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Posts Tagged ‘child abuse’

I’ve come a long way in 39 years. . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Onward with love, light, & blessings,

Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Living Out Loud. If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, AND if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

(*Note – I have been saying so much of what Rising Appalachia says in their song. I LOVE this song; I can’t stop listening to it.)

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I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

Song Writer: Paul Simon

December 2016 - looking outBeing alone allows me to ground my spirit and find center. It gives me the space to think, to cry, to create, to feel, to dance, to understand my many dichotomies and then to emerge from my alone-ness when I am ready.

 

While I love people, I also believe that being by myself much of the time is natural and perhaps how I was meant to be. From the moment I was born, I was thrust into a world of alone-ness. Perhaps it began in utero and then continued as the family of my birth didn’t have the skill or wherewithal to raise me in a healthy environment.

 

From my earliest memories, I was blessed to learn how take care of my spirit. There was no one to hold me, to nurture me, or to love me into the person I was meant to become.

 

As early as I can remember, my young life was filled with tears as I learned that the best thing to do when in distress was put a pillow over my head so no one could hear me cry or even scream. At one point, I remember believing that even God couldn’t hear my pain. I think that was the beginning of me wrestling with whether or not God had a role in my life. I am still wrestling with that today which is to say that there are times I am completely aware of how alone I actually am.

 

I always wanted to be like a rock or maybe like an island. I believed (and sometimes I still do) that I was safer navigating the world alone, turning inward, and being silent.  The idea that I could surround myself with my poetry, my books, and even my creativity, was profound. I could navigate this world alone.  All I ever wanted and still want is safety. I want to feel the cocoon of love and softness around my spirit.

 

My childhood and teenage scars remind me that safety is never given. If I want to be safe, I have to love myself enough to honor my needs at any given moment and to shield myself from harm whenever possible. I’ve got this!!! AND I am also a part of many loving tribes including my family, my friendship circles, my faith based communities, and activists.

 

Love is so complicated. Those we love have the ability to hurt us more than anyone else ever can. And the older I get, the more I realize that I don’t have what it takes to recover from the pain that I once brushed off with ease. The good news is that this has led me to nurturing friendships that truly fuel my soul.

 

For the most part being alone is not sad for me. I thrive on all that I love to do and how I walk in the world. I treasure those people in my life, I just find it easier when I am in my own little cocoon breathing, creating, and being in the fullness of who I truly am.

 

My work will continue to be honoring my need for alone-ness while not getting stuck in the alone-ness that I learned as a young child. I need to keep doing the holy work of living. AND to fully live means that I have holy work to do! I need to keep listening to the inner voice that both reminds me to take time to thrive in my alone-ness while also remembering my love for humanity.

 

And while I may constantly be developing my foundation so that it is as strong as a rock, I also have to keep showing up to the table – again and again and again.

Hineini, I am here!

 

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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broken hearted(Trigger warning: This excerpt may be harsh for those who have experienced childhood trauma or who love me.)

My mother tried to kill me.

I don’t say these words lightly nor do I know if my mother’s intention was in fact to kill me. I will never know that. And in truth, the moment she started swinging the butcher knife towards me may not have been a conscious one for her. Marilyn was mentally ill, a drug abuser, and a very sick soul.

But none of this matters. What matters is that I had no where to go to be safe. No one loved me enough to take me in or to protect me from the barrage of eruptive energy that I faced daily. I was alone. Or should I say that I felt alone.

The feeling of loneliness has never left me. My childhood impacted me on a cellular level and while I have family, friends, and tools that fill me with love and often show up when I need to be physically or metaphorically held, it doesn’t always help. The shattered feeling that has been part of my life since birth is still part of my life; it just is. And the good news is that I have filled my world with so many beautiful people that I can usually push through my default sense of loneliness.

My work is to keep showing up, living authentically, and sharing my stories so that others don’t have to be alone and so that we can all inspire one another. And today, I know I can reach out to my tribe. While I will not necessarily ask for help or even share the specifics of what is hurting me, I am so much better at letting those who love me know that I am having a hard time and that I need to be held. Perhaps one day, I will learn to better ask for help.

Back to the knife . . .

As a child I used to love living across the street from my synagogue and celebrating the Jewish holidays. Judaism was always in my blood and the fall holidays when I was in 8th grade were no different. I would walk out of my house, turn right and walk up Pikeswood Drive. I knew just about everyone who lived on my block. Once I got to the traffic light at the top of the street, I felt somehow more relaxed, safe, and free. I would cross over Liberty Road and my synagogue would be awaiting my return. I loved Beth Israel.

The deal had always been that I could stay home from school on the Jewish holidays if I went to Beth Israel for services. This was a no brainer; I loved going to shul, which is what I called my synagogue growing up. I loved everything about the congregation. I loved the services, the onegs (nosh after services), my friends, their parents, and all of the older members. As long as I was at Beth Israel, I felt a sense of solace in my stressful life.

Nearly every Shabbat/Saturday, I went to the morning services and on most every holiday too. After services were over, I would read and do homework during the afternoons and evenings.  By junior high school, now known as middle school, I was a fairly good student. I did have some challenges, but I generally tried to do well.

On the night my mother came into my room swinging a butcher knife, I was so worried about a biology test I had coming up. I hated the teacher who seriously had it out for me. I was hyper-focused and trying to learn the material; I didn’t want to fail. But life took a dark turn that would forever impact any false sense of security I had.

Initially, I was hearing my mother screaming, slurring her words and banging something against my door. This was not unusual, so I tried to ignore it or maybe I screamed that she shut up. By junior high school, I was done withstanding abuse, but that didn’t really change anything. I was bigger and stronger which helped, but my mother was still a mentally ill addict.

When the noise didn’t quiet down, I opened my door in exasperation and was stunned at what I saw. A huge knife getting ready to come down on me or into me or wherever. I was scared shit-less. All I remember is somehow pushing my mother down and hearing her yell obscenities at me as I ran out of the house and to a neighbor. I can’t imagine what my friend’s parents thought of me when they opened the door to see me sobbing and shaking.

Sadly, I only have a vague recollection of what transpired over the next few hours. The police came followed by social services and I was taken away to temporary foster home. As time went on, I realized that no one in the foster care system believed that a young Jewish child could be abused by her Jewish mother.  The nightmare was horrific, but the aftermath was even worse.

Without anyone there to believe me or see me, I was forced to navigate the world differently. And my mother was mortified about all that was going on and begged social services not to put me into a Jewish home. She was really worried about what would the neighbors think. So they did the next best thing, they took me to live with a couple that were active in their beautiful Methodist church. So during my time in that foster home, I went to church every Sunday. Sigh.

So not only did I lose my home, my school, Beth Israel, my friends, I lost my spiritual home. I was really on my own.

Not being seen and not being heard started me on a path of self-destruction. I did drugs with little or no worry for what I was taking, I climbed moving trains and jumped off the top of them, and I had little regard for my life. I wasn’t worthy enough to be heard so I started to embody a life that reinforced just that. I also learned that my voice didn’t matter, so silence became my closest friend. Over time I stopped sharing my stories and started lying. Nothing I said mattered so I learned to share what I thought people wanted to hear.

Months later, I returned home. The alternative was going to a girls’ group home where the girls were brutal to one another. At least at home, I only had to keep myself safe from my mother not another 15 – 20 teenage girls. The good news is that I don’t remember as much violence once I returned. The eruptions never stopped, but I don’t remember any more physical pain upon my return.

But 14 years of hell and many more years of volatile outbursts caused a lifetime of healing ahead of me. While I accepted that I was broken, I also understood that I was a thriver and actually quite whole too. I am a work in progress. My work has always been to keep taking one step and then another. I had lived through hell and I had ultimately found my voice.

And the good news is that my mother didn’t kill me.

Hineini, I am here!

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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Day 37 - Choose to Thrivei want to live in my truth and it is not optional for me. this means that what i am about to say may not be comfortable to read.

you see. . .I was born to live out loud, to be real, and to exist fully as the person I am. living in alignment is my holy work.

i have lived in many shadows and i have lived with so many lies. the difference between many of us is that i had no way out. . . not really.

there was my childhood. there really no need to say more about that. and there was my relationship with michael, my ex-husband. i had no money nor the ability to succeed without his support – not really. and i had children that were at times critically ill. in the end, i found my footing and i did what I had to do. i have always been someone who has reached for what fuels my spirit as soon as i could find the footing.

back then, i always did what i had to do AND i did it with reality looming overhead. BUT what i craved most was living in my integrity. i needed and still need to live my truth with myself. this isn’t about right or wrong for others.

the book I am writing is currently called ‘thriving: no option. . . ‘ every day i choose to live as i do. i know that i do not follow the norm that others feel compelled to follow. i live my many complicated truths.

when i left michael, i lost the village we created. when i left DC because i wanted to be safe, i lost my foundation of friends. being safe was more important. i am not 100% sure that i needed to fear michael, but i did.

when i left orthodoxy years before, i knew i needed to listen to the internal voices in my head. i didn’t believe that religious law should guide how i live life. i didn’t believe in one truth. i didn’t believe in God and God’s power as others did.

i am a seeker who is choosing how to live my life. and yes . . .a long the way, i lost a ton and with each loss i gained an insight that has guided my every step. over time i have stopped letting fear destroy my ability to move forward. i always move forward. i always reach towards what is possible. and yes, i often fall hard, but it is better to fall than to stand still and feel stuck in the middle between two things that don’t fill my many voids.

and yes the pain i have felt has left me bereft. i hurt deeply and wish that i could go through life without having my entire being broken – again and again and again.

with this in mind, i struggle with how much some feel like they are stuck in the middle between two parts of their lives. i am so sorry for that. AND i wonder what folks really want, i wonder what is attainable, and i wonder if they can develop the inner strength to create what would fuel their spirit.

and perhaps i am not fair. i have no money to lose for living in my integrity. i am already alone in most ways with a smattering of beloved friends to hold my spirit with almost no one close enough to hold me when my spirit breaks.

the good news is that i’ve learned to ride the waves, to exist alone, and to always reach for the life i want. i’ve also learned how to settle for the beauty knowing that whatever I have is there for however long it is part of my life.

i struggle with the knowledge that i am alone with a world just beyond my reach. AND still i come to the table again and again and again. i show up, i fumble, i fall, and i cry. and at least to this moment, i always  hold my arms out to the universe and move onward.

staying in the middle is not an option for me. i live fully wherever i am.

i also find joy in my work even on tough days. i work towards making our world a better world even though i may take my last breath before ever making the difference i want. i reach and strive for the possibilities even though i fear the realities. nothing stops me from writing or living out loud.

once upon a time, i lost a lot by living my many truths. still silence is not an option.

“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

in my childhood, i learned so many lessons. mostly i learned that i was broken and if i wanted to find my voice or my inner strength, I needed to find a way to honor my spirit while accepting the brokenness that is part of my every breath.

~ ~ ~

i have accepted that i may never have it all, but what i have i will love. my work may be a four-letter-word, but it also offers a pathway to impact others in beautiful ways. my writing fuels my spirit even though it also has it’s cost. my art is sweet, but i don’t have the time or the ability to soar with it.

life is full of holy work to do.

over the last 10+, i have rarely done anything that doesn’t honor my spirit. i have left jobs because they compromised who i was. i have said good-bye – again and again. i do what i now call the ‘dance of emergence’. i’ve lost so much, but found my soul in the process.

in the meantime, I will keep living consciously and authentically as much as possible. and while i sometimes settle for reality, i only settle if i can celebrate living there for that moment and hopefully longer.

i am here to live out loud!

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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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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