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Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

~Brené Brown 

Turning 50 was a huge deal for me! I was excited about the possibilities.  While I still feel sense of joy about the many doors that continue to open, I am also aware that I am single, with a small family, and a village that is beyond measure. On a good day, the gifts empower me to soar. On a challenging day, darkness and fear support how lonely I sometimes feel in our vast world. With a village so spread out, it is hard to feel nurtured when there is no one stroking my head when pain envelopes my entire being.

Today’s blog is my effort at being transparent. While I would prefer that light permeate my essence, I am aware that sometimes the darkness overrides. My hope and prayer is always that by opening the door into the fullness of who I am, I will allow more light to shine into my life and perhaps radiate that light to others.

Chava's Shadow 17January2016The Catalyst:
Recent health challenges opened the door to unrelenting vulnerability.  I know because I have spent the last two months virtually alone and in a painful haze that often felt dark and lonely.

During this time, I found out who cares and who cares less.  And regardless of who cares, I still felt deeply alone. Know that while my sons were close by and made a huge impact, it isn’t the same as having a partner, a close friend, or even a supportive community.  Aryeh and Dovi were great, but I needed more.

The love that flowed and continues to flow from my Facebook friends has been amazing and comforting. There is no question; I feel loved from friends that have surfaced from every time period of my life. I am awed by such genuine warmth.

My Reality:
Yet those calls couldn’t help me get a glass of water when walking to the kitchen was far too painful. Or perhaps worse, was the realization that if I slipped in the shower, I would have to scream to my sons for help; no mother wants to do that. Nighttime was the worst, but I was lucky. My brother and sister-in-law live in Israel and therefore they really could be available when I felt most raw.  As those living in the States went to sleep, my family in Israel was waking up.  And truth be told with so many of my friends being insomniacs, I probably could have reached out on Facebook.

To be fair, there were so many factors that made it impossible for some of my closest friends to show up:

  • They don’t live in Houston.
  • My back went out suddenly and surgery was scheduled quickly once the right doctor realized the necessity of my surgery.
  • Surgery was scheduled with less than a week’s notice and hours before the the First night of Passover and the Seder were to begin.
  • There is a huge cost to helping someone who doesn’t live around the corner.

Fortunately, I work for a lovely community in which there were those that would ask me how could they help and a few of those that really did show up.  And if ever I reached out, I didn’t have to ask twice.

Feb 2015 Walking from behindChallenges with friends:
Navigating close friends can be both challenging in fascinating. While, I would have loved to have my friends physically with me, I found the calls to be exhausting. I also realized that the calls and texts came from a place of worry.  I loved that people cared, but I struggled with what to respond. Healing is hard work; I had little energy for small talk, yet that’s what my closest friends seemed to crave.

From past experience, I know that if I was still married, my friends may have called my ex-husband to check on me, but they weren’t as compelled to call my sons. This forced me to interact with people before I was ready.

Friends are sacred to me. I treasure their presence in my life and I don’t take them for granted.  There were a couple beloved friends that didn’t reach out when I needed them. While I knew they couldn’t be with me, I desperately didn’t want to feel forgotten. During some of my darkest moments, I found myself wrestling with the realization that the holy connections could be lost at any moment and that would be ok to some of those I cared for most. Even as I type these words, the pain is almost inconsolable. I love forever and yet not everyone does. I have lost a few too many friends in my life and the sense of mourning is with me.  But friendships do change…. sigh.

As I heal, I am coming to understand that not all is as stark as I initially thought. Yes some of my friends have faded away, but some of them will emerge. AND there are new friends that are showering me with love and warmth. I am not alone, but that doesn’t take away the fact that blanket of loneliness that is all encompassing at times.

What’s happening now?
Knowing that I am not seriously ill has been important for me to remember; I was recovering from surgery-yes. But I always knew and still know that all will be good. Intense pain ended as soon as surgery was over. Yet that doesn’t mean I feel good or energetic. My entire life went out of control two months ago and in some ways it still is.  I may look good or better, but nothing feels good and the exhaustion I feel is bone-deep and overwhelming. While I can get up and do what I need to do, it isn’t easy.

Vulnerability comes from the realization that the doctor is looking at the weakness in my left leg and wondering if he will need to go back in to do more surgery. And what happens if he does? What will happen with my work? Who will take me to the hospital next time? How will I afford the mounting hospital bills when money is tight on a good day? Illness is lonely and in this moment, I am also realizing that as I reflect on the friends that ‘showed up’ over the last two months, I am not always a good friend to those that need me either. Life is busy and my creative spirit yearns for me creative time, yet . . .  How do any of us find balance with a world that needs our attention?

The hours of solitude have left me even more conscious than I was about EVERYTHING in my world. I am not sure where this deep reflection will lead, but I have a sense that certain changes are on the horizon.  Over the coming months, I will unpack what is filling my heart and soul via my blog, Facebook, journaling, and even talking — everything from aging/saging, relationships, finances, lifestyle choices, the world, and even my passions. And through it all, I need to embrace finding the gifts and engaging in actions that will move not only me, but our world forward.

Immense Gratitude:
When my orthopedic surgeon told me that surgery was needed as soon as possible, I was most sad about picking up the phone to tell my friends Kathleen and Eric that I wouldn’t be able to have them for our Passover Seder this year.  I had been so excited about them coming in from South Padre Island some 6 hours from Houston, but for all intensive purposes, Passover was being canceled. Their reaction shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. They said they would be coming anyway, they wanted to be here for me.

Even as I type this, tears are flowing from my eyes. One of my biggest fears was who would advocate for me. Hospitals are so scary to me; they literally terrify me. While I don’t necessarily show it, it is true. I struggle anytime I have to go to the doctor, support my sons when they need medical treatment, or go for any test. Even my blood pressure runs high as soon as I walk into the doctor’s office.

The years of having sick children have really impacted my life. And to make things even more complicated, I never thought I would be alone to navigate health challenges without a partner. When I first decided my ex-husband and I would part ways, I was sure we would always be there for each other. But reality is different from any illusions I once held.

The funniest part of having Kathleen and Eric come in was that not only did I have close friends, I had two doctors who could advocate for me and make sure that all was going smoothly. I so treasured how they showed up ready to do everything they could to make this experience as easy as possible. And they did.

Being spoiled by two beautiful souls was a gift. I hope the next time I have a friend that needs me that I show up with such an open heart and willingness to do whatever I need to do to make a difference.

Most of us have a few friends that we touch base with regularly and other friends that we may not talk to for years. I loved that three friends who I rarely talk to called me the days before surgery. Just prior to surgery, I was devastated and overwhelmed by my pain. Intellectually, I knew that I would land on my feet (literally), but that didn’t change how difficult it was for me to cope.  Each call made a huge difference and lifted a piece of the darkness.

Shortly after surgery, I received a lovely fruit basket from old friends and a sweet call from someone who I connect with rarely at best. Actually, he calls whenever he catches on Facebook that I am having a rough time. Again, these folks simply showed up and made me feel like I was worthy of their warmth.

Locally,  some special angels show up from my community. One member called regularly to check on me – always reminding me that she lived close by and would love to do whatever was needed (and she did too)! Another member of my community came to visit me weekly always with a baked goodie in hand. One of my favorite visits came from friends who brought me flowers, but more importantly brought our dog a new rope toy. The day after surgery, one loving soul brought us yummy leftovers from their seder. This routine of periodic visits and an occasional special delivery helped throughout the first weeks following surgery.  Sweet texts and cards (especially from my students) kept my spirits from plummeting.

Reality Check:
When we are ill it can be hard to ask for help, but people aren’t mind readers.  One thing that wasn’t so helpful were the many people that said let me know if you need anything. What I learned from most of those people was that they didn’t really want to help, they simply wanted me to know that they cared (and they would have helped if I asked). Next time, a friend is struggling, I will do my best to say that I am going shopping and would love them to have what they need and not what I want them to have. 🙂 Or perhaps I can offer to do their laundry, clean their bathrooms, or simply come over and sit with them.

I loved when the friends that I am in better contact with learned that a simple text was lovely. I was exhausted by those that expected a response from me every time they reached out. The good news is that I knew they cared!!

What I really needed was for people to be present without expectation. I think the hardest part about living in Houston for such a short time is that new friends don’t really know how to be present for you. And then there was the silence that came from people I would have thought cared. In truth, they don’t (not really) and that is a good thing to know too. I did feel horrible when I found out that one of my friends was having a hard time and that is why she didn’t reach out. I was, subsequently, relieved that she did care, but then miserable that I had temporarily made the wrong assumption. I am learning.

The World – sigh…
While my little world may challenge me, there is also the larger world that has me oozing with vulnerability.

  • Trump is a lunatic and the President of the United States. He is a sick bastard that is digging his professional grave. And when he goes down, we still have a Republican government and the next few possibilities in line are prejudiced and biased in how they walk in the world.
  • Millions of people are suffering and our country would rather close their doors than save the lives of entire families and villages. My father’s family would have been left to die if they wanted to enter this country today.
  • Our country feels like it has taken hundreds of steps back as it actively discriminates against people based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
  • The environment is being devastated by the actions of the human race.
  • The Occupation in Israel is in it’s 50th year. With this in mind, no wonder Israel is a mess. Hatred breeds hatred and Israel has done more than it’s share to destroy what could have been an awesome homeland for the Jewish people. I can’t believe I once wanted to make aliyah, move to Israel. (And yes, it is a complicated; I am not delving into those complexities in this blog.)
  • What about health insurance for my sons. The FUCKING government is actively trying to dismantle the amazing work of ObamaCare also known as the Affordable Care Act. My older son is thriving today, but that was not always the case; medical coverage could become an impossibility for him and so many others.
  • . . . and so much more.

I am disgusted by what I am seeing going on in our world. And the hardest challenge comes from the realization that I can never do enough to make our world a better place. Yet, I have no choice, but to do all that I can. Living in Texas and having Trump as POTUS, has totally impacted my plans for the immediate future because I need to take nearly every free minute I have, roll of my sleeves, and work towards undoing the damage of those that are either doing nothing as well as those that are actively destroying the fabric or our world.

Conclusion:
Two months have passed since pain rocked my world on Saturday, March 11th. I am blessed that the pain didn’t last for too long and yet it lasted just long enough. It gave me time to reflect about friendships (old and new), money, values, and needs versus wants. Illness has been a great tool for weeding out that which does not nourish me.

Mostly though, I have learned that I need to better care for my body, mind, and soul. And I need to nurture my village – near and far by both being present and allowing others to be present for me.  And when vulnerability rocks my world, moving forward is the only way to ultimately thrive.

Giving up is never an option. . . .there is too much work to be done!

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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.)
easel-in-corner
Learning has always caused me a tremendous amount of excitement. Not only do I love to work as a Director of Congregational Learning, I also love to stretch and grow myself in different ways. There is NEVER a time I stop being the seeker that I am.

With this in mind, I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons (a series of podcasts) when I heard:

At the end of the day, the only thing that’s perfect is a blank sheet of paper
– untouched with nothing on it. And if you’re questing for perfection,
then you will leave that blank paper blank.”
Neil Gaiman (Podcast: Magic Lesson Episode 207) 

As a passionate writer, an amateur artist, a mother, a storyteller, a friend, an educator, and more – I tend to struggle with a strong desire to reach for perfection.  And yet a person who plays so many roles, I know for a fact that I can do little or none of these roles perfectly.

My guess is that if you took time, to read every word that I have written in this blog post, you would find a spelling mistake, a grammar challenge, and a few unclear phrase or two. And if it is a natural skill or your personality, you could probably find something wrong with most everything I do.  Oh well. . .

My holy work is to create, to play, to explore, and to connect with the world around me. And to make sure I do this while finding peace in the mess that I sometimes leave in my wake.  I can’t always say the right thing or use the ‘right’ color/word/whatever. Life is full of imperfections. And many of those realities lead to beauty.  And while I may seek perfection and get frustrated by my many imperfections, the interactions with the world around me are too delicious to stop.

Always learning. . . .

The blank paper or intense silence doesn’t necessarily lead to the sparks that ignite when I take chances to interact with all the moving parts of my environment.  And yet the blank piece of paper or the silence may be exactly what I sometimes need to become grounded and ready grow or learn. Isn’t it all perspective?

As and educator, a mom, and a friend, I believe that most of us thrive using the myriad of tools to tap into learning. When free choice is coupled with the capacity to trust our spirits, it can be rather easy to soar.  This sort of awareness enables us to interact with the many environments that surround us in the  most authentic way possible.

For me and so many others, the innate curiosity  courses through our veins; it has a way of inspiring each of us to explore the world by using each and every one of our senses. That is, if we allow for our spirits to take that leap.

Always learning. . . .

Learning doesn’t have to take place at a desk in order to be called learning. Gaining knowledge takes place when I take the time talk to people, listen to the birds chirping, read an amazing book, or sometimes when I paint on the blank canvas.

All learners and all facilitators of learning know that it takes a certain amount of chutzpah, to stretch ourselves. You have to be willing get a little messy sometimes, take chances, trust your instincts, and yes, sometimes you need to make mistakes.

Hmmmm. . . .I see a metaphor forming here.

None of us succeed without doing “something” with a blank sheet of paper or a blank canvas. Success comes when we push ourselves out of comfort zone, create using all the tools at our disposal, and choose to consciously live life in the ways that feel right for you.

With the High Holy Days being right around the corner, may  we celebrate the opportunities we have had this year and seek new opportunities in the coming year. While perfection would be awesome, sometimes messing up leads to greatness.

Perhaps it is time to paint on that blank canvas at the top of this blog? What do you think?

May we find peace in the journeys we have taken this year and find new ways to stretch this coming year.

Onward with love & light!
Chava

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.)

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun - Easel

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun – Tucson, Arizona

There is one way that you will know if I am in a spiritually grounded place. Just one. . . . . If creative projects fill my time or even my mind. I am probably exactly where I need to be.

As long as I am taking time to write, drum, paint, doodle, chant, or move, you can assume life is good. AND when I take time to go to museums, check-out cool neighborhoods, or people watch, you can also make an assumption that I am doing well.

My spirit needs to share space with sizzling energy and emerging innovations.

Creative souls jazz my world. If someone is passionate about some form of creativity, I usually fall in love with them, energetically that is.

Over the years, I have often found myself tearing when I witness beauty or creativity. I can’t seem to stop the release that comes when I see or hear something that deeply touches me.

When I lived in Tucson, I used to go to the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun which was literally around the corner from my house. Every time I saw the easel above, I would want to curl up into a ball and weep. I believe that some of that comes from my sadness that I want to be more of an artist than I am, but it is also because I adore that worn look and obviously beloved easel.

In the last several years, I have begun to go to museums alone so that I can take the time to fully appreaciate the energy  (and yes cry without navigating the reaction of others). Most recently, I have felt the incredible wave of emotion nearly everytime I see one of Mark Rothko paintings or when I go to the Rothko chapel close to where I live in Houston. I am not such an art connoisseur that I understand exactly why I have this reaction, but nonetheless it is what happens. Another time, many years ago, I couldn’t contain myself when I was at a Salvador Dali exhibit in Philadelphia.  The only  way to explain what seems to be happening is that my heart simply breaks open.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
Quote by Henry David Thoreau

May we all me inspired by the beauty not only surrounds us, also what comes from within.

Onward with love & light,
Chava

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Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom. For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for others, it is a tool for exploring the kabbalistic teachings in an organized way. For me, it is a time to actively reflect on my Journey Towards Wholeness. The more I am whole, the more free I will become.  [http://t.co/dBPYjDxSGj . . . .]

Nurturing My Create Soul

what is creativity

Writing takes guts. Drawing takes guts. Letting yourself go in creative way takes guts.

AND. . . .

For many of us, we don’t have a choice. Being creative is in our blood. For me, if I stopped being creative, a part of me would die. Metaphorically, I would become dead inside.

Many years ago, I had a painful episode with my writing.  Unfortunately, my younger son Dovi walked in me having a melt down and destroying my writing. It really was a sad state of affairs brought on when I found out that my writing had read by someone who had no right. With deep sadness, I destroyed my writing and silenced myself for many months.

Being an intuitive, Dovi knew that if I wasn’t writing that something was terribly wrong. Each and every day for the weeks and months that followed, Dovi would curl up on my lap and plead for me to write. I couldn’t do it. The pain of being invaded was too great. And yet, not writing caused an even deeper wound. It was both beautiful and profoundly sad to see the sensitivity that was embedded in my precious son.

While a part of my soul was dying as I mourned my inability to write, Dovi’s persistence forced me to work my way back to the writing life. I’ll never forget the first day he saw me sitting at my computer and writing, he sat down next to me, stunned and quiet. He asked me with all the sincerity of a seven year old if I was better now. I wasn’t and I think he knew it, but he supported me in my journey back to my happy place.

Since that episode in my life, Dovi has checked in with me each and every time I am dark or quiet for too long. He has this beautiful way of reminding me that I may need to have a writer’s date. He also loves to sit quietly watching me write. In fact, even though Dovi is often in his own world, he will ALWAYS ask me what I need to drink and eat while I am writing. He loves nothing more than to nurture my spirit by making me my favorite drink, a mint tea latte; he is clear that writing is sacred time for me and he doesn’t want me to lose my train of thought by getting up from my writing.

There are days when I don’t know how to pull my thoughts together. There are days when my writing is so poor that I am surprised if any of the words I have strung together make sense. And there are days, when my writing cleanses my heart and fuels my tears.

On other days, my words flow seamlessly and my heart beats faster and faster with each written word. Every part of my body is soaring with inner peace and contentment as the words come together to weave inspiring thoughts together.

Regardless of whether I am content, challenged, or joyful, writing is the only way that I find inner balance and connect with the world around me. If I am not writing, there is no way that I am ok.

Writing is the one love of my life that has been with me since I was a young child. It has supported me and kept my spirit at nearly every moment in my life. While I may have lost my writing for moments of my life, it was always within my grasp. Almost nothing makes me happier than writing.

May each of us remember to allow our creativity to flourish and develop for all the days of our lives.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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“The most significant gifts are the ones most easily overlooked. Small, everyday blessings: woods, health, music, laughter, memories, books, family, friends, second chances, warm fireplaces, and all the footprints, scattered throughout our days.”
~Sue Monk Kidd

Chava.cake

All of life has a rhythm.

For me, the rhythm comes from an inner light that radiates out and allows me to honor the beat of my heart and the song of my soul. With each step, I feel myself become more and more grounded to the earth.

Yesterday, I celebrated my life; I found joy in the love that surrounded me and in the peace within the storm of life.

For the days prior to my birthday, I was considering ignoring my birthday, removing any mention of it on Facebook and closing the door to my bedroom so that I could ‘lick my wounds’ from a challenging last year.  And then I realized that the last year does not define who I am as  a person.  But if it did define me, I would be a woman who defies darkness by always doing what it takes to succeed.

With each breath, I navigate the very real realities of life’s journeys, where I am, and where I want to go.  I dream big and then work towards making my dreams happen.

One of the most treasured gifts came from my friend and poet Susan Windle who said, “Love to you in your birthing time, dear Chava”.  Those sweet words reminded me that not only am I loved, but I am actively becoming the person I want to be.  This sacred birthing process is empowering me to grow in ways that would not have been possible in the not very distant past.

Authenticity is flowing from the core of my being.  I am seeking simplicity in all that I do; I am working towards living a life of transparency and integrity.  I am weaving words together and finding center by speaking with the fullness of my voice. Vulnerability no longer is filtered by the bravado that I don’t really feel.  I have learned and am continuing to learn how to use my voice in all of it’s forms.

Over the last year, I have been expressing my most purest of feelings without holding back from those closest to me. Sometimes tears fall down my cheeks as I try to cope with deep sadness; sometimes passion flows from my lips and from my fingertips. And then there is my laughter the reverberates the core of my being.  While I have always been real, I am trying to remove the shield that has sometimes protected me from my deepest of feelings.

I really do believe what my friend Marc Hershkowitz said, “I know it’s going to be a great year!” I am determined to shine and to be the best person I can be.

While life has been a little harsh of late, it doesn’t have to put an edge into my spirit. I am alive and I intend to celebrate the gifts that surround me with each and every rhythm that is part of my journey.

May this year be the year for my writing to inspire people, my creativity to flow, and my heart to emerge in new and beautiful ways.

This is my year to thrive; I hope you join me!

 

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Middah (character trait) focus: Allow for the chaos to lead to. . . .

Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom.  For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

Courtesy of The Art of Simple Facebook page.

Courtesy of The Art of Simple Facebook page.

In the midst of the chaos or within life’s disorderliness, amazing ideas and creativity emerge.  For those of you that know me well, you know that I tend to need an organized space in order to create; physical chaos drives me insane.  Having said that,  nothing in life is simple and never has been.  So instead of fighting life’s craziness, I tend to welcome it and then embrace it as I move forward.  Fighting the chaos only frustrates me, so I try to go with the flow and handle all that is front of me.

I love how the greatest findings happen when it appears that the challenges are too great.

May each of us navigate life’s chaos (in whatever form it takes) and experience huge gifts as we actively embrace the journey.

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Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom.  For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

Middah (character trait) focus: Creativity

Ever since I was a little girl, writing was my solace and the way I processed life.  It still is.

Today, with some struggle, I realize creativity is part of my each and every step.  I not only think outside of the box, I often recreate the box.  Yet, at the same time I create in my own little cocoon and refrain from sharing with others.

Recently I was stunned when two guests at my Seder asked me who the artist was of a drawing I had done many years before; they loved this piece that I drew and treasured.  I couldn’t believe that I was asked if I was the artist.  The question touched me deeply as I tried to reconcile how I see myself while acknowledging that I am not only a creative person, but an artist too.

“Creativity is the way things travel from the head to the heart to the hand.” ~Brené Brown

May I be blessed to share the depths of my soul by trusting the creativity to flow in whatever form it takes.

 

Drawing by: Chava Gal-Or

Drawing by: Chava Gal-Or

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