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Have you ever felt invisible?

  • You know the moment when you have a FABULOUS idea and no one will listen.
  • Or perhaps, when you were waiting for a call from someone who simply chooses to disappear without warning.

For me, I think I was invisible for nearly my entire childhood until I went to Israel for high school when I was 16 years old. And even then, I wonder if I was mostly invisible until I was in my forties. I may never really know.

As a child, I am not sure that I understood how to engage in normal ways. I had no idea how to interact as others did. My guess is that I learned to fake it because I was an actress. In truth though, I was invisible. No one really knew me or much less saw me. If they did, they would have had to look inside themselves in order to understand why they stood by and did little or in most cases nothing for a thoroughly battered young girl.

I grew up in what many refer to as idyllic neighborhood outside Baltimore. Yet I will never understand how the neighbors growing up on Pikeswood Drive, my extended family that lived within 3 miles, and my school community could have closed their eyes to the child that stood in front of them, next to them, or within their worlds. Perhaps I was a fabulous actress, I doubt it. More than likely, the adults simply did what felt easiest for them. They closed their eyes, their ears, and their hearts; more likely than not they choose to stay disengaged.

With that disengagement, I had to learn how to navigate a world that made no sense. As a young child, I never wondered why folks didn’t show up. I do now, but back then, it was simply my norm. And that norm was so lonely to navigate.

I have a distinct memory of believing that all my screams were silent when I was a little girl. They weren’t. I have one distinct memory of seeing my mother passed out from one of her many drunks and me screaming at the top of my lungs.  There were no words just what I would describe now as a guttural cry. At a ripe young age, I learned that no one could hear my cries and no one really cared. As I got older, I remember creating a silent scream, I would feel my mouth open, my heart race, and my tears roll down my face, but no sound came. My life experience had taught me to hold my pain inside.

To make matters complicated, I was seriously hearing impaired as a young child. If my memory is correct, I didn’t really hear until I was about 5 years old. I am not sure how I communicated or even if anyone understood me before that time. While I remember other sensations, I don’t remember real communication.

And even when I did start to hear, I knew without a doubt that I spoke funny, everyone struggled to understand me, and besides I could barely hear what people were saying anyways. Somehow along the way I was blessed to learn how to read lips. And over time, I learned how to “act” normal. I even learned how convince my schools that I understood what was going on in the classroom, but that was another one of my lies; I was simply acting.

Reading lips opened up the door to real communication. I am not sure when I figured out that I needed to see people’s lips in order to hear them, but wow did my life get a little easier. While I have never read lips fluently, what I do does help me connect with people.

Lock EyesAs I got older, I learned that I could really connect with people by looking at their lips, reading their expressions, and really locking deeply into their eyes.

Eyes speak volumes and when you look deeply into the eyes that you are facing, you remind yourself and the person in front of you how present you are. When you are locking deeply into the eyes of whoever you are facing you are actually saying “Hineini/I am here”! Our conversation is the most important conversation in the world.

While I don’t always lock eyes, it truly is one of the most holy ways to fully engage with another human being. After a childhood of believing I was invisible, being seen and heard and doing the same for others feels INCREDIBLE.

SARK, my spirit mentor and teacher ends many of her letters with:

You are seen, You are known, You are loved.

After years of being invisible, I believe that the only way that I can see people, know people, and love people is by listening to both their spoken and unspoken words.

To this day, I still have brief moments when I feel invisible, the only difference is that all I have to do is reach out to my beautiful tribe of beloveds that are there for me.

Make sure you take time to lock deeply into other’s eyes. I promise you that it will by one of the holiest connections you will experience.

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, And if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.
~ William Wordsworth

As a young child, the girl learned that silence was the only way to walk in the world. Since no one heard her screams of terror or noted her continuous falling apart at the seams, it must have meant that her words and her experiences were of little consequence.

No one responded to the cries of this little and very wounded child; no one reached out to the traumatized teen that used drugs to shield herself from the brokenness of her life. No one called the police when the rage in her home yielded screams that must of reverberated through the brick walls and into the streets. No one cared enough about the little girl and her brother that were forced to navigate some very stark realities.

As time moved forward, the girl’s brother moved away and found the inner strength to leave so that he could ultimately find his way. I’m not sure what that little girl felt at the time; my guess is that she understood that her brother was doing exactly what he should be doing post high school; he was growing up and becoming independent. Once he was gone, dysfunction emerged even more volatile and ruthless than before.

And still. . . no one listened.

Even the SWAT team that was called to her residence when her mother had a psychotic episode didn’t amount to her being safe. Returning home from a bike ride with friends, the little girl found the SWAT team surrounding her house because her mom was terrified when her son had been taken hostage; the only problem was that the sick woman’s son was actually living in another country by that time. Once the ‘ordeal’ was over, the SWAT team left, leaving behind the then preteen girl to navigate whatever realities were there. The little girl always had to navigate and when things were really rough, she had to keep herself safe too.

With nearly everyone turning their back on this precious child, she learned to become silent too. As she grew older, she would take tentative steps to find “her tribe”, sometimes they were the “right” people and sometimes they were not. Eventually she found moments when she would have just a little reprieve and she learned to treasure those moments of safety.

Unfortunately though, being silenced was already instilled. That silence lead her through the years of new beginnings. The default was her protection. She learned to encapsulate any pain and to withhold her traumatic stories. She learned to close off even the deepest hurts.

And then came the day that the little girl stopped remembering, stopped feeling, and disassociated from her previous life. She married, had children of her own, and created a beautiful life with an amazing friendship circle. BUT with time she began to feel the trickling of a breaking reservoir.

At first, only brief memories floated to the surface, but as time went on her heart exploded into shards of glass that sliced open her spirit and caused unrelenting pain.  But again she learned that no one could hear her and no one could look into her eyes while she released the dam. . .there was no one to hold the little girl’s spirit that lived inside a woman’s body.

Years passed and eventually that little girl grew. She found her “tribe”, beloved friends who could handle the trickling of her stories. And that was enough. That little girl had become a woman who felt seen and heard. The woman understood that her loved ones couldn’t bear hearing the stories, they loved her too much for that. But that little girl now a woman understood. . . she was not alone!

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS – After decades of silence, I know that silence is one of my natural defaults. Talking is still sometimes hard for me, but I have found other ways to unleash my silence through writing, art, and sometimes drumming. I have emerged and I am blessed to know that I do have a tribe that could now handle my stories even the hardest ones. I also know that I am loved.

Always Healing

Picture by Chava

 

 

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(Note: This blog is full of raw honesty and may be hard for some of my beloveds to read. Please don’t feel obligated. With my 53rd birthday on the horizon, I am being to drawn to share an awareness that has been emerging over the last month as I have been writing for my upcoming book, Thriving: No Option.)

img_2681As a young child, I saw my father as my knight in shining armor. I adored him with every fiber of my being. I could never get enough time with him. Never. Wherever he went, I wanted to follow. His love for people and music was so contagious that I followed in his footsteps. He adored me and showed me in so many ways. But in truth, he didn’t show me in the most important way he should have. He left me navigating a life of pure unadulterated darkness. My father was the first man to leave my spirit shattered. A cycle that I’ve allowed to perpetuate itself time and time again.

While there is no question that my father loved me, he didn’t keep me safe. In fact, his silence permanently scarred me by allowing me to be regularly beaten, verbally assaulted, and ultimately raped. It is only recently, that the full impact of his actions and inactions have left my spirit gasping for air.

How could a man that loved me as my father did allow my own mother to beat me? How could a man that loved me as he did stay with a violent and mentally ill woman instead of providing a safe place to call home. My mother’s violence lead me into foster care and into the hands of a man that would rape me. My best friend’s family wanted to take me as their foster child, but I knew enough to say no even though I couldn’t stop the initial assaults.

My father might have been able to make a difference if he had been stronger, but that wasn’t my father. Instead I never learned that I was worthy of love and care. . . not really.

A few weeks ago, I was stung by the onslaught of this very  unwanted realization. Since then my sleep has been troubled and I have found myself shedding tears at some of the most inopportune moments. The nightmares and clenched teeth of my sleep have become unwanted guests. Although, as soon as I identified what was going on, the healing began.

At first, my awareness was about what my father had done and not done, but later I was stunned by what has become an even more problematic realization. The first relationship I ever had with a man overshadowed every interaction with men that followed. Instead of finding loving relationships with men that loved and cared for the person I was, I found loving relationships that ultimately left me hurting. How could it have been any different, I didn’t know how I needed to be cared for and loved. Besides that, relationships can be challenging. . .especially when they are ending.

The men were not intentionally hurtful,  I think I just struggled more because of the baggage I was holding. I lacked the inner strength to navigate reality.  Some relationships aren’t right or meant to last. Some relationships offer you the most treasured packages, but not forever. I believe that that’s life. The challenge is that my heart and spirit just didn’t have the grace when it was time to release old loves so that we could both move as we needed.

Today, I know this: I want someone to hold me when I need to cry inconsolable tears. I want to be loved through the pain of major surgery. I want someone who loves me when my entire being is on overload and I am celebrating both silly successes and major programs. I want to love someone who can listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s wisdom and “embrace the glorious mess that I am.”

I have chosen people that can’t show up for me, but that cycle is breaking now.

Hineini, Here I am!!!

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS – I am sad that my father never kept me safe or loved the fullness of my spirit, but my responsibility to make healthy choices now. I learned a lot from my beloved father. I am just sorry I learned some really hard lessons too.

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Currently, I am on a journey. I am journaling 21 days of taking selfies.

If I were you, I’d be questioning why anyone would want to document their 21 days of selfies?

For me, it really isn’t so complicated.

A few years ago, I decided that while I may wrestle with excess weight, I had to begin to celebrate the beautiful woman that I am. So even when I have trouble finding my physical beauty, I have decided to keep taking photos and/or to ask those in my life to take photos of me until I capture my essence and find the beauty in front of me.

With the help of some amazing professional photographers and a growing awareness that beauty can be found in all different sized packages, I did the work of doing whatever it took to capture the beautiful soul that I am.

From an early age, my mother reminded me time and again how overweight and ugly I was. In fact that was my first, my second, and my third memory of how my mother haunted me during my childhood.  But here is the thing, my mother has been gone for nearly 28 years and I am no longer living in the shadow of her abuse. How AWESOME is that!!!

So, today, it is important that I take the time to celebrate the woman I have become. And while I am always going to be on a health journey to be in the best health I can be, I want to remind myself that I am beautiful just as I am.

Hineini, Here I am!

Sending love, light, & blessings. . . .

PS: Regardless of our past, most of us can move forward from the darkness that was once a part of our lives. . . it just takes the willingness to do the work.

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Twenty-seven years ago I buried my mother. I was 24 years old, newly married and devastated beyond words.

I remember thinking, how could I mourn a woman that deeply wounded my spirit and beat my body. And yet, I did. I mourned the lost years; I mourned the belief that one day she would love me unconditionally; and I lost the only mother I ever had.

A handful of memories made me realize that if she hadn’t been so mentally ill or had received the right help, my mother may have been a beautiful and giving soul. But she wasn’t very beautiful, she was mentally ill at the core of her being and she coped with it the only way she knew how. She drank excessively and took prescription medication as if it were candy.  When she wasn’t volatile, she lived a life in a drunken stupor.

There are times, I mourn the mother I never had. I wish I could have felt the warmth and love that only a mother/parent can give. But instead, I remember the turbulence that reigned as addiction ravished her body.

Now that I have lived longer without her then I had with her, I am acutely aware that there is so much wisdom I have gleaned since her death.

Sunset Wilmington NC by Lynne Klein

Sunset in Wilmington, North Carolina Photo Courtesy of Lynne Klein

1.
After struggling with the one person that I did not choose for my entire childhood, I now take David Whyte’s writing to heart, “anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.” While it took me a while to get to this place, I did get there. I have let go of people and things that exhausted or troubled my spirit. It isn’t always easy, but it usually feels like the right thing to do.  For the most part, I am trying to hold onto that which jazzes my soul; this goes for people as well as ‘things’.

2.
Red used to me the most toxic color in the world to me.  I associated red with the very rough conditions I lived under. Growing up, many of the doors, ceilings, and walls were painted red; even the shutters on the front of our house were red. I hated red. Red was analogous to child abuse and suffering.  My mother loved red so much that she dyed her hair many shades of red over the years.

After moving out of my house, I swore that red was my enemy. Really, I did!!! And then about 4 years ago, I went into a chiropractor’s office for the first time. Walking into his office, I was surrounded by red walls.  After hearing so many awesome things about this chiropractor, I knew I couldn’t walk out.  So I sat down and literally felt a cold sweat overtake me. Over time the reactions faded and I found myself falling in love with the very color I once hated. Because of the healing space and the fabulous adjustments, red was slowly transformed from a noxious color to a healing color.

(Note: I love that as I was considering writing this blog the most beautiful red sunset showed up on my Facebook feed and the photographer gave me permission to use it! Don’t you love the photo above?)

3.
After fighting years of demons, I have learned that it is incumbent upon me to always seek the best for myself. While reality may sometimes be a little messy, I often find myself thinking about Mary Oliver’s final question in ‘The Summer Day”, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

This question has become vital to my existence. I am always working towards creating a conscious life that encompasses beauty and light by always asking myself what I will do with my “one wild and precious life”? Now I live like the thriver that I am!

Conclusion:
While my mother’s life was not for a blessing, I am awed that I still learned from being her child. And the bottom line is that I love life. I have come so far! May my life be for a blessing – always.

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In 1982, I received the gift of a lifetime. I was given wings to fly and a safe place to call home. For the first time in my young life, I found solace in the land that my people had called their homeland, Israel. And I was able to close my eyes at night without the fear of being woken by loud screaming or crashing sounds.

For one year, I went to an amazing high school, traveled the country, and found what I thought would be my permanent home. While it wasn’t exactly what happened, it was the most trans-formative experience in my life. With every ounce of my being, I believe I am healthy and vibrant because my brother and his wife gave me the gift of a lifetime; they made it possible for me to go to school in Israel.

Israel provided me with a safety net that had never been afforded to me. I had friends and family that loved the wounded teenager and supported me so that I could emerge into a stronger human being. Kfar HaYarok, the High School I went to, provided me with tools to stretch and to grow as a young woman and a future leader. I am the woman I am, in part, because of my time there.

Thirty-five years later, I am coming to grips that as of Monday Israel is no longer open to me…not really.  It is the country that has closed it’s doors to people who are holding her accountable for her actions and who are consciously choosing to boycott Israel on small or large scales. People that love the land, but feel strongly that the Occupation should cease to exist. The Knesset has voted to close it’s doors to people that question. Israel is no longer open to the Jewish people (at least not all). Sigh.

For now, I need to walk gently not with those that read my blog, but for myself. As I sit here mourning the loss of Israel in my life, I am struggling. Will I ever visit my family again, walk the streets of Jerusalem, hike Ein Gedi, climb the hills of Safed, swim in the Mediterranean? Or will I stand with those that actively support BDS and peaceful/non-violent protests?

Before the Knesset ruling, I supported boycotting those that perpetuate the Occupation, but in this moment, I am doing my best to refrain from going to a more dramatic place. Perhaps I will end up there, but tonight, I will just sit with the deep sadness that comes with losing an old friend.

l’Shalom – May we find it in our day!

Note: When I was a child, I was forced to withstand some pretty horrific family dynamics including child abuse; it is all that I knew.  Just because it was my norm doesn’t mean it should have been. I feel the same way about the Occupation.

 

 

 

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July 24

A few weeks ago, I realized that I was falling in love with myself.  For the first time in my life, I have come to accept where I am, my own unique beauty, and the many realities that are me.  There is no man telling me that I am beautiful; there is no job that affirms my self-worth; and, I am a human being with deep loss and a violent past that has made me who I am today.  I am a mother, a sister, a friend, and lover of life; I am a woman.  And through it all, I have grown to deeply love who I am and how I walk in the world.

My entire childhood was surrounded by the barrage of angry words and mannerisms that showed me of my unworthiness.  One of my first memories was when my own mother tore my pajamas off and beat me.  She was the one to tell me that I was fat and ugly; she was also the person who believed that I was ‘retarded’ and limited in every way.  While I had a loving brother and a loving father, they never could make up for the damage that penetrated my earliest days.  And yet, knowing that I was loved was still a blessing.

Protection rarely came as I prayed and hoped it would, but it did come.  As a young girl, I was sexually abused at the hands of a neighbor and then raped by a man that was supposed to protect me from my family.  He didn’t.  Violating a child at any age can rip her spirit and shred it into nothing more than confetti.  And yet, even with those realities, I found my footing with an amazing therapist, a loving brother, and a strong inner core.

I grew up; I am still growing up.

A white picket fence has never been part of my life.   That doesn’t mean that I didn’t experience a loving family as an adult or many precious experiences throughout my life.  I am truly fortunate.

My body has been both my protection and my tormentor.  It has kept me safe even as it has suffered pain and defeat.  Each scar is very real.  While I have birthed one amazing baby (who is now 21 years old), I have lost at least 9 pregnancies by treating each as a toxic impurity that needed to be destroyed.  Thanks to the universe, one child survived.  A C-section, a hysterectomy, many laparoscopic procedures, exploratory surgery with a resulting appendectomy are part of my many physical scars.  And then there are the scars that no one will ever see, unless I choose to share.  Yet my body did protect me.

Chava with her first fruits

Chava with her first fruits

My heart beats strong; it has supported me at every turn.  My heart allowed me to run non-stop as a teenager and young woman; by running I was able to leave the world of drugs and stupidity behind me.  Each and every heartache could have destroyed me, but my writing kept me alive and gave me the room to sort out my pain and heal.  The strength has always come from my heart and allowed me to soar as a human being.

In spite of some of my challenging experiences, the parts of me that were once full of pain have become filled with beauty.  When I was a little girl, my mother chopped my beautiful hair off (perhaps for a reason, but I don’t recall).  Over the years, my hair has become a part of me that I have grown to love.  The texture, the curls, the wildness are all part of what I have grown to see as quite stunning. My body has received emotional and physical beatings at every stage of its life until now; today, I have come to not only accept all of my parts, but to see how precious and lovely they are.  And finally, I do not see myself as brilliant, I used to hate that I couldn’t figure things out like other people.  I wanted to have a mind that could do whatever I needed to do, but today I have learned to ask for help and to figure out that which I can.  In fact last night, I learned how to add a Hebrew keyboard to my iPhone.  I know that seems like small potatoes to some of you, but to me it was huge.  There is nothing about me that is retarded, there are things I can do well and things that I have not yet mastered. The very facets of my life that had once caused me pain have actually become what has helped me find my inner and outer beauty.

Over the years, I have learned to treasure who I am.  My writing has allowed me to touch people in positive ways and to make an impact for good.  My dreams to positively affect people are coming true over time; I have people in my life that I value and that value me.  And today, my dream of growing my non-profit called My Second Foundation for adult thrivers of childhood trauma is starting to take shape.

I am finding my inner and outer beauty.  Today, I look at some photos (mostly selfies) and see a beautiful woman.  I am a little stunned that I can see myself as beautiful.   I no longer cringe when I see all the photos of me.

While I would love to have a career that will financially sustain me as well as give me the opportunity to be fully me, I am strongly aware that my job doesn’t necessarily define who I am.  Today, I help people in ways that I never knew I could.  As a care-giver, I help people at the most challenging time in their lives as they are aging and sometimes losing their mental abilities; I do make an impact for good.  This is not what I ever planned to do, but it is a blessing that I can be where I am today.  And today, I have been given windows of opportunities to do things that allow me a greater understanding of me and what I hope to one day accomplish.  I am not bound or limited by the expectations I once had.  In fact, I know that when I take a new position in Jewish education, non-profit work, or in something I have yet to see coming my way – the decision will allow me to be impactful and to touch lives professionally or as an activist.

 

Doors have never been closed to me; they are and have always been wide open.  I just have to be aware of the opening and to decide which side of the door I should stand or whether standing in the doorway is exactly what I need.

I love being loved, healthy relationships, and feeling beautiful in another person’s eyes.  AND I know that while I treasure that, I don’t need someone else in order to see each and every square inch of me as loveable, precious and worthy.  (OK, I’d love to lose my double-chin and it is time for me to deal with the excess arm fat, but neither of those things makes me cringe.)  My body, all of my body puts a huge smile on my face because all of it is part of who I am.  I feel blessed to have the ability to care for myself and to work on whatever parts of my body I want to.  While I want to have a man to hold and treasure me for who I am, I don’t need another person to label me in order for me to have self-worth.

Yoga gives me many of the tools I need to create a stronger and healthier yesod (foundation).

Yoga gives me many of the tools I need to create a stronger and healthier yesod (foundation).

My vulnerabilities are also part of who I am.  I am far from perfect.  My writing gives me the space to develop my ideas and share the real me.  I look forward to the time when I can financially and physically return to a regular schedule of yoga with a class that is safe for me to grow physically and spiritually. I’d like to lead a chant group or another spiritual group so that I can share all the tools that have made me who I am today; I am deeply introverted even if people see me as an extrovert.  I struggle with the fear that I won’t be articulate or that I will be laughed at for my spoken words.  As a young girl, I needed 9 years of speech therapy in order to be fully understood.  Whether I like it or not, that is still part of who I am.  My voice matters and I love sharing who I am through my voice – written or spoken.  I hope that I always continue work on myself and be the best that I can be.

I am who I am because of the many parts of my life that made me that way.  Today, I have a beloved family consisting of my sons, my brother and his family, and friends that love me for who I am and who I also love.  I am beginning to realize that I don’t have to be anything less than what I am with each of the individuals that I call my family.  There are also other people in my life that have taught me valuable lessons at every step, not all are friends; but each person has impacted me deeply.  I am blessed.  The people around me are a reflection of exquisiteness that can be found within my essence; perhaps I have grown to be as charismatic as those I adore for who they are.

I am emerging as a butterfly after feeling surrounded by a loving cocoon called life.  I am thoroughly beautiful, inside and out.

Arms spread

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