Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Passover’

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

~Brené Brown 

Turning 50 was a huge deal for me! I was excited about the possibilities.  While I still feel sense of joy about the many doors that continue to open, I am also aware that I am single, with a small family, and a village that is beyond measure. On a good day, the gifts empower me to soar. On a challenging day, darkness and fear support how lonely I sometimes feel in our vast world. With a village so spread out, it is hard to feel nurtured when there is no one stroking my head when pain envelopes my entire being.

Today’s blog is my effort at being transparent. While I would prefer that light permeate my essence, I am aware that sometimes the darkness overrides. My hope and prayer is always that by opening the door into the fullness of who I am, I will allow more light to shine into my life and perhaps radiate that light to others.

Chava's Shadow 17January2016The Catalyst:
Recent health challenges opened the door to unrelenting vulnerability.  I know because I have spent the last two months virtually alone and in a painful haze that often felt dark and lonely.

During this time, I found out who cares and who cares less.  And regardless of who cares, I still felt deeply alone. Know that while my sons were close by and made a huge impact, it isn’t the same as having a partner, a close friend, or even a supportive community.  Aryeh and Dovi were great, but I needed more.

The love that flowed and continues to flow from my Facebook friends has been amazing and comforting. There is no question; I feel loved from friends that have surfaced from every time period of my life. I am awed by such genuine warmth.

My Reality:
Yet those calls couldn’t help me get a glass of water when walking to the kitchen was far too painful. Or perhaps worse, was the realization that if I slipped in the shower, I would have to scream to my sons for help; no mother wants to do that. Nighttime was the worst, but I was lucky. My brother and sister-in-law live in Israel and therefore they really could be available when I felt most raw.  As those living in the States went to sleep, my family in Israel was waking up.  And truth be told with so many of my friends being insomniacs, I probably could have reached out on Facebook.

To be fair, there were so many factors that made it impossible for some of my closest friends to show up:

  • They don’t live in Houston.
  • My back went out suddenly and surgery was scheduled quickly once the right doctor realized the necessity of my surgery.
  • Surgery was scheduled with less than a week’s notice and hours before the the First night of Passover and the Seder were to begin.
  • There is a huge cost to helping someone who doesn’t live around the corner.

Fortunately, I work for a lovely community in which there were those that would ask me how could they help and a few of those that really did show up.  And if ever I reached out, I didn’t have to ask twice.

Feb 2015 Walking from behindChallenges with friends:
Navigating close friends can be both challenging in fascinating. While, I would have loved to have my friends physically with me, I found the calls to be exhausting. I also realized that the calls and texts came from a place of worry.  I loved that people cared, but I struggled with what to respond. Healing is hard work; I had little energy for small talk, yet that’s what my closest friends seemed to crave.

From past experience, I know that if I was still married, my friends may have called my ex-husband to check on me, but they weren’t as compelled to call my sons. This forced me to interact with people before I was ready.

Friends are sacred to me. I treasure their presence in my life and I don’t take them for granted.  There were a couple beloved friends that didn’t reach out when I needed them. While I knew they couldn’t be with me, I desperately didn’t want to feel forgotten. During some of my darkest moments, I found myself wrestling with the realization that the holy connections could be lost at any moment and that would be ok to some of those I cared for most. Even as I type these words, the pain is almost inconsolable. I love forever and yet not everyone does. I have lost a few too many friends in my life and the sense of mourning is with me.  But friendships do change…. sigh.

As I heal, I am coming to understand that not all is as stark as I initially thought. Yes some of my friends have faded away, but some of them will emerge. AND there are new friends that are showering me with love and warmth. I am not alone, but that doesn’t take away the fact that blanket of loneliness that is all encompassing at times.

What’s happening now?
Knowing that I am not seriously ill has been important for me to remember; I was recovering from surgery-yes. But I always knew and still know that all will be good. Intense pain ended as soon as surgery was over. Yet that doesn’t mean I feel good or energetic. My entire life went out of control two months ago and in some ways it still is.  I may look good or better, but nothing feels good and the exhaustion I feel is bone-deep and overwhelming. While I can get up and do what I need to do, it isn’t easy.

Vulnerability comes from the realization that the doctor is looking at the weakness in my left leg and wondering if he will need to go back in to do more surgery. And what happens if he does? What will happen with my work? Who will take me to the hospital next time? How will I afford the mounting hospital bills when money is tight on a good day? Illness is lonely and in this moment, I am also realizing that as I reflect on the friends that ‘showed up’ over the last two months, I am not always a good friend to those that need me either. Life is busy and my creative spirit yearns for me creative time, yet . . .  How do any of us find balance with a world that needs our attention?

The hours of solitude have left me even more conscious than I was about EVERYTHING in my world. I am not sure where this deep reflection will lead, but I have a sense that certain changes are on the horizon.  Over the coming months, I will unpack what is filling my heart and soul via my blog, Facebook, journaling, and even talking — everything from aging/saging, relationships, finances, lifestyle choices, the world, and even my passions. And through it all, I need to embrace finding the gifts and engaging in actions that will move not only me, but our world forward.

Immense Gratitude:
When my orthopedic surgeon told me that surgery was needed as soon as possible, I was most sad about picking up the phone to tell my friends Kathleen and Eric that I wouldn’t be able to have them for our Passover Seder this year.  I had been so excited about them coming in from South Padre Island some 6 hours from Houston, but for all intensive purposes, Passover was being canceled. Their reaction shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. They said they would be coming anyway, they wanted to be here for me.

Even as I type this, tears are flowing from my eyes. One of my biggest fears was who would advocate for me. Hospitals are so scary to me; they literally terrify me. While I don’t necessarily show it, it is true. I struggle anytime I have to go to the doctor, support my sons when they need medical treatment, or go for any test. Even my blood pressure runs high as soon as I walk into the doctor’s office.

The years of having sick children have really impacted my life. And to make things even more complicated, I never thought I would be alone to navigate health challenges without a partner. When I first decided my ex-husband and I would part ways, I was sure we would always be there for each other. But reality is different from any illusions I once held.

The funniest part of having Kathleen and Eric come in was that not only did I have close friends, I had two doctors who could advocate for me and make sure that all was going smoothly. I so treasured how they showed up ready to do everything they could to make this experience as easy as possible. And they did.

Being spoiled by two beautiful souls was a gift. I hope the next time I have a friend that needs me that I show up with such an open heart and willingness to do whatever I need to do to make a difference.

Most of us have a few friends that we touch base with regularly and other friends that we may not talk to for years. I loved that three friends who I rarely talk to called me the days before surgery. Just prior to surgery, I was devastated and overwhelmed by my pain. Intellectually, I knew that I would land on my feet (literally), but that didn’t change how difficult it was for me to cope.  Each call made a huge difference and lifted a piece of the darkness.

Shortly after surgery, I received a lovely fruit basket from old friends and a sweet call from someone who I connect with rarely at best. Actually, he calls whenever he catches on Facebook that I am having a rough time. Again, these folks simply showed up and made me feel like I was worthy of their warmth.

Locally,  some special angels show up from my community. One member called regularly to check on me – always reminding me that she lived close by and would love to do whatever was needed (and she did too)! Another member of my community came to visit me weekly always with a baked goodie in hand. One of my favorite visits came from friends who brought me flowers, but more importantly brought our dog a new rope toy. The day after surgery, one loving soul brought us yummy leftovers from their seder. This routine of periodic visits and an occasional special delivery helped throughout the first weeks following surgery.  Sweet texts and cards (especially from my students) kept my spirits from plummeting.

Reality Check:
When we are ill it can be hard to ask for help, but people aren’t mind readers.  One thing that wasn’t so helpful were the many people that said let me know if you need anything. What I learned from most of those people was that they didn’t really want to help, they simply wanted me to know that they cared (and they would have helped if I asked). Next time, a friend is struggling, I will do my best to say that I am going shopping and would love them to have what they need and not what I want them to have. 🙂 Or perhaps I can offer to do their laundry, clean their bathrooms, or simply come over and sit with them.

I loved when the friends that I am in better contact with learned that a simple text was lovely. I was exhausted by those that expected a response from me every time they reached out. The good news is that I knew they cared!!

What I really needed was for people to be present without expectation. I think the hardest part about living in Houston for such a short time is that new friends don’t really know how to be present for you. And then there was the silence that came from people I would have thought cared. In truth, they don’t (not really) and that is a good thing to know too. I did feel horrible when I found out that one of my friends was having a hard time and that is why she didn’t reach out. I was, subsequently, relieved that she did care, but then miserable that I had temporarily made the wrong assumption. I am learning.

The World – sigh…
While my little world may challenge me, there is also the larger world that has me oozing with vulnerability.

  • Trump is a lunatic and the President of the United States. He is a sick bastard that is digging his professional grave. And when he goes down, we still have a Republican government and the next few possibilities in line are prejudiced and biased in how they walk in the world.
  • Millions of people are suffering and our country would rather close their doors than save the lives of entire families and villages. My father’s family would have been left to die if they wanted to enter this country today.
  • Our country feels like it has taken hundreds of steps back as it actively discriminates against people based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
  • The environment is being devastated by the actions of the human race.
  • The Occupation in Israel is in it’s 50th year. With this in mind, no wonder Israel is a mess. Hatred breeds hatred and Israel has done more than it’s share to destroy what could have been an awesome homeland for the Jewish people. I can’t believe I once wanted to make aliyah, move to Israel. (And yes, it is a complicated; I am not delving into those complexities in this blog.)
  • What about health insurance for my sons. The FUCKING government is actively trying to dismantle the amazing work of ObamaCare also known as the Affordable Care Act. My older son is thriving today, but that was not always the case; medical coverage could become an impossibility for him and so many others.
  • . . . and so much more.

I am disgusted by what I am seeing going on in our world. And the hardest challenge comes from the realization that I can never do enough to make our world a better place. Yet, I have no choice, but to do all that I can. Living in Texas and having Trump as POTUS, has totally impacted my plans for the immediate future because I need to take nearly every free minute I have, roll of my sleeves, and work towards undoing the damage of those that are either doing nothing as well as those that are actively destroying the fabric or our world.

Conclusion:
Two months have passed since pain rocked my world on Saturday, March 11th. I am blessed that the pain didn’t last for too long and yet it lasted just long enough. It gave me time to reflect about friendships (old and new), money, values, and needs versus wants. Illness has been a great tool for weeding out that which does not nourish me.

Mostly though, I have learned that I need to better care for my body, mind, and soul. And I need to nurture my village – near and far by both being present and allowing others to be present for me.  And when vulnerability rocks my world, moving forward is the only way to ultimately thrive.

Giving up is never an option. . . .there is too much work to be done!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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 . . . .]

Western Minnesota Photo Courtesy of Randall Miller

Photo Courtesy of Randall Miller           Location: Western Minnesota

The only journey is the one within.
Quote by Rainer Maria Rilke

For the last several years, I have been seriously impacted by the writings of Rainer Maria Rilke.  His words touch me deeply and inspire me to reflect inwardly while trusting the insight that will come over time. Rilke’s wisdom seems to be telling me how to walk in the world.  To be fair, most of what I have read has been in his book, Letters to a Young Poet, which can often be found next to me or in my computer case when I travel.  (Note to myself: This year I will take time to read more of his works and perhaps his biography too.)

Within me a storm is constantly blowing. As someone who never stops thinking and feeling the rhythm of the world that surrounds me, I often think or wrestle with what is happening around me.  And as I grapple, I sometimes have trouble silencing my mind so that I may be able to relax or shut down.

In this moment alone, I am thinking about the 150 murdered Kenyan students and their loved ones, the fatal shooting of another African-American teenager, Justus Howell, by a Illinois Police officer on Saturday, how the water crisis in California will affect so many people, the bi-partisan reaction to Iran deal, and how to make chickpeas without leaving too much of a carbon footprint.  And then there is my work, my future work, and my sons to consider.  And finally, I am pondering about my writing – What shape do I want my upcoming blogs to take? Should I take the time to work on my book this week? The bottom-line is that these thoughts have been racing through my brain over the last several hours or maybe the last 10 minutes.

If I am totally transparent, I am also struggling with Facebook conversations. How I personally relate to people who see Israeli politics so much differently than I do? What do I do with the “friend” that referred to those that like Obama as morons. (I did delete his message and wrote him a gentle note back.) How can I make the last days of Passover meaningful? And finally, hoping to remember to send cards to the couple of friends who lost love ones over the last week.

What I am thinking about doesn’t end there. I am also deliberating on how to best make a positive difference for the slaves within the chocolate industry. (That came up during our 2nd night Seder) And I am also wondering whether J Street would be interested in letting me create a cabinet or focus community of educators. And then there is a personal issue tugging at my heart. Sigh.

The beautiful reality of the storms that happen within my head and my heart is that I am consciously intertwined with the world. I find joy in walking outside, spending time with loved ones and friends, and chanting or drumming by myself. With every ounce of my being, I am alive and thriving in the world I live. 🙂

May each of us find peace within the storms of life and within all that fills our minds.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

Read Full Post »

Middah (character trait) focus: Take the steps to be yourself

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 me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

Today is the final day of the counting of the Omer, Day 49.  In the time between Passover and Shavuot (which begins tomorrow night), I have invited each of us to look at how we walk in the world.  Looking back I believe so many of my blogs said the same thing: Find ways to be yourself.  The only way to move from slavery to freedom is to both honor the person you are as you also strive to grow as a human being.

On a fundamental level, I believe that in order for most of us to be healthy, we need to be our best selves; for most of us that means we have work to do.

Take One Step

 

Taking the steps we need to take is ultimately about being yourself and honoring how you want to move in this world.  For  me, it is about making my voice heard and about impacting the world with my words.  How do you want to live your life? What do you want to do for yourself and the larger world around you?

Don’t forget to take your first step, and then your next step when you feel ready to do so.

Thank you for joining me in this journey from slavery to freedom; may we all find freedom with our next step!

Read Full Post »

Middah (character trait) focus: Keep returning home

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 me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

As I was flying home from Boulder  to my sons this week, I was overcome with ambivalence. I found myself wondering, what makes a place home?

At this moment in time, I am in an incredibly expansive space; I am open to any and all opportunities.  I am happy to continue in the field that I have loved for almost three decades and I am excited that an entirely new doorway may call to me.  My physical home may continue to exist in Tucson or perhaps I will end up somewhere completely different.  The world is wide open to me and possibilities abound.

In some ways it is so simple to say that I am going home.  Home is where my family lives, my dogs await my return, or where my ‘stuff’ is.  And yet when you are navigating a possible transition to a new locale, a physical home feels more like limbo.

And then the idea of home came again on Saturday morning when I went to the Temple I used to work.  I was quite surprised that I felt comfortable there in spite of my losing my position due to financial challenges within the community.  I am still feeling lots of mixed emotions as I struggle to make ends meet.  Even so, I do have very warm feelings towards the community; I am not sure why I am shocked, but I am.  One friend let me know that she hopes that I still find Temple to be my home community.  While I don’t have the answer, I realized that the mentioning of Temple as my home left me again wondering.  Where is home?

And then this morning, the answer came to me loud and clear when I listened to the brilliant TEDTalks of Elizabeth Gilbert.  When she said, “I am not going to quit (writing), I’m going home”, I realized then Gilbert eloquently expressed what I know to be true.  For me, going home means that I am writing and that I am in a writing place.  Writing makes me feel at peace, it makes me whole.

For me, I feel balanced and complete when I am writing; it really does make any place feel like home sweet home..  Where is your safe place? When do you feel most at peace? Where is your home?

May we all keep returning home to the whatever jazzes our soul, makes us feel centered, and nurtures who we are.

Read Full Post »

Middah (character trait) focus: Imperfection is reality

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 me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” –  Salvador Dalí 

I have a challenge; I am hard on myself when I don’t complete tasks that I wish to in a way that I believe they should be done.  And yet, sometimes it has to be reality.

Finding the saying of Salvador Dali is a gift because it absolutely helps me keep perspective and reminds me that I will always keep growing.  Striving for improvement makes so much more sense than striving for perfection.

When I was a teenager, I used to paint as much as I could; I loved art, all art.  And  often I would find my self reflecting about Salvador Dali with each stroke of the paintbrush; he was my hero.  So many of the pieces of my younger years were inspired by him.  Years later when I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art with a good friend, I was again  reminded of the power of Dali’s work.  He touched me like no other artist has ever touched me before or since.  Again after seeing his exhibit, I tried to find my artistic place although that time it was and still is with writing.  Although, after meeting my hero’s work again, I did start to pick up markers and colored pencils so that I could try to doodle on my journal books.

While I was at Philadelphia Museum of Art, I purchased the a mounted poster of the below painting; it reminds me that I can navigate through time, I just have to keep pushing through, doing what I dream of, and believing that I will succeed.  Not everything happens when I want it to, as I hope it will, or even at all.  Sometimes I fail and sometimes I don’t.  I just need to remember to keep on moving forward and doing the best that i can do.

Salvador Dali's The Persistence of Memory  Courtesy of http://www.themost10.com/famous-salvador-dali-artworks/

Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory
Courtesy of http://www.themost10.com/famous-salvador-dali-artworks/

Imperfection will always be a reality, the question is will I find the gifts that are part of the journey?

 

Read Full Post »

Middah (character trait) focus: Loving what is

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 me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

“The more clearly you understand yourself and your emotions, the more you become a lover of what is.” ~Baruch Spinoza

In this final week of the counting of the Omer, I feel like it is a good think about considering where I fit into the entire universe with all of it’s gifts and challenges.  In traditional circles, this is considered the week of malkhut/kingdom.  With that in mind, I want to openly consider what it could mean to really rebirth or navigate our towards freedom.

Life is hard, really hard at times.  Sometimes it is difficult to tread the challenges.  Yet once we fully connect with what is real, even what needs to be transformed within ourselves, we can love what is because it is all part of the journey.

I always seek to find the light that surrounds me.  This past week, I found out that I wasn’t a candidate for a position even though I had spend over four hours on the phone with folks.  What is lovely is that the calls were full of positive interactions and I was able to articulate many of my ideas and hear other ideas in healthy exchange; the interview process including the rejection letter were really quite lovely. And after reflection, I believe I could have had a good experience, but it was probably not the best environment for someone who often thinks outside of the box.  I need a position, but that one lacked what I needed in a career position.

Finding the gifts within all aspects of life, good and challenging, is the only way I know how to walk through the world. Loving what is offers me a chance to embrace the moment even the ones that need to ultimately be transformed.

 

Finding light within darkness.

Finding light within darkness. . . .

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »