually untethered and feeling alone. But waking up to a sweet text from a beautiful childhood friend helped me re-focus the despondency; she offered to send me $500 so that my family would seek higher/safer ground. Wow.

We decided to stay home, but the offers of help continue to come. I am awed by the love that continues to flow. AND I am keenly aware that even when I become overwhelmed, I have friends that are there to be program managers, supporters, and listeners.

Maddie out backAnd since before the rain started to fall, we have barely gone an hour without a call, a text, a Facebook message asking if  we were doing ok. How beautiful is that?!?!?! And on a bit of a silly note, when I went on Facebook requesting “the best rain and water songs”, I received nearly 60 responses with suggested songs in a couple of hours . 🙂

Over the coming days, I will add more insight that I have received from this experience, but for now I want to take note of what it means to be a beloved friend. My family is truly surrounded by extraordinary souls.

During this time of Elul, I am charged with remembering to be loving and full of light like the village that surrounds me. I wouldn’t be the woman I am if it weren’t for the love that flows so freely within my world.

Sending love, light, and insight,
Chava

 

 

December 2016 - looking out into water
(Note: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5777, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-2NA)

~ ~ ~

“What we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human.” 
~ Brené Brown*

I love fiercely; I hurt deeply; I feel joy with every fiber of my body; I am what I am.

For the most part, the outside world sees me as reasonable and grounded. Maybe I am. AND I am also extraordinarily emotional that I have to remember to breathe into any emotion.

Loving life as I do comes at a cost. Intensity and passion run through my veins. This means that those that love me (including myself) have to  navigate minefields as well as pure exhilaration. I feel with my entire being. And when I feel comfortable, I literally share my whole self.

The minefields are probably the hardest to navigate. Sometimes I wonder what the hell just exploded inside me. At the same time, I love that I can take a ‘time out’ to catch my breath and become more reasonable. While my outbursts tend to be quick, the furious nature of them aren’t easy to navigate.

When my spirit soars, it is really quite enchanting. The electrifying energy is so life affirming and contagious. I absolutely love when my positive energy touches those around me. Sometimes I wonder who feels better after these exchanges; I love that it seems to be mutual.

I don’t remember always being able to honor my feelings in this way, but I sure do feel blessed to feel comfortable enough inside of myself today.

As grateful as I am that I walk through the world as I do, I also struggle. Feeling with ever fiber of my being has a cost. Every morning, I open my eyes and have to remind myself to breathe deeply and trust in the universe. I also have to do everything I can to quiet my mind so that I can better move through the day. On most days, I do this with ease. I get up, I journal so that acknowledge the fullness of where I am, and then I embrace life with open arms and an excitement to see how my personal life will unfold.

This doesn’t mean I forget the world I live in. I never forget that Trump’s venom is sitting in the White House and Netanyahu’s government poisons Israel. I never forget that climate change may destroy our world and that human slavery is alive today. And every continent has horrific disasters that literally destroy life at every turn.

Life’s many moving parts are a reality.  I will always be aware of them and do what I can to make a positive impact while also feeling as intensely as I do. I will also forever feel grateful to my sons who accept all of me (and mostly) accept how I wear my emotions. And I have a few dear friends that are totally present for how I show up. I love that I am (mostly) loved for who I am. That’s pretty awesome considering I can’t be anyone else. 🙂

embrace my scars live my passionAs I was wrapping up this blog, I was notified by Facebook that I shared the following hope card* last year when I posted about My Morning Pages/Writings. I love how this card showed up now.

 

Accepting my own humanity as I try to navigate my many imperfections can be really daunting.  I tend to be really hard on myself especially when anger or deep sadness pour from my soul. At the same time I am embracing the fullness of who I am. I am beautifully imperfect, I am what I am. I am me.

Note:

  1. Quote was from audiobook by Brené Brown from Men, Women, and Worthiness: The Experience of Shame and the Power of Being Enough; 2012.
  2. Courtesy of Bone Sigh Arts and Terri St. Cloud. These Hope Cards have been a gift. Find them: https://goo.gl/uVc1lc

December 2016 - looking out into water

(Note: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5777, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-2NA)

~ ~ ~

If you are someone who is in my inner circle, at any moment, you might see tears flowing and watch me bounce between being despondent and laughing at the notion that I could feel that way. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. But I process life and my innermost thoughts as the writer that I am. I take the time to weave each letter, each word, and each sentence until I am able to find answers to both questions known and unknown. I am a weaver of words

There are days when I feel silenced by my own inner critic and sometimes the voices of those around me.  Silencing the  critics is nearly impossible. At every given moment, there are so many voices racing through my head.

“You are so limited!”

“You call yourself a writer?”

“Look at yourself. . .”

“Did you really say that?”

My guess is that I am not alone and yet I feel alone. In the inner confines of my mind, there is no one to save me, but myself. It’s time for me to become one with myself and to write with that voice.

Perhaps it is a leap of faith that I need to take; perhaps it is simply that I need to trust myself and the universe too. I’ve been blessed with a net that appears when my heart is racing so quickly that I can’t catch my breath. My beloved village simply shows up and holds me up until I can stand on my own.

Now it is time for me to trust that that same village will hold me tight as I share my soul and reach for the next chapters of my life.

~ ~ ~

Over the last months, I have realized that MAGiC is my absolute favorite word. I believe in the power of magic and my ability to make magic happen. Have you ever noticed how beautiful moments and creations feel magical? Awe is a part of life AND magic will always be a part of awe. Don’t we all want to be surrounded by awe?

Making life work with all of her moving parts takes magic. The more I trust and work with the magic, the more authentic I am. And living authentically may be one of my strongest desires. Yet living authentically and trusting the magic is complicated and it makes me feel so very vulnerable.

 

Some of those voices are so f*cking loud! All of those voices have been spoken at one time or another, some by friends, some by respected teachers, some by loved ones (including myself), and some by strangers.

With these voices challenging me, I have decided that this is the season to plow through these voices and begin to shower the world with my most authentic self.

I know that how I am received is rarely about me, it is about how people choose to interpret my transparency or my spirit. With that in mind, I have already started sharing my evening doodles and over time I hope to share my voice with all of the moving parts that make me who I am:

PASSIONATE
COMPLICATED
INTENSE
SPIRITUAL
CREATIVE
VULNERABLE
EMPOWERED
CONSCIOUS
SENSITIVE
INTUITIVE
PLAYFUL
&
BEAUTIFUL
(inside and out)

Comfort-ZoneThe good news is that as I choose to live more consciously and authentically, the more I am guided by Emile Zola’s  sage advice to “live out loud”.

With all of the voices in my head, this isn’t necessarily easy.  Yet I am doing the work!!! Because if I don’t, I will never thrive as I aspire to. I can’t let my own vulnerability take over my life; I am too good for that!

Breathing deeply, I am learning to trust that when I trust the universe and leave my comfort zone. Only when I do will the magic unfold.

May we all find our own way to trust the universe and the journey that is ingrained in our soul.

Sending love and light,
Chava

 

 

 

Elul Reflections: Coming soon

December 2016 - looking out into water

I BELIEVE IN LIVING CONSCIOUSLY AND ALWAYS BEING REAL. This isn’t easy. You see, like all of us, I have many roles in my life. I am a mother, a sister, a friend; I am an educator, a community leader, and an activist; I am a woman, a thriver, and an intuitive. AND I am also a writer, a chanter, and a drummer; I embrace life with open arms and a passionate neshama, soul.  My creative and spiritual essence craves the freedom to share the fullness of who I am in all that I do.

According to Glennon Doyle, being real means getting ‘naked and unashamed’. While this leaves me vulnerable, it also gives me the wings I need to fly higher than I have ever flown before. Am I scared to unveil my core as a way to touch those that trip over my writings? ABSOLUTELY! My friend Diane Foushée (z’l) inspired me to reach deeply into my soul and share the fullness of my thoughts with my friends and readers. Until a couple months before her sudden death, I had no idea that she looked forward to the two times a year that I shared my journey as a seeker. During those times, I write a daily blog as I take the time to actively self-reflect and unveil my deepest thoughts.

Last year, I was too sad to write my daily Elul Reflections; although I did write a couple. Without Diane, I didn’t want to write.  I also didn’t know if my writing impacted anyone.  This feeling has changed. Over the last month, I have been blessed to have friends tell me how I have impacted their lives in a positive way.  Those friends have given me the courage to dive into sharing from my heart. As we move into Elul, the time of reflection just before the Jewish New Year, I will return to my writing practice that provided the sacred space to become more aligned as the woman I am. I will embrace the world with an open heart and a willingness to reach to a healthier and more balanced place in all that I navigate. I will share the rawness of my spirit with the gifts and challenges that are part of my reality.

As a ‘TRUTH TELLER’ and a writer, I want to weave my words and share my soul.  Join me.

Elul Reflections: Sharing My Inner Soul – Will begin Tuesday evening, August 22nd.

(Note: I have been impacted by some amazing writers and thinkers over the past couple of years. Glennon Doyle coined ‘truth teller’ and helped me through her podcasts to better understand what it means to be ‘naked and unashamed’. I am here!!! Hineini!

Other writers include Anne Lamott, Rebecca Solnit, SARK, Sheryl Sandberg (all from the Bay area – WOW!) and Elizabeth Gilbert, Brené Brown, Danielle LaPorte, Martha Beck, among so many more. I read their books, listen to their podcasts and strive to embody their wisdom. If I ever say something and do not honor them by annotating their work, please forgive me. Over time I have realized that so much of how they think has entered into my subconscious.)

 

waking up this morning, the universe has felt totally aligned for me.

my body moved as I needed it to move. my heart felt and still feels whole. by 5 AM, I was on my ayurvedic journey. i had done my loving-kindness meditation, drank a cup of fenugreek tea, and now I am drinking holy basil tea.

it’s only 6:22 AM and I feel ALIVE, beautiful, and centered. everything feels balanced. WOW!

i have already journaled, and now I am writing a short blog.

sure there are bills that I am struggling to pay, weight that I need to lose for my health/back, and family challenges. there are also amazing and inspiring friends, a snoring pup at my feet, and a job that I can’t wait to get to today.

there are also paint brushes that need to be used, books that are being read, and a world to explore.

music-of-her-soul

courtesey of terri st. cloud of bone sigh arts at: http://bit.ly/2tzcBxD

perhaps best of all was opening up my morning email from terri st. cloud of bone sigh arts to see this amazing prose and picture. I love terri’s work, it always shows up at the perfect time!

each and every word here speaks of my soul; my entire being is reverberating with a rhythm that reminds me that:

I am alive.

I am thriving.

I have arrived to this exquisite time.

synchronicity abounds.

 

ps: confirmation that I really am a writer came when someone ‘liked’ a blog and then became a follower. when I went to the specific blog (http://bit.ly/2uSVhry) that was ‘liked’, I found that it resonated with me too. and then WordPress asked me for feedback about their blog platform. I am not sure if they will respond to my feedback, but I hope so. I so want to grow THIS blog!

A Letter to a Friend:

On several occasions you have questioned whether Facebook friends are really listening or whether you are being heard at all. You seemed to be wondering out loud whether Facebook is some sort of alternate reality.

You are not alone in wondering about the power or purpose of Facebook. Since joining Facebook in 2009, I have watched myself evolve in how I connect with the world in large part due to my interactions on this form of social media. We seem to be asking similar questions and perhaps coming to different assumptions.

fb

On a personal level, I have grown to love it!!! At nearly anytime – day or night, I am surrounded by people that jazz my soul, inspire me to be a better person, nurture me when I am down, and/or support me when I need a kick in the tuchus (tush). And sometimes there is little or no real interaction; sometimes friends are just on the ride of life with me. The more direct I am, the more substantial  the help can be. Help has come in the form of information, resources, and/or supportive listening. My response to these interactions have helped me navigate into more healthy connections and out of friendships or connections that no longer serve me.
Facebook is not some sort of alternate reality. It is full of life (gifts and challenges), experiences, politics, information (true and false). People share what they are comfortable with sharing; this is no different than life in any other social realm. People share what they want you to hear and some are more authentic than others. This seems to be the reality whether on the phone with friends, at work, in synagogue or any house of prayer, at the park, or even the local grocery store.
When tough times hit, people can’t always help and don’t know what to say. The same can be said for all interactions.
Finding personal support for me seems to come mostly when I share what is going on and what I am doing about it. When I have been down for too long (which I have), the responses stop showing up with frequency. It doesn’t necessarily feel good, but each of us only have so much time in our lives to deal with our own crap let alone every one else’s crap. Sigh.
Politically, I have had to face that my strong opinions make people uncomfortable. And if someone is a really close friend, we learn to refrain from commenting on political posts or we accept the explosions that follow a ‘confrontation’. AND I have been known to end friendships or lose friendships when passions run deep. I love knowing where I stand with people even when it means that saying good-bye feels like the only option. I don’t have time to hang with people whose values I find troublesome.

I use Facebook to share all of the moving parts of how I walk in the world. I share poetry, sayings, politics, pain, joy, gratitude, and sometimes hell.

For me, Facebook has opened many doors to opportunities for learning, stretching, and connecting. While I love this tool, it is also one tool of many that I use in my life.

With love and light,
Chava

PS – Some examples of how Facebook has added to my life:

  1. Politically now, I have more information at my fingertips.
  2. Advice is always available for the asking!! And sometimes when not asked. 🙂
  3. When I needed a job, opportunities surfaced.
  4. After I lost my job, friends from all parts of my life showed up to help; I am not sure how I would have survived if people didn’t come out of the woodwork.
  5. If I am sad or lonely, depressed or scared, there is always someone who shows up to comfort me.
  6. While many people have profoundly different views from me, there is always someone there to give me a different way of seeing things.
  7. Whenever I post a link to my blog, it gets read. 🙂
  8. Whether I need a place to eat in Houston, a place to stay in Washington DC or a good book to read – Ask and I will end up with a ton of answers.
  9. I have found the best sayings just by lurking on Facebook. Did you know probably have over 70 pages of quotes that I have saved?
  10. AND so much more!!!!!!!