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Posts Tagged ‘challenges’

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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Prologue: I wrote this for a Sisterhood Friday Service at my Temple a few weeks ago. With each word came a deep awareness. Life is hard and yet as long as I can see the possibilities, I can navigate life’s many moving parts. AND I am blessed with both beautiful days and challenging days that lead to better days.   While sad moments crush my spirit, those moments pass allowing me to embrace blessings, light, and love.

~ ~ ~

Hiking Boots

Moving Forward. . . .Always

Awakening

Opening my eyes I found:
my spirit soaring.
my heart beating strongly.
my entire being at peace.

The universe has been waiting for me.

With the patience of a beloved (lover), she kept calling me from the distance and waiting. . . always waiting.
Beckoning me to breathe a little more deeply
Inspiring me to honor my own rhythm
Asking me to listen to the silence
Empowering me to release what no longer serves me

And I listened. Now I am ready to show up.

Hineini, Here I am!

What does it mean to be here? Right here?

The answer is simple and yet not simple. I am called to show up with a full heart and a full spirit. I am called to serve the best way I know how.

What does it mean for me to say Hineini, I am here? It means that I do what I can to make this world a beautiful place. I try to be authentic and loving. I try to put a smile on my face even when my heart is breaking.

It also means I hold the door open for the stranger. And I give all that I can to someone who is in need. Sometimes it means that I stand up strong for what I believe in and sometimes I remain silent because it isn’t the right time to speak my truth or share my thoughts.

Hineini, I am here. My job is to love humanity and to do my best to add a little light to our world.

Will you join me on this journey? What will you do to make this world just a little better for someone else, maybe a stranger, maybe a beloved?

Hineini, I am here. Are you?

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“The wound is the place where the light enters you.”
~Rumi

No one heard me when I was younger. No one. I got used to it – so used to it that I nearly buried myself in drug abuse. With no way out and no one to hear my cries, I found solace in remaining wasted.

I started young and covered up the disarray  of my soul with more blankets of dysfunction. And no one knew; no one heard my cry for help. Instead I had to find my own way out. At 16 years old, I decided to leave the world of mind altering drugs behind and to build a new foundation.

The only trouble is that I never learned how to handle my emotions when I thought no one was willing to listen. Even now, I feel a deep sense of loss when I am not being heard or my thoughts are even temporarily being ignored.  Intellectually, I know that people are busy, but inside I am still the little girl no one heard.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Yesterday, I wrote about how I was feeling drawn to listening to the quiet (https://wp.me/pthnB-3bP), but I do so with the awareness that my beloveds need to be seen, to be known, and to be loved as my spiritual mentor and writer SARK would teach.

Over the past weeks, I have been amazed at the silence I have needed to surround myself with, but I have been equally aware that I have had some friends that have needed me to be present. So, that is exactly what I did. I found myself taking a flight from Houston to Tucson so that I could nurture a friend who was recovering from major surgery. I also, connected with friends that were struggling with other challenges, and I almost helped a woman reunite with her 5 year old son by driving her four hours to pick up her son and then return to Houston. Fortunately, I ended up not needing to take the drive, but I would have.

Life happens.

AcknowledgeHere is the thing I have learned over the years. I am virtually alone. I have amazing family in Israel, but they are too far away to help without notice. AND I have the most dedicated friends in the world, but they are all over the map. Currently, I live in Houston and if it weren’t for barely a couple of people from my community and my sons, I would struggle if I really needed help; I just don’t have a support system here.

There is some really good things that come from feeling lonely and being virtually alone. I have come to understand that even when I know that my beloved friends and family are busy/distracted by life, I need to feel like I am seen.  Not all the time, but sometimes feeling ignored can hurt me deeply. Unfortunately, my childhood sense of alone-ness is never too far behind.

That realization is helping me become a better friend. If I need to be acknowledged, so do others. Everyone wants to be seen.

I am far from perfect, but I am improving over time. I am also getting better at telling those that I love, that sometimes I need a quick response with a promise that the other person will reach out as soon as possible.

My own loneliness has lead me to becoming a more beautiful friend; I think that is a good thing.

May we all show up the best way we know how; may we give those that need light, a spark from our own reservoir. And if you need me, please let me know. I am not a mind reader.

Onward with love and light,
Chava

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With a broken heart, I take a cleansing breath. Aren’t all of our hearts broken by living life as we do?

I inhale the light
I exhale the darkness

I inhale the blessings
I exhale the pain

I inhale the love
I exhale the loneliness

I inhale the gifts
I exhale the challenges

And with each breath, I am responding to the rhythms of our universe, of my world. I inhale the beauty and I exhale that which needs to be released.

Always Healing

Picture by Chava

I have always opened my heart and spirit to feel the realities that surround me. And yet, I have moments when I simply feel invisible – that is only part of the story.

I inhale when I am seen
I exhale when I feel invisible

Everyone is invited to a gathering, but me.
My heartfelt text messages go unanswered.
Someone I love closes the door without so much as a word.
All of the above leaving me to wonder and wonder some more. . . .

And yet I wake up each day knowing that I matter even in the moments that I feel unseen. My village shows up and surrounds me with love even when they sometimes forget to invite me into their lives.

The connection ultimately transcends the ego – always.

The call in the middle night from a friend in crisis reminds me that I am seen. My friend knows that my door is open any time I am needed.

And then there are the friends that reach out when they want me to create a sacred cleansing ritual for their new home. I am known for burning sage, chanting, and drumming as a way to allow for a new and sweet energy to emerge into any new home.

I am here to listen to both pain and joy.
I am here to ride the waves of devastation and new beginnings.
I am here to climb mountains and navigate valleys.
I am here for life and I am here for death.
I am here, Hineini. 

With an open heart and deep love, I am here – I will always be here through gifts and challenges.

Breathe

Artwork by Chava Gal-Or; Text is from A Reflection On Nishmat by Rabbi David J. Cooper

Dichotomies fill every moment or reality in life; and with each moment comes an inhale followed by an exhale.

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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Today is Day 16 of My Selfie Challenge. This is my time to look at how I walk in the world and to shake loose from some of the very things that bind my spirit.  And if I am going to be really truthful, it is my hope that as I take each photo, I will learn to be just a little happier with the person that I am. As a seeker, it is my time to find the beauty that is me.

~ ~ ~

As a child, I felt insignificant in a world that was never quite ready for me. I wasn’t cute enough or smart enough; I struggled to move physically or to connect socially; I was fat and awkward. Mostly I remember that no one understood me or what I needed.

Day 16BLater in life, I grew to understood that my lack of hearing and some possible neurological challenges impacted how I walked in the world. While I understand that there were some very real reasons for the way I moved, it left an open wound that still emerges every so often.

Looking back, I think I may have become a writer because it was the only way that I could be authentically me and communicate with ease. I so wanted to be heard and to be understood. Today, I still crave being seen, being heard, and being loved. Although I am grateful that I don’t feel quite so awkward any longer, I do have my moments when I feel ill equipped for where I am.  When this mood hits, the pain is reminiscent of my youth. Today was one of those days. I am grateful that tomorrow is a new day and that in most ways I am seen, heard, and loved.

I got this!!

Today I am sending love, light, and blessings ( & hoping that it reflect back to me.)

 

 

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Sometimes you have to hear the messages that keep meeting you at the door, sometimes in subtle ways and sometime with this grace of an elephant walking a tightrope.

Yesterday as I was rushing around, I paused to connect with someone I know, but have barely had the opportunity to connect with before yesterday. In just 5 minutes, he tapped into my soul and reminded me that I really needed to breathe.

I listened.

Life is busy, but that doesn’t really matter – not really. What really matters is staying present for myself and possible for those that need my focus at any given moment.

Great message.

So in the last 30+ hours, I have been trying to remain present while taking time to breathe. Although I have fallen short a bunch, I have also taken a few more deep breaths too. I think I am going to call that a success.

And today, I found another great way to stay present. I pushed the envelope and invited my friends on Facebook to reflect about something that challenged many people, but not everyone. In the end, I was touched by those that took time to pause and share their thoughts. Pushing the envelope allowed me to hear some views that strengthened what I believed and to also hear very different opinions.

Another great message.

Allowing for the space to breathe, to think, and to be present really was the gift I gave myself.

Instead of trying to capture a new selfie, tonight I am leaving one of my favorite selfies of all time.  I think this is the first selfie that I literally loved! This is my way of sharing a part of me and not pushing myself to take the perfect selfie for today. 🙂

As I go to sleep for the night, I am totally feeling the blessings that come with taking time to pause and to cuddle our latest family member, a yet to be named puppy. More on the little creature in the coming days.

Until then, take time to breathe and focus on wherever you are.

Sending love, light, and blessings. . . . .

July - sun 1
Reflection Time Selfie

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I have a problem. I am an addict!!! I just can’t get enough of that white powdery substance. . . .SUGAR.

With this in mind I decided to begin a new health journey  and ask for support from my friends. I did this once before and it lasted for over six years ago; the great news is that I have kept 65 lbs. off, but now I need to go back to the choices I made back then.

The good news is that all of those healthy changes made a difference and now it is time for me to begin again.

Hineini, Here I am!!

Today I started prepping for my latest health journey. Instead of counting 45 days until my 45th birthday, I am counting 21 days of healthier eating, aka no sugar. My hope is that at the end of 21 days, I will start another health journey while remaining steadfast on refraining from sugar too.

Over and over again, I have heard that it takes 21 days to create new habits. So here is the first habit I will be working to change – NO SUGAR!

Making 21 Countdown chartIn preparation for today, I made a fun little check off chart. I did this for two reasons. One, I needed to create a ritual/visualization around checking off the days. Two, I wanted a prop to share my thinking about this journey.

As a sugar addict, I need to own that part of my personality and look for ways to make better choices.

AND here is the ask, please celebrate my successes and support me through my challenges. If this isn’t comfortable for you, simply ignore me. 🙂

Transformation needs to happen. Being healthy is literally a non-negotiable.  So tonight at sundown, I will officially begin my 21 day countdown.  I will share my journey via Facebook and my blog.

Don’t hesitate to ask me how I am doing. Your mentioning it won’t sabotage the work; in fact, it will probably help me remember that I am not alone!

l’Chayim, to life,

Chava

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Inca trail to Macchu Piccu -Credit Lauren Rader's Art and Releasing the Creative Powers Within Classes

Inca Trail to Macchu Piccu; Photo Credit: Lauren Rader

A year ago I was in a very different place. Even though I was able to do what I needed to do, I was despondent and not sure how I would muster the strength each day to not only sustain my family, but to create that which would jazz my soul.  I was struggling with all of life’s moving parts.

With a baggage of regret and deep sadness, I began a trek that would lead me to dig deeply in hopes of finding a better direction for my life. With the help of friends, I packed up a storage space with most of my belongings in Tucson and my family moved to a friend’s house between no-where and no-where else in Louisa, Virginia.

Over a tough period of time, I navigated so much loss – job, friendships, and a sense of belonging.  I also questioned whether or not it was time to leave a profession I loved. Today I can look at most of the losses a little differently than I did at first. The best things about closed doors is that you know EXACTLY where you stand.

Each and every step of the way, gifts emerged when I least expected it. When I couldn’t afford groceries, provisions and/or money showed up; other times friends showed up in unexpected ways. Even part time jobs found their way into my life, I, quite literally, had what I needed to care for my sons – ALWAYS. And when the sink busted at my friends house, a neighbor saved the day. And when the toilet busted. . . I saved the day! I really did learn what it meant both ask for help and to rely on myself.

Throughout the journey my sons, Aryeh and Dovi, grew and evolved. It isn’t my place to tell their stories, but I am so proud of the young men that they became. Both of the guys navigated the best way they knew how. And we did it as a family!

Funny how looking back is hard now and yet it was nearly impossible to look forward when but when life was the toughest.

If I am completely honest with myself, my struggles began nearly three years ago when I realized my move to Tucson was professionally not a good move. In retrospect, it was a great decision because that move probably got me to where I am today. I believe that all that happens in life makes up where we are in this moment. If so, Tucson’s toxic work environment made me stronger and more clear in what I wanted for my life. It also gave me some amazing connections and allowed me to more clearly see the many beloveds in my life.  Wow!!

I don’t know how to thank each person/family that gave me money to sustain myself or those that enabled me to find rewarding work along the way. Many guardian angels gave their love, their time, their skills, their money, and their prayers or positive energy. When my computers died, a refurbished one showed up. When I needed enlightenment, an inspiring book showed up. When my car died (many times), people helped. When my tears were falling, music propelled me to new heights. All of this happened because of the graciousness of those that believed in me. Even as I write this, tears are welling in my eyes. I may still be struggling, but life is AWEsome. Because of so many, I am blessed and thriving (and my sons are too)!

Today I am working in a community in Houston that warms my heart and inspires me to stretch; together with so many others, I am working to create an amazing learning environment for all.  I am also starting to plan how to birth my nonprofit, My Second Foundation, which will create retreats for adult survivors of childhood trauma. And I am finally taking steps to make a difference in the world. Human rights for all has always been a driving force, so now I am actively engaging in actions that I believe will make a difference. At least, I am able to show up for all of life.

In my free time, I am doing so much to nurture my spirit. I am working with a beloved friend Rabbi Jill Zimmerman who has created Hineni: The Mindful Heart Community. (Check out http://www.ravjill.com/hineni-the-mindful-heart-community/ and consider joining this group, it is simply empowering.) I am also writing, drumming, chanting, and connecting with the earth. I am endeavoring to honor the person I am by allowing my energy to flow. I am also becoming more authentic with each step I take.

So while the last years have caused me to reflect and to climb many mountains, they have also enabled me to shine and to emerge as the woman I am.  I am finding balance and hopefully allowing my spirit to better shine.

Loving the universe. Feeling the blessings. Treasuring what is.

May I always find the AWEsomeness in life’s gifts and challenges. May I always see my guardian angels.

O N W A R D!!!!
Chava

(Note: My hope and my prayer is that I am as loving a soul as so many have been to me and my family.)

 

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“there is no map.
you gotta write your own.
you gotta carve your own.
you gotta sweat, cry, grieve,
laugh, and love your own.
and when you’re all done,
that’s all that will have mattered.”
© Terri St. Cloud

Life has been filled with amazing gifts and undeniably difficult journeys. Yet, I have been blessed with the ability to ALWAYS find ways to navigate. In my younger years, I often felt alone; over the last half of my life, I have felt held and loved with every step.

As I move towards my 50th birthday, I am intrigued by how far I have come. But lest you think it is about the specifics of my life, it isn’t. Each and every one of us are unique. While we may have those that guide us in our journeys, there is no one like me (or you) out there. We can learn from others, but they can’t make the trek for us.

Tonight, as I was talking to a friend. I realized that I could tell her how I would move through a challenging situation, but then I stopped myself. Sharing my intuition or my insight is one thing, but I am not qualified to do more than share. My friend has to make her own decisions.

Light and blessings surround me at every turn. Dark moments happen, but enlightening sparks are never far behind. I have always emerged from sadness, pain, violence, and challenges. That has been my choice. . .it is what I do. Not only do I emerge, but I soar. I find the gifts within the challenges, the light within the darkness.

I love that my map is guided by my spirit; I am one of the luckiest people I know.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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