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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)

~ ~ ~

“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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If you don’t like the news. . . .
go out and make some of your own.
~Newsman Wes Nisker’s closing salutation
on radio station KSAN in the 1970s

Living in Texas, I have learned. . .
hatred doesn’t need a disguise.
police aren’t here to protect you.
the kindness of neighbors is not a given.

Living in Texas, I have learned. . .
red traffic lights allow for another three more cars to pass.
minorities expect disdain from every direction.
prejudice can be worn on your sleeves.

Living in Texas, I have learned. . .
giving up is not an option.
I am surrounded by an activist village.
when I feel alone, all I have to do is open my heart..

Living in Texas, I have learned. . .
that things are not always what they seem.
sometimes life is not black or white; in fact it is often grey.
what you see is not always what you get.

Living in Texas, I have learned . . .
there are beautiful people wherever you turn.
sometimes you need to look deeper to find the gems.
patience has a way of paying off.

Living in Texas, I have learned. . .
the importance of finding those that fuel your soul.
that my voice matters and can make a difference for good.
working with others makes all of our voices stronger.

Before coming to Texas, I believed that my voice didn’t matter. In fact, I was so sure of it that I loved my ability to fade into the wood work. That isn’t the case today, I have begun to realize that I have a purpose. And even if I want to hide, I can’t.

There is work to be done – a lot of work to be done.

Over the last two days, I have been blown away by beautiful souls that make up the Pantsuit Republic: Houston Chapter. I have found like minded souls that are willing to do what it takes to make our leaders accountable for their actions and to support the work that needs to be done so that no group of people go marginalized.

I am in awe of what I have found right here in my back yard, in Houston.  And I am even beginning to believe that together we can make our world a better place.

Authenticity and compassion reign.

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

Chai Wallhanging

presented by: Milky Wave Tie-Dye*

  • The tie dye says life in Hebrew; a friend made this for my son Aryeh when he was suffering a life threatening illness. . .it somehow feels appropriate now (different, but right).

 

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My mind is
spinning
spinning
spinning

I close my eyes
I breathe
I find the center
I find the quiet

There I am

There I am
Not ready to do the next thing

Just ready to see that
There I am

by Jennifer R. Zunikoff

Hineini. Here I am.

As the sun was getting ready to set and the rain was getting ready to fall, my entire being needed to feel the wind pick up while weeding the incredible growth in my backyard.

I’ve never been someone who really knew what to do with any yard I have had. My talents lie in being reflective, connecting with people wherever they are, and writing.  I am also someone who craves being present first and foremost for myself and yet struggles to do just that.

The world seems to call to me and say that I need to do more, I need to be more. And yet I am becoming clear that it may be my time to go to a more insular place. My entire being is gravitating towards a more silent and less kinetic life.

Weeding 16April2016

Hineini. Here I am.

As I reached towards the earth, I realized that pulling the weeds was much more to me than the action I was doing; each weed pulled was a metaphor for the voices in my head. I found myself reflecting about all that I need to weed in my life so that I can become even more whole and authentically me. As always, I need more simplification so with each weed pulled, I asked some hard questions. What do I really need in my life?  What do I want to fill my life with? What do I want to lose?

With Passover coming next Friday night, I should have been cleaning my house and preparing for the holiday. While I don’t have chametz (leaven, or food mixed with chametz (leaven, prohibited during Passover), I do have some things to clear away; I have some spiritual soul work to do. I have a whole lot of clutter inside my heart, mind and soul. I also have some excesses surrounding me that need some reckoning.

May each weed pulled lead me to a little less noise and the ability to release a lot more stuff. May the freedom be sweet and the breath be deep.

Hineini. Here I am.

Weeds and chimes

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Have you ever been woken in the middle of the night by an inner voice? You know the one that tells you what you need to do.

Feb 2015  Walking from behind

What amazes me about that voice is that sometimes it is so on target and other times it fuels the fears that live deep inside. The key is learning which inner voice speaks truth.

The veil darkness has a way of both nourishing me and instilling a deep loneliness. When I envision the darkness as nourishing, I revel in the cocoon of my own making. I love being surrounded by the blanket of warmth which provides me a safe haven to dream, to think, and to simply be exactly where I am. And sometimes that darkness gives me the lonely space to realize my deepest pain, my loneliness, or the unanswered questions of my heart and soul.

The blackened skies provide an expanse to emerge exactly as I am. There is no one to protect me from my own inner thoughts. And no one to nudge me forwards or backwards; I am on my own.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And so my morning began.

At 3 AM, I awoke to the realizations that caused me to both cry and find comfort in my racing thoughts.

The question is whether or not to trust all that is racing through my brain. Or do I shut it down and let go.

Sleep doesn’t usually follow these episodes. Once I awake, I can’t hide from the stream of consciousness that flows. Unspoken dreams and profound realities are realized. With each breath, seeds are being planted in the soil of darkness.

Perhaps at daybreak, my eyes will open to some new sprouts and the morning light will brighten my spirit.

I am waiting. . . .

 

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Chava's Shadow 17January2016

 

“. . . have patience towards everything that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms or like books that are written in a remote foreign language. Do not search now for answers that cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And everything has to be lived. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually live your way, without noticing, into the answer some day.  Perhaps indeed you have the capacity to educate and develop others as an especially happy and pure way of life; train yourself for this – but accept what comes in great trust, and as long as it comes from your will or from some innermost need, take it on yourself and hate nothing. ”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Today, I am 50. I know more about myself than I knew a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, five years ago, and so on.  I know that I do not have all the answers, but I wish I did.

Life’s journey has not been easy and yet my life is really quite beautiful. I often get in the way of myself; my intensity leads me into some challenging shadows, but the light that often follows is worth it.  Life’s wounds have healed and loved ones have helped and continue to help me emerge even if I have to do most of the work.

In so many ways, I have chosen to walk a very different path than my friends and family.  My choices have not always been good ones, but they have lead me where I am today. In spite of some of my decisions, my sons are amazing young men that are following their own derekh, path.  I trust most of how they choose to walk in the world; as a ima, mother, it is my job to wonder, reflect, and hope that things go as good as they can and that they make the ‘right’ decisions for themselves.

I have traveled many miles, both in distance and spiritually. With each step, I find my footing, but sometimes I slip and hurt myself (and others) along the way. That doesn’t always mean I have taken a wrong turn and yet the truth is that I often have a lousy sense of direction. Sigh.  Yet, the good news is that I climb mountains that some find insurmountable, but I do it! And each mountain leads to new insight and a stronger me.

There is so much more  work that I need to do in this world. My gut is telling me that I will make a difference for good! I just have to remember to do the work and nurture my body, mind, and soul so that I can do the holy work.  I wish I knew how I could make the most positive impact, but that answer seems to elude me at this time. So I am following Rilke’s advice (above) and living into the answers.

As I take the time to treasure where I am, I also feel the need to look at what more I need to do for me so that it is possible for me to be the healthiest I can be.

My body needs some serious revamping. I have no choice, but to listen to the messages that are speaking so clearly to me. It is time to sleep more, exercise, eat better, and allow for the quiet to nudge me to where I need to go.

I also need to make more time to read great books, go to fabulous museums, hike new pathways and sit in cafés; one of my favorite things to do in this world is to sit in cafés while drinking my tea latte, people watching, and writing.

Stretching means that I need to leave my comfort zone a little bit more often and reach for new heights and become more open to hearing that which makes little sense to me.

My soul aches for the quiet as much as it aches for meaningful interactions. For whatever time I have left on this earth, may I allow for the quiet while navigating towards meaningful relationships and spiritual work.

I seem to always be seeking balance.

My spiritual work is inspired by climbing both real and metaphoric mountains so that I can create a sanctuary wherever I am.  May my energy and light spread out into the world while still warming my very own heart and soul.

Happy 50th to me!

Louisa - late winter 2015

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. ~Lao Tzu

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“To be alive──is Power.” 
~Emily Dickinson

Life doesn’t always work out as expected; there are times when all of us feel railroaded. 

For the most part, I find that the best way for me to ride the waves of life, the tumultuous storms, is with a sense of optimism that has the ability to light up any room. Wouldn’t it be lovely if that was always the way ‘it’ worked out?

Over the last few days, I have been triggered by some shadows that are leaving me painfully reflective. While the triggers hurt deeply, I always know that after the moment or moments pass, the sun will shine down on me again.

beautiful blue skies

Tonight, I am allowing myself to breathe into the realities of my life, to feel the raw emotions instead of ignoring them, and to take an evening off of engaging with the world. I am allowing myself the time to live inside my heart without apology.

Transition is often challenging, even when it is ultimately for good.  There is a vibration of vulnerability and excitement, fear and gratitude, playing off of each other. As much as we think we are moving through our transitions alone, we aren’t. There is a village surrounding us, friends and loved ones that are in our court. And in my case, I have my sons that are hanging on for the ride. The biggest challenge of the last two years has been really rough for my guys.

The cost for my younger son, Dovi, was great. The good news is that today I have a strong sense that he is now turning the corner and making conscious decisions to emerge from his darkness. YAY!!! My older son, Aryeh, had to give up a lot in order to help keep our family thriving.  I will always feel enormous gratitude for his perseverance. I am not sure that Dovi and I would have made it without him. Aryeh not only kept us eating healthy meals, he also gave his earnings so that our family could function.  There were so many days that I could have curled up into a ball, but why?

While life hasn’t always given me what I have hoped for, it has given me a spirit to soar and feet to land. I am OK and so is my family!! All of us keep growing and stretching our souls. How beautiful is that!

Most of us can probably relate to the sensation of traveling on a roller coaster.  As we suddenly get thrown downward, we find ourselves screaming or crying out in fear.  And then after the fear passes, we feel a sense of exhilaration as we begin to take the next curve.

A few months ago, I learned that some of the leadership of the congregation I loved so deeply did not believe that my son was as ill as he was. While my son almost died and fought for life, there were those that didn’t understand the extent of his illness and the unimaginable realities of his healing. Really?!?!?!?! YET we were NEVER alone, there were so many others that stepped up to the plate and stood with us every step of the way. 

Learning the above made the ending of my marriage a little over a month ago even rougher. While it was a long time coming, there is no joy in this ending. I thought our connection would last forever, but life didn’t work out that way.

With this period of deep reflection. I am striving to find peace within the storms of my mind. Life didn’t give me what I expect, but it gave me the fortitude to thrive!

This is my time to explore all of the relationships in my life and to better examine what I want for the next half of my life. How do I want to live? What do I want to do with my time? How will I honor the world I live in? Can I better take care of myself and my sons? Will I ever truly be enough? Can I do what it takes to thrive in the world? Will I ever make a difference and have a lasting effect?

The answers to these questions don’t really matter.  What matters is that I know that no matter what happens, I know that, for me (and hopefully my sons), the sun always returns.

I/We got this!

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One of Jamie's last photos  - Kauai: Paradise Found

One of Jamie’s last Facebook photos – Kauai: Paradise Found

I love deeply.

As someone who loves people as I do, I often connect with people instantly.  It is not something I think about, it simply is. What I have learned over the last fifteen or so years is that I either have a connection or I don’t.  Are there exceptions to this rule. . .absolutely, but it is still a guiding principle within my life.

Some of my closest friendships have been made in 20 seconds or less on a good day, up to a minute on a questionable day. For the most part, if a friendship takes too much work initially, it isn’t a friendship worth keeping.

The people that come into my life in under a minute quickly become my soul friends. I often forget that they haven’t been in my life forever. Which can become awkward when I KNOW they know something, that of course they don’t. Those relationships tend to transcend time or space. Those are the friendships I want to keep and hold forever.

The only problem is that those friendships don’t always last.  Sometimes they end because they had an expiration date and sometimes they end because of serious illness or death.

Just this week, I lost a new friend, Jamie Zimmerman. You wouldn’t have known it by how we connected, but it is what it is.  In my heart, I think we both believed that we would one day do something profound together; I don’t know what I mean by that. . .it was just a hunch. The only problem is that earlier this week, an accident on the beaches of Hawaii took her life. As soon as I heard this, I couldn’t stop sobbing.  We had just had a couple of hours together when she came to Houston a couple of months ago. Loved our time and couldn’t wait until we would meet again.

But sometimes there are no tomorrows. http://wp.me/pthnB-5i So as I am wiping my tears away, I wonder how to best remember this brilliant woman. With an amazing gusto for living her passions, she wanted to share all she knew and inevitably spread her light too. She was a born leader who generously gave her heart and soul. While Jamie was nearly 20 years younger than I am, I had so much to learn from this beautiful soul.  I am so sorry I don’t have more time with her, but also grateful for the time I did have.

Jamie’s death has forced me to look at how I walk in the world.  How can I face the reality of sudden loss? How do I process accidents at all? Last month another friend of mine had a cycling accident.  I took that one hard too and he really was ok by the time I knew of his fall – battered and healing.

Over the last several years, I have learned that dread and vulnerability fill me when I hear of sudden accidents and loss whether they cause death or simply physical challenges of all sorts. Perhaps it is because I realize that as a single mother, I fear that my children would be alone if something happened to me. Or perhaps I have felt and witnessed the effects of sudden loss.  Either way, I am struggling internally right now.

Early onset of dementia took another close friend away a few years ago.  In fact, my friend Sharon was the person, I had planned to give my most personal information before I realized that the door of opportunity had closed.  Life doesn’t always work as we expect. Sigh.

With every fiber of my being, I hope I never lose the ability to connect with people as I do.  And yet I do need to find a way to accept the realities that come with loving people.  Those that I love will not necessarily always be present. Nor is it a given that I will be present for them.

The responsibility to live in the most authentic way possible becomes a necessity when you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  It also means that I am responsible for being fully present in life and with those I love.  Tomorrow will be what it is, so I have to actively engage in this moment and to be the best person I can be within each of my interactions with the world; whether I connect daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or even less, my hope is that I will always the best person I can be.

Thinking about Jamie
Jamie was full of life; she actively engaged in life and strived to embrace all of life.  She also had a keen sense of how to honor herself and reach for her highest self.  I didn’t know Jamie well, but I wish I did.  Her spirit was full of light, she illuminated not only where she was standing at any given moment, but her beautiful energy brightened the world.  The world is a much better place because of her presence in it.

While I don’t know what Jamie and I may have accomplished if given the opportunity, I do know that I need to take the lessons I learned from our brief friendship.  And that is exactly what I will do.

~ ~ ~

May I learn to kiss the ground with my feet and reach for the stars with every bone in my body.

May I be blessed with the fearlessness to let my full light shine as I nurture my spirit a little more fully.

May I never stop loving as deeply as I do out of fear of losing the beauty of what was.

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