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Our Bodies Tell UsWaking up this morning, my body had so many messages it was screaming at me. And for the first time in a long time I am listening.

While I slept well, I woke too early with a bad cramp in my leg. With my spirit in a good place, I simply chose to move slowly, drink a ton of water and stretch. Upon reflection, I realized that I have been so absorbed with everything other than my heath that I have been neglecting my stretching and other self care. For someone that was told I would need more back surgery within a year of my surgery a few years ago, I can never let my guard down. I have to remain vigilant in taking care of myself.

I am giving myself 30 days to change the trajectory. If i can’t, I will need to return to my orthopedist for an MRI. I think this could be serious, but can be renegotiated with self care. The funny thing is. . .I  am actually relieved to focus on self care. 

My body isn’t the only thing that needs nurturing. My entire being is feeling raw and struggling. I have my hands, my heart, and my spirit in a wide range of areas from human rights, to racial and economic equality, to climate change, to immigrants/asylum seekers, to domestic violence, to education, to homelessness, to local politics, and to world politics especially around Israel. I also am being drawn to my writing my book Thriving: No Option. . . and creating healing retreats that will be birth as my book is being birthed.

Yesterday I realized that I also needed to go back to painting my little cards daily.  When I painted my little cards on a regular basis, my entire being was more creative and I could negotiate my funks with so much more ease. I am simply not doing what I need to do to remain centered and grounded in the holy work of living.  

What’s actually funny is that a couple of weeks ago I wrote, “Our bodies often tell us what we need to hear. Our job is to lean in and listen.” I was so proud of this reflection that I created the little picture/card above. Yesterday I was reunited with the card and realized that I need to listen to my own wisdom.

Yes, the world is feeling broken, but I have to figure out how I can best show up in the world while seriously taking care of my own physical and emotional needs. Who knows maybe I can even begin taking some time to make healthy food from scratch.

Today I am listening to the many messages that I have been hearing. I will be stretching more, creating more, taking more naps, and nurturing my body. Today and through the coming days, I will allow myself the space to do nothing.

Mostly I will allow the for a little more quiet in my soul. Perhaps in the coming days I will also figure out how I can best show up in the world while also loving myself with more conviction.

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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red yahrzeit candle26 years ago, I buried my mother. I remember one relative telling me she didn’t understand why I was so sad, but I was. As tough as my relationship with my mother was, I knew that once I buried her, I would never be able to make it better.

Over the last 26 years, I have faced some of the horrific memories and found ways to heal. The work is relentless, but the benefits are great. I am blessed to have found ways to navigate the darkness and friends that will listen to me on the rare days when the weight of my pain is too heavy to carry. The good news is that those days are few and far between.

For me, I have found that healing has happened on so many levels. I no longer feel deep anger or sadness on a regular basis. Time has been good to me. Sharing my story has helped me detach and move forward. I can now go months without thinking of the impact of her choices or feeling a physical reaction to my memories of her.

Through her actions, my mother taught me how to be a loving soul and a good mother. I knew I never wanted to mother like her or to lose control of myself to addiction. While I am not perfect, I am good enough and sometimes I am even good!

Changing my name so many years ago was the beginning of my healing journey. Writing, chanting, and drumming helped me dig deeper. Healing from domestic violence does not happen without taking many deep breaths, releasing the tears, and even allowing the nightmares to visit each night.  You have to go through the pain in order to find a softer landing, a better place.

Tonight I am missing the possibilities that were lost upon my mother’s death, but I am also feeling immense gratitude that I am exactly where I am. I may be sad in this moment, but it is the sadness that comes each yahrzeit (anniversary of a death) and each Mother’s Day.

The tears are cleansing. My heart is no longer broken. And I am breathing deeply.

Sadness happens. Healing happens too.

 

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“It is not up to us to complete the task
(of repairing the world).
Yet neither are we free to desist.”
~Pirikei Avot 2:21

Making a difference matters to me. With every ounce of my being, I realize that taking care of not only myself, but my community and the larger world have to become the forefront of my existence.  While I have done my part, I truly believe I need to do more.

ChavaWithKippah21Nov2015

Don’t get me wrong, I know that I haven’t done nothing to make the world a better place. I have given many dogs a safe home for the remainder of their lives; I have opened my home to a homeless, pregnant woman and her toddler, as well as those that needed a place to stay for a long while; the environment and making conscious living choices have guided my every step; human rights is always being addressed in my shopping choices, my politics, and my teaching others. As much as possible, I walk the walk and I talk the talk. I’ve started a nonprofit and stood up for what I believed in.

I have also had years when I had to step back and take care of my family more than the world around me.  Those years were hard because I always felt like I wanted to do more, but that just wasn’t reality. There were years when I stood by my son’s hospital bed so that he would one day thrive again. And he did.  And the best part of that journey is that he now actively engages in the journey, as does his younger brother. We all do our best to make the world a better place.

Over the last few months, I have been settling in my new home in a new city, Houston.  As is often the case, many of us compartmentalize during transitions. I was no different.  But the last few weeks has created a sense of despair for me. Our presidential candidates have been talking about immigrants, refugees, and the Muslim people as if they were the lowest of human beings. I have hated watching victims turned into villains.

Politicians want to turn the Syrian refugees back to the brutality of their homeland.  How disgusting!!!!

Last night, as I was feeling despondent over the realities of the Syrian refugees, I received an email from MoveOn.org telling me about a local rally, Texas Stands With Syrian Refugees.

YES!!!

I couldn’t believe how driven I felt to go. Even the questionable weather didn’t matter.  Nothing could stand in the way of my desire to go to THIS rally. Over the last week, I have written letters, called politicians, but still I felt like I needed to do more and I also felt so alone with each task.

Earlier this week my older son asked me if we would do our part to help the refugees and I said ‘absolutely’. There is no question that I will help if I can figure out how.  I barely have what I need and yet I would open my home in EVERY way I could.  Our family may be struggling, but we really do have all of our needs met.

Over the last decade, I have stood up against domestic violence, Darfur, Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, slave labor, and consumerism.  I have helped all sorts of people in all sorts of situations. I have also done my part to care for our environment and animals – although not enough.

But this past week pushed me over the edge. I found myself feeling such intense pain for those that need so much. Every fiber of my being was yearning to hang with people that believed as I did, people that wanted to help those in need of help.  So receiving the email talking about the rally was perfect.

In truth, yesterday’s action felt more poignant, maybe even personal, then many of the3 cultures 21Nov2015 other actions I have participated in over the years.

In case you are wondering why. . . . Back in the late 1920’s or early 30’s, my father’s family escaped from Kiev. Pogroms could have crippled his family, but they never actually succeeded. Instead my grandfather Yidel, his wife Esther, and their two children Jack and Phil made it to Canada where they survived and even thrived having two more children, my father-Morry and his little brother Sid. Had they not escaped, they would have potentially died or suffered great losses. While my father’s immediate family survived, there were many people that were left behind and some of those were killed because they did not have the ability to reach freedom.  As a matter of fact, there is no that we know of who was left behind or that has survived to this day. Between the pogroms and the Holocaust, the only family that survived were the ones that got away.

To make it simple, my brother and I are alive today because my father’s family got away.  Had my grandfather stayed in Kiev, my brother and I would never have been born.

Chava with Federico Salas-Isnardi and Donna Olson-Salas. 21Nov2015

From left to right, Donna Olson- Salas and Federico Salas-Isnardi with me at Texas Stands With Syrian Refugees Rally

What I am learning about our my socially active journey is that none of us could do what we do alone. Today, I connected with passionate people who were willing to do their part to make a difference. None of us are islands. With the political climate what it is today, I am so grateful for the new friends and my friends all over the globe that are doing their part.

“We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims.”
R. Buckminster Fuller

A few years ago, I created a nonprofit called My Second Foundation for adult survivors (or what I call thrivers) of childhood trauma. What I learned during the initial process of creating my organization is that you need a village. While I am only now starting to consider how to fully make my nonprofit thrive, I have learned that we all need to help those that are struggling. There is nothing acceptable about anyone suffering from violence of any type or poor health due to poverty.  We have enough resources in this world to keep people safe, so we all need to do our part.  It really is not optional.

And as for me, I am also choosing to do whatever I can to make sure that the human race does not perpetuate another genocide if at all possible. Haven’t there been enough?

Yesterday’s action seemed so simple, but with our current political climate and the ‘limited’ thinking of many, our village needs to stand firm and do WHATEVER we can to save a life. And let’s make sure there is NO QUESTION!

STAY LOUD. STAY CLEAR….REFUGEES ARE WELCOME HERE!

All lives matter!

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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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Blogging is what I do.  I love writing and sharing my heart, my mind, and my soul.

Reflection Time Selfie

Reflection Time Selfie

If this is your first time reading this series of my blog, please take a moment and read the introduction Elul Journey: A New Year Is Emerging – 5775  http://t.co/Y6vmXdO6GJ

Today is 21 Elul or 9 days until 5775; it is a time to reflect and to choose ways in which I can best move towards the High Holy Days and the days that follow.  While it is not easy to navigate life’s journeys, I always get to decide how to approach my life.  In this moment, I am choosing to walk gently and embrace each step with openness.  As I say this, I also realize that this would be a good time for a reality check.

During each blog post of my Elul Journeys, I will share a poem, a saying, a teaching that has helped me navigate the world.  Let me know what you think!

~ ~ ~

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Quote by Fred Rogers

~ ~ ~

Sometimes life is hard.  Murders.  Tsunamis.  Job loss. Terrorism.  Genocide. Domestic violence. Homelessness. Unanswered prayers.

And yet, with each loss and with the drama that can sometimes be part of life, there are angels that make a difference for good.  There are people that will drop what they are doing in order to make the handling of a disaster a little less painful.  There are people that are in the midst of suffering that will still try to help others.  Some of us show that we care by offering money, a smile, a hand; some of us do nothing, but many of us do what we can.

Throughout my life, I have been supported and loved by strangers as well as loved ones.  My life wouldn’t be what it is today if people hadn’t helped me along the way.  Even today, I am feeling myself held as I need to navigate some difficult struggles.  And even today and throughout every stage of my life, I have done and continue to do what I can for others.  It really is an amazing gift to be on either side of this scenario.

At some point in our lives, we may need someone to help us navigate life’s harsh realities, may we be blessed to have that person appear with a large enough net.  And may each of us make a difference for good when someone needs us.

With blessings and light,
Chava

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(Creating the Toolbox for Healing and Transformations will be a series of blog entries to introduce tools that I have utilized in my healing journey as well as tools I hope to utilize with My Second Foundation,  a non-profit organization for healing and transformation using retreat settings.)

“Good timber does not grow with ease; the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.”–J. Willard Marriott

Intense pain. Abandonment. Loneliness. Violence. At those moments, breathing hurts. And then comes the blessing. . .

Healing.

Inner peace. Survival. Transformation. Thriving. At these moments, I surge with gratitude. My world didn’t collapse in despair.

Sometimes the collision between memories and healing takes my breath away; sometimes I want to weep intensely and acknowledge the tortuous darkness. And sometimes I want to forget. And still other times, I want to soar and scream out from the mountains that I am a live. I am pure and full of life. No one shattered my spirit; no one drop-kicked me down into the valley, succeeding in my demise. I am a vibrant being.

When the memories bubble up, I struggle. How could I not? Reaching into my soul I have to find the strength to keep moving forward and more importantly to thrive. What I have come to know over the years is that once I acknowledge the very real feelings and sensations around my childhood memories, I can move through them much easier. When I hold them in I sink into a sadness that penetrates the deepest part of my soul.

Last month, I faced some new demons. The person who teased me relentlessly about coffee had no idea initially how crippling his words were; he probably still has no real idea. When I allow myself the room to remember, I can still smell how my mother tormented with coffee grinds among other things.

The beautiful reality is that the memory has now stayed with me for a few weeks, but it hasn’t devastated me. When you are a victim of both domestic violence and other violence, the realizations might return sometimes frequently and sometimes very infrequently. What I have come to learn is that I can decide how I will meet the memory at the door. Mostly, I embrace the memory and try to get to know it and then I release it out of my life. To move through the difficult memories I write, I draw, work with my hands, I cry, I walk, I chant, and sometimes I share my stories. The key to moving forward is consciously choosing to walk through the pain and into the beauty that surrounds me today.

What kind of toolbox works for you?

 

This year, I am birthing a non-profit organization called, My Second Foundation. My Second Foundation will utilize alternative and traditional forms of healing and transformation for adults that have experienced childhood trauma. With the help of many professionals, participants will create their own toolbox for healing and transformation. My plan is to launch this organization over the summer with my first mini-retreat.

For me, life has been a gift, but this realization would not be possible if it weren’t for utilizing writing, drawing, movement, chanting, etc. in my toolbox for healing and transformation. Walking through the many journeys of life is what I do. May we all be blessed to create a toolbox that can accompany this very long trek. These tools are good for living; all of us can emerge from challenging moments by building our own toolbox.

Shadows are possible because of the light that surrounds an area where there is an obstruction. So the goal that I have for myself as I walk is to remember to stay out of my way as I walk into the light. May the same be true for all of us!

With blessings and light,

 

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