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Day 37 - Choose to Thrivei want to live in my truth and it is not optional for me. this means that what i am about to say may not be comfortable to read.

you see. . .I was born to live out loud, to be real, and to exist fully as the person I am. living in alignment is my holy work.

i have lived in many shadows and i have lived with so many lies. the difference between many of us is that i had no way out. . . not really.

there was my childhood. there really no need to say more about that. and there was my relationship with michael, my ex-husband. i had no money nor the ability to succeed without his support – not really. and i had children that were at times critically ill. in the end, i found my footing and i did what I had to do. i have always been someone who has reached for what fuels my spirit as soon as i could find the footing.

back then, i always did what i had to do AND i did it with reality looming overhead. BUT what i craved most was living in my integrity. i needed and still need to live my truth with myself. this isn’t about right or wrong for others.

the book I am writing is currently called ‘thriving: no option. . . ‘ every day i choose to live as i do. i know that i do not follow the norm that others feel compelled to follow. i live my many complicated truths.

when i left michael, i lost the village we created. when i left DC because i wanted to be safe, i lost my foundation of friends. being safe was more important. i am not 100% sure that i needed to fear michael, but i did.

when i left orthodoxy years before, i knew i needed to listen to the internal voices in my head. i didn’t believe that religious law should guide how i live life. i didn’t believe in one truth. i didn’t believe in God and God’s power as others did.

i am a seeker who is choosing how to live my life. and yes . . .a long the way, i lost a ton and with each loss i gained an insight that has guided my every step. over time i have stopped letting fear destroy my ability to move forward. i always move forward. i always reach towards what is possible. and yes, i often fall hard, but it is better to fall than to stand still and feel stuck in the middle between two things that don’t fill my many voids.

and yes the pain i have felt has left me bereft. i hurt deeply and wish that i could go through life without having my entire being broken – again and again and again.

with this in mind, i struggle with how much some feel like they are stuck in the middle between two parts of their lives. i am so sorry for that. AND i wonder what folks really want, i wonder what is attainable, and i wonder if they can develop the inner strength to create what would fuel their spirit.

and perhaps i am not fair. i have no money to lose for living in my integrity. i am already alone in most ways with a smattering of beloved friends to hold my spirit with almost no one close enough to hold me when my spirit breaks.

the good news is that i’ve learned to ride the waves, to exist alone, and to always reach for the life i want. i’ve also learned how to settle for the beauty knowing that whatever I have is there for however long it is part of my life.

i struggle with the knowledge that i am alone with a world just beyond my reach. AND still i come to the table again and again and again. i show up, i fumble, i fall, and i cry. and at least to this moment, i always  hold my arms out to the universe and move onward.

staying in the middle is not an option for me. i live fully wherever i am.

i also find joy in my work even on tough days. i work towards making our world a better world even though i may take my last breath before ever making the difference i want. i reach and strive for the possibilities even though i fear the realities. nothing stops me from writing or living out loud.

once upon a time, i lost a lot by living my many truths. still silence is not an option.

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world,
I
, an artist, will answer you:
I
 am here to live out loud.”

― Émile Zola

in my childhood, i learned so many lessons. mostly i learned that i was broken and if i wanted to find my voice or my inner strength, I needed to find a way to honor my spirit while accepting the brokenness that is part of my every breath.

~ ~ ~

i have accepted that i may never have it all, but what i have i will love. my work may be a four-letter-word, but it also offers a pathway to impact others in beautiful ways. my writing fuels my spirit even though it also has it’s cost. my art is sweet, but i don’t have the time or the ability to soar with it.

life is full of holy work to do.

over the last 10+, i have rarely done anything that doesn’t honor my spirit. i have left jobs because they compromised who i was. i have said good-bye – again and again. i do what i now call the ‘dance of emergence’. i’ve lost so much, but found my soul in the process.

in the meantime, I will keep living consciously and authentically as much as possible. and while i sometimes settle for reality, i only settle if i can celebrate living there for that moment and hopefully longer.

i am here to live out loud!

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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Sometimes my body tells me when it is time to stop and to breathe a little more deeply.  If I am wise enough and make the time to listen, the subtle hints will guide me in the ‘right’ direction; if not, a cyclone will take over my body until I do what I should have done in the first place.

Lavender photo

“Field of Lavender” – Courtesy of Carolyn Riker

How do I know this?

My body is recovering from revolting to life’s journeys.  Over the past many months, I have had to navigate upheaval at every turn. Today I am lucky, I am in the midst of landing in Houston where I will begin a new position in a just over three weeks.  In the meantime, I have nesting to do as well as my consulting work with Lev Shalem Institute.

To say that I feel spiritually great feels inadequate.  My entire world is flowing with fortunate blessings, my cup is overflowing. And yet, I am human.  I have been handling too much, I am still struggling financially and trying to be an incredible mother to my growing sons. I am also making some very holy choices for how to live more consciously and nurture my writer’s soul.

The work can feel overwhelming and last week’s move from Virginia to Texas took my last reserve. The trek was physically hard, the food on the road did not agree with me, and the cyclone hit with a vengeance within 18 hours of arriving in Houston.

To say that my digestive system is trashed and I feel like I have been hit by a Mack Truck is only the tip of the iceberg. Or maybe it is the iceberg. . . And I was too weak to call for help and perhaps a little embarrassed that I needed help. I pride myself on being self-reliant and emotionally strong, but I am very much an average person. In fact I wouldn’t have made it this far over the last 18 months without the love and care from my village of beloveds.

Being slammed with this intense pain and dysfunction upon landing may have been just the gift I needed. Of course, that doesn’t mean this is an easy time, it just means that I acknowledging that life is full of gifts even within the challenges. Last  night my symptoms were joined with a fever and a little respiratory frustration, today I am a little better.

With all of this in mind, I know that I don’t have a choice, I have a body to take care of and a mind that needs loving-kindness. So, I am taking time to rest and move gently, write and hydrate.  This is my life.  I am thinking it may be time to listen carefully to all that my body is saying.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS – I am wondering if it makes sense to make a create a lavender pillow to help my body and mind rest.  After seeing my friend Carolyn’s Riker’s photo above, I became aware that I need to surround myself with healing thoughts, healthy life choices, and a pillow to lay my head (metaphoric or real).

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Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom. For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for others, it is a tool for exploring the kabbalistic teachings in an organized way. For me, it is a time to actively reflect on my Journey Towards Wholeness. The more I am whole, the more free I will become.  [http://t.co/dBPYjDxSGj . . . .]

If You Want to Be Happy Be 2

Quote by Leo Tolstoy

I believe that happiness is a choice. Nearly every day, I wake up and decide that today I will be happy. That doesn’t mean I am happy every  day or that I am happy when life challenges feel daunting, but it does mean that as a rule I choose happiness.

During the many months and years of my son’s illness and his long recovery, I learned to find the sweet moments that happened at every turn. Amazing friends, some fabulous doctors, and even the weather could give me moments of joy when all seemed impossible.

Walking through the world this way means that I will always find moments of joy even when life feels overwhelmingly hard.

The last 15 months have been full of challenges. Yet nearly every step of the way I have believed that all would be ok and for the most part it was. There were days and weeks that I found myself struggling with the finances of life and taking care of myself physically when my schedule was too grueling. The beautiful news was that:

  • My friends made it possible for me to stay afloat; they supported me at every step of the way. Some friends gave me work, others gave me money, and two gave my family their home.  All of our friends provided emotional support in their own unique ways.
  • I fell in love with care-giving and treasured the relationships that grew from my initial place of desperation. I learned to take care of people during the most vulnerable times of their lives.
  • Strangers walked into our family’s life and made a difference for good; and this is still true for today.
  • We learned new ways to live consciously.
  • Playing board games brought us hours of enjoyment.
  • My writing improved.
  • My dreams became more vibrant.
  • I made decisions about what was important to me and learned to trust myself more.
  • I found blessings wherever I turned.

Being whole means navigating life the best ways that we can. For me, it also means finding joy in the small stuff and seeking happiness with each step of life’s journey.

While I am always seeking happiness, not every day is as good as today has been.

Today, I am totally humbled and awed by the love and warmth I feel. To each of you that are celebrating my new position and my spirit – thank you! I would not have made it without you in my life.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

(PS – Over the last couple of months, I have been thrilled to work with Lev Shalem Institute and hope to continue that work in some capacity of the coming months/years. And today, I am excited to share that as of July, I will be the Director of Congregational Learning for Temple Sinai in Houston. I feel like I may be going home.) 🙂

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Living life actively is what I do, but at the same time I have always tended to play it safe within certain parameters.  At least I did until my job situation changed and I had no choice; I had to face my deepest fears.

Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.  ~Jim Morrison

On December 16 of this past year, I was called into my executive director’s office at work.  My job had been cut to half-time. The congregation I was working with lost members and our school lost students.  Initially, I was stunned, never had I heard of a Jewish Educator going to half-time mid-year.

Instead of licking my wounds, I started really thinking about what I wanted with my life. Did I want to remain in Jewish Education? Did I want to stay in Tucson or move closer to the water? Could I find a way to focus on ways to grow while also sustaining myself financially.  There was and still is so much to consider.  The questions I was asking myself were endless.

What I had initially decided is that I wasn’t ready to push myself hard to find the ‘right’ position, I needed some time to breathe deeply and consider what I really wanted to do.  And the good news is that while I now had no health insurance, I did have a half-time salary.  Even with everything being strained financially, I was willing to take the time to seek the best working environment for me by deciding what I needed to best thrive in a new work environment.

As the days of my new work situation turned into weeks, and then months, I have been allowing myself the quiet time to figure out what would be next.  I interviewed for new positions and learned how to live with less; I grew angry for what I was enduring and I let the anger go.  I allowed myself to take this journey with few preconceived notions.  I wasn’t sure how I would emerge from where I was; I am still not sure how I will emerge, but I will.

There was and still is a thrill in learning how to live with less and accepting help.  From the beginning, I thought about my needs and wants, my space and how I craved simplicity.  And then my son Aryeh found a job and helped financially.  And then a friend gave me a job as a care-giver for the agency she worked; this allowed me to supplement my income.  When my car broke down, a friend lend me part of the money to fix it and when I was short the rent money one month, it showed up as a gift.  I am still reflecting and learning how to deal with where I am today.

Torrey Pines State Reserve Photo courtesy of David Davidson

Photo courtesy of David Davidson: Torrey Pines State Reserve

The Journey continues. . . .

And then in April or May I learned that the congregation that moved me from Washington, DC to Tucson two years ago could no longer afford me.  Effective June 1st, I was no longer employed as a Jewish Educator.  I had no guaranteed income and I had lost my community.

While I was aware that I could lose my position, I was also hopeful that I could continue working part time as the Youth Education Director.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, the congregation said that they couldn’t afford my salary.  The new reality made it time to figure out the next chapter and quick (or maybe not so quick).

Moving forward is not optional.  Choosing to find light in the dark moments propels me to soar.  Allowing myself time to ask some important questions as I make this new reality work is scary, but feels wise too. With each day, I choose to celebrate the blessings that always surround me. My friends, far and near, have never wavered in their support; the desert mountains and the magnificent skies nurture my spirit even though I miss the ocean.

And in this moment, I am blessed to be working as a care-giver with some amazing people and earlier this week a friend gave me a short-term  freelance job within Jewish education. I seem to be staying afloat for the most part.

Reality 

From the moment I was given my walking papers from the temple, I was forced to look at my deepest fears directly.  As a result, I have always been terrified of not having the money I need to sustain my family with even their most basic needs.  Growing up without healthy food or the clothing appropriate for a girl in the suburbs was hard.   And for the first time in my adult life, I know that I there are times when I may not afford  rent, utilities, or basic necessities.  If something goes wrong, I will not have what I need to make things work.  And yet, I am blessed with friends and a belief that all will ultimately be good.

As a young teenager, my family  didn’t have enough food and the fear of foreclosure was constantly looming. Potential homelessness was a possibility then and now it is again.  And while it would be easier if I lived on the east coast because we do have friends there that would shelter us, my guess is that I have friends in Tucson too.  The beauty of where I am today is that I am beginning to heal from the experiences of my youth; I also realize that I have more tools now.  I understand what it means to thrift shop, borrow, and cook from scratch.  As a child, I really didn’t have the tools to help myself.  And today, I have something I never had before, I have friends and loved ones that are there for me and I am able to find the gifts within the challenges.

I am no stranger to financial struggles, as a Jewish professional (not clergy), I have always just made it financially. And when my children suffered health crises, we sometimes didn’t know how we would afford even their most basic needs. Yet, in the end, all of our needs and many of our wants have always been met often with the help of friends.  For me, darkness always turns into light.

What’s next?

I want to live consciously in all areas of my life.  Being authentic matters whether it is with people, my environment, or the larger world.  My words and my actions should support my beliefs and my spirit.

My foundation is what it is because of the role Judaism has had in my life.  The teachings have given me the wisdom to grow and the room to wrestle. Doors have opened to me because of my many interactions with the social actions of my previous communities.  When one door opens, I often find many other doors ajar.  Some I will go through; some I will not. I am who I am because I listened to the values of my faith and used it as a springboard to move me through life and learning from others.

So now, I have to figure out how to have a career that either nurtures who I am and/or allows me the time to make a positive impact within the world I live.  My hope is that I can do both. I love people and working with people; I also love the idea of working behind the scenes to get things done.  Even though, I have only really worked within the Jewish community, it doesn’t mean that I have to stay there. I have learned so many skills that can take me wherever I go.  I really am looking forward to the next chapter and hoping that it allows me the room to be creative either on or off the job.

My purchases should be mindful of the people and the physical planet I live; my interactions with family, friends, and others should always be sweet and caring.  Living in the world means I have a responsibility for walking gently and lovingly with each step and with each word.  Everything I do matters.

Today, I am considering ways to ignite my non-profit organization, find or create a meaningful work environment, taking time to write, and living into the answers of my many questions.  Today I am fully embracing life.

Each step in this 8 month journey has been scary. Yet it is also exciting to explore what is now meaningful to me and how I will afford my needs for now and into the future.  I don’t have all the answers, but I know that I am trusting the universe and doing what I need to do to move forward.

May today and every day lead us beyond our fears and towards freedom.

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