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Life is hard. On a good day, we navigate with ease. On a bad day, we tread water and hope we can stay afloat. On most days, most of us have moments where the pendulum swings throughout the day.

What I am writing about below is where I have been over the last weeks. I am writing with transparency knowing that this will make some people feel uncomfortable, but the good news is that I make through challenging times by remembering that I have a tribe that is holding me.

If you are part of my tribe, thank you for being there.

May we all find our tribe.

~ ~ ~

When you’re down and trouble
And you need some love and care
A
nd nothing, nothing is going right
C
lose your eyes and think of me
A
nd soon I will be there
T
o brighten up even your darkest night.

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running, to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend

Songwriter: Carole King

I have been blessed with a tribe that holds my spirit and reminds me that I am loved. All I have to do is let them know that I am in a dark place, and they show up.

The last weeks have been painful for me. In fact, I have been feeling crushed and struggling to breathe. All I have wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry. And yet, while I have had some really dark hours, I have been doing what I do. I have been taking one step and then another, and still another. I am not out of the woods yet, but I am doing what I need to do as I slowly emerge.

Day 55 - Tears Can Cleanse your heart and spiritI have cried. I have journaled. I have cried some more. I have sat in silence. I have stared at my computer screen only to get nothing done. I have painted my little cards with the wisdom I needed or sad truths. I have written some really hard pieces that can only be written when I am in significant pain. Did I say I have cried?

Last weekend, I wrote one of my closest friends and told her I couldn’t make her daughter’s wedding because I wasn’t able to get my shit together. I was honest. And then this past week, I blew the shofar at a climate change rally and spoke about how the shofar was a call to wake up; we need climate action now. Just showing up helped me get out of my own way for just a little while. I still went to sleep with tears in my eyes and a hole in my heart. But on that night, I slept really well for the first time in a while.

BTW, this is the first year in decades that I haven’t blown the shofar or rams horn nearly every day during the month of Elul, the month before Rosh HaShanah.  In Jewish tradition, we blow the shofar as one of the tools for inspiring us to to wake up and do the spiritual work of stretching and growing so that we are ready for the new year.

Instead of blowing the shofar, I have been allowing myself to be exactly where I am.

AND

My tribe is showing up.

One by one, my friends are reaching out and reminding me that they are holding space for me. The most impressive is my friend whose daughter is getting married. She offered to come to me anytime. I can’t ask, but I love that she means it. I wouldn’t be good company and I don’t know how to be taken care of when I want to bury my head in the sand. Another friend of mine who is busy beyond words offered to drive an hour both ways just so she could give me a hug. A couple of others called, some offered to listen, and others opened their homes to me whenever I am up for a visit. Living in Houston is hard because most of my loved ones live elsewhere.

And then a couple of nights ago, I asked my friends who live by the water if I could run away to their house even if I am dark. Of course, they said yes and then they called other friends who live close to them and texted me that everyone wanted to see me. And what I heard in that text is that they will welcome me however I show up. Unfortunately, I need to wait until after the Jewish holidays, but I think healing will happen by the water.

Over the last couple of days, I have started answering the phone or responding to text messages. Mostly, I am still hiding, but a little less than I was. I haven’t wanted to talk to many people, so I haven’t. But I have decided to be real a couple of times on social media and within my blogging. I have cried at work and felt loved even if I felt unlovable. I am being transparent. I am “living out loud” as Émile Zola would say.

The truth is that why I am sad doesn’t really matter. There are a lot of reasons and I think I have only shared all of them with one of my friends who called at the ‘right’ moment. I wonder if I chewed his ear off. Since he has kept reaching out this week, I don’t think I scared him away. I am really blessed And the beautiful reality is that I know that most of my friends would do what this one friend did for me.

I’ve also been blown away by the love texts, the sweet private messages, and even a couple of notes. I am allowing my friends to see that I am living in the messy middle. And instead of ignoring me, they are quietly showing up and letting me know that I am loved.

~ ~ ~

Growing up, I used to hear that we make plans and God laughs. #Truth

Last Saturday, a friend, who is also a congregant, called my cell phone. When I saw his name on my caller ID I decided to pick up the phone. I, incorrectly assumed something must be wrong because he generally doesn’t call me out of the blue. Looking back though, I realized that this friend always calls me out of the blue and it is ALWAYS a welcome surprise.  Fast forward, I am not sure how he started the phone conversation, but he quickly said, “I’d love to do karaoke with you. Let me get with my wife and let’s just do it.” This was in response to me saying on a silly Facebook questionnaire that I have wanted to do karaoke since my 50th birthday nearly four years ago. LOL! And then this friend made the serious mistake of asking me how I was. Ugh! And with that I could barely hold it together, so I started to cry. Damn!

Guess what I am doing to do tonight.  Karaoke. Of course, he and his wife meant it when they said that they would arrange something and get back to me. At the time, I was hoping it would be months away, but no such luck.  And you know what, it is time for me to do something like this. While I don’t know if I will have the guts to sing in front of others, I am going to spend some time with friends. It’s time for me to move forward differently.

A few weeks ago, I was thinking I need to start having fun. I know that I am too serious. My spirit is wrapped up in making the world a better place through activism, writing, other forms of creativity, and even my work. And while my creativity brings me real joy, I don’t really think of it as fun. While people tend to see me as someone who smiles and laughs easily, I am also someone who needs to work on having fun. More on that later.

Living authentically these last weeks has been hard. I want to hide, but somehow this hasn’t been an option this time around. My broken spirit is out of the closet. And while I am (somewhat) working and showing up in life, I am also being real with every step I am taking.

My loved ones are an AMAZING testament to what it means to be in my tribe. All I have to do is be me and they love me just as I am. I better stop here before I cry yet again.

Hineini, Here I am! I am doing the holy work of healing.

Onward with love, light, and blessings,

Chava

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

 

 

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

We all have excuses for why we don’t do something.

  1. If I had a little less stress in my life, I would start dieting.
  2. If my art room was clean and organized, I would have the space I need to do my art.
  3. If the weather were cooler, I would walk.
  4. If I weren’t so busy, I would volunteer more.
  5. If I had more time to create a vegan meal plan, I would stop eating cheese, eggs, and fish.
  6. If I had an entire day to write, I would start writing my book.

Day 21 - Lose the word ifWhile we all know that we can conjure up excuses to keeping us from what we believe is right thing for us to do, but the question is what solutions can we discover so that we can lose the word “if”?

All of the excuses above are “real”; I have made every one of those excuses at one time or another.  I  am slowly reframing the above statements and creating new opportunities by losing the word ‘if’.

  1. Life is really full right now, but I am worth taking care of. In fact, since June I have been eating so much better and lost +25 lbs. or so.
  2. My art room (or creative cave) as I call it needs constant attention to keep up with the organizing, but I can always find a corner to work in. I am so loving the time I am taking to create #The100DayProject/#ActivistCardsByChava.
  3. While the weather is still wicked hot, I have come to appreciate my early morning walks before it gets to hot. I am so excited that I am walking five miles a day at least five times a week.
  4. There is so much in the world that needs my attention, so while I am doing less than I want, I am taking time to do what I can. Today, I took time to visit with two different people that were facing health challenges, reached out to people that will hopefully be joining me for Project Lifeline, and I made a small donation to Beto O’Rourke’s campaign to defeat Ted Cruz for the Senate seat.
  5. With a hope to be completely vegan by October, I have mostly given up cheese and fish. I am also taking the time to occasionally make new vegan recipes whenever possible.  And in truth, I need to grow a stronger conviction and just stop eating the foods that are not vegan.
  6. Taking time to journal every day is a non-negotiable; writing is what nurtures my spirit. As I write, I am slowly coming to a better understanding of what I need to do so that my book can get written.

I am not alone when I say my world has too many moving parts. In this moment, I am treasuring the small moments to transcend my crazy busy schedule.

How are you going to get out of your own way and lose the ‘if’?

Onward with love, light, creativity, & action,
Chava

PS – I’d love your feedback on my blog, my writing, my thinking, and/or my Activist Cards!!! Feel free to like or comment. I will try to respond to all comments to this blog. Input is always welcome.

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Ocean Sept 2014

Photo courtesy of my beloved friend, Shay Seaborne.

Awareness flows through me.

Regardless of how ridiculous I know a feeling may be, it doesn’t take the feeling away.  There are simply times when inner pain and loneliness settle into my soul. Those are the days that darkness is my closest friend and profound sadness has infiltrated my essence.

On those days, my broken heart has prevailed and the storms that sometimes lay dormant have overtaken my spirit. While these days can feel debilitating, they don’t overtake me for long. But while they are visiting, they leave me void of the strength to rise as high as I’d like to.

While today started off as one of the gloomiest in a long time, I remembered to breathe and pushed myself to keep moving. I even allowed myself to share my deep sadness with a couple of people that seem to love me regardless of the open wounds. Miraculously and unexpectedly, I emerged. I was able to reflect the love and kindness I was receiving back to wounded person that needed it most – me.

What I know without a doubt is that bad days happen, but even the worst moments can become a little easier with the help of breathing deeply, taking time to journal, and loving kindness from others mirrored back to me.

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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24 hours = 500,000 #MeToo tweets + 12 million #MeToo FB posts, comments & reactions. #MeToo is about women screaming out and saying that they were sexually violated. This has been a profound experience for because it took me decades to find my voice and tell anyone what happened.

As a young child, a neighbor who was also a friend’s father molested me on a regular basis.

And then at 14 years old, my best friend’s step-father molested me multiple times and raped me. There was no one to talk to and no one to listen. I was alone. This came at a time when the foster care system became my stomping ground because my mother couldn’t control her violent rages. Tracy’s family had wanted to take me in and treat me as their own, but Gary believed he had the right to do as he wished with my body and ultimately my soul. And he did.

Years later, I don’t really relate to the acts as being sexual assault; I seem them as violent acts. I was forced to endure what no child or adult should experience. In my mind, I was violated and thrust into the world of #MeToo.

Sunday night, I found myself in a total PTSD (or post traumatic stress disorder) meltdown. As #MeToo unfolded and then became viral, I found myself reliving the agony of those experiences and later the re-surfacing of those experiences. For just a couple of hours, I was temporarily back into the devastation mode. I remembered. I hurt. But I and so many others were being heard. How beautiful is that?!?! I was touched each and every time I saw a Facebook status line that said, “I believe”, “I hear you”, and “I am sorry”.

I’ve done a lot of healing work over the years. I also have done my part to empower young women as a way to break the cycle, and now I am sharing part of my story. And perhaps the best thing is that I have parented two amazing sons that understand that they have a responsibility moving forward. And after this past weekend, there a whole lot of women that know that they are not alone and a large group of witnesses to support them.

May we do this work together. May #MeToo become #NoMOre.

Image result for #MeToo No more

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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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it-is-up-to-us-to-create

Hope Cards answer so many questions that fill  my heart! http://www.bonesigharts.com/store/hope-cards

As I opened my eyes this morning, I quickly became aware that I was in the midst of some sort of  a spiritual metamorphosis. As soon as my pen hit the paper for My Morning Pages (journal), I felt  like a huge shift was on the horizon. I went from moody to grounded with each written word, but it took a lot of deep breaths and inner-work to go from Point A to Point B.

The most empowering transition seemed to come when I compared the a few of the moving parts of my life that have either jazzed my soul and/or crippled my spirit. Sometimes I feel like these two seemingly different concepts are actually ‘two sides of the same coin’.

Taking A Step Back
Two weeks ago, I took a bite of real bread and then another and another. As I was sinking my teeth into the first bite and then the second bite, I found myself thinking that this panini tasted so authentic, so real; the only problem was that it ACTUALLY was and I got really sick from eating it. As someone with celiac disease, eating a gluten filled panini was a disaster. History had taught me time and again that I would be sick for as long as three months from eating the panini.

The good news was that I understood what was happening and I had recently found some amazing health practitioners to help me strive for better health which meant that they were there to help me face my latest crisis. The bad news is that every fiber of my being hurt.

Over the years, I have learned that when I am most despondent or sick as in this case, I dig deep into the soil of life to figure out what is really hurting and how I can best heal.

Digging Deep
This morning, I allowed myself the time and space t go inward. It probably helps that I started waking up at 3:30. Within My Morning Pages, I admitted to myself that I felt off. My body hurt, my mind was struggling, and my spirit wasn’t up to par.  As someone who seems to rally at an intense level most of the time, I was aware that I needed to explore the thoughts racing around in my head.

What I found initially stunned me? And then, I allowed myself some space to re-frame the darkness and turn it into light.  I needed to knead the thoughts to allow them to flow.

Realization #1
I had a momentary fear that I was simply never going to reach my dreams.

  • If being healthy is a non-negotiable then why aren’t I further along in my health journey?
  • Why is it that I haven’t created my new blog called My Second Foundation in which I will be interviewing and writing about survivors of trauma?
  • Have I done enough or anything to make the world a better place?
  • If I truly want to have more time to do the things I love, why haven’t I done more to simplify my life?
  • Am I doing enough to develop my writing?
  • And when will My Second Foundation, my nonprofit, have wings?

All of these questions/thoughts challenged me and will continue to challenge me.  And while I wish I could be doing more of what I love, I am blessed to be on a path that I love.

Breathing deeply, I need to do a better job of celebrating what is as I strive for each and every one of my dreams.

Realization #2
As I focus on becoming the healthiest me that I can be, I need reconsider how I see this process. I am on Day 3 of what I will now refer to as My Journey Towards Life. With 122 days until my birthday, I have the ability to do the holy work of taking care of my body, my mind, and my spirit. I am on the journey to make my life the best possible life it can be. My hope is that on Day 124, I may stop ‘officially’ counting, but I will count all the days of my life. 🙂

While I love life and I love my life, I want to better engage in living more consciously, physically moving and keeping my heart pumping. Being healthy is so much bigger than I realized. My body, my mind, and my spirit need to be cared for; I am a package deal.

Over the last few days, I have been doing a lot of the practices given to be by my Aryuvedic Practitioner and acupuncturist, massage, drinking cleansing teas, walking, and writing. I have also been spending time with my sons and connecting with friends. Surprisingly or not so surprisingly, I have been sleeping and napping a lot.

It feels good to make taking care of myself a norm.

Realization #3
I love deeply and I am spiritually committed to those I adore. And yet, I nurture relationships that are safe instead of seeking connections that can bloom into partnerships.

Perhaps that is what is right for me, perhaps not. . . I think it is time for me to delve deeper so that I can discover what I really want.

I need to face the myriad of feelings and trust what insight follows.

Wrapping Up
At the end of my very soulful writing time I asked myself some guiding questions.

  • How can I connect more deeply with that which I am and that which I want to be?
  • How do I create a world that honors the holy trinities (per Glennon Doyle Melton) of body, mind, & spirit?
  • How do I navigate my sadness over some deep losses.

Picking Cards
After I ask guiding questions of myself, I often pick cards from different decks.  The beauty of picking these cards is that each of them usually answer the very questions that I had originally asked for guidance. Today, all three of my card choices did! It was mind blowing!!!

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This I believe
The insights that come during the early morning hours have the power to change you if you have the inner-strength to listen.

May the seeds that were planted this morning sprout with beautiful growth! May I become even MORE ALIVE!

Thank you for taking time to listen to today’s rambles.

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

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