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Posts Tagged ‘childhood trauma’

Hiking Boots

A few days ago, I decided it was time for me to take a look at some of my more recent journaling entries. With a bunch of my writing pieces being in the messy middle and not quite ready to be shared, I decided to reflect on a journal entry from a few months ago that started with the words, “How do I choose life each and every day?”

Daily life can be overwhelming. With every day comes deep feelings, a long to do list, and a desire to hide under the covers for eternity. I am not sure that I have ever totally checked out of life for very long; instead I take one step and then another. I reach for the next best thing and I move forward. Each and every day, I choose life.

I am the architect of my life.  While daily practices sustain me, so does living authentically, engaging in activism, creating a home that nurtures my soul, and by surrounding myself with friends that I adore. Perhaps all of these things are practices.

A rough childhood taught me that I really needed to take care of myself. And I have learned that the best way to do just that is to consciously create daily life practices that ground me one action at a time.

  1. Morning routine
    • Wake-up without an alarm clock by 6 or 6:30 AM (at the latest)
    • Take probiotic
    • Drink water (lots)
    • Make bed, stretch, feed dog, do some quick chores, and journal (30 or so minutes)
    • Take my stomach medication
    • Chant and/or walk for a couple of miles
    • Eat breakfast
  2. Throughout the day
    • Paint inspirational cards, etc.
    • Journal whenever thoughts pop into my head
    • Weave
    • Read
    • Facebook
    • Walk (5-7 miles)
    • Food norms – (This is relatively new for me since I have been doing this only for a few months.)
      • plant based diet (mostly)
      • fish – once a week
      • green smoothies (4 – 6 times/week)
      • no added sugar
      • no alcohol
      • drinking lots of water
      • dinner with my sons (5+ times/week)
  3. Night Routine – Work In Progress (WIP) that needs to be strengthened.
    • Evening walk (4+ times/week)
    • Stretch
    • Golden milk or tea
    • Before bed chanting

Above is not all I do, but it is a skeleton of how I navigate my life.  Without these practices, I would be in rough shape. They provide order when my spirit is in disarray; they ground me so that I can live with more ease. Daily practices always provide me a pathway to healthy living.

Looking Back

I am not certain when I started embracing daily practices as a “thing”. It started slowly, so slowly that I didn’t notice it was happening. Perhaps it can be traced back to when I realized that if I wasn’t writing/journaling then I must be in a dark place. My son Dovi was actually the first person to point this out to me when he was about 8 years old. And ever since that time, he has been the first person to remind me that I must not be writing enough when I am less than grounded, angry, or sad.  He is still the first person to remind me to get back to my writing if I fall off the wagon.

Over time I have learned that daily practices empower me to live life more fully regardless of where my spirit is. And what I love most about them is that they are always a work in progress; as I stretch and grow, they do too.

Every day I choose how I want to live. Every day I choose life!

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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theLightWhen I decided to write about my life, I truly thought it would be easy. Only it wasn’t. How could it be? The beatings, the screaming, and the fear permeated my earliest years. And yet my entire life has not been dark. In fact, it has been far from dark. But the dark moments seemed to have overshadowed the many gifts. And writing about my childhood plunged me into the darkness leaving me (for a little while) sad to the core.  The pain cut deep and left me treading water instead of being the thriver that I am.

My response to writing about my childhood was to dive deep into an underwater cave that was literally swallowing me up until I realized what was happening. With each passing day, I found myself going further and further underwater until I couldn’t find an air pocket to catch my breath. For over a month, I stopped writing my book and connecting with others more than I had to for my work.

Looking back I see that I had temporarily lost my voice. My voice had become too overwhelming for even me to bare witness. So I stopped talking. I stopped writing. And metaphorically, I was unable to release even the smallest whisper. And during this time, I also physically lost my voice. I am sure this is no coincidence.

As time moved forward, I found a little inner strength. Swimming further into the cave, I was finding the space to renegotiate what I needed to fuel my spirit. While I was still dark, I was learning to breathe a little more deeply and I was becoming more of the person I was meant to be. I was just starting to find a stronger voice from within.

As my voice returned, I saw it as a sign that I needed to do more than speak, I needed to find a way back to writing, “Living Out Loud: A Thriver’s Journey”.  I needed to get back to the holy work of writing my story.

 

My story isn’t easy. In fact, what I am learning about myself is that I am not brave; I am terrified of losing my footing and slipping into quicksand. I often crumble, but I am learning to trust that even when I crumble leaving only cracks behind, light has a way of reaching my soul and on a good day, I illuminate the world with some of my light.

Each year that I remain on this earth, I learn to see myself as a little more beautiful than I ever thought possible. I know how to show up in the world and to add sparks whenever possible.  I ride the waves as I fiercely grasp for life’s many nuggets. And with each breath I take I always try to do the next right thing. In fact that is the only thing I can do on a daily basis.

One of my strongest attributes is that I am resilient. Regardless of what I have had to endure in the past or will have to navigate in the future, I always find the inner strength to show up at the table – again and again. And on I good day, I am able to radiate light as I thrive. That’s my job!

Hineini, Here I am!

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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“If you ask me what I came to do in this world,
I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”
~ ÉMILE ZOLA

here my voice

Until very recently, I felt silenced.

For those that have known me through my college years and beyond, they may not believe me. But it is true.

I always believed that I wasn’t smart enough, articulate enough, or worthy of voicing my thoughts. I wanted and sometimes still want to be perfect. I hate when I make mistakes or when I share my thoughts only to realize that my thoughts are not clear when the words leave my mouth. AND I know that I am not alone here; none of us want to feel like we sound stupid.

While I could blame the fact that as a young child and teenager, I often went unnoticed or ignored. I also now understand that I ultimately had to find my voice. This came from keeping my eyes open, listening to the world around me, and probably growing stronger with each step I took. Finding my voice took time, a lot of time.

Over time I have learned to accept the many realities of dichotomies of life. Life is complicated. So much of what we perceive is not as clear as we hope. Once I came to grips with that I found that I could speak up and wrestle out loud. The world is really full of challenges that need our collective attention. Finding my voice meant that I can be one of the people standing up for humanity.

Humanity is a mess right now. We are struggling with:

  • food and water,
  • disease and human suffering,
  • economic disparity
  • religious, race and sexual orientation conflicts
  • human rights
  • government accountability, transparency, and corruption (US and beyond)
  • communication
  • climate change
  • and so much more

And here is the thing, any skill we learn evolves as we grow and learn. Being static isn’t an option for me, so I have learned to embrace what I love and to navigate the ebbs and flows that are part of living. We need to be having hard conversations about all of the challenges that humanity is facing.

One of the major keys to thriving, even as I often stumble, is that I surround myself with radiant souls. The people that I choose to be part of my tribe may or may not be from my family, my spiritual practice, my socio-economic circle, political circles, etc,  but they are all kind and supportive loved ones. I am held and loved even when I feel unworthy.

I am aware that the world doesn’t always make sense. Nothing about it does. And yet, I am ok with the journey. . . I am ok with navigating the hard stuff, for accepting that which is complicated, and for making beautiful moments whenever possible. I am finding peace with expressing myself from wherever I stand. AND I appreciate when I am enlightened by others. I am also ok when I have conversations in which I learn the “other” point of view. All of us need to be talking to one another.

AND yes, I know that life is complicated, but I am on this journey and I am doing the dance that I think makes sense. My job is and always will be to share my voice with the purest of intentions and with an open heart.

I choose to keep showing up – again and again. My voice matters. Hineini, I am here. I am alive to live out loud.

Onward with love, light, and blessings,

 

Day 11BChava

 

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

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Moon May 2015

 

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence . . . 
~Lyrics by Paul Simon

Darkness has always had an effect on me. I wrote about it in a blog about twenty months ago, Hello Darkness .  And today, I feel compelled to dig a little deeper.

Previously, I shared that “spinning a cocoon of darkness can be beautiful. In that darkness, awareness comes, skeletons are recognized, and insight is found.” While that is true, I want to unveil an even darker side to this reality. Darkness may ultimately illuminate my horizons, but before it does the world may come crashing down and my heart may feel like it has completely shattered.

Over the years, I have found myself stunned more than once by the way profound pain can suffocate my soul. It under this veil of darkness that I remember how painfully alone I am even with my loved ones within reach. This feeling of desolation is unrelenting and at times feels like it is squeezing the life out of me.

It started when I was a little girl and my parents would lose their shit in the middle of the night. Their screams would wake up me in an instant and their violence would permeate the walls around me. With no way out and no where to run, I was held hostage to the rage that lived inside my home.

Over the years, that same feeling has taken over more of my nights than I care to remember. I am never surprised by the punch that comes from a midnight rendezvous. During my really tormented nights, I wake up with my nails digging into my palm. There have even been rare moments when my clutched fist would leave blood dripping from my hands. On those nights, it seems that I am fighting the devastating nightmares that were unleashed from my earliest memories.

Unfortunately, trauma of any sort often leads me momentarily back to the patterns that begun in my childhood – a broken heart, a sudden death, a crippling moment leave me unable to sleep for what could be days if not weeks.

The good news for me is that as soon as dawn breaks, I breathe a little easier. I find that a normal beat returns to my broken heart and hope emerges. I am blessed to have become the thriver I am.

Thank you universe. Thank you loved ones.

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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Life is really messy.

Around every corner there are ups and downs. Moments when you are soaring and moments when you are flopping around like a fish out of water. And if you are intense like me, it may feel like your life is bouncing around as quickly as some people can flip a coin.

Sometimes I wonder if I walk the world this way because my childhood didn’t teach me many tools for coping with life’s grit. And as a young adult and later a young mother, I learned to live as a chameleon. I buried many of my emotions and did what was expected of me. And for the most part I pulled it off fairly well. Or at least I think I did. Of course, what do I really know about how I was received by others.

To be transparent, my life has probably always been far from normal. As a young newly married woman, I faced nine miscarriages, several failed adoption attempts, an adoption, buried my parents, navigated serious illnesses for my children, employment struggles for the family breadwinner, and so much more.

Nonetheless, I engaged in living and doing whatever needed to be done to propel my family forward, support my community, and keep a smile on my face. I simply plugged away at living. I am not sure that I found it easy because interspersed with some really tough moments, but I had dinner on the table every night. We welcomed people into our home nearly every Shabbat. I cooked meals for those who were ill and organized our community to help families in the midst of health crisises. I even kept my home  clean, laundry done, and always held down a part time job.

I had an I can do ANYTHING spirit, only inside that is not how I felt. I used to wonder why everyone in the world could keep their houses clean, nurture their children, and have a full life.  Everyone seemed to do it with an ease that ALWAYS escaped me. It is only since I started following social media closely that I realized that I was never alone. All of us have our own personal struggles.

Fortunately social media, Oprah, and podcasts have helped me realize that I am so not alone in this very real struggle. Only over the last five or so years have I  been introduced to the wisdom of three people that rock my world as creatives because of how honestly they shared their struggles of living in the messy middle. They inspire people to:

  • Live in the “marvelous messy middle”. ~ SARK
  • “Embrace the glorious mess that you are.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert

And to understand:

  • “Life is brutal. But it’s also beautiful. Brutiful, I call it. Life’s brutal and beautiful are woven together so tightly that they can’t be separated. Reject the brutal, reject the beauty. So now I embrace both, and I live well and hard and real.” ~Glennon Doyle

Each of these amazing women choose to share their personal journeys of living in the midst of life’s sometimes very challenging realities while being aware that moving forward doesn’t always present us with easy solutions for living according to what society deems “normal”. They continually inspired me (and still do) to show up in my world as authentically as possible.

Hiking BootsI feel blessed to now walk with ease in my own messy middle and the outer banks too. While it took me over fifty years to emerge fully as myself. I ultimately found my voice through writing, chanting, drumming, and only in the last year through painting little cards.  I am the woman I am because how I have chosen to navigate my own rocky paths.  I am so grateful that I learned to live out loud by sharing my life experiences without apology, accepting that I don’t fit into any box, and loving myself for who I am.

I have also done some really hard stuff including leaving the traditional Jewish community, moving cross country with my sons, divorcing my husband, and publicly changing my name when I realized my parents lost their right to name me.  I wanted a name that honored who I am today, so I gave myself one.  I am Chava Gal-Or. Chava means life because I am a woman who thrives regardless of what sh*t crosses her path and I become empowered by whatever life tosses in my direction. Gal-Or means wave of light; this is my reminder not only to be light, but to find the light in whoever and whatever crosses my path. Perhaps the hardest thing I am doing right now is sharing my life stories via my writing; I am not holding back, I am diving deep and navigating some really harsh realities that have lead me to rise as the woman I am.

Yes, I live in the messy middle. I feel deeply. I struggle to breathe when life overwhelms me. I often believe I don’t do enough to make our world a better place. I wonder if I love enough and do enough for my family, my work, my beloved friends, etc. I struggle with believing that I am worthy and yet I understand that the Inner Demon speaks loudly to me and it is my job to show up and keep showing up. On a good day, I quiet that voice and stretch my arms wide open to life. On a bad day, the demon wins, but I push forward anyway. I am learning.

Living in the messy middle has become a norm for me and I am OK with that. I am “perfectly imperfect” as Anne Lamott would say.  Hineini, Here I am!

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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Years ago, I learned that there is no option for walking through life with a positive disposition. This lesson has been handed to me again and again on a silver platter. I’ve chosen to find the light in the darkness AND light when there was seemingly little or no hope. Early in my childhood, I learned to seek the lessons from whatever experiences I faced and if I was lucky I fortunate the good in each and every challenge.

As someone who has been battered as a child, struggled with tremendous loss as an adult, watched her children struggle with health/life challenges within their short lifetimes, and struggled with some hard challenges as an adult, I don’t believe in letting the tough times bring me too far down.  I believe in always finding the gifts within the challenges!  And I have received so many gifts over the years!!

Photo courtesy of Janie Grackin Did you notice the butterfly? :)

I didn’t realize that I had the ability to find the gifts within the challenges until one day when one of my sons was in critical condition.  He had been struggling with health for so long and I didn’t want him to suffer any longer.  As sedation was enabling him to rest in his hospital room, I quietly told him that Imma (mommy) and Abba (daddy) would be OK if he needed to stop fighting for his life.  With tears streaming down my face, I told my little one that we were the luckiest parents in the world to have him in our lives for as long as we did.  I didn’t want to let go, but I knew that I might not have a choice; I didn’t want him to worry.

Little did I know that I would have to say that again in my lifetime, but I truly believe that people are gifts for as long as they are in our lives.  Today, I am profoundly grateful that my children are both vibrant and healthy adults; I am grateful that both of them survived their childhood health challenges and one doesn’t even remember them.  I am also happy that I learned something positive about myself as I faced the years of darkness.  There are always gifts within the challenges; sometimes they are more difficult to see at first, but over time they can be found.

My hope for you is that you shouldn’t be faced with the challenges that were once part of my life.  In my case, I did make it through and you can too.

Many years have passed since I faced that kind of darkness, but the lessons have stayed with me.  There is truly no option for allowing darkness to control me.  Yes there are moments when I am angry or sad, lonely or unhappy; they are moments.  The key is that I have to trust that the moments will pass and all will be OK.

I always get to decide how I navigate the harshness that life sometimes brings.  Working within a large community, I face all sorts of people and all sorts of moods.  My job is to embrace those people where they are and to move us forward without allowing their sometimes bad mood to bring me down.  I have a choice; I always have a choice.  And the great news is that most of my interactions with the world around me are really quite beautiful; enjoying life as I do means finding the gifts at every turn.

For me, finding the blessings that surround me is really not an option.  Can you say the same thing? I hope so!

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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Oncoming storm - Chesapeake - Paul Zeitz

Incoming storm on the Chesapeake Bay.    Photo Courtesy of Paul Zeitz.

My Inner Demons have been busy over the last few days. They have been telling me all sorts of harsh things:

  • You don’t do enough for humanity.
  • You need to push harder.
  • You really do feel too deeply.
  • Why can’t you let go of _________.
  • Why aren’t you able to save more money?
  • And so much more. . . .

My journey (always) is to quiet those Inner Demons. Because these demons are a storm raging inside of me that can only become destructive if they get out of control.

Fortunately, they aren’t telling me what they often tell me like:

  • You are limited.
  • You’re so f*cking fat.
  • You are nothing without good hearing.
  • What do you have to give to the world?
  • Why can’t you be more articulate?
  • After all of the writing that you have done, your grammar sucks.

UGH!!

Here is the good news here, I know that these Inner Demons aren’t really helping me nor are they being truthful; they are simply distracting me from being my best me.

These are the voices of my childhood. This is what my mother said every day. Some of this is what the neighborhood boys told me as they bullied me. This is what I heard when I closed my eyes at night.

Silencing those voices has been my life work. As an adult, I have been blessed, but the damage of childhood hell runs deep. I have to keep reminding myself that I am awesome just as I am, but I at times the struggle is real.

On a bad day, my Inner Demons hang close. The most frequent time they visit is when I am having a bad day at work because I have made a mistake or I have a challenging moment with a co-worker or a member of my congregation. Every time a friend decides they no longer want me in their life, the demons visit. Each time a relationship ends with a man that I believed would be part of my life forever, I know that I will spend the rest of my days alone. Who would want a person like me? The biggest challenge comes from tough moments with loved ones. The good news is that I can usually remember that moments happen, but sometimes I forget.  Sigh.

Fortunately,  the Inner Demons only visit me initially when I am feeling challenged, really hurt, or super sad. With some real soul work, I have been able to find amazing tools to help me navigate. Sometimes it is as simple as taking a deep breath and then another. Eventually after enough deep breaths, the demons silence themselves and I accept life’s challenges with a little more ease. I also chant, dance, walk, drum, paint, get quiet, or do whatever I need to do in order to change my childhood and earlier adulthood patterns.  Altering patterns is my work, I am ok with that.

I am a work in progress (WIP).

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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