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Posts Tagged ‘healing journey’

A friend of mine just send me a quote that resonated to the deepest part of my soul.

The only way you can endure your pain is to let it be painful.
~Shunryu Suzuki , Zen monk and teacher
who helped popularize Zen Buddhism 

After over 11 weeks of pain and now healing, I have a new insight into the rhythm of life. The challenge of dealing with excruciating pain gave me the opportunity to reflect on not only myself, but on the larger wold.

Almost nothing about life is simple or easy; sometimes it is simply hard or feels like too much.

While March’s hell took over my ability to function and forced me to ground myself differently than I ever have, the sadness that permeated my being over the ensuing weeks may have been worse in many ways. With too much time on my hands and an inability to focus on writing, reading, loved ones, or work, I went towards darkness. Sometimes it was as if I was in a very long tunnel; the only problem was that I couldn’t see the other end of the tunnel; I couldn’t see the light.

Even with my beautiful sons, sweet phone calls from loved ones, and a couple of visitors, I felt more alone than I may have felt since my early years. My heart and soul ached with deep loneliness and the world’s politics made me feel hopeless. Even as my body healed, I understood that I was grieving deeply. I was grieving from the lost dreams – personally and globally. With each passing day, the daily beatings left me battered and bruised and sometimes even hyperventilating.

What I learned during the darkest moments was that I couldn’t hide from my pain. There was no cocoon big enough to hold me and no one there to hear the depths of my pain. Although my beautiful sister-in-law reached out to me daily, I wasn’t able to be consoled; I also chose to only share about the physical pain. I believed and still believe that the depth of what I was feeling was too much to put on any one person’s shoulders. So instead, I allowed me the time and space to go through it.

The good news is that I have always found light in the darkness and as the sparks have begun to make room for more and more light, I have slowly become more grounded. With each passing day, calmness emerges and light shines a little more brightly; not only my body is healing, but so is my soul.

The single most valuable tool for healing came from giving my pain a voice. As we all know, it is impossible to sweep boulders under a carpet. I’ve tried, but to no avail. So with perseverance, I started naming my fears and addressing my pain by actively allowing myself the room to feel and even to cry before trying to move mountains.

Even as I share a taste of what was weighing me down, know that I am aware that all is intertwined with each other and nothing stands on it’s own even if it may appear that it does. There are many parts of life’s puzzle that impact each of us; I am no different.

Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.

Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.

All things connect.
~Chief Seattle

“My back hurts!!!!
The physical pain may have been hurled at me the way that bombers explode their targeted locations with precision, but finding the right doctors and medications put me on a healing journey. Surgery probably saved my ability to walk and now physical therapy, yoga, and losing weight will move me to an even better place. My health journey has had horrific moments, but loving practitioners and doctors have made each passing day less painful.

Core Belief Tree June 2017.FinalOnce I started finding ways to navigate the pain, I began to see that my back’s pain was in part due to my need to strengthen my core and better align my soul with my roots (values) while working towards what I really want in my life (the fruits of my labor). I needed and still need to become a healthier and stronger me so that ‘real’ healing can occur on every level. That meant and still means that in order to be healthy I need to better engage with my root values so that my core can thrive. And only through pollination will blossoms sprout fruit. This realization lead me to understand that I had to navigate a lot of moving parts in order to blossom and ultimately see the fruits of my labor. This light bulb moment followed a fabulous online class art class that I took before surgery.

The vision above is what emerged. I have drawn several different versions of this tree and each one brings more clarity.

What the ‘F’ am I going to do? I never have enough money!
As a Jewish Educator and a single mother, money has often been a challenge for me. I have always faced without hesitation and mostly with a positive attitude. It is what it is. Yet. . . .illness, medical bills, and reality got to me during much of my recovery. Still, I tried to seek positive solutions to overwhelming fear.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted the following question on Facebook, “How are you becoming fiscally more socially responsible?” The first response came from someone who believed that this question can only be asked of people that have a means. Initially, I I was asking that question because I literally don’t have enough money to thrive, but yet I really do have what I need-mostly. On most months, I can prioritize, but it is really tight. And getting sick did nothing to make it easier.

My tight budget got tight enough to put me over the edge. With an inability to drive, my sons had to start taking Uber (no good transit system here), I had to buy medications and more medications, I had to meet a deductible that was outside of anything I could afford, and I had to pay co-pays for every doctor’s appointment. And when I needed to go to the ER because I was fighting an infection, I opted out of going; I just didn’t have the mandatory $400 for an ER visit. (Fortunately, my decision to wait until morning worked out just fine.) The good news is that I had a credit card or two; the bad news is that I used them. A tax refund paid off most of the debt and this month, I finished paying off the rest except that left me with barely enough to navigate this month.

Even as I write about my realities, I am so grateful that this is simply a ‘first world problem’. I profoundly aware of how fortunate I really am; I am always ok. I am blessed that one of my sons works and gives nearly every penny towards our household. And while things are tight, I always make it and I always have. Mostly. Are things easy? No. Do I waste much money? Sometimes. . .still I am careful. Was I fortunate enough to navigate the hundreds of dollars that illness has thrown in my direction? Yes. In my illness, I figured out how to pay down payments for surgery, medications, other unexpected expenses.

Regardless of the monthly medical expenses, the doctors and hospital still need to be paid, I am making it and even starting to hope I will have a solid savings plan in place by September if not sooner.  I have food on the table, an ability to cook in a sweet little kitchen, a beautiful home with an amazing landlord, a car (with car payments), and a lovely neighborhood. Basically, I really do have most of what I need/want. I have a beautiful life.

Back to my Facebook question, I believe that everyone of us can make socially conscious financial decisions. Are you directly supporting sweatshops or purchasing your clothing through thrift shops and clothing swaps?  Do you buy chocolate bars at dirt cheap prices or limit yourself to a fair-trade chocolate bar every few months? Are you using the dryer or hanging your clothing on a clothesline or drying rack? When you go to grocery stores or any store, do you use paper or plastic? Perhaps you simply bring your own bags; I know I do. While I am far from perfect, I am trying to make socially conscious decisions at every opportunity and if I am really thoughtful, I am also saving money with each decision.

This month, I am fixated on three very real realities, I want to purchase a compost, I need to put off going to a dentist for a little bit longer, and I am sad that I can’t make all the donations that I want to make. There are a lot of beautiful nonprofits doing amazing work. Let me know if you’d like to give to any my favorite organization; I definitely have a bunch I could suggest. Some of my deepest sadness comes from the fact that I am not giving as I would like or doing enough. But I do know that I am doing the best that I can AND the more I learn, the more I try to make responsible and loving decisions not only for our family, but also for the greater world.

Our World Feels Like It is Falling Apart
Mother Earth is crying. Human beings are being delegitimized based on where they live, the color of their skin, their religion, their socio-economic status, their gender, and/or their sexual orientation. Add these realities to the fact that not only the United States government, the Israeli government, as well as so many other governments are filled with ill equipped leaders who are toxic at the least and seemingly fascist at the worst.

And regardless of how bad it is, I am amazed at the angels that are showing up. Whether at rallies, at organizing meetings, at the offices of elected officials, or on the street, I am meeting passionate people who want to make our world a better place. I have even been touched by elected officials who have integrity and are helping guide those that want to do whatever they can.

Healing My Body, My Mind, and My Soul
I took the weeks needed to heal not only my body, but also my mind and my soul. Admitting that the pain felt overwhelming and I felt alone was the only way to move forward. At times crying cleansed me and sometimes it paralyzed me for a moment or more, but in the end I have worked through the deepest depths of loss. I have allowed myself time to grieve and at times I am allowing myself the space to still grieve. In so many ways it feels like I have nine lives or perhaps twenty-nine lives. 🙂

Living is holy work and I am absolutely up for the task. Hineini, Here I am!

With love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS – To remind me of the power of ‘Choosing Life’, I think back to John Denver’s song, I Want To Live. There is so much beautiful work to do! Are you with me?

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(Note: I love being a mother to my sons, but I rarely think of Mother’s Day from the perspective of being an Ima, a mom,  or a mother.  This is one of the days that causes me to remember my own mother and those memories are far from good ones.)

In my own world! February 2015

Photo Courtesy of Aryeh Grossman; Composition by Marty Johnson

Mother’s Day always makes me sad and often makes me cry.

My own mother was a sick and troubled soul. While the pain she caused might have been only a portion of the pain she felt, the pain she caused left me broken and shattered.

Mother’s Day reminds me that I often feel less than whole. I feel like something will always be missing. Mom often reminded me that I was fat and ugly; mom didn’t know how to love me or nurture my soul.

But I will always remember that my mother gave me life. So while I may have moments when I feel battered and broken, I have always found the resiliency I need to embrace the healing journey.

The pain she caused empowered me to become the person I am. I love life deeply and I treasure my loved ones as well as the world around me. All life forces matter and I live accordingly.

Taking control of my life is a beautiful thing. Over the years, I have found my voice through writing and sharing my stories, I learned how to walk a healthier journey than the one of my birth, and I have grown into the beautiful woman that I am.

While Mother’s Day makes me pause and reminds me of my harsh beginnings with my own mother, it also reminds me of how far I have come.  Perhaps one day, I won’t cry on Mother’s Day. Perhaps I will be able to celebrate that I am the woman I am because of how my mother mothered me.

May it be so. . .

 

 

 

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and i said to my body. softly. ‘i want to be your friend.
‘ it took a long breath. and replied
‘i have been waiting my whole life for this.’

~nayyirah waheed

 

 

Shadow at a labyrinth

My body aches. My spirit is a little bruised. And I really am OK.

Last Saturday, I became contaminated with gluten which left me completely debilitated and unable to fully focus. With my joints swollen and an inability to fully think, I became temporarily despondent. Of course, I also worried that this was not simply a reaction to someone with celiac disease being contaminated with gluten. Instead I thought that perhaps I had a serious illness and the timing of me being contaminated with gluten was simply a coincidence. I think many of us get dramatic when we are physically and emotionally depleted.

After a few days of feeling absolutely horrible, I became desperate, took a deep breath, and asked my Facebook Village for help. And of course they did. Even more amazing, I listened. I decided to make some different food choices, take supplements, drink a lot more water, and allow myself to go through some of my deep frustration and sadness.

In response, it is so awesome how eating the right foods, etc. gave my body a chance to begin healing and made me feel a little better with each passing day. This morning, I felt a better than I did yesterday and this evening not as well. Being on a seesaw is never fun for me, but it is a normal trajectory in any healing journey. While I have a ways to go, I know what I have to do. AND I know that all will be ok.

There are some bummers in this journey. I have decided that it is time to refrain from eating out again unless I eat simple salads or perhaps a few really sensitive vegetarian restaurants. I also realize that it is time for me to find some new doctors because my reaction to gluten contamination is growing more significant. And I am also dealing with how vulnerable I feel around this challenge.

Opening up and sharing my inner thoughts is so very hard when anxiety seems to reign inside my body. Yet over the last couple of years, I have learned time and again that I am blessed with good friends who really are present when I need them. While remaining in the shadows is somewhat easier when I am having a challenging time, the key is to take a deep breath (when ready) and reach out as appropriate.

Would love to know your thoughts and how you move forward when you feel paralyzed in any way.

With love, light, and blessings,

Chava

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Listening To My Body: Allowing it to Heal

This week I got slam-dunked with a virus.  In truth, I know that illness came to me not because I stood near someone with a virus, but because I needed to have some time to sort out my feelings and heal from all that has been going on in the last few months.  And perhaps, I got sick because I needed to just stop moving for a little while and rest.

Yesterday, I don’t think I left my bed for more than 20 minutes, maybe even less.  As my fever remained a solid 101+ degrees (I normally run about 97.1), I was fairly miserable and I physically could not move.  Today, my body’s temperature seemed to be quite normal, but my body wasn’t buying it.  Today’s activities included showering, laying down, going to the chiropractor, laying down, taking Maddie on a short walk, laying down. Each activity took no more than 15 – 30 minutes, each nap or resting took about 2 hours. . . .and I am still wiped.

Sick June 2014Stop. . .Listen. . .What a concept

My body is telling me something. It is telling me to stop and frankly it isn’t giving me a choice.  Even if I wanted to go for a long walk or to work, I couldn’t do it.  Even my time on Facebook or blogging has had to be short, I simply do not have the energy or ability to do much more than rest.  And in truth I fear the results of me ignoring my body.  I fear serious illness.  So, while I can’t afford to refrain from working now that I am paid hourly; I also can’t afford to wipe myself out.

This week, I needed some time to process all that has been going on in my world and to make some decisions about how I will proceed professionally and emotionally.  My body is making sure I listen to my need to process by not allowing me the opportunity to move.  The last 7 months have been hard, really hard.  In fact much of the past several years have been a struggle.  I have never focused on the challenging times or allowed them to control how I walk in the world, but that doesn’t mean all has been ok.

There is a plus side to all of this.  In this moment, I am feeling optimistic and clear; my life and my children’s lives will be good.  Whatever we do, wherever we go, life will be good.

While I believe I will go to work tomorrow, my guess is that I will be gone no more than 5 hours and then I will return to rest until I am ready to move again.  And for this weekend, I have already said no to working so that I can continue my healing journey.

This week’s virus has allowed me the time I needed to take a deep breath, stop, and listen to my body.

For next time, it is my hope that I remember to breathe, stop, and listen to my body before my body tells me it has no choice.

 

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Lamott writing sayingYou own everything that happened to you.

Tell your stories.

If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.
Anne Lamott

Memories always come back.  The good, the bad, all of them return at the most auspicious moments.

My mother was a sick woman.  Some might say she was physically sick; others might say mentally ill.  Both are true.  During most of my lifetime, my mother was under the influence of enormous amounts of alcohol and/or drugs.  She wasn’t particular good to me nor was she kind; she was violent and repulsive during much of my life. . .it is what it is.

For the most part, I have been able to move past that part of my life to find health and beauty on the other side.  But sometimes I meet people that remind me of my earlier years.  When that happens, I find myself detaching from the interaction completely. It is quite fascinating to observe myself as I navigate the interaction.  Sometimes I grow dark and shut down for days, but not always; I am growing.

Last night I was blessed with an experience that forced me to spend time with someone who reminded me of my very sick mother.  The woman I met was unable to walk or to communicate as a healthy person; she was totally out of it.  The blessing was to work with others who had one goal in mind: Each person wanted to make certain this woman would not get in her car and drive.

In the end the police came and helped enforce what needed to happen.  Between the Tucson police doing their jobs with such respect and working with a group of people that wanted to keep the woman and the roads of Tucson safe, I felt one step closer within my healing journey.

Times sure have changed since my mother tormented both herself and her family’s world.  Today more people understand that driving under the influence isn’t acceptable; they also understand that sometimes it takes a community to stand together to make a difference.

Blessings come in so many different packages.  While the difficult memories came flooding back last night, I am touched to have been part of a resolution instead of sitting painfully stagnant without a way out of a challenging situation.  Perhaps the biggest gift in last night’s situation was having my sons nearby and having them understand the importance of working towards keeping a very sick and potentially dangerous woman off the roads.  I love that I learned from my past and didn’t become my past.

May each of us find ways to make a difference for good.  We can all learn from the past.

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Aryeh with Pita

Always in tie dye, this time on a camel
Summer 2012, Israel

For well over three years, my son Aryeh fought the fight of his life.  As he struggled between life and death at times, I began to see the world through renewed eyes.  Our family felt virtually alone as we dealt with the daily agony of our teenage son and Dovi’s brother.  We navigated each day with endurance, yet we were in pain too.

While the darkness felt impermeable at times, it wasn’t.  There were so many angels that entered our lives, sometimes for a moment and some of them are still active in our lives to this day.  There were friends cooked our food, others that created a fund to offset the costs of Aryeh’s medical bills, and still others that were there at the drop of a hat.  Some of our closest friends couldn’t be present, but virtual strangers opened up their arms to help.  We felt surrounded by love so much of the time.

One of the most loving acts came the day we came home from Aryeh’s first brain surgery.  We had been forced out of the hospital too soon because the “only” bed available was in a room with another teenage boy who couldn’t stop screaming due to his own agony.  The boy’s screaming paralyzed our son in so many ways.  While we were in the hospital someone was supposed to come over with food and fill our refrigerator, but she became too anxious because of our significant food allergies/needs and instead brought nothing. We came home physically and emotionally wiped to no food; it shouldn’t have been a big deal, but it was.  Aryeh was not ready be home and we were all in pain.  I remember Michael, Aryeh’s father, calling our friends Paula and John; he was so distraught at what was going on and they rushed over with enough food to sustain us for days.  They looked at their house and used all the food they had and then some to prepare for our needs.  Paula and John continued to cook for us for years and probably would continue if we lived a little closer.  🙂

Following this day, our friend Wicca (and maybe someone else) organized all of our food for months and months.  People took care of us; they tried to take care of Aryeh.  Aryeh was too sick; it was years before he was ok.  Later we needed to go from Washington, DC to Los Angeles and people helped us every step of the way.  We couldn’t have made it emotionally, physically, or financially if people weren’t there.  One special angel was my friend Miriam who was with me as Aryeh quite literally fought for his life in an LA hospital and then opened up her home for us to stay for weeks following surgery.

Every step of the way, people were there.

Our friend John and his sons opened up their home to Dovi.  Dovi must have stayed at their house for weeks if not months during Aryeh’s illness.  They never asked for a dime; John just assumed he had three sons.  And later when were able to celebrate Aryeh’s life, John and his housemate Patrick, opened up their home so that we could have a Celebration of Life Party in honor of Aryeh’s recovery.

Amy gave and gave in so many ways; as did our friends Stuart and Lisa. Idie and Tamar came for the holidays so that we would have the holidays; Pesach was the hardest, but you would have never known because of how they chipped in to take care of us in every way.  People were coming out of the woodwork to help support us through hell.

A few friends drove two hours to the hospital to drop off food even though we couldn’t be with them.  Some people drove Dovi to and from where he needed to go.  A couple of Marines dropped off a large screened TV because Michael went on Freecycle and shared our story.  When Aryeh came home initially after the first surgery, he struggled to see; these two strangers gave us a TV so Aryeh would be able to see it.  And then they stayed and just hung out with our teenage son.

Simple acts of kindness go a long way.

In those years of serious illness, I learned that a smile makes a difference.  A hug can make everything better if only for a moment.  A pack of colorful, silly tissues are worthy of having in your hand.  A box of citrus chamomile tea warms your heart.  Mandalas made by friends and strangers surrounded our family with healing powers while hundreds of my Jewish Educator friends from all over the world sang a healing song for Aryeh as struggled in ICU for his own healing.

We were surrounded by love and care.  Aryeh’s friends made him tie-dye sheets that are still with him to this day; in fact, we made sure he was wrapped in his sheets even as he laid intubated after his second surgery.  Nothing about this time was easy, but we made it through because of simple acts of kindness by some of our closest friends as well as some strangers. Some made time to sit with us and be present sometimes in silence and sometimes to play games.  Others made sure our daily needs were met.  The bottom-line is that even when we felt alone, we weren’t alone, not really.

Each and every act made a difference.  Strangers, friends, loved ones sustained us when we had little hope.  And new friends joined us as we healed.  I will forever be grateful for Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation where I worked during the beginning of Aryeh’s illness and Bethesda Jewish Congregation where I worked during the healing years.  Both communities were loving, kind, and present when our family needed them.

Simple acts of kindness allowed us to focus on healing from what could have been a tragedy.

May each of us be blessed to touch another’s life for good! May we remember that we can make a difference when we choose to step up to the plate.

With love, light, and gratitude

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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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