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(Note: To learn more information on #The100DayProject which is also known as #ActivistCardsByChava, you can see https://wp.me/pthnB-3cH.)

Tears can be cleansing and necessary and yet all week long I have been stopping myself from letting them flow.

This week I heard the beautiful rabbi I work with telling a child who was acting a little shy, “It’s ok honey, you just do you.” Something about the timing and my raw spirit at that second resonated. I wanted to “do me” too. I was so tired of showing up and being present when all I wanted to do was hide a rock. I was also tired of feeling the need to couch my thoughts and opinions so not to be offensive. And yet, there is so much value in the last comment too. I guess the key is to find balance.

While I love so much of my life, I have grown a little weary in the last period of time. I have been intensely sad as I have seen some of my beloveds facing some earth shattering pain and devastated with my inability to make a difference. I have had to show up at places simply because it was the right thing to do or perhaps just my job. And throughout it all, I have seen myself become a little unglued at moments.

With the politics of our country what they are and so many people hurting, I have needed to cry, but instead of decompressing I just found myself moving forward and doing the next best thing.

And then there is the reality of changing relationships that has at moments left me bereft with the realization that I am simply not enough nor can I give enough. Each realization has left treading water and wishing I could be more grounded or maybe just hide under the rock until I feel like I am.

Have you ever noticed how our expectations are often different from what reality looks like? Perhaps that is the gift from the universe; perhaps it is a curse from the universe. Life is simply a game that I get to re-frame each and every minute if I am going to find what my teacher SARK likes to call the “marvelous messy middle”.  This is what enables me  time to find the sparks of light that are often just below the surface or to re-frame deep sadness into learning opportunities. When I am really observant, I find the angels that emerge from the darkness to spin a cocoon around my heart.

This week challenged me to the core.

Every second of my week felt overwhelmingly full. The blessing is that even when I wanted to get lost in my pain, I found the inner strength to show up for those I love. When I wanted to curl up into a ball and shout about the unfairness of it all, my friends surrounded me and reminded me of how loved I am. And one treasured moment came as I watched a loved one start to heal from the inside out after having experienced horrific pain. Things are rarely all bad or all good. Maybe I should celebrate that I actually had a few balanced moments.

Yet seesawing seemed to be a never-ending story.

The unfolding of the news around Brett Kavanaugh’s potential nomination to the Supreme Court was and still continues to devastate our country and show the ugliness of our divided country.

Doing me meant that hiding under a rock was not an option.  Instead I did political activism. by showing up at a panel discussion last Friday night and then going to McAllen, Texas last Saturday so that I could bear witness and stand in solidarity with the children being detained away from their parents. The good news is that I was surrounded with so many others who wanted to make a difference.  The sad news is that those children are still locked in detentions centers and tent cities too.

Unfortunately the 11+ hour trek triggered my own memories of childhood loneliness and sadness, of foster care and violence. And yet, there is no questioned of how blessed I am as someone who has always thrived in spite of my experiences. I pray the same will  be possible for the thousands of children who are suffering so much more deeply than I can imagine.

And then on Monday afternoon and early evening, I continued to push myself by  canvasing for the Democratic Party and doing my part to register voters. I was doing what I had to do. Our world needed me to push myself even if I felt like I couldn’t. So I did just that!

And then as I was finally decompressing Tuesday night, I received the unexpected call that none of us want to hear. My friend called me to tell me that his beautiful wife had just died. Immediately, I asked if he wanted me to come over and when he said yes, I rushed to be by his side. When I arrived a short time later, I was able I see Ellen who had just a few short hours again been alive and doing her best to survive some very serious illnesses.  As soon as I saw her, I asked her husband if I could sing the Shema to my beloved friend. He said yes which allowed me to sing what I consider to be the holiest prayer of the Jewish tradition to my Episcopal friend reminding her spirit and my soul of our shared love for God. As soon as I finished, the funeral home arrived to take Ellen out of her home for the very last time. Even with the deep sadness, I could also feel holiness reverberating.

While I knew that my new friend was really sick, I had hopes of being part of her life for more time. In the short time that I had known her, Ellen had quickly become both dear to me and my writing mentor – only she didn’t know it yet; she inspired me and reminded me to live – only she died too fast.  I had originally planned to visit her on Monday afternoon, but I was so tired after my very long weekend of activism followed by an incredibly long workday on Sunday which included wrapping up of the cycle of Jewish holidays.

Sadly, I lost another a last chance to be with Ellen who I had only met after Hurricane Harvey devastated her beautiful church which was now housed at our Temple. Even now it is wild to think that I would have not met some of my closest friends if Hurricane Harvey had never come a year earlier.

As the sun began to set yesterday, the many triggers of the week finally opened up the floodgates making it impossible to hold back my tears any longer. I cried for the world, the children in detention, the families separated because of our cruel government, my sadness over evolving relationships and devastated friends. I cried for Ellen and for the love that is bubbling up in my heart, but has no where to go. I even cried for my sweet puppy that is not training with ease. The tears came at a breakneck speed and now even in my exhaustion, I am feeling so much better. I simply needed to cry.

After my spiritually exhausting week, the rawness took  over and opened the door so that I could “do me”.  Hineini, Here I am.

Day 55 - Tears Can Cleanse your heart and spirit

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS – Will probably be editing this piece one more time.

 

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Prologue:
My father died 17 years and one day ago. While the loss feels fresh, it really was 6,206 days since my beloved father took his last breath. He left behind seven grandchildren who adored him along with their parents too. There is not a day that goes by when I don’t think of him or the way he walked in the world.  My father loved to tell stories, he was always telling stories. 

~ ~ ~

 “There’s always room for a story that can
transport people to another place.”
~J.K. Rowling

As a little girl, I remember devouring story after story. It didn’t matter how a story came to me. Good storytellers and good books held equal footing as far as I was concerned, but the man who will forever be remembered as the most amazing storyteller in the world is none other than my dad, Morry Bloomberg.

My father had a way with words. He could engage friend or stranger, child or adult. Wherever he went, he would find a perfect story to share and a way to lift people’s spirits.

As a young girl, I remember going into Giant, our local grocery store, and each and every cashier wanted Morry in their lines. It seemed like everyone would address him by name and take a moment to say hi to him. I loved how people knew my father and wanted to connect with him.

booksDad gave me love of words, all words. While he riveted me with his stories, he also loved reading and encouraged me to read and then read some more. It was through my own reading that I was able to visit far away places and navigate childhood as I did.

Gratitude Abounds:
Today, I can always be found with a book that I am reading, a podcast that is keeping me on the edge of my seat, and my own creative writing. Words fuel my soul.

And as luck would have it, I love telling stories and can sometimes be found sharing those stories with others whether in a grocery store line, an elevator, a classroom, or even a stage.

I am the storyteller and writer that I am because my father filled my world with stories.

My father will always hold the sacred space in my heart as being the best storyteller ever! If he is looking down at me, I hope he is proud of how he taught me to honor the power of words and inspired me to share my own stories.

NOTE: Please offer feedback by commenting on this post or letting me know that you like it after reading it. Thank you!

 

 

 

 

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Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud Maya Angelou

Enter a caption

There is so much power that comes from silence or from speaking the right words.

Over the last month plus, I have been loving and caring for people that have been facing enormous changes, pain, impending loss, and loss. Most often, there are few or no words to say.

Some people need to feel the love, some know it is there even if it goes unspoken, and some need to talk, to cry, and to be. This makes navigating these connections so very challenging.

Tonight, I received a call from a friend who suffered one of the most tragic losses one could imagine. She needed to talk, to pray, to receive words of comfort.

With little or no voice, I prayed with her. I offered her words of comfort, and I shared prayers and poetry to help her navigate her pain. AND most importantly, I listened. I was so grateful to be there for her and so grateful I answered the phone in my quiet and squeaky voice. (My voice has been on vacation this week.)

I wish I always had the right words to share at every moment and the supportive silence to flow at the right time. I don’t, but I really do my best.

In this moment, I am grateful when I can give what people need and sad when I can’t.

These past months have been humbling. As I have watched so many I adore navigate tough times, I have learned much about human nature and also even more about myself. One of the most challenging truths is that not everyone walks through the world as I do. Their tragedy or struggle is not the same for me as it is for them. My job is to meet those in pain where they are.

Another thing that has become crystal clear is that I need to emerge more authentically as the spiritual soul that I am. And yes, there is always so much to learn with each step. It is time for me to seek more environments/opportunities that allow my full spirit to shine.

Many years ago, I did a chant training in which two of my now dear friends created a chant that said, “Hineini (I am here); How can I serve YOU.” I don’t remember the chant as much as I’d like, but I the words still resonate.

This has been a time of deep reflection for me. I am learning; I am growing.

May I be blessed with the right words or the silence to support those I love and serve.

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Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I love this reality. Tomorrow is too. . . and the next day and the next one after that.

The way that I navigate my wild and messy life is with the realization that each moment, hour, or day is just a beginning. I think that is why I often find the gifts even when I am challenged by life’s realities.

“Just keep going. No feeling is final.”
in ‘Go to the Limits of Your Longing’
by Rainer Maria Rilke

The last month or so has left me struggling with my breath and my spirit. But the good news is that even in my devastation, I have kept going and found sparks of light at every juncture.

A bunch of things hit me at the same time. Of course they did. Isn’t that the way things happen? My past crept up on me and punched me in the face leaving me battered and bruised. A loved one died. Many close friends are in a serious health crisis. And someone I love dearly has altered a connection that I thought remain as it was for a long time if not forever.

With each and every one of the challenges above, my heart splintered. Sadness really has permeated my entire being for past several weeks. AND I have always believed that I would ride the waves. Riding the waves has lead to my need to consciously shed the parts of my life that don’t work for me any longer.  The good news about new realizations and deep sadness is that in order to move forward, you have to move through it. Just like Michael Rosen says in his children’s book/song ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’:

We can’t go over it. 
We can’t go under it. 
We’ve got to go through it!  

As a way of navigating all that I need to embrace and some of what I am shedding. I am going to do a 21 day challenge for myself. And I will share this journey, sometimes in detail and sometimes with a simple selfie. While selfie’s are the tool, there will be other things happening just below the surface. After all, I am navigating towards new horizons. The sadness that has been marinating needs to be transformed even as some of the challenges remain.

Sending love, light, and blessings . . .

Day 1 - Chava Selfie

Day 1 Selfie: 3 February 2018

PS – One of the funniest realities of my selfie challenge is that I really have been into wearing all black or dark shirts and jeans. So I may look the same way every day. 🙂

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Twenty-seven years ago I buried my mother. I was 24 years old, newly married and devastated beyond words.

I remember thinking, how could I mourn a woman that deeply wounded my spirit and beat my body. And yet, I did. I mourned the lost years; I mourned the belief that one day she would love me unconditionally; and I lost the only mother I ever had.

A handful of memories made me realize that if she hadn’t been so mentally ill or had received the right help, my mother may have been a beautiful and giving soul. But she wasn’t very beautiful, she was mentally ill at the core of her being and she coped with it the only way she knew how. She drank excessively and took prescription medication as if it were candy.  When she wasn’t volatile, she lived a life in a drunken stupor.

There are times, I mourn the mother I never had. I wish I could have felt the warmth and love that only a mother/parent can give. But instead, I remember the turbulence that reigned as addiction ravished her body.

Now that I have lived longer without her then I had with her, I am acutely aware that there is so much wisdom I have gleaned since her death.

Sunset Wilmington NC by Lynne Klein

Sunset in Wilmington, North Carolina Photo Courtesy of Lynne Klein

1.
After struggling with the one person that I did not choose for my entire childhood, I now take David Whyte’s writing to heart, “anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.” While it took me a while to get to this place, I did get there. I have let go of people and things that exhausted or troubled my spirit. It isn’t always easy, but it usually feels like the right thing to do.  For the most part, I am trying to hold onto that which jazzes my soul; this goes for people as well as ‘things’.

2.
Red used to me the most toxic color in the world to me.  I associated red with the very rough conditions I lived under. Growing up, many of the doors, ceilings, and walls were painted red; even the shutters on the front of our house were red. I hated red. Red was analogous to child abuse and suffering.  My mother loved red so much that she dyed her hair many shades of red over the years.

After moving out of my house, I swore that red was my enemy. Really, I did!!! And then about 4 years ago, I went into a chiropractor’s office for the first time. Walking into his office, I was surrounded by red walls.  After hearing so many awesome things about this chiropractor, I knew I couldn’t walk out.  So I sat down and literally felt a cold sweat overtake me. Over time the reactions faded and I found myself falling in love with the very color I once hated. Because of the healing space and the fabulous adjustments, red was slowly transformed from a noxious color to a healing color.

(Note: I love that as I was considering writing this blog the most beautiful red sunset showed up on my Facebook feed and the photographer gave me permission to use it! Don’t you love the photo above?)

3.
After fighting years of demons, I have learned that it is incumbent upon me to always seek the best for myself. While reality may sometimes be a little messy, I often find myself thinking about Mary Oliver’s final question in ‘The Summer Day”, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

This question has become vital to my existence. I am always working towards creating a conscious life that encompasses beauty and light by always asking myself what I will do with my “one wild and precious life”? Now I live like the thriver that I am!

Conclusion:
While my mother’s life was not for a blessing, I am awed that I still learned from being her child. And the bottom line is that I love life. I have come so far! May my life be for a blessing – always.

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Feb 2015  Walking from behind

I don’t think I am alone when I say there are so many things I used to fear and that there are many things that I still fear. . .

I used to fear being destitute with all that that would mean. But bankruptcy in the 1990s and a significant job loss in 2014 didn’t destroy my spirit. While both experiences were anxiety inducing, I found ways to change the tide and become grounded again. I learned to live better within my means and to trust the universe a bit more. Things are still not easy, but for the most part life financially work s (except when it doesn’t). My family really has what it needs.

I used to fear losing my husband and being alone to raise my sons.  Divorce after a long separation ended up empowering me to live a more authentic life and provided me with wings to fly.

I used to fear being traumatized by violence, but I not only survived serious childhood abuse, but I survived rape. Some may even say I found a way to not only thrive but to to help others navigate to a safer place whenever possible.

I used to fear loss, but since I live life as fully as I do. I find myself loving intensely and losing those I love sometimes through death, sometimes through abandonment, and sometimes through the realities of time and space. With each loss, I take the good memories and create new ways of living life more fully in the wake of those losses.  And I know that while the deep sadness may always inhabit a part of my heart, the ‘dance of life’ continues.

I have always feared for my children’s lives. After nine miscarriages and devastating illnesses, I still do. AND that doesn’t mean I allow the fear to infiltrate the way I live. Instead I open up my arms and reach for life with the many moving parts that that entails. And I (mostly) trust that my sons will take their own journeys.

As Émile Zola said, If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: I am here to live out loud!”

I know that I am blessed. Regardless of what has transpired in my life, I find the inner strength  to emerge as the woman I am. On more than one occasion my friends have referred to me a warrior. While I love that term, the term spiritual warrior resonates more deeply for me. All that I do, I do because of love.

Now for honesty, I have always emerged from fear. Always. BUT that doesn’t mean that I do not live in fear.

This past week, I have faced being stalked and feeling threatened by three neighbors. I have been forced to explore what I think about guns, how to handle the myriad of views about what is happening to me, and how to move forward.

Over the last week, I have had people tell me that I have asked for the violent energy by living my life as I do and I have had to wonder if maybe there was truth to what was being said. In the end, I am furious with those that think I should silence the way I live. That is not the world I live in; that is not the world I want to live in.

I am a writer, a protester, and an activist; I am a woman, an educator, and a dreamer. There is so much work to be done and I can not do it by walking in silence.

The man who now sits in the White House and surrounds himself with darkness needs to be held accountable for the way he walks in the world and the trauma he is causing humankind. So, while I am afraid of my neighbors, I have work to do.

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david-steinerSometimes we are blessed to meet people who inspire us to be the best people that we can be. You know those people that know just when to call regardless of what is going on in their own personal life. Or maybe the person that understands that in order to make a change in the world they have to be that change. Or maybe that person is someone who knows what they have to do in order to stretch, to grow, to evolve – and does the work! Or perhaps, the person is a dreamer who never stops going after his dreams.

David Steiner was that person and now he is gone. Killed doing what he has done first the first day I met him in 1982 when we were in Kfar HaYarok, a kibbutz style high school in Israel; he died touching people’s lives and making a difference. He died in Uganda while on a beautiful mission of his own creating. If you want to know more, here is an initial link that can lead you to more information. (http://abc7chicago.com/news/chicago-filmmaker-killed-in-uganda-crash/1673697/ and http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/chicago-filmmaker-david-steiner-killed-in-uganda-bus-crash/http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/chicago-filmmaker-david-steiner-killed-in-uganda-bus-crash/)

David and I lost touch after I left Kfar HaYarok, we weren’t initially close as teens, but he was someone who could light up any room he entered. Even as a teen, he stood for what he believed in and did the work that needed to be done.  In fact, one of my favorite memories of him was when he worked in the refet, with the cows. If memory serves me correctly, he woke up really early to take care of his calves and then was there whenever the mamas were birthing their babies.  David was always where he needed to be.

One of the clearest memories I have of David is that he made every person feel like they counted. And I do not believe that ever changed. Even when we re-connected about six years ago, he became present and available like no time had ever passed. He was so much better than I was at keeping in touch and managing his life.

In this moment, I am devastated for his loved ones and for all of us that at one time or another were touched by David’s presence in this world. I feel like my heart has been crushed, so I can’t imagine how his closest beloveds are coping.

Life isn’t always an easy package to navigate. We change. We grow. We evolve. If we are lucky, we honor how the new road emerges. We develop the skills and work tirelessly to be the best we can be. That is how I see David.

While I was licking my wounds at a failed marriage, job instability, and not living up to my dreams, David chose to consciously live life by opening his eyes and diving into the possibilities with the brilliance that made him the amazing human being he was.

And what I will miss more than anything is the possibilities that he represented. I always felt like spending time with him now would be amazing!!! We didn’t have the opportunity to reconnect in person, but we shared ideas, writings, and life from a distance. We were in touch. I was in closer touch with him because he would often pick up the phone or message me to ask my opinion, share an article, or make sure he was thoughtfully navigating a sticky situation.

At the moment, I am feeling a deep sense of loss. The heart-wrenching pain in my gut is paralyzing and yet I know I need to water some of the seeds that David planted. No problem there, I can’t stop shedding tears.  David found so many ways to make the world a better place. My hope and my prayer is that I can embody one spark of the passion and beauty that fueled David’s essence.

Shalom Chaveri (Good-bye my friend), you will forever be missed.

(Note: I want to thank Laura Smolar, a dear friend, who was kind enough to let me know before I found out about David’s untimely death on social media. One of the last things she texted me today was, “Start writing now. . .don’t wait….go, go now!!!” Little does she know how much she sounded like David who ALWAYS wanted to nudge me to reach more of my potential.)

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