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Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

Note: Triggers are miserable reminders that the past is never far away. And the truth is that they happen all the time. The challenge is to remember to ride the wave without getting lost in the pain for too long; we also need to remember that pain is part of the journey and we have no choice but to go through it. And regardless of how broken you may sometimes feel, don’t forget that you are whole just the way you are.

Shattered - Believe you are whole even within the cracks

Thirty-nine years ago, I faced the most crippling year of my childhood and young adulthood years. For the most part, I have moved forward, but that doesn’t mean I have forgotten the damage that was done to my soul. When I was fourteen years old, my spirit was trampled and no one was there for me. So instead of living my teenage years with the craziness that being a teenager includes, I found myself treading water with the hope that the world would swallow me up.

During that year, I was violently abused by mother, neglected by the father I adored, and drugs became my refuge, my haven from life’s storms. Just as I believed that my best friend’s family would save me and protect me from the raging violence of my childhood, my best friend’s stepfather started molesting me during a family vacation and then ended my time with them by raping me. In an instant, the last vestige of my childhood was ripped from me.

This horrific year left an ugly imprint on my spirit. And yet, even though it was full of pain, it has been an anchor to keep me balanced. Instead of going over the edge when life’s challenges leave me gasping for air, I tend to believe that all will be ok.  I made it then; I can make it now. The pit that nearly destroyed my life didn’t swallow me up. I understand that pain and vulnerability is part of life.

Unfortunately, each and every fall since I was 14 years old, I am often paralyzed by complete dread. On a good year it may last a few days, but more often it lasts for a few weeks. As the summer winds down and the weather turns a little cooler, I can feel the agony like it was yesterday.

In Judaism, we remember the death of someone by saying a prayer and then lighting a candle for their yahrzeit, the memory of their death. I think it is time for me to starting mourning and remembering that fall day by lighting a yahrzeit candle for that little girl who had her childhood ripped thread by thread from her being.

Once Gary raped me, my soul was permanently shattered. While I have emerged, it wasn’t easy. It took decades to plaster my many broken pieces together. AND like an old building, sometimes the pieces need to be replastered. The damage was devastating; it has impacted my every breath and probably my every decision.

And if that wasn’t enough, it was less than a month later that my mother amid a violent and very drunken outburst took what was to be her final blow at me and landed me in foster care. She lifted a butcher knife and tried to stab me – again and again. For those moments in time, I felt fear like I had never known and I was no stranger to my mother’s episodes; I endured physical pain at the hands of my mother on a regular basis. To this day, I am not sure that I have ever felt a worse fear in my life. And to this day, I still cringe every time I see a huge knife. As luck would have it, my older son has had a love affair with knives since he received his first one at age four. I will never understand how I was able to navigate his love and often fixation of knives, but somehow I not only survived it, but encouraged it.

Years passed before I absorbed how being raped as a child forever impacted how I walk in the world. And it didn’t help that a couple of years later, I again came face to face with the rapist, Gary, who threatened my life if he ever caught me alone. (Fuck the bastard!)

Only recently have I begun to navigate the atrocities that my young spirit endured. But today, I am so grateful that I found the inner strength to move forward or to what I now think of as ‘rising like a phoenix from the ashes’.

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

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

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(Note: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5776, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-1Nm.)

Chava's Shadow 17January2016

Over the last many years, I have found myself struggling with communicating my thoughts and my feelings within close relationships. While intellectually, I know that I am articulate, the inner child in me has had to cope with feelings of inadequacy and feeling like I am sometimes invisible.

In truth, I understand why this is. This has been a reaction to losing a couple of my closest friends who didn’t want to hear my voice any longer. I may never know the full story, but it probably doesn’t matter. It is what it is. At the time, those experiences triggered memories of my childhood. During those early years, I learned that that I was insignificant; no one heard my cries or helped me in any tangible way. So I learned to hide behind the shadows. Sometimes that is still my safe space; sometimes I still go there.

What’s beautiful is that there is a part of me that understands how articulate I am. And there is another part of me that knows that my thoughts mean something to my family, my friends, and my community. My holy work is to fight the demons that try to silence me.  You know the voice in your head that tells you that you aren’t good enough to share your thoughts; or that voice that reminds you that you are showing too much passion. My job right now is to stop that voice from affecting how I communicate.

 

Moving to Houston just over 16 months ago has contributed so much to my healing from loss of loved ones. It has also helped me to see that I have not been silenced by those closest to me unless you count me.

People want to hear my thoughts, my stories, my ideas, and most don’t mind hearing me fumble with words. I don’t always have to be articulate.

Over the last year I have listened to Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert. I love these podcasts that have inspired me to honor my creative soul and was especially touched by Episode 205 that I heard earlier this week. In it, Liz shared that our words are “better out than in.” While my passion sometimes feels unweildy, it is always intensely real and from my heart. As long as I remember that sharing my voice is like speaking my truth, I can ride the waves of life with a little more ease.

Plus it came at a time when I am planning to share more of my stories and ask others to share their stories of childhood and life traumas. I am starting a project in which I collect stories of positive souls that have had to overcome harsh traumas. I want to hear how people navigate the darkness and ultimately find light.

Hearing the podcast felt like a huge punch into my gut because it helped me to realize that I have been minimizing my voice instead of sharing it with the passion that is part of me. The good news is that this didn’t happen all the time, but it happened too much. So as I get ready to address some hard stuff in my writing and storytelling, and even within my personal relationships,  it is ok for me to also say that “it’s really scary for me to let this out, but I’d so much rather it come out all wrong than stay in all wrong.” My voice matters.

Being emotionally honest is how I navigate the world. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

Onward with light & love,
Chava

 

 

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Some memories can never be forgotten; they are held tightly in the recesses of the mind.

Somewhere in late elementary school and early junior high school, I figured out that biking was the best way for me to be socially and emotionally safe.  I loved to bike and I was blessed to live in the most fabulous neighborhood for biking.

For me, biking was freedom; as long as I rode my bike I knew I was safe from the perilous experiences of being home.  So, I chose to bike often.

After one of my bike rides, I rode up to my house to find a Swat Team surrounding my house.  The experience was pretty surreal. As an awkward young teenager, I stopped to ask the police officer why a swat team was surrounding my house.  The police officer told me that my mother had called the police to say that gunmen had taken my brother downstairs; she was really quite terrified.

The scene could have been out of a one of the cop TV shows that were so popular in the mid to late seventies; the only challenge (well not really) was that my brother wasn’t actually in the script.  He was a paratrooper in the Israeli army and he hadn’t been in the States for a very long time at that point.

The look in the police officer’s face when I told him about my brother’s whereabouts would have been comical if I hadn’t felt totally mortified at the story that was unfolding.

I am not certain how long the scene lasted.  My guess is that once I told the officer that my brother wasn’t even in this country, it probably wrapped up fairly quickly.  While I wasn’t in the house when all unfolded, I will never forget the years of nightmares that followed.  For years, I re-winded the scene in my head and had nightmares as if my brother really had been held captive.  My brother was everything to me, the thought of losing him was devastating back then and still is to this day.

~ ~ ~

Facing mental illness is absolutely horrific for any family.  My mother was emotionally and mentally a very sick woman who had little or no control over her actions during much of my childhood.  The good news is that regardless of what I endured. . .  I survived, I thrived, and I was always able to keep moving forward.

Resiliency!

Another blessing is that with all I endured, I ultimately emerged as someone who chooses to make the world a better place.  If injustice is happening, I will do my part to make things better.  If I hear about abuse, I try to make certain the right people/organization becomes notified and the situation has a chance of getting the help it needs.  When I met a pregnant, homeless woman with a young child, my family took her in for months until we found her the right placement.  When a friend of mine had brain cancer, my older son and I went to St. Cloud, Minnesota to help care for her and her son.  When I am called to help someone in need or to provide shelter for a traumatized human being, I do it!

I learned from watching the world around me. Most people didn’t lift a finger to help me.  My guess is that they felt helpless or didn’t know what to do. My hope is that people now have their eyes open a little wider and are quicker to do their part.

One of the challenges of mental illness coupled with domestic violence is that, as a neighbor, you may just not notice.  I am not sure how this could have been so especially during the seventies when everyone was playing outside and windows were always wide open.

~ ~ ~

After the police and Swat Team realized my brother was safe and no gunmen could be found, they left.  Surreal.  My mother never really did get the help she needed.

My prayer for today is that this situation would never end that way. May we all be blessed with the capacity to reach out and help and if we can’t help, find someone who can.

BTW, I still love bikes, biking, and photos of bikes. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Randall- Tel Aviv Beach

BTW, I still love bikes, biking, and photos of bikes.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Randall-
Tel Aviv Beach

Note: Why did I remember this story now? The community I grew up in has a Facebook page, Randallstown, MD – 1970’s and 1980’s,  that suddenly became really active. With that some of my childhood memories have flooded back to me.  At one point, I saw the name of the person who was biking with me on the day of the ‘incident’.  I am not 100% certain he came back with me to the house that day, but I think so. Anyway, judging by his Facebook page, he has grown in very different ways than me. . . so I am not reaching out at this time.   But the memory of this once very special friend brought back the memory of the story above.

 

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“Friendship is one soul dwelling in two bodies.”
~Aristotle 

Topsail 2011 - Surrounded by lifetime friends - I miss them every day!

Topsail 2011 – Surrounded by lifetime friends.                   Think about them each and every day!

I have been blessed with friends, good friends, loving friends.  Both new and old friends have touched my life again and again sometimes for years and sometimes for moments.  Some of my friends have touched my life since childhood and some since moving to Tucson less than a year ago.

Over the past weeks, I have been blown away by the love and connections I have felt surrounding me.  From all over the globe I have had moment after moment where my friends have touched me or reached out to me at exactly the right time.  New friends and old friends have reminded me of the power of friendship.

In the last week or so alone:

  • Received a gift in the mail – a mug that said “It is what it is.” While the mug broke, I LOVED it nonetheless.  This is the one motto that has guided my life since 2001. . .These are some of the last words I remember my father saying before he took his final breath.
  • Another friend told me she was trying to book a ticket to see me just because she thought I needed her.
  • Learned from a friend about new possibilities for embracing my newest dietary journeys/struggles.
  • Meanwhile, a childhood friend told me he needed to send me a product he loves because he thought it would be good for my health.
  • A bunch of friends called at the perfect moment just to surround me with a cocoon of love.
  • One friend emailed me ideas with tools to re-ignite my non-profit dream.
  • New friends emerged with ideas to grow the religious school experience my students have.
  • My writing was acknowledged by friends who want me to keep writing because my words make a difference in their lives.
  • Love notes/emails from members of my community that are happy I came to Tucson.
  • Text messages reminded me that I am both thought of and loved.
  • Laughter, fun, stories, and song. . . .all with friends.

The melancholy that is filling me at this moment does not come from sadness, it comes from awe.  How can I be so blessed to have friends who love me and reach out as they do?  My hope is that I am am truly worthy of the love and warmth I receive.

May the love of old and new friends touch us now and always.

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