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Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Gilbert’

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In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about our need to keep fear out of the driver’s seat. This is my daily work. Yes, fear is part of nearly every journey, especially when I am traveling in unknown territories. If I let fear drive me, I will either be stopped before I get very far or perhaps before I even leave the gate. Or I could end up making decisions that leave me treading water instead of moving forward.

As someone who has been significantly challenged by anxiety whenever I am starting something new, I often must do some serious self-talk as part of my kicking fear out of my way. Instead I try to welcome fear by greeting her with love and acceptance and then gently nudging her to the side as I do whatever is scaring me anyway. And in truth, few people know that I wrestle with uncertainty because I tend to embrace the world with two wide open arms and say, Hineini, Here I am! Fear rarely stops me in my tracks.

Since reading Big Magic when it first came out a few years ago, I have been able to better identify when fear has too much control. When that happens, I take a moment to pause, breathe deeply, and proceed intentionally and usually without looking back.

As a young child, I learned that fear is what kept me safe. I was constantly aware that landmines surrounded me wherever I turned. At home, my mother was a loose cannon that could erupt without notice, my neighborhood bullies often left me afraid to go outside, and the realization that I was alone left me with a deep seated need to make safe choices. There was no one to pick me up if I stumbled.

And then for a few years when I was a teenager, I shoved fear out to the way so that I could jump moving trains, embrace all sorts of street drugs, and basically make some of the stupidest life choices possible. Isn’t that what many of us did back then? Life didn’t matter much so I pushed the envelope and did whatever caught my attention.

The self-destructive behavior continued for decades. I would push through fear by doing things like hiking by myself, driving too fast, and inviting people into my life that maybe should stay out of it. Only in the last few years have I begun to understand that these actions were fear driven in a different way. I was afraid of growing old and being alone so I was living like there was no tomorrow or like my last breath could happen at any time.

Today, fear comes from a different place. I fear sudden death or serious illness of my loved ones. I fear abrupt endings of any type. I fear deep sadness when I lose a friend who has simply decided that what we have is no longer what they want. I also fear the devastation that comes when loving partnerships end. I always believe I can’t take it, but I do. Although I must say that another part of me has come to understand that my broken heart can’t take too many more breaks or losses.

My work is to push through my fear when I start telling myself stories that perhaps I am  unlovable or too intense. For the most part, but not always, I am learning that if I feel that someone is backing away from me, I can ask directly if there is truth to the story that I am telling myself or if it is something else. Usually it is something else altogether. On a rare occasion, I need to accept the inevitable and move forward.

In the coming days, I am going to take an idea from one Liz Gilbert’s readers. I am going to start writing my many fears on a chair by gluing or mod-podging strips pieces of paper with actual fears written on it. This way, I can metaphorically place my fears on the chair instead of letting them take up space in my spirit.

I got this – one breath at a time!

Onward with love, light, and blessings,

Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, And if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Life is really messy.

Around every corner there are ups and downs. Moments when you are soaring and moments when you are flopping around like a fish out of water. And if you are intense like me, it may feel like your life is bouncing around as quickly as some people can flip a coin.

Sometimes I wonder if I walk the world this way because my childhood didn’t teach me many tools for coping with life’s grit. And as a young adult and later a young mother, I learned to live as a chameleon. I buried many of my emotions and did what was expected of me. And for the most part I pulled it off fairly well. Or at least I think I did. Of course, what do I really know about how I was received by others.

To be transparent, my life has probably always been far from normal. As a young newly married woman, I faced nine miscarriages, several failed adoption attempts, an adoption, buried my parents, navigated serious illnesses for my children, employment struggles for the family breadwinner, and so much more.

Nonetheless, I engaged in living and doing whatever needed to be done to propel my family forward, support my community, and keep a smile on my face. I simply plugged away at living. I am not sure that I found it easy because interspersed with some really tough moments, but I had dinner on the table every night. We welcomed people into our home nearly every Shabbat. I cooked meals for those who were ill and organized our community to help families in the midst of health crisises. I even kept my home  clean, laundry done, and always held down a part time job.

I had an I can do ANYTHING spirit, only inside that is not how I felt. I used to wonder why everyone in the world could keep their houses clean, nurture their children, and have a full life.  Everyone seemed to do it with an ease that ALWAYS escaped me. It is only since I started following social media closely that I realized that I was never alone. All of us have our own personal struggles.

Fortunately social media, Oprah, and podcasts have helped me realize that I am so not alone in this very real struggle. Only over the last five or so years have I  been introduced to the wisdom of three people that rock my world as creatives because of how honestly they shared their struggles of living in the messy middle. They inspire people to:

  • Live in the “marvelous messy middle”. ~ SARK
  • “Embrace the glorious mess that you are.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert

And to understand:

  • “Life is brutal. But it’s also beautiful. Brutiful, I call it. Life’s brutal and beautiful are woven together so tightly that they can’t be separated. Reject the brutal, reject the beauty. So now I embrace both, and I live well and hard and real.” ~Glennon Doyle

Each of these amazing women choose to share their personal journeys of living in the midst of life’s sometimes very challenging realities while being aware that moving forward doesn’t always present us with easy solutions for living according to what society deems “normal”. They continually inspired me (and still do) to show up in my world as authentically as possible.

Hiking BootsI feel blessed to now walk with ease in my own messy middle and the outer banks too. While it took me over fifty years to emerge fully as myself. I ultimately found my voice through writing, chanting, drumming, and only in the last year through painting little cards.  I am the woman I am because how I have chosen to navigate my own rocky paths.  I am so grateful that I learned to live out loud by sharing my life experiences without apology, accepting that I don’t fit into any box, and loving myself for who I am.

I have also done some really hard stuff including leaving the traditional Jewish community, moving cross country with my sons, divorcing my husband, and publicly changing my name when I realized my parents lost their right to name me.  I wanted a name that honored who I am today, so I gave myself one.  I am Chava Gal-Or. Chava means life because I am a woman who thrives regardless of what sh*t crosses her path and I become empowered by whatever life tosses in my direction. Gal-Or means wave of light; this is my reminder not only to be light, but to find the light in whoever and whatever crosses my path. Perhaps the hardest thing I am doing right now is sharing my life stories via my writing; I am not holding back, I am diving deep and navigating some really harsh realities that have lead me to rise as the woman I am.

Yes, I live in the messy middle. I feel deeply. I struggle to breathe when life overwhelms me. I often believe I don’t do enough to make our world a better place. I wonder if I love enough and do enough for my family, my work, my beloved friends, etc. I struggle with believing that I am worthy and yet I understand that the Inner Demon speaks loudly to me and it is my job to show up and keep showing up. On a good day, I quiet that voice and stretch my arms wide open to life. On a bad day, the demon wins, but I push forward anyway. I am learning.

Living in the messy middle has become a norm for me and I am OK with that. I am “perfectly imperfect” as Anne Lamott would say.  Hineini, Here I am!

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, And if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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(Note: This blog is full of raw honesty and may be hard for some of my beloveds to read. Please don’t feel obligated. With my 53rd birthday on the horizon, I am being to drawn to share an awareness that has been emerging over the last month as I have been writing for my upcoming book, Thriving: No Option.)

img_2681As a young child, I saw my father as my knight in shining armor. I adored him with every fiber of my being. I could never get enough time with him. Never. Wherever he went, I wanted to follow. His love for people and music was so contagious that I followed in his footsteps. He adored me and showed me in so many ways. But in truth, he didn’t show me in the most important way he should have. He left me navigating a life of pure unadulterated darkness. My father was the first man to leave my spirit shattered. A cycle that I’ve allowed to perpetuate itself time and time again.

While there is no question that my father loved me, he didn’t keep me safe. In fact, his silence permanently scarred me by allowing me to be regularly beaten, verbally assaulted, and ultimately raped. It is only recently, that the full impact of his actions and inactions have left my spirit gasping for air.

How could a man that loved me as my father did allow my own mother to beat me? How could a man that loved me as he did stay with a violent and mentally ill woman instead of providing a safe place to call home. My mother’s violence lead me into foster care and into the hands of a man that would rape me. My best friend’s family wanted to take me as their foster child, but I knew enough to say no even though I couldn’t stop the initial assaults.

My father might have been able to make a difference if he had been stronger, but that wasn’t my father. Instead I never learned that I was worthy of love and care. . . not really.

A few weeks ago, I was stung by the onslaught of this very  unwanted realization. Since then my sleep has been troubled and I have found myself shedding tears at some of the most inopportune moments. The nightmares and clenched teeth of my sleep have become unwanted guests. Although, as soon as I identified what was going on, the healing began.

At first, my awareness was about what my father had done and not done, but later I was stunned by what has become an even more problematic realization. The first relationship I ever had with a man overshadowed every interaction with men that followed. Instead of finding loving relationships with men that loved and cared for the person I was, I found loving relationships that ultimately left me hurting. How could it have been any different, I didn’t know how I needed to be cared for and loved. Besides that, relationships can be challenging. . .especially when they are ending.

The men were not intentionally hurtful,  I think I just struggled more because of the baggage I was holding. I lacked the inner strength to navigate reality.  Some relationships aren’t right or meant to last. Some relationships offer you the most treasured packages, but not forever. I believe that that’s life. The challenge is that my heart and spirit just didn’t have the grace when it was time to release old loves so that we could both move as we needed.

Today, I know this: I want someone to hold me when I need to cry inconsolable tears. I want to be loved through the pain of major surgery. I want someone who loves me when my entire being is on overload and I am celebrating both silly successes and major programs. I want to love someone who can listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s wisdom and “embrace the glorious mess that I am.”

I have chosen people that can’t show up for me, but that cycle is breaking now.

Hineini, Here I am!!!

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS – I am sad that my father never kept me safe or loved the fullness of my spirit, but my responsibility to make healthy choices now. I learned a lot from my beloved father. I am just sorry I learned some really hard lessons too.

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Elul Reflections: Coming soon

December 2016 - looking out into water

I BELIEVE IN LIVING CONSCIOUSLY AND ALWAYS BEING REAL. This isn’t easy. You see, like all of us, I have many roles in my life. I am a mother, a sister, a friend; I am an educator, a community leader, and an activist; I am a woman, a thriver, and an intuitive. AND I am also a writer, a chanter, and a drummer; I embrace life with open arms and a passionate neshama, soul.  My creative and spiritual essence craves the freedom to share the fullness of who I am in all that I do.

According to Glennon Doyle, being real means getting ‘naked and unashamed’. While this leaves me vulnerable, it also gives me the wings I need to fly higher than I have ever flown before. Am I scared to unveil my core as a way to touch those that trip over my writings? ABSOLUTELY! My friend Diane Foushée (z’l) inspired me to reach deeply into my soul and share the fullness of my thoughts with my friends and readers. Until a couple months before her sudden death, I had no idea that she looked forward to the two times a year that I shared my journey as a seeker. During those times, I write a daily blog as I take the time to actively self-reflect and unveil my deepest thoughts.

Last year, I was too sad to write my daily Elul Reflections; although I did write a couple. Without Diane, I didn’t want to write.  I also didn’t know if my writing impacted anyone.  This feeling has changed. Over the last month, I have been blessed to have friends tell me how I have impacted their lives in a positive way.  Those friends have given me the courage to dive into sharing from my heart. As we move into Elul, the time of reflection just before the Jewish New Year, I will return to my writing practice that provided the sacred space to become more aligned as the woman I am. I will embrace the world with an open heart and a willingness to reach to a healthier and more balanced place in all that I navigate. I will share the rawness of my spirit with the gifts and challenges that are part of my reality.

As a ‘TRUTH TELLER’ and a writer, I want to weave my words and share my soul.  Join me.

Elul Reflections: Sharing My Inner Soul – Will begin Tuesday evening, August 22nd.

(Note: I have been impacted by some amazing writers and thinkers over the past couple of years. Glennon Doyle coined ‘truth teller’ and helped me through her podcasts to better understand what it means to be ‘naked and unashamed’. I am here!!! Hineini!

Other writers include Anne Lamott, Rebecca Solnit, SARK, Sheryl Sandberg (all from the Bay area – WOW!) and Elizabeth Gilbert, Brené Brown, Danielle LaPorte, Martha Beck, among so many more. I read their books, listen to their podcasts and strive to embody their wisdom. If I ever say something and do not honor them by annotating their work, please forgive me. Over time I have realized that so much of how they think has entered into my subconscious.)

 

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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.)

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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Elizabeth Gilbert rocks my world. She inspires me to look deeply at all that I am and some of what I am not. She makes me laugh and she reminds me that I need to strive to make my true spirit emerge.

Ever since reading Eat Pray Love, I have been transformed and I have continued to transform. Through reading it, I realized that all of us can create experiences that move themselves forward. And when I am really honest with myself, I realize that I am on that list.

About a year ago, maybe more, I became reacquainted with Liz Gilbert when I tripped over her on Facebook.  Each of her posts caused me to reflect as well as yearn to create. My life started to become even brighter because I entertained the possibility that I really could be creative, not only as a writer, but as a visual artist too.

With the book, Big Magic on the horizon, Gilbert teased her followers with her sayings, her teachings, and her podcasts; she personally galvanized me to reach inside myself and nurture my creative soul and even my spiritual being.

To say that I am feeling positively energized and profoundly more whole as I allow myself the space to become who I really am is an understatement. AND YET, it is really hard work. Sometimes it hurts to realize what you need to do and how far away I am from where I want to be, my roots.

Life is a never-ending journey. My job is to listen to the words of Rainer Maria Rilke:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

By openly embracing the possibility of living ‘into the answer’ and by really doing the work I need to do, I can grow and be an even healthier version of me.

This mindset has caused me to go inward a lot over the last year. But sometimes I am surprised by ferocity that comes when I am struck by the right teaching at the right time. As I was writing a blog that I was calling, I Wish, Liz Gilbert posted a beautiful and poignant piece that she call NOT THIS on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/GilbertLiz/photos/a.356148997800555.79726.227291194019670/1002190543196394/?type=3&theater

My response to this piece was,

I needed to internalize this. . .

I made some very challenging NOT THIS decisions in the last few years. . .it is hard to get up and breathe deeply when facing the fears, and yet. . . .I am exactly where I need to be in this moment EVEN as I have a few more NOT THIS things going on in my life.

Tears are running down my face and I am SO OK!

When I say that Liz’s original post took my breath away, that is not an understatement. Since yesterday, I have not been able to shake the feeling that instead of writing I Wish, I needed to write my own version of NOT THIS!

There are some non-negotiables that are shaping up in my life. My comfort zone is not as comfortable as I’d like. While I am fortunate enough to be in the perfect place for me at this time, I am also realizing that I need to make this place even better.

NOT THIS! has to become more of my motto even as I do the work of becoming more grounded in the person I really want to be.

Rocks from Sedona

Rocks from Sedona

One thing that I love about my life is how doors open exactly when the time is right and messages unveil themselves when I need them most. If Liz Gilbert’s Facebook note was not enough, I also received a gift that caused me to cry even more.

Rocks!!!

Many of my friends know that I love rocks because I often ask those who are traveling to bring me home or mail me a rock that they find on their vacations. Rocks remind me to stay grounded in the beauty of what is as I reach for what will be. So when I opened the mail to find my friend Carol’s gift, it reinforced that I really do need to remain grounded even as if the growing pains sometimes feel overwhelming.

Looking forward to turning more of NOT THIS! into more of YES – THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANT!

May we all find the messages we need at the right time! I got this!! Do you?

 

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