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Posts Tagged ‘illness’

Years ago, I learned that there is no option for walking through life with a positive disposition. This lesson has been handed to me again and again on a silver platter. I’ve chosen to find the light in the darkness AND light when there was seemingly little or no hope. Early in my childhood, I learned to seek the lessons from whatever experiences I faced and if I was lucky I fortunate the good in each and every challenge.

As someone who has been battered as a child, struggled with tremendous loss as an adult, watched her children struggle with health/life challenges within their short lifetimes, and struggled with some hard challenges as an adult, I don’t believe in letting the tough times bring me too far down.  I believe in always finding the gifts within the challenges!  And I have received so many gifts over the years!!

Photo courtesy of Janie Grackin Did you notice the butterfly? :)

I didn’t realize that I had the ability to find the gifts within the challenges until one day when one of my sons was in critical condition.  He had been struggling with health for so long and I didn’t want him to suffer any longer.  As sedation was enabling him to rest in his hospital room, I quietly told him that Imma (mommy) and Abba (daddy) would be OK if he needed to stop fighting for his life.  With tears streaming down my face, I told my little one that we were the luckiest parents in the world to have him in our lives for as long as we did.  I didn’t want to let go, but I knew that I might not have a choice; I didn’t want him to worry.

Little did I know that I would have to say that again in my lifetime, but I truly believe that people are gifts for as long as they are in our lives.  Today, I am profoundly grateful that my children are both vibrant and healthy adults; I am grateful that both of them survived their childhood health challenges and one doesn’t even remember them.  I am also happy that I learned something positive about myself as I faced the years of darkness.  There are always gifts within the challenges; sometimes they are more difficult to see at first, but over time they can be found.

My hope for you is that you shouldn’t be faced with the challenges that were once part of my life.  In my case, I did make it through and you can too.

Many years have passed since I faced that kind of darkness, but the lessons have stayed with me.  There is truly no option for allowing darkness to control me.  Yes there are moments when I am angry or sad, lonely or unhappy; they are moments.  The key is that I have to trust that the moments will pass and all will be OK.

I always get to decide how I navigate the harshness that life sometimes brings.  Working within a large community, I face all sorts of people and all sorts of moods.  My job is to embrace those people where they are and to move us forward without allowing their sometimes bad mood to bring me down.  I have a choice; I always have a choice.  And the great news is that most of my interactions with the world around me are really quite beautiful; enjoying life as I do means finding the gifts at every turn.

For me, finding the blessings that surround me is really not an option.  Can you say the same thing? I hope so!

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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

 

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The blanket of darkness
often brings crystal clear visions.
~Nighttime Reflection by Chava

When I was a little girl, the middle of the night was filled with fear of the unknown. Blood curdling screams would fill my reality as I my parents screeching voices would penetrate the night air. While in reality, they surely didn’t live this ritual every night, it felt like they did because interrupted sleep was always my reality – first because of their outbursts and than because of my reactions to their outbursts. I never did learn to sleep.

Later, years later, as I sat by my father’s bedside during his last days. I distinctly remember coming to the realization that I was grateful to how much healing had taken place from all the childhood drama; it was a good thing because we basically had no more tomorrows; my father’s days were numbered. And yet, my all night vigils brought a little extra healing and peace too. I forgave my father for the pain of my childhood and moved forward as I tried to calm his spirit and love him towards his death. While this brief period of time was hard, it was also trans-formative.  Somehow this time started my journey towards seeing the healing power of darkness.

Unfortunately, the night skies along with the darkness once again became painful a few years later when my oldest son became critically ill.  During this time, I sat in devastation mode, but night was absolutely the worst. Sitting  by the bedside of my very sick teenage son, I knew that his life was nearly over before it began. There were moments when I would drift off to sleep only to wake up in a panic. And yet, he did ultimately thrive! But during his years of healing, it was in the darkness of the night that left me most devastatingly alone. There was no one to call, no one to hold me as I trembled with fear and exhaustion; I was often alone hoping that I could just make it until the sun came up. In those years, the sun always brought a sense of calmness and moving forward, but the moon reminded me that sometimes tomorrows never come.

I love how time has mostly healed what I once thought of the night’s darkness. Over time I have again been able to meet the dark skies with new appreciation. Initially, the middle of the night still brings a moment of angst, but only when I first open my eyes. Easing into wakefulness, I’m often able to find tremendous inner peace leading to the knowledge that calmness will follow. I have grown to love the solitude and the quiet. In the darkness, I find peace with who I am and how I walk in the world; I am better able to navigate the many moving parts of my spirit.  This poem by David Whyte does an amazing job of putting words to how I now feel.

‘SWEET DARKNESS

When your eyes are tired 
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone, 
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark 
where the night has eyes 
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure 
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your home 
tonight.

The night will give you a horizon 
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing. 
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds 
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet 
confinement of your aloneness 
to learn

anything or anyone 
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

Louisa - late winter 2015The darkness is where I find what I need, what is good for my soul, and how I will best navigate the world I live.

There is so much power in re-framing the hard stuff. Transformation is possible. 🙂

May darkness always be a gift that allows me to go inward as a means to living in my truth.

Onward with love, light, darkness, & blessings,
Chava

 

 

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(Note: To learn more information on #The100DayProject which is also known as #ActivistCardsByChava, you can see https://wp.me/pthnB-3cH.)

Tears can be cleansing and necessary and yet all week long I have been stopping myself from letting them flow.

This week I heard the beautiful rabbi I work with telling a child who was acting a little shy, “It’s ok honey, you just do you.” Something about the timing and my raw spirit at that second resonated. I wanted to “do me” too. I was so tired of showing up and being present when all I wanted to do was hide a rock. I was also tired of feeling the need to couch my thoughts and opinions so not to be offensive. And yet, there is so much value in the last comment too. I guess the key is to find balance.

While I love so much of my life, I have grown a little weary in the last period of time. I have been intensely sad as I have seen some of my beloveds facing some earth shattering pain and devastated with my inability to make a difference. I have had to show up at places simply because it was the right thing to do or perhaps just my job. And throughout it all, I have seen myself become a little unglued at moments.

With the politics of our country what they are and so many people hurting, I have needed to cry, but instead of decompressing I just found myself moving forward and doing the next best thing.

And then there is the reality of changing relationships that has at moments left me bereft with the realization that I am simply not enough nor can I give enough. Each realization has left treading water and wishing I could be more grounded or maybe just hide under the rock until I feel like I am.

Have you ever noticed how our expectations are often different from what reality looks like? Perhaps that is the gift from the universe; perhaps it is a curse from the universe. Life is simply a game that I get to re-frame each and every minute if I am going to find what my teacher SARK likes to call the “marvelous messy middle”.  This is what enables me  time to find the sparks of light that are often just below the surface or to re-frame deep sadness into learning opportunities. When I am really observant, I find the angels that emerge from the darkness to spin a cocoon around my heart.

This week challenged me to the core.

Every second of my week felt overwhelmingly full. The blessing is that even when I wanted to get lost in my pain, I found the inner strength to show up for those I love. When I wanted to curl up into a ball and shout about the unfairness of it all, my friends surrounded me and reminded me of how loved I am. And one treasured moment came as I watched a loved one start to heal from the inside out after having experienced horrific pain. Things are rarely all bad or all good. Maybe I should celebrate that I actually had a few balanced moments.

Yet seesawing seemed to be a never-ending story.

The unfolding of the news around Brett Kavanaugh’s potential nomination to the Supreme Court was and still continues to devastate our country and show the ugliness of our divided country.

Doing me meant that hiding under a rock was not an option.  Instead I did political activism. by showing up at a panel discussion last Friday night and then going to McAllen, Texas last Saturday so that I could bear witness and stand in solidarity with the children being detained away from their parents. The good news is that I was surrounded with so many others who wanted to make a difference.  The sad news is that those children are still locked in detentions centers and tent cities too.

Unfortunately the 11+ hour trek triggered my own memories of childhood loneliness and sadness, of foster care and violence. And yet, there is no questioned of how blessed I am as someone who has always thrived in spite of my experiences. I pray the same will  be possible for the thousands of children who are suffering so much more deeply than I can imagine.

And then on Monday afternoon and early evening, I continued to push myself by  canvasing for the Democratic Party and doing my part to register voters. I was doing what I had to do. Our world needed me to push myself even if I felt like I couldn’t. So I did just that!

And then as I was finally decompressing Tuesday night, I received the unexpected call that none of us want to hear. My friend called me to tell me that his beautiful wife had just died. Immediately, I asked if he wanted me to come over and when he said yes, I rushed to be by his side. When I arrived a short time later, I was able I see Ellen who had just a few short hours again been alive and doing her best to survive some very serious illnesses.  As soon as I saw her, I asked her husband if I could sing the Shema to my beloved friend. He said yes which allowed me to sing what I consider to be the holiest prayer of the Jewish tradition to my Episcopal friend reminding her spirit and my soul of our shared love for God. As soon as I finished, the funeral home arrived to take Ellen out of her home for the very last time. Even with the deep sadness, I could also feel holiness reverberating.

While I knew that my new friend was really sick, I had hopes of being part of her life for more time. In the short time that I had known her, Ellen had quickly become both dear to me and my writing mentor – only she didn’t know it yet; she inspired me and reminded me to live – only she died too fast.  I had originally planned to visit her on Monday afternoon, but I was so tired after my very long weekend of activism followed by an incredibly long workday on Sunday which included wrapping up of the cycle of Jewish holidays.

Sadly, I lost another a last chance to be with Ellen who I had only met after Hurricane Harvey devastated her beautiful church which was now housed at our Temple. Even now it is wild to think that I would have not met some of my closest friends if Hurricane Harvey had never come a year earlier.

As the sun began to set yesterday, the many triggers of the week finally opened up the floodgates making it impossible to hold back my tears any longer. I cried for the world, the children in detention, the families separated because of our cruel government, my sadness over evolving relationships and devastated friends. I cried for Ellen and for the love that is bubbling up in my heart, but has no where to go. I even cried for my sweet puppy that is not training with ease. The tears came at a breakneck speed and now even in my exhaustion, I am feeling so much better. I simply needed to cry.

After my spiritually exhausting week, the rawness took  over and opened the door so that I could “do me”.  Hineini, Here I am.

Day 55 - Tears Can Cleanse your heart and spirit

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS – Will probably be editing this piece one more time.

 

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Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I love this reality. Tomorrow is too. . . and the next day and the next one after that.

The way that I navigate my wild and messy life is with the realization that each moment, hour, or day is just a beginning. I think that is why I often find the gifts even when I am challenged by life’s realities.

“Just keep going. No feeling is final.”
in ‘Go to the Limits of Your Longing’
by Rainer Maria Rilke

The last month or so has left me struggling with my breath and my spirit. But the good news is that even in my devastation, I have kept going and found sparks of light at every juncture.

A bunch of things hit me at the same time. Of course they did. Isn’t that the way things happen? My past crept up on me and punched me in the face leaving me battered and bruised. A loved one died. Many close friends are in a serious health crisis. And someone I love dearly has altered a connection that I thought remain as it was for a long time if not forever.

With each and every one of the challenges above, my heart splintered. Sadness really has permeated my entire being for past several weeks. AND I have always believed that I would ride the waves. Riding the waves has lead to my need to consciously shed the parts of my life that don’t work for me any longer.  The good news about new realizations and deep sadness is that in order to move forward, you have to move through it. Just like Michael Rosen says in his children’s book/song ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’:

We can’t go over it. 
We can’t go under it. 
We’ve got to go through it!  

As a way of navigating all that I need to embrace and some of what I am shedding. I am going to do a 21 day challenge for myself. And I will share this journey, sometimes in detail and sometimes with a simple selfie. While selfie’s are the tool, there will be other things happening just below the surface. After all, I am navigating towards new horizons. The sadness that has been marinating needs to be transformed even as some of the challenges remain.

Sending love, light, and blessings . . .

Day 1 - Chava Selfie

Day 1 Selfie: 3 February 2018

PS – One of the funniest realities of my selfie challenge is that I really have been into wearing all black or dark shirts and jeans. So I may look the same way every day. 🙂

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Sun rise New Zealand May 5 Jai-Jagdeesh

Photo Courtesy of Jai-Jagdeesh via Instagram: jaijagdeesh

This I believe:

Illness and wake-up calls come when you need to listen to your body, your mind, and your soul. So when I finally listened to what my body was saying a few weeks ago, I went to the doctor who diagnosed me with bronchitis.

But 10 days later, I realized that I was still in bad shape and getting worse, so I went back only to receive the same diagnosis and a change in medicine. AND this time I realized that what I needed more than anything else was to stop and really rest.

But then something in the report caught my eye.

10/12/2017
Body Mass Index 30+ – Obesity; Bronchitis

Ouch!!!

As a past runner and someone who is totally conscious of my health, I am so aware that  something has to change; I’ve known this for a very long time. In fact, I started a serious health journey 45 days before my 45th birthday. That journey was amazing and changed my relationship with food. I took off nearly 65 lbs and I have kept nearly every pound off for over 6 years. But now I need to begin again and take the rest of my weight off.

As someone who is basically healthy, I strongly believe there is no excuse for “obesity”. This isn’t about looks (except that I HATE my double-chin); this is about becoming the healthiest that I can be. In fact this entire year has become about becoming the healthiest I can be.

Needing to have back surgery in early April was the first very loud message, but then there were others. So with that in mind, I am actively taking the words of my dear soul sister, Arlene Berger and the Torah, “Choose Life” (Deuteronomy 30:19). If I want to thrive and to be the healthiest that I can be, I have to consciously life into my realm. I love knowing that while Arlene and I live in different cities, we are on this journey together.

I have 123 days or 4 months between now and my 52nd birthday. And I have goals of what I want for my body, my mind, and my soul. I do believe that light is surrounding each and every step of this journey.

This health journey is not only about weight, although I do need to manage my weight better in order to be one step closer to better health. There is also such beautiful spiritual and emotional work that is calling my name.

I got this.

As I own my health journey, know that what is listed, is some of my current soul work and some new things based on my doctor’s notes and his feedback when we met this past summer. My goal is to be the healthiest I can be – body, mind, and soul. And while I am being transparent, I’d love to have your support, but I am conscious that too much good advice can be a bad thing. If I let you know that something I am choosing to do is a non-negotiable, please don’t try to convince me that I am wrong.

So, here is my list:

  1. Go dairy and meat free! I am considering whether or not I will continue eating eggs and fish. I think that I will be removing fish from my diet after tonight because we purchased salmon for tonight’s Shabbat dinner. (Note: I have been virtually meat free for many years so meat free is not a big deal. 🙂 AND I will be working with Weight Watchers guidelines.)
  2. Prepare three new vegan recipes a week. Take time to enjoy living a more healthy lifestyle.
  3. No added sugar to my diet. I will continue having fruit and sometimes fruit juices with no added sugar. I know this has sugar, but I am doing it anyway.
  4. Allow for more silence in my life. Breathe a little deeper.
  5. One of my favorite quotes by Franz Kafka is “Writing is prayer.” With this in mind, I want to surround my life with more spirituality through my writing.
  6. Do more soul work! Hoping and praying that I can touch people’s lives with Door l’Door. https://door-ldoor.blogspot.com/
  7. Exercise more – this includes walking 7-10 miles daily and/or finding a piece of equipment to do daily at home. I am thinking about an elliptical. Thoughts?
  8. Politically and spiritually, there is so much work that our world needs me/us to do. With this in mind, I want to listen to the wisdom of one of my favorite songs in the world, “Keep On Moving Forward” by Emma’s Revolution.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtiXT5c5jBQ
  9. Live my truths without apology. Allow for my authenticity to shine.
  10. Chant, Drum, and Dance

By choosing to do this holy work, I am choosing to fuel my soul. I guess my soul sister can’t tell me I am ignoring her wisdom!

Time to get to work!

 

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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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Everything we say and don’t say matters; everything we do and don’t do matters.

Words and Silence – Action and inaction. . . .

Over the past many weeks, I have been more selective with what I say and what I do. Allowing myself to room for silence of voice and action has sometimes grounded me and has sometimes left me profoundly uncomfortable.

Too much is going on in the world. Every day, we are bombarded with information on the Iran Deal, US politics, climate change, the illness of loved ones, poverty, racism, human trafficking, refugees, immigration, gun control (or lack of control). The world feels really dark and painfully out of control. Opinions, prejudices, and biases emerge as if they are fact. And the facts are skewed by whoever is sharing them.

While each of us may see or hear about the same event, we tend to interpret what is happening based on our life experiences and views. I am no different. And I am realizing that so many people lack the power to discern what is happening in the world because they are being influenced by whatever sunglasses they are wearing instead of by interpreting the facts with the openness to really embrace the facts.

With so many human travesties and a feeling of hopelessness, I find that I am doing less than I should. I am not visiting the sick, helping teens navigate the world; I am not taking the time to care for others or the environment as much as I should.  Instead I am feeling stuck; I am unable to process the world as I once did.

Add the above to life’s normal challenges and some not so normal challenges, I have been feeling paralyzed and unable to make a difference in the world.

With all of this in mind, over the recent period of time, I have found myself going a little more inward and looking for quiet ways to care for myself more. This week alone, I have slept more, read a little more, taken some amazing yoga classes and listened to some amazing podcasts. I have allowed myself some time to invest in close friends and my sons. This time has brought core exhaustion to my core, but it has also brought about some intense realizations.

When I allow my momentary sense of hopelessness to surface, I live in fear that the world can never recover from the human conditioning that exists today. And then. . . just as I settled in myself sparks began to emerge, so many beautiful moments. There are people that are really trying to address the horrific issues of our century. A couple of days ago, I received an email with the following link http://www.globalgoals.org/prayer-for-everyone/.  Open it up and allow yourself to dream, to believe, and then to join those that have created Global Goals, those that have yet to give up on the human atrocities. There is work to do; we can make a difference.  At the same time, that I woke up to find the above link in my mailbox, a couple of new friends and old friends alike have found ways to let me know that my voice matters.

A day doesn’t pass without me looking deeply into the world.  With that responsibility comes the opportunity to listen and to share; we can learn from one another.  Listening and sharing leads to action and sometimes inaction. There are things we must do and sometimes we simply can’t do it all.

As I move towards 5776, I am aware that my voice matters so I need to find my voice even as I listen to all of the voices that surround me. In the coming year, may I leave the very tight cocoon I have woven for myself and be the butterfly that brightens the world around me. May I truly make a difference by impacting the world and doing things that make improve the lives of not only my family, my community, but the larger world too.

Can I be a butterfly that makes the world a little more beautiful? Courtesy of Karen Judin

Can I be a butterfly that makes the world a little more beautiful?
Courtesy of Karen Judin

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