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Posts Tagged ‘rape’

Much of my life I have felt trapped and it totally sucks.

I wonder if you can imagine what it is like to be stuck in a cold, dark cave – day in and day out for years. No one can hear you if you cry out in pain. And you can’t hear anything going on in the world around you. This was my life for much of my first two decades.

As a child and even now, I often feel like I am stuck in that dark and cold cave. Perhaps it is the reality of someone who barely heard until I was about 5 or 6 years old. Perhaps it is the story of a young child who was abused because her mother couldn’t escape her own demons. Or perhaps it is one of the many truths of a young teenager who was raped at the hands of someone who was supposed to support and protect her when the world had let her down.

Shattered - Believe you are whole even within the cracksWith almost no one to hold me or love me through the pain or realities of my life, I learned to dance around the quiet and ultimately to find my footing whenever I was alone. To this day, I stumble with close ones. I probably do this because after living my informative years in a metaphoric cave, I am comfortable there – most of the time.

Since I often still feel that I am alone in that dark cave of my childhood, I can find myself in hot water with friends who don’t quite know when I may be triggered or feel insignificant, unworthy, or silenced. The good news is that today I surround myself with beautiful and loving people who fill my world with sweetness.

The challenge is that once I go down the slippery slope and start wrestling with my own past demons, it takes a “real” friend to ease me out of my darkness.  The good news is that I am blessed; there is rarely an individual in my life who is trying to hurt or silence me.  I wish this reality made it easy for me to navigate tough moments, but the truth is that I can’t help but go there when I am feeling unheard or misunderstood.  When I visit this cycle with friends, I have to do the work of moving forward and the hardest part is showing up to the table and not giving up. In some ways, it is easier to let go of what hurts, but I also know that that is ridiculous. Remember, I surround myself with amazing souls.

Releasing myself from living in my metaphorical cave has been and may continue to be a lifetime journey.  On a good day, I know that  I am ABSOLUTELY not lost in a cave. On a bad day, I find it hard to breathe because there is no oxygen where I am. The good news is that I have come a long way since my beginnings.

But my early childhood often looms over any wisdom that should prevail. Still I keep moving forward and navigating relationships that will allow me the space to be real, to crumble, and to move forward.

Always moving forward; this is my journey.

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Living Out Loud: A Thriver’s Journey. 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: Triggers are miserable reminders that the past is never far away. And the truth is that they happen all the time. The challenge is to remember to ride the wave without getting lost in the pain for too long; we also need to remember that pain is part of the journey and we have no choice but to go through it. And regardless of how broken you may sometimes feel, don’t forget that you are whole just the way you are.

Shattered - Believe you are whole even within the cracks

Thirty-nine years ago, I faced the most crippling year of my childhood and young adulthood years. For the most part, I have moved forward, but that doesn’t mean I have forgotten the damage that was done to my soul. When I was fourteen years old, my spirit was trampled and no one was there for me. So instead of living my teenage years with the craziness that being a teenager includes, I found myself treading water with the hope that the world would swallow me up.

During that year, I was violently abused by mother, neglected by the father I adored, and drugs became my refuge, my haven from life’s storms. Just as I believed that my best friend’s family would save me and protect me from the raging violence of my childhood, my best friend’s stepfather started molesting me during a family vacation and then ended my time with them by raping me. In an instant, the last vestige of my childhood was ripped from me.

This horrific year left an ugly imprint on my spirit. And yet, even though it was full of pain, it has been an anchor to keep me balanced. Instead of going over the edge when life’s challenges leave me gasping for air, I tend to believe that all will be ok.  I made it then; I can make it now. The pit that nearly destroyed my life didn’t swallow me up. I understand that pain and vulnerability is part of life.

Unfortunately, each and every fall since I was 14 years old, I am often paralyzed by complete dread. On a good year it may last a few days, but more often it lasts for a few weeks. As the summer winds down and the weather turns a little cooler, I can feel the agony like it was yesterday.

In Judaism, we remember the death of someone by saying a prayer and then lighting a candle for their yahrzeit, the memory of their death. I think it is time for me to starting mourning and remembering that fall day by lighting a yahrzeit candle for that little girl who had her childhood ripped thread by thread from her being.

Once Gary raped me, my soul was permanently shattered. While I have emerged, it wasn’t easy. It took decades to plaster my many broken pieces together. AND like an old building, sometimes the pieces need to be replastered. The damage was devastating; it has impacted my every breath and probably my every decision.

And if that wasn’t enough, it was less than a month later that my mother amid a violent and very drunken outburst took what was to be her final blow at me and landed me in foster care. She lifted a butcher knife and tried to stab me – again and again. For those moments in time, I felt fear like I had never known and I was no stranger to my mother’s episodes; I endured physical pain at the hands of my mother on a regular basis. To this day, I am not sure that I have ever felt a worse fear in my life. And to this day, I still cringe every time I see a huge knife. As luck would have it, my older son has had a love affair with knives since he received his first one at age four. I will never understand how I was able to navigate his love and often fixation of knives, but somehow I not only survived it, but encouraged it.

Years passed before I absorbed how being raped as a child forever impacted how I walk in the world. And it didn’t help that a couple of years later, I again came face to face with the rapist, Gary, who threatened my life if he ever caught me alone. (Fuck the bastard!)

Only recently have I begun to navigate the atrocities that my young spirit endured. But today, I am so grateful that I found the inner strength to move forward or to what I now think of as ‘rising like a phoenix from the ashes’.

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Living Out Loud: A Thriver’s Journey. 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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I’ve come a long way in 39 years. . .

Thirty-nine years ago, I hit rock bottom with nowhere to go. Literally. At fourteen years old, my world came crashing down and I went to one of the darkest chambers of my being and straight into foster care.  During the preceding months, life had gone from really from terrible to hell. I was repeatedly beaten by my mother (both verbally and physically), living in fear of all that life had to offer, continuously being molested by the man who would later rape me and who’s family had wanted to become my foster family.

My life was far from safe and my spirit was crushed. I was alone and scared. AND yet, even though I did not have all the tools I needed, I was ultimately strong enough to save myself and find the strength on that dark, cool October evening. I left my house before my mother could hurt me yet one more time. I dodged the knife she was using to ‘teach me a lesson’ AND I ran. I made it to my neighbor’s’s house where I felt more alone than I had ever felt before. I knew that everything I knew was gone. I didn’t know who would love me or if I would ever be safe. I did know that there was no going back. The experience traumatized me forever.

Thirty-nine years ago, I stayed home to celebrate my favorite Jewish holiday called Simchat Torah. On this holiday, I went to my synagogue, danced with the Torahs and my community, and celebrated the yearly cycle of reading the Torah. At Beth Israel, my synagogue, I was surrounded by joy, laughter, song, and love. My home-life was everything but that. When services were over, I rushed home to study for whatever science test I had. Only my mother was nuts that night, even more than usual.

While I had suffered at the hands of my mother for my entire life, her abuse was escalating. What amazes me is that I had the fortitude to leave even though I had no where to go – not really.  In the end, my mother didn’t destroy my spirit. Her actions helped me to develop the tools I needed to be who I am! I am alive. I am thriving. I have made it to this time.

My roots go down. . . .MY RESILIENCE HAS ALWAYS PREVAILED!

Resilience has guided me since I can remember. This doesn’t mean I am always able to keep my shit together, but it does mean that ultimately, I keep finding the inner strength to do what I need to do.

Life has thrown me some serious punches, some of them more devastating than others. I have experience serious illness of loved ones, including my sons. I have lost many pregnancies and navigated a hard divorce. I have buried friends and lost friends to life’s circumstances. I know I am not alone in what I have navigated what’s above and so much more. The beautiful reality is that through it all, I have continued to show up at the table – again and again.*

I think I am who I am because the roots of my childhood have kept me grounded. I am resilient.

Onward with love, light, & blessings,

Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Living Out Loud. 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.

(*Note – I have been saying so much of what Rising Appalachia says in their song. I LOVE this song; I can’t stop listening to it.)

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(Note: This blog is full of raw honesty and may be hard for some of my beloveds to read. Please don’t feel obligated. With my 53rd birthday on the horizon, I am being to drawn to share an awareness that has been emerging over the last month as I have been writing for my upcoming book, Thriving: No Option.)

img_2681As a young child, I saw my father as my knight in shining armor. I adored him with every fiber of my being. I could never get enough time with him. Never. Wherever he went, I wanted to follow. His love for people and music was so contagious that I followed in his footsteps. He adored me and showed me in so many ways. But in truth, he didn’t show me in the most important way he should have. He left me navigating a life of pure unadulterated darkness. My father was the first man to leave my spirit shattered. A cycle that I’ve allowed to perpetuate itself time and time again.

While there is no question that my father loved me, he didn’t keep me safe. In fact, his silence permanently scarred me by allowing me to be regularly beaten, verbally assaulted, and ultimately raped. It is only recently, that the full impact of his actions and inactions have left my spirit gasping for air.

How could a man that loved me as my father did allow my own mother to beat me? How could a man that loved me as he did stay with a violent and mentally ill woman instead of providing a safe place to call home. My mother’s violence lead me into foster care and into the hands of a man that would rape me. My best friend’s family wanted to take me as their foster child, but I knew enough to say no even though I couldn’t stop the initial assaults.

My father might have been able to make a difference if he had been stronger, but that wasn’t my father. Instead I never learned that I was worthy of love and care. . . not really.

A few weeks ago, I was stung by the onslaught of this very  unwanted realization. Since then my sleep has been troubled and I have found myself shedding tears at some of the most inopportune moments. The nightmares and clenched teeth of my sleep have become unwanted guests. Although, as soon as I identified what was going on, the healing began.

At first, my awareness was about what my father had done and not done, but later I was stunned by what has become an even more problematic realization. The first relationship I ever had with a man overshadowed every interaction with men that followed. Instead of finding loving relationships with men that loved and cared for the person I was, I found loving relationships that ultimately left me hurting. How could it have been any different, I didn’t know how I needed to be cared for and loved. Besides that, relationships can be challenging. . .especially when they are ending.

The men were not intentionally hurtful,  I think I just struggled more because of the baggage I was holding. I lacked the inner strength to navigate reality.  Some relationships aren’t right or meant to last. Some relationships offer you the most treasured packages, but not forever. I believe that that’s life. The challenge is that my heart and spirit just didn’t have the grace when it was time to release old loves so that we could both move as we needed.

Today, I know this: I want someone to hold me when I need to cry inconsolable tears. I want to be loved through the pain of major surgery. I want someone who loves me when my entire being is on overload and I am celebrating both silly successes and major programs. I want to love someone who can listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s wisdom and “embrace the glorious mess that I am.”

I have chosen people that can’t show up for me, but that cycle is breaking now.

Hineini, Here I am!!!

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS – I am sad that my father never kept me safe or loved the fullness of my spirit, but my responsibility to make healthy choices now. I learned a lot from my beloved father. I am just sorry I learned some really hard lessons too.

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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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Feb 2015  Walking from behind

I don’t think I am alone when I say there are so many things I used to fear and that there are many things that I still fear. . .

I used to fear being destitute with all that that would mean. But bankruptcy in the 1990s and a significant job loss in 2014 didn’t destroy my spirit. While both experiences were anxiety inducing, I found ways to change the tide and become grounded again. I learned to live better within my means and to trust the universe a bit more. Things are still not easy, but for the most part life financially work s (except when it doesn’t). My family really has what it needs.

I used to fear losing my husband and being alone to raise my sons.  Divorce after a long separation ended up empowering me to live a more authentic life and provided me with wings to fly.

I used to fear being traumatized by violence, but I not only survived serious childhood abuse, but I survived rape. Some may even say I found a way to not only thrive but to to help others navigate to a safer place whenever possible.

I used to fear loss, but since I live life as fully as I do. I find myself loving intensely and losing those I love sometimes through death, sometimes through abandonment, and sometimes through the realities of time and space. With each loss, I take the good memories and create new ways of living life more fully in the wake of those losses.  And I know that while the deep sadness may always inhabit a part of my heart, the ‘dance of life’ continues.

I have always feared for my children’s lives. After nine miscarriages and devastating illnesses, I still do. AND that doesn’t mean I allow the fear to infiltrate the way I live. Instead I open up my arms and reach for life with the many moving parts that that entails. And I (mostly) trust that my sons will take their own journeys.

As Émile Zola said, If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: I am here to live out loud!”

I know that I am blessed. Regardless of what has transpired in my life, I find the inner strength  to emerge as the woman I am. On more than one occasion my friends have referred to me a warrior. While I love that term, the term spiritual warrior resonates more deeply for me. All that I do, I do because of love.

Now for honesty, I have always emerged from fear. Always. BUT that doesn’t mean that I do not live in fear.

This past week, I have faced being stalked and feeling threatened by three neighbors. I have been forced to explore what I think about guns, how to handle the myriad of views about what is happening to me, and how to move forward.

Over the last week, I have had people tell me that I have asked for the violent energy by living my life as I do and I have had to wonder if maybe there was truth to what was being said. In the end, I am furious with those that think I should silence the way I live. That is not the world I live in; that is not the world I want to live in.

I am a writer, a protester, and an activist; I am a woman, an educator, and a dreamer. There is so much work to be done and I can not do it by walking in silence.

The man who now sits in the White House and surrounds himself with darkness needs to be held accountable for the way he walks in the world and the trauma he is causing humankind. So, while I am afraid of my neighbors, I have work to do.

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July 24

A few weeks ago, I realized that I was falling in love with myself.  For the first time in my life, I have come to accept where I am, my own unique beauty, and the many realities that are me.  There is no man telling me that I am beautiful; there is no job that affirms my self-worth; and, I am a human being with deep loss and a violent past that has made me who I am today.  I am a mother, a sister, a friend, and lover of life; I am a woman.  And through it all, I have grown to deeply love who I am and how I walk in the world.

My entire childhood was surrounded by the barrage of angry words and mannerisms that showed me of my unworthiness.  One of my first memories was when my own mother tore my pajamas off and beat me.  She was the one to tell me that I was fat and ugly; she was also the person who believed that I was ‘retarded’ and limited in every way.  While I had a loving brother and a loving father, they never could make up for the damage that penetrated my earliest days.  And yet, knowing that I was loved was still a blessing.

Protection rarely came as I prayed and hoped it would, but it did come.  As a young girl, I was sexually abused at the hands of a neighbor and then raped by a man that was supposed to protect me from my family.  He didn’t.  Violating a child at any age can rip her spirit and shred it into nothing more than confetti.  And yet, even with those realities, I found my footing with an amazing therapist, a loving brother, and a strong inner core.

I grew up; I am still growing up.

A white picket fence has never been part of my life.   That doesn’t mean that I didn’t experience a loving family as an adult or many precious experiences throughout my life.  I am truly fortunate.

My body has been both my protection and my tormentor.  It has kept me safe even as it has suffered pain and defeat.  Each scar is very real.  While I have birthed one amazing baby (who is now 21 years old), I have lost at least 9 pregnancies by treating each as a toxic impurity that needed to be destroyed.  Thanks to the universe, one child survived.  A C-section, a hysterectomy, many laparoscopic procedures, exploratory surgery with a resulting appendectomy are part of my many physical scars.  And then there are the scars that no one will ever see, unless I choose to share.  Yet my body did protect me.

Chava with her first fruits

Chava with her first fruits

My heart beats strong; it has supported me at every turn.  My heart allowed me to run non-stop as a teenager and young woman; by running I was able to leave the world of drugs and stupidity behind me.  Each and every heartache could have destroyed me, but my writing kept me alive and gave me the room to sort out my pain and heal.  The strength has always come from my heart and allowed me to soar as a human being.

In spite of some of my challenging experiences, the parts of me that were once full of pain have become filled with beauty.  When I was a little girl, my mother chopped my beautiful hair off (perhaps for a reason, but I don’t recall).  Over the years, my hair has become a part of me that I have grown to love.  The texture, the curls, the wildness are all part of what I have grown to see as quite stunning. My body has received emotional and physical beatings at every stage of its life until now; today, I have come to not only accept all of my parts, but to see how precious and lovely they are.  And finally, I do not see myself as brilliant, I used to hate that I couldn’t figure things out like other people.  I wanted to have a mind that could do whatever I needed to do, but today I have learned to ask for help and to figure out that which I can.  In fact last night, I learned how to add a Hebrew keyboard to my iPhone.  I know that seems like small potatoes to some of you, but to me it was huge.  There is nothing about me that is retarded, there are things I can do well and things that I have not yet mastered. The very facets of my life that had once caused me pain have actually become what has helped me find my inner and outer beauty.

Over the years, I have learned to treasure who I am.  My writing has allowed me to touch people in positive ways and to make an impact for good.  My dreams to positively affect people are coming true over time; I have people in my life that I value and that value me.  And today, my dream of growing my non-profit called My Second Foundation for adult thrivers of childhood trauma is starting to take shape.

I am finding my inner and outer beauty.  Today, I look at some photos (mostly selfies) and see a beautiful woman.  I am a little stunned that I can see myself as beautiful.   I no longer cringe when I see all the photos of me.

While I would love to have a career that will financially sustain me as well as give me the opportunity to be fully me, I am strongly aware that my job doesn’t necessarily define who I am.  Today, I help people in ways that I never knew I could.  As a care-giver, I help people at the most challenging time in their lives as they are aging and sometimes losing their mental abilities; I do make an impact for good.  This is not what I ever planned to do, but it is a blessing that I can be where I am today.  And today, I have been given windows of opportunities to do things that allow me a greater understanding of me and what I hope to one day accomplish.  I am not bound or limited by the expectations I once had.  In fact, I know that when I take a new position in Jewish education, non-profit work, or in something I have yet to see coming my way – the decision will allow me to be impactful and to touch lives professionally or as an activist.

 

Doors have never been closed to me; they are and have always been wide open.  I just have to be aware of the opening and to decide which side of the door I should stand or whether standing in the doorway is exactly what I need.

I love being loved, healthy relationships, and feeling beautiful in another person’s eyes.  AND I know that while I treasure that, I don’t need someone else in order to see each and every square inch of me as loveable, precious and worthy.  (OK, I’d love to lose my double-chin and it is time for me to deal with the excess arm fat, but neither of those things makes me cringe.)  My body, all of my body puts a huge smile on my face because all of it is part of who I am.  I feel blessed to have the ability to care for myself and to work on whatever parts of my body I want to.  While I want to have a man to hold and treasure me for who I am, I don’t need another person to label me in order for me to have self-worth.

Yoga gives me many of the tools I need to create a stronger and healthier yesod (foundation).

Yoga gives me many of the tools I need to create a stronger and healthier yesod (foundation).

My vulnerabilities are also part of who I am.  I am far from perfect.  My writing gives me the space to develop my ideas and share the real me.  I look forward to the time when I can financially and physically return to a regular schedule of yoga with a class that is safe for me to grow physically and spiritually. I’d like to lead a chant group or another spiritual group so that I can share all the tools that have made me who I am today; I am deeply introverted even if people see me as an extrovert.  I struggle with the fear that I won’t be articulate or that I will be laughed at for my spoken words.  As a young girl, I needed 9 years of speech therapy in order to be fully understood.  Whether I like it or not, that is still part of who I am.  My voice matters and I love sharing who I am through my voice – written or spoken.  I hope that I always continue work on myself and be the best that I can be.

I am who I am because of the many parts of my life that made me that way.  Today, I have a beloved family consisting of my sons, my brother and his family, and friends that love me for who I am and who I also love.  I am beginning to realize that I don’t have to be anything less than what I am with each of the individuals that I call my family.  There are also other people in my life that have taught me valuable lessons at every step, not all are friends; but each person has impacted me deeply.  I am blessed.  The people around me are a reflection of exquisiteness that can be found within my essence; perhaps I have grown to be as charismatic as those I adore for who they are.

I am emerging as a butterfly after feeling surrounded by a loving cocoon called life.  I am thoroughly beautiful, inside and out.

Arms spread

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