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Posts Tagged ‘trauma’

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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I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

Song Writer: Paul Simon

December 2016 - looking outBeing alone allows me to ground my spirit and find center. It gives me the space to think, to cry, to create, to feel, to dance, to understand my many dichotomies and then to emerge from my alone-ness when I am ready.

 

While I love people, I also believe that being by myself much of the time is natural and perhaps how I was meant to be. From the moment I was born, I was thrust into a world of alone-ness. Perhaps it began in utero and then continued as the family of my birth didn’t have the skill or wherewithal to raise me in a healthy environment.

 

From my earliest memories, I was blessed to learn how take care of my spirit. There was no one to hold me, to nurture me, or to love me into the person I was meant to become.

 

As early as I can remember, my young life was filled with tears as I learned that the best thing to do when in distress was put a pillow over my head so no one could hear me cry or even scream. At one point, I remember believing that even God couldn’t hear my pain. I think that was the beginning of me wrestling with whether or not God had a role in my life. I am still wrestling with that today which is to say that there are times I am completely aware of how alone I actually am.

 

I always wanted to be like a rock or maybe like an island. I believed (and sometimes I still do) that I was safer navigating the world alone, turning inward, and being silent.  The idea that I could surround myself with my poetry, my books, and even my creativity, was profound. I could navigate this world alone.  All I ever wanted and still want is safety. I want to feel the cocoon of love and softness around my spirit.

 

My childhood and teenage scars remind me that safety is never given. If I want to be safe, I have to love myself enough to honor my needs at any given moment and to shield myself from harm whenever possible. I’ve got this!!! AND I am also a part of many loving tribes including my family, my friendship circles, my faith based communities, and activists.

 

Love is so complicated. Those we love have the ability to hurt us more than anyone else ever can. And the older I get, the more I realize that I don’t have what it takes to recover from the pain that I once brushed off with ease. The good news is that this has led me to nurturing friendships that truly fuel my soul.

 

For the most part being alone is not sad for me. I thrive on all that I love to do and how I walk in the world. I treasure those people in my life, I just find it easier when I am in my own little cocoon breathing, creating, and being in the fullness of who I truly am.

 

My work will continue to be honoring my need for alone-ness while not getting stuck in the alone-ness that I learned as a young child. I need to keep doing the holy work of living. AND to fully live means that I have holy work to do! I need to keep listening to the inner voice that both reminds me to take time to thrive in my alone-ness while also remembering my love for humanity.

 

And while I may constantly be developing my foundation so that it is as strong as a rock, I also have to keep showing up to the table – again and again and again.

Hineini, I am here!

 

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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Moon May 2015

 

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence . . . 
~Lyrics by Paul Simon

Darkness has always had an effect on me. I wrote about it in a blog about twenty months ago, Hello Darkness .  And today, I feel compelled to dig a little deeper.

Previously, I shared that “spinning a cocoon of darkness can be beautiful. In that darkness, awareness comes, skeletons are recognized, and insight is found.” While that is true, I want to unveil an even darker side to this reality. Darkness may ultimately illuminate my horizons, but before it does the world may come crashing down and my heart may feel like it has completely shattered.

Over the years, I have found myself stunned more than once by the way profound pain can suffocate my soul. It under this veil of darkness that I remember how painfully alone I am even with my loved ones within reach. This feeling of desolation is unrelenting and at times feels like it is squeezing the life out of me.

It started when I was a little girl and my parents would lose their shit in the middle of the night. Their screams would wake up me in an instant and their violence would permeate the walls around me. With no way out and no where to run, I was held hostage to the rage that lived inside my home.

Over the years, that same feeling has taken over more of my nights than I care to remember. I am never surprised by the punch that comes from a midnight rendezvous. During my really tormented nights, I wake up with my nails digging into my palm. There have even been rare moments when my clutched fist would leave blood dripping from my hands. On those nights, it seems that I am fighting the devastating nightmares that were unleashed from my earliest memories.

Unfortunately, trauma of any sort often leads me momentarily back to the patterns that begun in my childhood – a broken heart, a sudden death, a crippling moment leave me unable to sleep for what could be days if not weeks.

The good news for me is that as soon as dawn breaks, I breathe a little easier. I find that a normal beat returns to my broken heart and hope emerges. I am blessed to have become the thriver I am.

Thank you universe. Thank you loved ones.

Hineini, I am here!

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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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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Nearly two weeks have passed since ‘the call’ came in.  A neighbor, who I barely knew, felt the need to let me know that three men have been continuously taking turns driving past my house, stopping, staring, and staying for up to six minutes. My guess is that you may wondering why. . . I know we are. It appears they didn’t like the sign we had put in our window, but we don’t even know this for sure.

The call shattered any equilibrium that I was feeling. You see during my younger years, childhood violence was a norm which as an adult has left me navigating a very real deep-seeded fear of any kind of violence or rage. As much as I have tried, that fear often sits just below the surface ready to reappear when given a cause. On most occasions, I am able to quickly regain my footing when I encounter a ‘blip’ – not this time.

Having my house ‘watched’ has traumatized me and left me feeling some very intense fear and sometimes enormous anger towards the perpetrators and at those that feel the need to blame the victim.  I am also completely despondent that my sons and I are walking in the world differently than we did a few weeks ago.

In truth, the dynamics of the relationship probably originated with this story: https://lightwavejourney.wordpress.com/2016/11/05/yard-sign-troubles/

~ ~ ~

As activists, it was only natural for us to call our congressmen, write some letters, donate money, rally, and put up a sign. So after one of the airport rallies, following our new president’s immigration ban, my son put a ‘Refugees Welcome’ in our front window. Let’s just say three of our conservative neighbors reacted poorly, really poorly.

aryeh-holding-refugees-welcom

My son, Aryeh, holding up the ‘Refugees Welcome’ sign at the first Airport Rally following the Immigration Ban on January 28, 2017

What has stunned me most about what happened was not the neighbors that felt the need to instill fear, but ‘my friends’ and acquaintances that believe that we caused the situation and that we should have simply not displayed our views.

Chutzpah!!!! How dare someone tell me that in some way, shape, or form I am asking for it. Bullshit!

Each of us have a choice in how we walk in the world. Some of us choose to live consciously and to wear our hearts on our sleeves. That’s called transparency or authenticity.  For me, there is no option.

Violence, instilling fear, and bullying is never OK! NEVER! And I have a right to choose how I walk in the world without the fear of retribution for going against someone’s belief. Maybe things have changed since Trump took office, but the United States I treasure allows for each of us to have our own views and to express them too. Sometimes we have to navigate different guidelines, boundaries, or laws – that’s fine. AND sometimes, we have to stand by our principles and buck the system. I am OK with that too.

While  we later found out the ‘Welcome Refugee’ sign is not acceptable within our HOA (Homeowners Association), we didn’t know it when the sign first went into the window. Yes we still believe that refugees should be welcomed, we didn’t put the sign up to cause problems. The sign went up because we wanted to share our passion and maybe even ignite a others into action for refugees. And the sign went down when we realized we were not following the HOA bylaws. If the men were really representing our HOA, they could have followed procedures to inform us that were braking the rules. But that contact wasn’t what happened; stalking did.

How dare these men bully us by stalking our home.

As I said, the sign is down. And after about ten days, it appears the stalking may have ceased.  Fear now guides our evening and nighttime walks, but we are pushing through and starting to return to feel calmer.  And we still have a few people in our lives that probably fear for our safety and wish we’d simply live a little more silently.

Being silent when bigotry and hatred are guiding the political climate will lead to more of the same. So. . .even if I feel fear, I will join others who are trying to make our world a better place.

#NoBanNoWall #RESIST

Update: Since originally working on this blog, I have started to heal. I am still tired to the core, but I am starting to sleep better and believe that everything is moving in the right direction. Healing takes time, but my spirit is better than it was due to my fabulous landlord and some very thoughtful neighbors. 

Whatever fear I felt or may still feel is negligible compared to refugees and those that love them. #RefugeesWelcomeHere

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(Note: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5776, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-1Nm.)

Chava's Shadow 17January2016

Over the last many years, I have found myself struggling with communicating my thoughts and my feelings within close relationships. While intellectually, I know that I am articulate, the inner child in me has had to cope with feelings of inadequacy and feeling like I am sometimes invisible.

In truth, I understand why this is. This has been a reaction to losing a couple of my closest friends who didn’t want to hear my voice any longer. I may never know the full story, but it probably doesn’t matter. It is what it is. At the time, those experiences triggered memories of my childhood. During those early years, I learned that that I was insignificant; no one heard my cries or helped me in any tangible way. So I learned to hide behind the shadows. Sometimes that is still my safe space; sometimes I still go there.

What’s beautiful is that there is a part of me that understands how articulate I am. And there is another part of me that knows that my thoughts mean something to my family, my friends, and my community. My holy work is to fight the demons that try to silence me.  You know the voice in your head that tells you that you aren’t good enough to share your thoughts; or that voice that reminds you that you are showing too much passion. My job right now is to stop that voice from affecting how I communicate.

 

Moving to Houston just over 16 months ago has contributed so much to my healing from loss of loved ones. It has also helped me to see that I have not been silenced by those closest to me unless you count me.

People want to hear my thoughts, my stories, my ideas, and most don’t mind hearing me fumble with words. I don’t always have to be articulate.

Over the last year I have listened to Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert. I love these podcasts that have inspired me to honor my creative soul and was especially touched by Episode 205 that I heard earlier this week. In it, Liz shared that our words are “better out than in.” While my passion sometimes feels unweildy, it is always intensely real and from my heart. As long as I remember that sharing my voice is like speaking my truth, I can ride the waves of life with a little more ease.

Plus it came at a time when I am planning to share more of my stories and ask others to share their stories of childhood and life traumas. I am starting a project in which I collect stories of positive souls that have had to overcome harsh traumas. I want to hear how people navigate the darkness and ultimately find light.

Hearing the podcast felt like a huge punch into my gut because it helped me to realize that I have been minimizing my voice instead of sharing it with the passion that is part of me. The good news is that this didn’t happen all the time, but it happened too much. So as I get ready to address some hard stuff in my writing and storytelling, and even within my personal relationships,  it is ok for me to also say that “it’s really scary for me to let this out, but I’d so much rather it come out all wrong than stay in all wrong.” My voice matters.

Being emotionally honest is how I navigate the world. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

Onward with light & love,
Chava

 

 

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“Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.
Quote by: Wendell Berry

(Prologue: I have grown to love life and tire of people wondering if I am for real.  I am. I am human, but I am a thriver. Regardless of what is tossed my way, I will be ok. Always. I have a choice on how to move forward and I choose . . .)

Life happens.

With every breath, I get to decide how I will emerge and how I will face the holy world that I have and will continue to experience.

Struggles have been a part of my life – never by choice. In response, I have made a conscious decision to NEVER allow them to define who I am.  The trouble is that there are some people see my life as really hard and need to focus on just that. I see my life quite differently – full and blessed. The gifts have come in all shapes and sizes. Each passing moment has lead to new adventures – some simply divine, others challenging, and still others painful.  Yet, regardless of what has transpired in my life, I have come to find the treasures that have made me the person I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a work in progress.  I have had days that leave my heart broken with endless tears falling. But those days have been far and few in between.  When I look back at the trials and tribulations that I have endured, I choose to see the beauty that is often a consequence of life’s difficulties.

Life happens.

During some of the segments of my life, I have faced a few too many arduous junctures.  Ultimately, each has led me to find inner peace, phenomenal opportunities, and many open doors.  I am who I am because I have always found light, maybe not instantly, but eventually.

The last few years have had a few challenges. I recovered from the nightmares that plagued me once my son recovered from years of serious illness, I navigated professional challenges that left me jobless, and I treaded life’s waters as a single mother. Regardless, none of it destroyed any part of me. In response, I have found that I have special friends, people that will help me in countless ways. Struggling alone has never happened for me. My amazing friends have nurtured not only me, but my precious sons too.  Whether I needed emotional support, financial help, or a hand, my friends have been there for me.

Through it all, there is a inner joy that sustains me and allows me to thrive.  When I smile, my entire body feels the reverberations; no wonder, I am drawn to feel happy. I want to share my excitement with every one I meet and sometimes I am lucky enough to do so.  I am not certain where I found the inner joy that sustains me even as I navigate tough realities, but I have.  Yay!

Creatively, I am becoming the person I want to be.  My writing soothes my soul and confronts life’s storms.  Over time, I seem to have impacted others with my words. Wow. . . how sweet is that?  And I have also taken up drawing and painting (just a little); I even have a new piece of artwork that I have been creating.  None of this would be what it is if I hadn’t experienced life in the ways I have.

Educationally, I have learned to trust myself as an educator and to push myself to make more of a difference to those that I mentor and teach.  Only once I believed in myself fully was it possible for me to create and then share my creations with others.

And spiritually, I have found my voice.  Whether I am drumming, chanting, praying, or hiking, I find that I am becoming connected with the earth in profound ways.  I have grown to love how I walk within the world.  Sometimes I find myself dancing, and moving in ways that I have never done before.  I am alive, fully alive.

Nothing has ever destroyed my spirit. Even when I have had moments that I felt broken, I emerged stronger with tools that allowed for healing of my heart, my mind, and my soul.

A long time ago, I learned that while the world is sometimes dark, my spirit is full of light.  I always have the ability to choose to see the light and if I am really honoring who I am, I can be the light.

Only when I live in the light will joy exist within me.  So, I guess I need to choose light; there is no option.

Sunset near Pupukea Hawaii; Photo coutesy of  Kathleen Kendle

Sunset near Pupukea Hawaii; Photo coutesy of Kathleen Kendle

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