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Flooding 1Life is forever altered.

(Note: Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant address this again and again in their book, Option B. If you haven’t yet read it, rush to purchase it and embrace the wisdom.)

No one ever wakes up one day expecting a moment (or many moments) can change the course of life, but sometimes it happens. For us living in Houston, Hurricane Harvey did the job.

Option B is my new norm and has been for just over a week. Although, it has only been over the last few days that I am feeling the long-term impact. Our new norms have left me unable able to take a deep breath (literally); I have, at least temporarily, shed the calm armor of grace and bravery.  AND I do know that at some point soon calm waters will appear. I have faced enough challenges in my life to trust that somehow I always find a way to navigate new norms.

Here is just a short list of how life has been altered:

  • The air quality is making it difficult to breathe.
  • Four or five hours of driving time have been added onto our daily commute. Although we will be looking for ways around this.
  • The possibility of flooding is a constant fear. With water levels so high. . .
  • While Houstonians are resilient, they are also bone weary.
  • Time to take care of myself via exercise and whole food cooking is gone. Although, a recent physical has dictated that I make some significant changes.

These are the biggies, but their are so many more.

Last night, the new realities hit me or should I say sucker punched me – knocking all the air out of me. The good news is that today, I am reflecting on how to navigate the new norms without allowing a sense of despondency to envelop me – Option B. I have NO doubt that my family will find new norms that work and a healthy new center.

Keep sending your prayers and sweet visions our way!

Even with the stress, I am immensely grateful.  We have our home and I have a widespread village to support me. While the harshness of the new landscape is not easy to integrate into my life, I am hoping that those that love me will be able to handle that I am a little more sensitive than usual.

Maneuvering Option B is going to take some time, but it is happening – a little by little each hour. And the only way that I can do it is with my amazing village by my side.  While my village is extraordinary, I want to share some insights and advice for better supporting me.

  • Sometimes I just need a ‘witness’ to listen.
  • Being transparent on Facebook is what I do, if you want to know how I am. . .check out my status; it will probably let you know exactly how I am.  AND for the meantime, I will continue to do my Facebook Live at 5 (or as close to 5 as I can).
  • While I know that I didn’t lose my house or anything of significance, this new norm is hell. I don’t need to be reminded that I should be grateful. I am. AND I am also acutely aware that Hurricane Harvey is even more devastating for others. Still, I have a right to feel as I feel.
  • Suggesting that I take care of myself doesn’t serve either of us well. In the early days of the disaster, I was constantly on the phone and connecting with those in need. Drumming and chanting would have been great, but when I had time, I needed to sleep/rest. The one thing I do multiple times a day is journal. Trust that I will find the pockets of time and embrace them. Telling me to take the time is a reminder that time is not what it once was. And hearing that again and again by the same people makes me crazy.
  • Social media offers so many gifts. At any moment, I may choose to engage or disengage, that is my prerogative.  I love the support of it, the information I glean, the sayings, the inspirations, and stories/music shared.  Telling me to unplug is infuriating; I am more than capable of deciding what I need to do at any moment.
  • While I love the support that surrounds me, I am fairly clear about what I need. If I ask you to connect with me or not in a certain way, please listen. I won’t be demanding or disconnected for long.

The vulnerability I feel right now can be earth shattering at times. The new norms petrify me. I can’t explain it all just yet, but I will over time. I am comfortable with transparency, but I am hurting right now and I am not always clear that I have the resiliency to navigate.  Yet I have a long history of thriving and my guess is that Hurricane Harvey will be no different.

Hineini, here I am, riding the waves. . . .  I don’t have Option A any longer, so Option B will simply have to do.

A few days ago, I shared that I am finding myself creating and humming a lot of niggunim, wordless melodies. There really are no words to adequately describe the mixture of emotions that each and every person in Houston is feeling. Today was my first effort in writing.

Moving forward. . .

Tell me, what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life?

~Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

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December 2016 - looking out into waterNote: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5777, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-2NA)

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This weekend has been wild. Seriously wild. Our family had to do so much to prepare for a short term guest that had the capacity to destroy our sacred space. I am sure you have had guests like that.

Anyway, our visitor is/was none other than Hurricane Harvey.

We had to do so much to prep for his visit. We had to purchase the perfect foods, sandbag our garage so that it wouldn’t flood as it normally does when the rain comes pouring down on Houston. We also had to gather our most important documents and collect things upstairs that we wanted to keep safe.

The stress was tremendous because car trouble had taken my excess money. Money is always tight, but natural disasters, health challenges, and car trouble are three things that remind me of how difficult it is to navigate life’s expenses. And my sons and I have had all three – again and again – over the last few months. Regardless of how much we struggle financially, we still had to prepare for our guest. His timing may have not been the best, but he was expecting to make landfall on Shabbat whether we wanted him or not.

To say, I was overwhelmed is an understatement. AND yet, I was also acutely mindful of how fortunate I am. We have a home, important documents, and what we need. And when I was deciding whether my sons and I would stay or go, I had friends offering me money, hotel points, their homes, and wisdom/insight. I even had a friend let me know that she has a basement that she is willing to open up to my sons and I on a more permanent basis if needed. I had this amazing village that lifted me up and created a safe container.

As a side note, it was the love that was flowing from old friends, new friends, and even social media friends that sustained me when despondency threatened to take over. As someone who doesn’t remember a lot of love as a child, I sometimes have a horrible default mode that leaves me spiritually untethered and feeling alone. But waking up to a sweet text from a beautiful childhood friend helped me re-focus the despondency; she offered to send me $500 so that my family would seek higher/safer ground. Wow.

We decided to stay home, but the offers of help continue to come. I am awed by the love that continues to flow. AND I am keenly aware that even when I become overwhelmed, I have friends that are there to be program managers, supporters, and listeners.

Maddie out backAnd since before the rain started to fall, we have barely gone an hour without a call, a text, a Facebook message asking if  we were doing ok. How beautiful is that?!?!?! And on a bit of a silly note, when I went on Facebook requesting “the best rain and water songs”, I received nearly 60 responses with suggested songs in a couple of hours . 🙂

Over the coming days, I will add more insight that I have received from this experience, but for now I want to take note of what it means to be a beloved friend. My family is truly surrounded by extraordinary souls.

During this time of Elul, I am charged with remembering to be loving and full of light like the village that surrounds me. I wouldn’t be the woman I am if it weren’t for the love that flows so freely within my world.

Sending love, light, and insight,
Chava

 

 

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December 2016 - looking out into water
(Note: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5777, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-2NA)

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“What we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human.” 
~ Brené Brown*

I love fiercely; I hurt deeply; I feel joy with every fiber of my body; I am what I am.

For the most part, the outside world sees me as reasonable and grounded. Maybe I am. AND I am also extraordinarily emotional that I have to remember to breathe into any emotion.

Loving life as I do comes at a cost. Intensity and passion run through my veins. This means that those that love me (including myself) have to  navigate minefields as well as pure exhilaration. I feel with my entire being. And when I feel comfortable, I literally share my whole self.

The minefields are probably the hardest to navigate. Sometimes I wonder what the hell just exploded inside me. At the same time, I love that I can take a ‘time out’ to catch my breath and become more reasonable. While my outbursts tend to be quick, the furious nature of them aren’t easy to navigate.

When my spirit soars, it is really quite enchanting. The electrifying energy is so life affirming and contagious. I absolutely love when my positive energy touches those around me. Sometimes I wonder who feels better after these exchanges; I love that it seems to be mutual.

I don’t remember always being able to honor my feelings in this way, but I sure do feel blessed to feel comfortable enough inside of myself today.

As grateful as I am that I walk through the world as I do, I also struggle. Feeling with ever fiber of my being has a cost. Every morning, I open my eyes and have to remind myself to breathe deeply and trust in the universe. I also have to do everything I can to quiet my mind so that I can better move through the day. On most days, I do this with ease. I get up, I journal so that acknowledge the fullness of where I am, and then I embrace life with open arms and an excitement to see how my personal life will unfold.

This doesn’t mean I forget the world I live in. I never forget that Trump’s venom is sitting in the White House and Netanyahu’s government poisons Israel. I never forget that climate change may destroy our world and that human slavery is alive today. And every continent has horrific disasters that literally destroy life at every turn.

Life’s many moving parts are a reality.  I will always be aware of them and do what I can to make a positive impact while also feeling as intensely as I do. I will also forever feel grateful to my sons who accept all of me (and mostly) accept how I wear my emotions. And I have a few dear friends that are totally present for how I show up. I love that I am (mostly) loved for who I am. That’s pretty awesome considering I can’t be anyone else. 🙂

embrace my scars live my passionAs I was wrapping up this blog, I was notified by Facebook that I shared the following hope card* last year when I posted about My Morning Pages/Writings. I love how this card showed up now.

 

Accepting my own humanity as I try to navigate my many imperfections can be really daunting.  I tend to be really hard on myself especially when anger or deep sadness pour from my soul. At the same time I am embracing the fullness of who I am. I am beautifully imperfect, I am what I am. I am me.

Note:

  1. Quote was from audiobook by Brené Brown from Men, Women, and Worthiness: The Experience of Shame and the Power of Being Enough; 2012.
  2. Courtesy of Bone Sigh Arts and Terri St. Cloud. These Hope Cards have been a gift. Find them: https://goo.gl/uVc1lc

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A Letter to a Friend:

On several occasions you have questioned whether Facebook friends are really listening or whether you are being heard at all. You seemed to be wondering out loud whether Facebook is some sort of alternate reality.

You are not alone in wondering about the power or purpose of Facebook. Since joining Facebook in 2009, I have watched myself evolve in how I connect with the world in large part due to my interactions on this form of social media. We seem to be asking similar questions and perhaps coming to different assumptions.

fb

On a personal level, I have grown to love it!!! At nearly anytime – day or night, I am surrounded by people that jazz my soul, inspire me to be a better person, nurture me when I am down, and/or support me when I need a kick in the tuchus (tush). And sometimes there is little or no real interaction; sometimes friends are just on the ride of life with me. The more direct I am, the more substantial  the help can be. Help has come in the form of information, resources, and/or supportive listening. My response to these interactions have helped me navigate into more healthy connections and out of friendships or connections that no longer serve me.
Facebook is not some sort of alternate reality. It is full of life (gifts and challenges), experiences, politics, information (true and false). People share what they are comfortable with sharing; this is no different than life in any other social realm. People share what they want you to hear and some are more authentic than others. This seems to be the reality whether on the phone with friends, at work, in synagogue or any house of prayer, at the park, or even the local grocery store.
When tough times hit, people can’t always help and don’t know what to say. The same can be said for all interactions.
Finding personal support for me seems to come mostly when I share what is going on and what I am doing about it. When I have been down for too long (which I have), the responses stop showing up with frequency. It doesn’t necessarily feel good, but each of us only have so much time in our lives to deal with our own crap let alone every one else’s crap. Sigh.
Politically, I have had to face that my strong opinions make people uncomfortable. And if someone is a really close friend, we learn to refrain from commenting on political posts or we accept the explosions that follow a ‘confrontation’. AND I have been known to end friendships or lose friendships when passions run deep. I love knowing where I stand with people even when it means that saying good-bye feels like the only option. I don’t have time to hang with people whose values I find troublesome.

I use Facebook to share all of the moving parts of how I walk in the world. I share poetry, sayings, politics, pain, joy, gratitude, and sometimes hell.

For me, Facebook has opened many doors to opportunities for learning, stretching, and connecting. While I love this tool, it is also one tool of many that I use in my life.

With love and light,
Chava

PS – Some examples of how Facebook has added to my life:

  1. Politically now, I have more information at my fingertips.
  2. Advice is always available for the asking!! And sometimes when not asked. 🙂
  3. When I needed a job, opportunities surfaced.
  4. After I lost my job, friends from all parts of my life showed up to help; I am not sure how I would have survived if people didn’t come out of the woodwork.
  5. If I am sad or lonely, depressed or scared, there is always someone who shows up to comfort me.
  6. While many people have profoundly different views from me, there is always someone there to give me a different way of seeing things.
  7. Whenever I post a link to my blog, it gets read. 🙂
  8. Whether I need a place to eat in Houston, a place to stay in Washington DC or a good book to read – Ask and I will end up with a ton of answers.
  9. I have found the best sayings just by lurking on Facebook. Did you know probably have over 70 pages of quotes that I have saved?
  10. AND so much more!!!!!!!

 

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“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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Lori took of Ren crossing the bridge

Photo Courtesy of Lori Fortang taking a beautiful photo of her beloved Ren crossing the bridge.

The world is feeling a little dark lately.

Am I unique in this journey? Nope. . .I am really not. I am surrounded by friends that are grappling in very similar ways; they are actively engaging as seekers who simply want to make the world a better place.

In fact a couple of days ago, I asked my friends via Facebook, “Does anyone else feel like they are ‘on a narrow bridge’?” Twenty-eight people responded with the emoticons (like, love,  sad) and about thirteen people had more to say. The good news and the bad news is that I have now confirmed that I am not alone.

With every fiber of my being I struggle with the harsh realities that continue to permeate our world, the world of those I love, and even my own personal life. Devastation and destruction can be found everywhere. The world’s climate is struggling at every turn. And people I love are in their own depths of despair. Life is hard.

Here is a taste of what is filling my soul:

  • Our political climate is a disaster.
  • How could our Trump have been elected to be our next President?
  • Finances are tight, but we are navigating.
  • How could prejudice and hatred have so much momentum?
  • The Middle East is a disaster and Africa isn’t much better.
  • The Standing Rock Protests in North Dakota Pipeline are breaking my heart. I want to stand with our brothers and sisters. I want to physically support them with my presence.
  • Sometimes I can’t make a difference in the lives of those I love.
  • I am struggling to stay connected with all of life’s moving parts.
  • I could use help cleaning my house.

When I allow the painful rhythm of the world to carry my spirit, I can find myself lost with a sense of unrelenting helplessness. The beauty is that the moments don’t last, but they seem to be surfacing a little too often these days.

This rawness can easily control my spirit if I allow it to.What I have learned over time is that I have to allow the deep sadness to visit, but I also have to do the work to mitigate it. So that is what I am doing by:

  • Surrounding myself with people that nurture my spirit and share my core values.
  • Letting go of “anything or anyone that that does not bring you alive.” David Whyte
  • Embracing the many truths that are part of my life and becoming transparent with each step.
  • Eating better and doing more self care. over a month with nearly no sugar!!! 🙂
  • Standing up for what I believe in!
  • Donating money to causes that move my soul – not a lot, but what I can.
  • Painting and writing, journaling and doodling

With every step, I am actively engaged in the journey of life. Living life fully is not optional; there is too much work to be done. Still some days, I have to listen to the quiet voice that is talking to me and allow for myself to hear the messages of my soul.

Traveling the very narrow bridge means I am moving forward. . . and wow how beautiful is it that I am not alone!

Onward towards the light,
Chava

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Feb 2015  Walking from behind

be softer with you.
you are a breathing thing.
a memory to someone.
a home to a life.

Nayyirah Waheed’s Precious Words

 

 

(Note – Over the coming weeks, I will be exploring the power of social media. The connections I have made and the growth I have experienced has helped me to grow exponentially more than I ever would have before social media touched my life. I want to shout out a special thank you to those that engage in this platform and inspire all of us to stretch and to evolve into even healthier human beings than we already are. I adore my tribe, all of my tribes. )

Transformation. . . I am a work in progress.

Creating a healthy body image has been and continues to be a very real struggle for me. I could probably find someone to blame for my fairly horrific body image – my mother, my childhood neighbors/classmates, or maybe even the media. And yet, that wouldn’t be fair.

Whatever happened in the past or how I have seen women portrayed in the media is irrelevant; I am responsible for who I am today and what I do with my memories and perceptions of the past. It is truly a blessing to be able slowly transform my self image and fall in love with woman I am.

While I still pause when it is time to look at myself in the mirror, I have mostly stopped the negative self talk. I am relieved to know that I no longer feel trapped in these words that I recently found in an old journal:

“If given a choice, I’d much rather not look at myself in the mirror or get on the scale. I’d rather not see a photograph of me or see my reflection over the water. I hate the way that I look. Sigh.”

Over the last several years, I have done the holy work of transforming how I see myself. Five years ago, I shared my health journey via blogging and social media; that was huge for me, I shared information about my diet/lifestyle changes and subsequent weight loss – 65 lbs. Later, I consciously looked at myself in the mirror and actively re-framed how I saw myself. I stopped calling myself fat and started seeing beauty in the person I was. Quietly, I began seeing myself as an Amazon Woman – strong, vibrant, healthy, and physically beautiful. I grew to really love me! And selfies, I learned not only how to take selfies, but to revel in how good I sometimes looked in those photos. I started having fun seeing myself in a photo.

In the midst of my transformation, one of the world’s most radiant souls entered my world.  It was truly an accidental meeting. While living in Tucson, I decided that I had to find a source for purchasing fair trade clothing. Via the internet I found a little photography/dance studio that sold the clothing. The only problem was that the studio was in the midst of transitioning the clothing to another location. I was so bummed because I couldn’t figure out where to find the new store. Jump ahead a week or two, I found Fed by Threads (fedbythreads.com) and then I tripped over the stunning work of Jade Beall, a co-owner to this awesome business. (Note: While Jade’s work as a photographer has helped me see all women, including me, as beautiful. Fed by Threads is a business that values everyone; experiencing the warmth and care of the other co-owner Alok Appadurai has also been transformative.)

Jade was a photographer who captured so many precious women for her book, The Bodies of Mothers: A Beautiful Body Project. Each and every photo had women that were seen as beautiful for the who they were; no photo was altered in any way. The photos showed women in all their glory; stretch marks and post birth bodies alike were celebrated, as they should be.

After finding Jade’s website, http://www.jadebeall.com/, I felt like I met an angel. Not only were her photos full of love for all people, so were her words. From there I started following this incredible soul via Facebook; I couldn’t and still can’t get enough of her energy. She values people deeply; she treasures all life forces. And through viewing how Jade struggles and ultimately embraces her  own journey, I have learned to better embrace my essence and the journey that is part of my being; I have learned to see myself as beautiful.

One of my deepest disappointments about leaving Tucson was leaving Jade Beall without having her photograph me. And I am hoping that the day comes when I can have that opportunity. This amazing photographer has helped heal so many of my open wounds. How awesome to know that I am not alone; there is a stunning tribe of women who have emerged from her love and guidance, her insight and wisdom. It is, in large part, through her work and the love of her Facebook community that I have evolved to where I am today.

I still have a lot of work to do. Transformation is a continuous process.

A car accident this past December triggered a downward spiral that lasted too long. Suddenly I had to face my old demons as my body image plummeted. I stopped taking good care of my body and gained some previously lost weight. Fortunately, over the last several weeks I am again re-framing how I see myself and starting to take control of my health journey. As long as I actively take care of me, I am better able to boost my confidence while becoming more grounded.

The journey is not only about making better life choices, it is also about taking time for my soul through writing, chanting, drumming, and just allowing creativity to flow through me. I am so excited to be emerging from my darkness!!! I am returning to healthier choices and nurturing the woman I am. And I am also reaching out to new and old friends; I am asking for what I need and feeling supported in return.

An important part of my returning to a better place was not about all the changes I was making. Before I could evolve, I had to find my own beauty that what not wrapped up in what the scale told me. I had to love the person – inside and out.

Being transparent is the gift I will continue to give myself; it is ultimately how I will thrive and become a healthier me. I don’t want to hide, I want to open my arms wide and embrace the world as I am while always trying to be the best me possible.

Onward!!!!
Now & Always

 

 

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