Posted by Chava Tombosky
Is it possible that we have the power to heal ourselves? A few months ago a dear friend named Sara had been diagnosed with a molar pregnancy that had turned into a persistent gestational trophoblastic disease. Most GTDs are benign (non cancerous) and they don’t invade deeply into body tissues or spread to other parts of the body. But some tumors are potentially cancerous and if left untreated, can turn malignant. The only way to treat this disease is to undergo a regimented chemo therapy course. Aside from dealing with the loss of her potential pregnancy, she now found herself facing months of chemo. What made Sara’s experience most triumphant was her willingness to share her experience in an ongoing diary she posted for her friends to participate in. We learned about her battle with chemo and her ongoing health updates kept us all informed of her physical and emotional journey. During Sara’s chemo therapy as her numbers were declining, and she had almost made it to the point where the molar cells had become eradicated, her numbers shifted and instead of decreasing they began to rise yet again. The exact words she wrote in her journal upon receiving the disheartening news that she would need to continue treatment for longer than expected were, “....I still struggle to ask for what I need and to feel deserving of the things that I want.”
I have also been on the end of the disease of feeling “undeserving”. A small voice inside my head screaming at my psyche that I have yet to deserve happiness, wholesomeness, or contentment. It is inside all of us as we navigate the tumultuous waters of life; except for those who are the most narcissistic amongst us. But as the Lubavitcher Rebbe always said, “We can learn something from every person; even (narcissists)- we can learn from them how not to be.” Where does this lack of faith in ourselves and our well being come from and how can we finally look at it in the face, slap it, confront it, and tell it to leave for good; once and for all?
The first step in healing, whether it be emotionally, physically or spiritually is to become aware of the problems that started the dysfunction. We cannot correct ourselves or see healing in areas of our lives if we do not acknowledge where this pain stems from.
I moved about seven years ago to the West Coast with my family from the East Coast. We rented our first home for two years and subsequently moved into a second rental right afterwards never really unpacking our belongings fully. Our second rental turned out to be the perfect storm that came from the financial decline into which our country has descended. Our landlords lost their jobs and stopped paying the mortgage, the house fell into foreclosure and on the eve of my last day of sitting shiva for my father, we received a letter from the bank stating that we had sixty days to be out of our home. I climbed out of my grief and pulled myself back into yet another suffocating reality that I was forced to face and began to pack the rest of my entire house into MORE boxes. We searched for a rental, but to no avail, there were very few homes on the market in our price range large enough to host all of my brothers and sisters who regularly moved in for weekend visits. I vacillated back and forth as to whether to move out of my neighborhood all together. I was despondent and frustrated by the many ’NO’s’ life was providing me. My father had died suddenly, my home was being taken away, and I began to feel as though my life had slipped into a quiet torment. For months and months we tried to negotiate with the bank and find ways to buy our home, but to no avail a big FAT NO sat on our doorstep. Finally a friend said to me- “Chava, you know you have the power to turn this around, don’t you?” I looked at my friend like she was absolutely crazy as I gazed at her, surrounded by all of my belongings packed away with my computer opened to Westside Rentals, a regular site that stared back at me at all hours of the night.
I was determined to believe that I had no power at all. I became a victim to my circumstances. I could not see any way of changing my future. A direct plan had already been set into motion, and the only receiving end I was on, was the one that filled me with pain and heartbreak stacked with bags of packing peanuts, rolls of tape and cardboard boxes. My friend came over and sat down with me to get to the bottom of why I felt as though the script of my life would be one that ended in failure instead of triumph. It became clear to me after some soul searching, that I truly felt undeserving of any joyful outcomes. How could I possibly allow myself to prevail when so many others suffer? Is it fair that I get to have a safe haven while others still struggle? Do I really deserve anything positive at all? After all, this was G-d’s will to strike me and create havoc in my life. I should just take it and man up. Maybe it was my destiny to be at the bitter end of life’s struggles instead of the receiving end of joy, laughter, ease and delight. Sometimes when you face many difficult challenges, you just assume that is what you are meant to be given over and over again. In my case it felt as though I was staring at a bright light inside my confined narrow tunnel, but my light was attached to an oncoming train that clearly wanted me off the tracks. I was really sick of viewing my world like one big episode of “The Real House Wive’s of Beverly Hills” show (minus their income). Maybe it was more like “Jersey Shore” (minus the tan).
I had to change this thought process. The thought of directly changing this momentum can very often engender the tide to shift. But when you are riding the tide, you rarely imagine there is any other direction than the one you are riding on. I had to stop being a tragic magnet and make myself aware that I was just as entitled to a positive outcome. I had to desire and want to receive the blessing if I was going to be given the blessing. That night I slept with a stir in my soul as I thought about why I deserved the blessing of having a stable home. I deserved this, and yet even as I said it in my own head, I struggled to believe it. I knew my children deserved it, my husband deserved it, my family members who come to celebrate holidays and Shabbat deserved it. But did I deserve it? Obviously this is not as serious as cancer or having one’s health threatened. Probably another reason why I felt so undeserving. In my mind I was staring at G-d’s flow chart and imagining my own needs on the bottom of the totem pole in comparison to others who suffer greater challenges. I just couldn’t muster any merit in why I earned this blessing when so many others live with less. Of course it is like comparing apples and oranges. One event had nothing to do with the other events I was equating my own outcome with. To put my own needs on the same flow chart, on any flow chart, and compare them like life was some sort of tournament was completely ridiculous! Obviously I have my own script of life and everyone else has their own journey, and to compare for the sake of making sure mine is less so someone else’s can be more is really absurd.
I woke up the next morning, looked in the mirror and said to my husband out loud- “I DESERVE THIS HOUSE.” I cringed while I said it, but after I said it a couple more times, I started to like the sound of it. “I want this house.” My husband responded- “Are you sure you want this house?” “Yes,” I said. “I am sure.”
I know this sounds crazy, but within five hours a phone call came from the bank and the lender told us to be at their office that afternoon to sign the papers. This was the same bank that had refused to heed any of our offers for eighteen months. The same bank that when we finally got them to allow us to put in an offer for this house, turned us down nine times! The same bank that turned down our loan six times. It took eighteen months, 9 offers, 6 loan agreements and lots of paper work, probably enough paper work to kill fourteen forests, and yet it was that exact morning when I stared in the mirror with a positive attitude towards my destiny, rather than with doom and gloom, when we got the good news that we were now homeowners. I can’t explain it other than I changed my own fate because I made the decision to do so. After seven long years, I had finally unpacked my last box. I did call Goodwill and managed to unload a lot of things I learned to live without over the course of those seven years. Man was it nice to finally come home. (And this is another lesson I have learned. As long as you have one pot a few paper plates and a good knife, you can really survive without all the stuff.)
Indeed my dear friend Sara, inflicted with potential cancer cells growing in her womb, who had been struggling to see her own positive outcome needed to come to the same place of feeling deserving of triumph over her health. As she wrote in her post:
“Last week, I stepped into a new space though, realizing that there were other gurus from which to learn and my insight was that it was time for me to change my mindset and to boldly ask the Universe for exactly what I wanted. The word “guru” itself is used to describe a teacher which leads us “from darkness to light” and that’s exactly what happened to me. The very act of typing about my preparedness for health started a cosmic ball rolling. I declared to Tim (her husband) my willingness to accept renewed health and completeness and, as I laid my head on the pillow that night, I offered my sickness back to G-D, confident that I was safe to release this condition which was no longer serving me. And, as the hours and days passed, I felt a shift within me, like I was being filled up with new energy. Things which had seemed pointless (everything from grocery shopping to taking showers) suddenly had new meaning as I surmised that I had a long and healthy life ahead.”
As of yesterday, Sara had finally been given a clean bill of health. Her numbers had improved and she is finally in remission. If she had never kept a journal or faced those rising numbers, she probably would have never even been aware of her other disease – the disease of feeling “undeserving.” Only when she was forced to look at her life through new glasses- the ones that stared at those rising numbers, did she become aware of how she was affecting her outcome.
Maybe that is the reason we struggle at all. Maybe we struggle for the purpose of getting over the struggle. That in itself is the most Divine expression we have. To be tormented by life, that’s the easy part. But when we can stare at the torment, change the direction of the tide and regroup, that is the real miracle of life. We really have more power than we give ourselves credit for. As in the words of Saturday Night Live’s Stuart Smalley, let us all say “I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!” (Unless you’re a narcissist, then you should really avoid this exercise at all costs.)
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July 14, 2011 | 11:13 am
Posted by Chava Tombosky
We can never leave our own story. No matter how painful. No matter how agonizing. But maybe we can rewrite it.
Sometimes it feels as though we are walking inside an insulated tunnel filled with pictures, images, words, and messages that overwhelms our senses. Some of these messages relay fear and haunting circumstances that become the 4d movie we wish we could close our eyes off from ever confronting.
How do we move on from deep rooted pain? How can a family face their future when their child has been torn away from them and brutally murdered? The frustrating part of living this 4D movie is that there are never any answers to the why’s. The inability to understand tragedy is a constant and man’s search will never learn this answer. The sad fact is, we only have our reaction. We only have our behavior to live with after tragedy has dealt us pain. We only have our own action, our own reflexes, our responses we become in control of.
We can never leave our own story, even though it feels unimaginably swollen with festering burning anguish.
World-renowned speaker, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Jacobson suggests that the word G-d can be swapped with the word “reality”, which can completely alter our image of the Divine; the scriptwriter of our lives. Reality is the world or state of things as they actually exist in this corporeal sphere. It is the truth that connects us with what is here and now in this physical realm. But if we have walked into a 4d movie, we also know, eventually that movie must come to an end and we can walk out. Eventually, the credits come up and a new reality does take over; a comforting idea.
These few years we experience on earth are just a blink of the eye in comparison to the vast universe that house our souls and carries our deeds and our everlasting reality to the next world, and the next one and the next one. Our realities constantly shift and change . Sometimes our reality challenges our inner psyche and sometimes it enlightens us. Sometimes it forces us to grow and sometimes it breaks us. But it always keeps us shifting. Nothing ever stays the same.
Maybe we don’t have to leave our story.
We are born into this world kicking and screaming as we take our first breath of life, as we leave the warm and safe womb that was our existence for nine short months. We are thrown into this mysterious world without any game plan, without any script, without knowing the destiny we face or the experiences we will confront without warning. And yet we are born stronger than we give ourselves credit for, because we do manage to inhale despite the fact that our fragile lungs have never experienced air. We do manage to take a breath and scream and let the unfamiliar world into our fragile six pound frames. We do manage to make sense of pain and laugh again and dance again and sing again. We do manage to confront our existence with raw energy that propels us into the next reality that then becomes the new script of our lives.
Maybe trading in G-d for the word reality helps us in realizing that our reality gives us power. We are not helpless. We are not weak. We are kindled forces born to help thrust the Holiest Reality into this world. We have power to choose how we are going to relate to our ever evolving story. Our reality is the constant break of waves that heaves through our lives like a tormented ocean always finding ways to push us to the shore. Always finding ways to make us move, to make us evolve, to make us become our better selves. Only after our current relationship with this reality has ceased and we will walk into the next reality, the next world, will we truly learn all the answers for what has become the script of our own lives.
We are Divine beings made in the image of the Divine. The Divine has no image. How can we physically duplicate an image of a blank portrait? What does it mean, what are we supposed to learn from this?
Maybe we are to learn that we are finite beings with infinite possibilities. We are finite beings trapped in a finite world yet built with limitless strength, immense faith, and the boundless ability to overcome the natural. Maybe we have the ability and the power to reshape our own destiny and how we react to pain is part of how we determine our destiny. Maybe we have the ability to change our reality. Maybe we have more power than we think.
We can believe in our 4d movie as the only story. We can reel in pain. We can see our existence as finite. Or we can mobilize our sacred and eternal purpose by holding hands with our Reality and realize eventually this movie ends, the credits come up and we will look at it all from a distance with clarity and understanding.
Maybe that is the purpose of it all. We can’t choose our story. We can’t walk away from it. But we can inspire others and morph into something new that we never thought we could become because of it.