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We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

Written by Elizabeth Alexander
for President Barak Obama’s Inauguration; January 2009
 

Words are powerful and empowering.  Whether I am reading them or weaving them together to articulate my own thoughts, words inspire me to explore what is and to make sense of what can be.
 
Words give my free flowing thoughts foundation; they ground me. When I read other’s thoughts, I realize that I am either not alone or that I am surrounded by both brilliant and limited thinkers. Time and again, I am amazed how all people can influence others by how they articulate themselves in speech or writing.
 
Personally, writing allows me to feel like I am being heard. As someone who has been marginalized, I have found that simply the act of writing my thoughts allows me to release the myriad of ideas that are sometimes trapped inside my head; the release also opens my heart space so that I somehow feel heard even if it is only the paper that is receiving my thoughts. In truth, once I have written my thoughts, I often feel more comfortable sharing them to anyone who will listen.
Lisa Libowitz Prescott, Arizona

Prescott, Arizona; Photo Courtesy of Lisa Libowitz

Have you ever heard the echo when you yell from a mountaintop? I love the exhilaration that comes with the responsive echo. That is the way I feel each and every time I take time to write what is weighing on my conscience and even within my subconsciousness.  The more that I write, regardless of whether it is my own personal journals, my blog, or my Facebook/Twitter posts, the more I feel at home within my being.

Over the last few weeks, I have realized:

  1. how important writing has become to my soul. . . . even more than before if that is possible.  This sweet realization is leading me to feel more whole.
  2. how I love to write notes and journal entries with my own handwriting. I love the feel of the pen or marker in my hands, the touch of the paper, and way the writing tools flow over the paper.
  3. how I equally need pen/paper and my  computer. I need both handwriting and electronic keyboard to articulate my thoughts; I also need my voice.
  4. being able to articulate my need for wrapping things in a box with all the words that I need to say before I can let go. Only once I give voice to my feelings am I am able to move forward. Just the act of releasing my thoughts or sharing my heart space allows me to let go. When I can’t do this for whatever reason, I tend to grow sad or frustrated that my purging of words does not always work well for others; I am learning to navigate this.
  5. if I am not writing, I must be in a dark place. Writing fuels my soul.

Words empower me to do what Emily Dickinson called  ‘dwell in the possibility’. I would not be the woman I am if I did not have my writing.

May all writing always exhilarate my spirit, give me wings to soar, and help me to navigate the many voices in my head.

Onward!
Now & Always

PS – Over the next few weeks, I will be playing with ways to my very own gift box of my favorite words. Let me know if you have any creative ideas for how to do this. 🙂

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Chava looking at large canvas 3

Rothko Exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts;             Photo Courtesy of David Cooper

Last night, I learned to listen to that quiet voice that reminded me to remain silent when what I really wanted to do was share the thoughts racing around in my head. Somehow I knew that I needed some time to reflect before expressing myself in any serious way.

Communicating is easy. At any moment, I can pick up my phone, send a quick (or lengthy) text, quickly shoot of an email, blog from my soul, shout out to my Facebook/Twitter community, or scream at my sons. I could do that, but I didn’t. At least, I did not do that last night.

Instead of going for instant gratification, I took a deep breath, a long walk, and a shot of vodka. I decided to refrain from major conversations, long involved letters, intense blogging, or even small talk. While I wrote a few quick responses on Facebook status lines, I did not pour out my heart, make any major decisions, or say something that I would later regret.

For once in my life, I (mostly) listened to that quiet voice that provided a shadow over my soul. Sometimes it is better to allow for the quiet.

When I was a little girl, my father used to loving put his hands over my ears and give a gentle squeeze. As he did, he would whisper the words, “Listen to the quiet.” I believe that act may have been the most loving act my father ever did. He knew that when I was sad, tired, sick, or struggling that I needed the cocoon of silence. I probably also needed his loving hands to remind me that I am loved.

While I don’t have my father’s hands nurturing my spirit with his gentle touch and loving words, I do have the ability to remember that sometimes, I need to listen to the quiet. And sometimes, I simply need to allow for the silence before finding and sharing my voice.

Writing is how I best communicate. If you want to know what I really feel, don’t ask me to tell you, ask me to write. Years ago, I learned:

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at,
what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
~Joan Didion

Through writing, I share the deepest part of who I am. And while I know how to use my voice, I am a much more honest writer.

So when last night’s darkness loomed, I did the only thing that made sense. I allowed for the silence, refrained from making any ‘real’ decisions, and I sat in my sadness, my frustration, and my anger. And the hardest thing that I did was refrain from writing. I didn’t send words out into the universe that could never be taken back.

At this point, you may be wondering what was feeling so heavy. Was it that one of my sons was acting out? Was it an internal struggle I am having? Was it that I have an upcoming meeting that is reminding me of my many vulnerabilities? Yes, it was all of those things. AND it was the sense of foreboding I feel with the upcoming election that was intensified by this week’s AIPAC conference. It is also the growing rift I see in the larger Jewish community. Maybe it has always been there, but in the last few years I feel the rift growing. Whether we are talking about Israel or the Jewish people, politics or immigration, human rights or the environment, each and every issue seems to create clouds over our people and the larger world too. And with each serious challenge being brought to our attention at break neck speed, the struggle is inevitable.

Last night, I did my best to take a deep breath and to listen to the silence. I chose to go inward, to cry, and to sleep for a couple of hours. It helped.

I am not sure that the world is a better place or that the elections will bring out the best in people. I do know that this morning I have a little more clarity about what I need to do today, tonight, and in the upcoming weeks, months, and years. Mostly I know that I have to sometimes trust the silence and sometimes trust my voice. And perhaps, what I need most is to:

“Step out today not seeking to be in the spotlight but seeking
for a spot to light
– be a blessing to someone.”
Bernard Kelvin Clive

 

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Ann Cameron Siegal Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows                                                  Photo Courtesy of Ann Cameron Siegal

So many paths are guiding me to new horizons.
As one chapter ends, it is leading to many new chapter beginnings.

A part of me broke as my move to Tucson came to be.
I lost a part of my heart; I lost a part of my soul.
And with each passing day another piece of me chipped away and is still at times peeling.
My spirit lost one friend, then another, and looking back. . . .
I lost the only home I ever knew.

Tucson was a chance, a chance to grow, to evolve, and to find a new home.
Instead for a time, it was the place that I became lost.
Friends were gone; community no longer existed except via Twitter, Facebook, and phone.
For a time my sons and I had only each other.

With each loss, I found the strength to keep moving, even with the gaping hole in my heart.
I began reminding myself to breathe deeply, as deeply as I could.
And I believed that one day I would be OK.
In truth just being Ok has never been enough; what I really have always needed was to thrive.

I am ultimately stronger now than I was when I first arrived in Tucson.
There are moments when my life feels overwhelming, when drama takes hold.
But more moments fill me with blessings as I honor the human being I am becoming.
So many dichotomies, so much adversity, and yet. . .
I breathe in devastation and I breathe out wholeness.

I am becoming whole, always building and rebuilding my foundation, my yesod.
The Tucson mountains remind me to reach higher,
The desert provides warmth for my soul.
The monsoons wash away the losses and devastation as the storms lull my pain to sleep.

Being in Tucson has given me the opportunity to explore where I really want to be and who I want to be. When I came to Tucson, I believed in possibilities. Two years since arriving and I am now believing in different possibilities. My job is gone, some of my friends are gone, and new connections have emerged.

The journey. . . .
Today I am looking deeply inside my soul.
What do I want for my life, my family?
Where do I want to be?
What do I want to keep with me?
Who nurtures my life? Who needs more boundaries?
How much solitude do I crave?
What do I need to do to be heathy?
Do I have what it takes to create the next chapter of my life?

The world is full of open doors.
Now is my chance to choose which doors to go through.
Only after going through new doors will I soar to new heights.

Going
Moving
Leaping
Flying
Soaring . . . .

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Networking has always been a part of the world; Human beings connect with people to seek information, share skills, and help one another.

Today’s networking is different than the networking of 10-15 years ago because people who know each other and virtual strangers alike are literally lending a metaphoric hand.  People are willing to share without payment or expectation. Kindness permeates the social networking world as well as strengthens human relationships.

computer2

Friends share their reservoir of knowledge easily and without question.   Sometimes they even share their hearts and souls.   Over the past years, I have received and shared everything from simple to complex information including:

  • news
  • recipes
  • music
  • lesson plans
  • information to save the world and human lives
  • health information
  • coaching
  • photos
  • emotional support
  • philosophical insight
  • finding safe houses for those in need
  • Judaic knowledge
  • political insight
  • tech resources
  • friendship
  • inspiration
  • trails to hike
  • jobs
  • skills
  • etc

The list is infinite, really infinite. . . .each day I am amazed at the interconnectedness of the world through social media.  With a few clicks of your smart phone or your mouse, you share.

Even today, I was trying to equate the virtual connections with karma, but was looking for a Jewish value to connect to this idea.  Karma is not a Jewish concept per se.  So I went onto FB and asked.  I received two answers that resonated with me from three people.  Mitzvah k’neged mitzvah* (measure for measure or good deed leads to a good deed) and basheret (it was meant to be).  The conversation was fun and made a few of us think.  When you take the time to share what you know, you ultimately receive it back ten-fold. People tend to want to give freely and ultimately you never know how the connections will help people make a living, find answers to unsolved questions, or feel loved.

I was trained to share through working in one of the noblest professions I know.  Jewish Education. Educators, by enlarge, share freely and try to help their colleagues be the best educators they can be.  I have found that when my teaching or administrative experiences seem to be at a lacking, my colleagues are always up for helping me work through whatever challenges I am facing.  In truth, I would say this to be true for most Jewish communal professionals that I have worked with, not just the educators.  Anyways, aren’t we all educators?

About 6 years ago, I realized the enormous power of networking when my son and I needed a place to stay in California for an extended period of time.  With little or no extra money and fear of the unknown, we were faced with the darkest period of our family’s life when Aryeh needed to have brain surgery to save his life.  Ultimately, my connection with the national organization paid off, via email I reached out to friends and family around the globe and asked for help.  Many people offered and in the end I stayed with one dear friend who I had known through my beloved and now defunct organization, CAJE (Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Educators).  Through networking we found everything we needed including a car.

Today, I watch with fascination how organizations like Facebook, Twitter, 140edu Conference and Darim Online have transformed my life.  Each of the above resources are there when I need them.  I can post a serious question, a curiosity, an emotion online and I will get feedback.  It is beautiful.  I am now living in Tucson, Arizona far from the worlds I have lived on the east coast.  Regardless, my friends and colleagues are still answering questions from Montana to Brazil, from New York City to Oregon.  The internet has enabled me to remain connected to the larger world and to feel supported in all my endeavors.

Over the last years, I have learned to love people I have yet to meet.  When I had major surgery two and half years ago, friends from all over send me healing words to put on my vision board. People care; people are giving.  Most of the folks who mailed me words on beautiful paper were friends that I had kept in touch via social media.

Over time, I have learned to ask for what I want and need; some are willing to give, some not.  Each person has to find a balance that makes them feel comfortable. I have asked professional photographers if I could post their photo on my blog who often say sure.  The key is to always give credit for any information you receive.  And to graciously accept when someone responds no.  Everyone is navigating life with the tools they have. Some people are concerned that if they share, they might hurt themselves professionally.  Ironically that seems to be furthest from the truth.  The more you give, the more people want to support your endeavors both financially and  emotionally.

Professionally, I received a huge gift two or three years ago when I watched a webinar from 140 Characters Conference.  Information about Jeff Keni Pulver’s brainchild can be found at 140edu.com.  For two days I became riveted by what this conference offered.  Following this conference, I was able to receive information via Twitter from some of the most amazing educators of all time; the experience of learning from some of the wisest people I have ever encountered in my life was empowering.  Holy Wow!!! I haven’t stopped learning from these people that give so unselfishly.  It all started because Jeff Keni Pulver, and perhaps others, had a vision.

Networking has opened up my world.  Today I have an amazing job, I am starting a non-profit, I am editing two books, writing my own books, blogging with a following, helping other people work towards their dreams, and more.

Opportunities are flowing; my spirit is soaring.  Networking has added to the quality of my life.

If you haven’t been networking yet, give it a try. . . .

 

*mitzvah – more accurately means commandment, but in this case good deed works too.

 

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