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Posts Tagged ‘childhood trauma’

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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best photo ever!

Writing,
the song of my heart;
the meaning of my mind;
the feeling of my soul; 
Is what makes me WHOLE.

Without writing, I would be nothing. I probably wouldn’t even be alive. Writing is how I have been able to navigate the world, found my voice, and coped with life’s challenges. The only time I am truly whole is when I take time to write.

And yet writing also reminds me that while I am vibrant and alive, I also feel pain a little too deeply. If I am not writing, it probably means that I am struggling with a part of my soul and deeply afraid that the words I write will bring me towards the one-way journey to darkness. And yet again, writing is the only way I have ever been able to nurture my soul towards living.

The gift is the challenge.

Without question, I am so much more alive when I am writing. So what has kept me from over the past months? This is simple, initially I have been struggling with the inner demons that tell me that I am not good enough to bring my stories alive.  And who would want to read my writing anyway. This is something that I may always wrestle with even when I am choosing to silence that I am not worthy or I am not enough.

Fortunately, I did not let the demon voices control me for too long. Instead I decided to take about seven weeks off this summer so that I could focus on my writing. And I have been writing every day since I started. Some of it good, much of it not. I am only now getting into a healthy rhythm and finding my voice with each word.

Over the past several months, I have been pushing through my self doubt by writing my about what I endured as a child in a book that I am currently calling Thriving: No Option. . . In my book, I will share some of my childhood traumas, how I initially navigated them, and how I am thriving onward now. I am also hoping to include the stories of other thrivers who have emerged from traumas, found their footing and ultimately found their wings.

To my knowledge, very few, if any thrivers, start off knowing that they will find a way to soar from whatever traumas they have endured. How can anyone believe that all will be ok when they are in the messy middle of survival. Over time, though, they take one step and then another; they find a way to walk through the world that works for them. And if they are lucky they find a new and beautiful way to live. Some may call this growth, others may call it healing, and I tend to think of this time as a rebirthing.

Over the coming weeks and months, I will disengage more from idle chatter and I will take the time to focus on writing my memoir. I am also making a commitment to sharing a piece of my writing daily on my blog. Whether my book is self published or finds a publisher isn’t really the most important thing to me. What I want is to inspire people and to create a platform for sharing our stories. And ultimately, I’d love to create more healing retreats that can utilize the many tools (and more) that I have used as I have embraced in my own healing journey.

In the words of my beloved friend Rabbi David J. Cooper, I want to end with:
We bless the Source of Life, that we are alive, that we have survived and that we have arrived at this time. (Interpretation of the Shecheyanu blessing which is part of Jewish liturgy.)

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

 

 

 

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img_2740Life is hard. There are hours, days, weeks, months, and even years that every aspect of living is overwhelming.

Fortunately, I am mostly blessed to face hard hours, but during a rare period of time, I may face hard days or weeks. . . .rarely do I face hard months or even hard years.

I am a thriver.

A long time ago, I decided that I didn’t have time for serious suffering so after a few days, I usually shake off my sadness, my pain, and/or my devastation by taking one step and then another.

But there are two times of year that my body seems to take a hiatus from holding it together. One is around the time of my mother’s yahrzeit, the anniversary of her death, and the other time is the anniversary of when my life was tragically decimated because of the action of others. The funniest part of these times of the year is that I don’t see it coming even if I theoretically know it will.

This week marked 29 years since my mother took her last breath.

Mom’s death nearly crushed me. Even now as I type these words, I am short of breath. And yet, for the first time since her passing, I can see how much I have moved forward. Her memory doesn’t haunt me daily and for the most part I have detached from any real feelings surrounding my mother’s tragic life.

I have been able to move forward so much so that I over the last year I allowed photos of me as a little girl into my house. I guess it was time for me to admit that that little girl really did exist. While I have yet to look at them, I don’t cringe when I see the small stack of photos in my office. Instead I welcome them with an awareness that even though my childhood was seeped in horrific pain, I really was alive and not only did I make it, I became a beautiful soul.

Back to this week:
I have been hurting, creating mountains out of molehills, and feeling painfully alone even as I have been surrounded by loved ones reminding me that I am loved and even adored.  The truth is that my body has been letting me know that this week has forever been imprinted by mother’s mark. The result is that I have a urinary tract  infection (UTI) and a respiratory infection.

I have also found myself sobbing for no reason at all only to smile when in the back of my head I have become the drama queen that I deplore. But for this past week, I couldn’t stop it. My spirit was being assaulted by the memories of my childhood, of a time when I couldn’t protect the onslaught of assault.

My mother was sick, profoundly sick. Her sickness left me ill equipped for thriving and yet I am a thriver. So as the week of her yahrzeit turns into the next week, I am moving forward. I am taking one step and then another.

My UTI will heal as will my respiratory infection. My friends will forgive my antics and some may even hug me and remind me that I am loved.

Tonight, I am taking one step and then another. . . .

Onward with love and light,
Chava

PS – I am profoundly aware that this time of year leaves my spirit bruised, but I am also aware that I will always emerge to find my center again.

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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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