Posted by Chava Tombosky
(Please read this while listening to the soundtrack of some cheesey love song- it’s way funnier.)
I guess its that time of month. Where I finally write something down. Writing is a funny exercise cause it forces one to reckon life. I’ve been spending a lot of time numb from it. It’s like a vortex I enter every now and then. Some would call it denial. Others would call it “not paying attention” or “ignoring”, I like to call it eating ice cream with the freezer opened while I check my phone as the TV blares. It’s like a hypnotic state most writers must enter so the light of aha allows itself to come racing back into the brain. There is a commercial, so the haha just crept in. (That’s right I said haha, hopefully this essay will reveal the Aha....bare with me)..
This is typically a really bad week/month for me. Every year around this time, I find myself waiting as that impending moment when my life changed forever creeps back in to my reality. This is the third year I get to experience the impending doom. It is weird, because I am actually not so bad this time around. The last few times I found myself sitting in a car on a beach till 4 am, okay till 5 am staring ahead trying to see past the orbit of tears hazing up my vision as hobos circled my car. Bla Bla Effing BLA. Yes I said it- EFFING. I won’t curse on this blog, but this year, I will say the first letter with an I. N . G at the end, just to get the point across, that It’s time to let it GO. Let go that nagging “Poor me, my dad’s dead” routine. (If you want to hear me say the real F word, you’ll have to come over for dinner, I try to keep my cursing relegated to the kitchen after my meat burns. And the car during traffic. And maybe sometimes dressing rooms. Okay always dressing rooms.)
Maybe I am feeling more enlightened because I just finished reading “Proof of Heaven” by Eban Alexander. Or maybe I’m just realizing that happy endings are for screenwriters like me who write them, instead of wait for them. Maybe I am planning a wedding for my sister, so the excitement has me realizing that life is a mumbo jumbo of love, fights, celebration and mourning. Maybe I just spent the last few days getting cray cray out of my system by screaming expletives at people I love so I could look sane on this blog. Or maybe I am finally growing up. “Happily ever after”- love that saying, but really it is so cliche, and mostly for people dressed in ball gowns as little birds encircle their wake while they sing some horrible Disney song. But for the rest of us normal folks it doesn’t work out quite that perfect, as “The Anchorman” says: “Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.”
The truth is Saturday morning is going to come whether I like it or not. Friday night is going to creep up on me even if I scream, shout, and flip out all week until that horrible night where I watched my dad slip away unexpectedly in an ICU room arrives. Either way, It’s coming. I am different. Sure I still like ice cream, saying the F word and walking into the vortex of not paying attention now and then, when things just get a bit too big for me to stand. I still try working on staying positive, looking at life with big bright eyes, and staring at the romantic mystery of it all. But I am a little harder. I am a little more knowing of the pain life brings. I am tougher, more realistic and I don’t care that much about what people really think of me anymore. I don’t judge people harshly, I don’t wait for great to happen, I make it happen. I still have temper tantrums. Maybe I have them more then I used to. But in the end, I also know that time is short, so the tantrums don’t last as long, so there’s some improvement there. I am riskier with life, and more inclined to jump into things I would have never thought I could accomplish. Suddenly I am beginning to appreciate that night that changed my life forever. I am beginning to appreciate the lessons learned over the last 3 years and I am beginning to realize the shortness, thumbnail of a deficient short-lived impermanent brief life of it all.
The key to surviving loss is to just keep on moving. Whether its loss from death, divorce, a move, or collagen, life changes. Either way life’s gonna kick us in the pants, we might as well put one foot in front of the other and keep on moving forward. Cause you know what happens when you move forward?
Backwards can’t catch up. It just can’t catch up.
So ya, it is that time of month. That time of year. And you know what, I haven’t cracked. I’m still alive breathing, fighting, complaining reliving and you know what? I haven’t ended up in a looney bin.
11.18.13 at 9:03 am | To be afraid, means that you are unwilling to see. . .
9.13.13 at 2:01 pm | “I'm sorry if I offend anyone - I am in no way. . .
9.1.13 at 9:31 am | To be afraid, means that you are unwilling to see. . .
9.1.13 at 9:31 am | To be afraid, means that you are unwilling to see. . .
9.1.13 at 9:29 am | To be afraid, means that you are unwilling to see. . .
7.15.13 at 9:33 pm | I’ve been spending a lot of time numb from it.. . .
5.27.10 at 4:20 pm | "Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear.. . . (25)
11.18.13 at 9:03 am | To be afraid, means that you are unwilling to see. . . (7)
4.11.13 at 9:59 pm | (5)
June 17, 2013 | 7:37 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
A contorted branch determined to arch its back away from its tree grabs a misshapen silhouette seemingly imperfect from the other considerate branches so willing to merge as one symmetrical formation. From the eyes of the newcomer the imperfection is seemingly antagonizing, if not downright insolent. But if one takes the moment to use his other eye, the less critical one that each of us are given, a different story emerges. For the branch with the arched back hovers over a hummingbird’s nest creating the perfect tent of shade for the new mother bird to care for her little chicks. Suddenly the view as once judged to be imperfect becomes....
A child unable to speak his mind using his mouth, limited compared to the other children who have been given the gift of speech wedges himself between the lines of “abnormal” and “extraordinary.” The child, deemed autistic, is unable to clearly convey his inner most feelings and authentic rationalizations. But his eyes, his eyes never lie. For although he cannot convey his depth using his speech, he can indeed convey his deeper thoughts using other senses that overcompensate. His mother and father feel his loving gaze, know him from the inside, and feel his complex inventive, and even inspired imaginative heart as he experiments creatively with the world around him. Suddenly his disability that indicates his inability to speak how he feels forces deeper conversation between him and even between husband and wife forming new ways to keep the child stimulated as a means of discovering his expression. Words turn into gestures, gestures turn into song, and the unspoken word suddenly becomes....
An addict standing in his own way. Stubborn and knee deep in his addiction to feed his habit. Whether it is the habit of working too much, refusing to connect, declining to live in the moment, consuming alcohol, drugs, gambling or eating, the addict is beholden to his vice. To stop the clock and immerse himself in the complexities of vulnerable connection is not an option. Suddenly spells of time turn into lifetimes and the addict awakens to realize how much pain has been paved in his wake. Frozen in his own rock bottom trap, he has no choice but to finally press the reset button. He shows up to meetings and redesigns his life to reflect a healthier form of himself still bearing the brand of addict, or disappointer. And while his new self can never erase his mistakes, they are there as reminders of what he once was and how far he has come from that time of decay. His shame morphs into pride of his uphill climb as he remembers how easily it would have been to stay there at the bottom. He stares at the scars that surround his tight throat and the purple veins that have collapsed too many times and he realizes suddenly he is....
Salty popcorn drizzled with butter. That’s the smell an orphan thinks of when he reflects on his father no longer here physically. Movies they watched, laughs they participated in. Salty popcorn. Jokes they compared. Father’s day. Ties. Underwear. Socks. Gifts he gave his dad that made him happy. Suddenly the popcorn is gone, the rolemodel he joked with no longer speaks or protects him from the shade. But the child is left with salty popcorn and the stillness. That lingering familiar smell, reminding him of good times reminding him to recreate those good times with his own children one day who get to experience him as the father, making Father’s day different and....
Life, death, birth, lives perfectly imperfect. Maybe the imperfections that chase the colors into a sweeping blur are not meant to look careless. Like a ridged misshapen puzzle piece that lacks symmetry left alone and cold, potentially companionless, detached and forlorn, we are part of a larger canvas. A canvas that has thousands of other similar misshapen and disfigured puzzle pieces. These deformities and asymmetrical formations that feel ill-proportioned and out of design are indeed perfectly imperfect once they are settled together. Making us realize that our imperfections, our greatest gifts not at all unique in experience only in detail are what define our dramatic journey making life always and indeed....
June 13, 2013 | 1:51 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
Hayuta Cohen and Siggie Cohen have a wonderful organization called "Good Life Academy" aimed at allowing people to re-find themselves despite struggle, challenge their own narrative, and become more inspired human beings. It was with great privilege that I had the good fortune to be invited to participate in their latest podcast called "Good Life Radio" where we discussed my last blog entitled "Kicking the Box Opened, Defeating Orthodox Labels." In our discussion it became apparent that it really does not matter what background a person emerges from, we all fight the urge to redefine ourselves, kick the box opened, defeat labels and live with the confidence to listen to our own heart song. Here it is....Hope you enjoy:
April 11, 2013 | 9:59 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
Recently a curious woman looked me up and down, and followed her inquisitive look with this question,
-"What are you?"
-“I beg your pardon..?”
-"What do you call yourself... you know, your Jewish affiliation...”
-“Yes what are you- your Jewish label?”
Once again, I am forced to reckon upon myself a single label. A label that will probably be fueled with stereotypes and misconceptions. Truth is, I hate the "What am I?" question. For to answer it means I am giving into the loaded label marred with assumptions that others wish to fasten to me. Sometimes it means others expect me to defend my lifestyle. Other times it means they wish to talk me out of my lifestyle. Either way, I’d rather not weigh in at all. For to weigh in forces me to be seen through the eyes of only one layer, when in actuality I have so many other layers that define me. This box the world has built for labels has gotten so small. How many articles in the media filled with judgements claiming my observances are archaic, or on the other side, claiming my observances are too modern must we read already?
“What am I?”
Such a strange question filled with so many answers yet with no answers at all. What am I? I am a woman. I am a mother. I am a wife - a hassidic Rabbi’s wife! (Get a load of that label) I am a filmmaker. I am a singer. I am a writer. I am strong. I am weak. I am a coward. I am a warrior. I am a dancer. I am fierce. I am a mourner. I am a celebrator. I am tired. I am awake. I am me.
Must we label ourselves?
For if I label myself, then it may cause isolation. Isolation breeds separation, separation breeds segregation, which can then breed intolerance, elitism, and separatism. Why must we label ourselves at all? More importantly, why must others label me?
Man I hate labels. But since I put it out there already, I mine as well come clean about what its really like living a Hassidic lifestyle. The truth is I still struggle to carry the “rabbi's wife” title. “Rebbetzin Chava” still seems like a most unlikely epithet for the person I see in the mirror. But not everything is black and white. Some Rebbetzins live in bright color. I am learning that even Rebbetzins struggle. Even Rebbetzins question. And yes, sometimes we flip out, inappropriately use language and embarass ourselves without even trying.
Black and white. White and black. I don't like black and white, I actually like color. Loaded words like orthodox and religious have sometimes attempted to describe my lifestyle as oppressive, like I have managed to suck the joy out of life and live a regimented lifestyle that is infused with stifling rules that wreak havoc on my freedom.
Which brings me back to the reason why I hate labels. But more than anything I hate the box. The stuffy, claustrophobic, choking box that others in the media create with their own assumptions of how I must conform in order to observe the beauty of hassidic life. I am in constant search for meaning and purpose and refuse to accept the phrase "because I said so" as the basis for my belief system. Hassidic teachings refute blind faith and encourages me to honor the world by asking questions. It is my duty, my obligation to continually search for answers and live curiously.
Living curiously, according to Jewish mysticism means to be defined as a citizen of the world willing to explore the human frontier. I have learned that all human beings have a social and moral obligation to utilize our talents to pursue this endeavor. I take my moral obligation to raise consciousness and reveal the world’s higher purpose collectively and universally very seriously. Therefore, it is not just my own purpose I seek but those of other’s as well, which is why I am refuting the label. Because to label means I must conform to how other’s see me. To label means I must abandon a part of me that is authentic. To label me means to segregate myself from the very world I have taken an oath to explore and improve.
I don't want to get judged for how many laws I observe, how my observances are overkill, or even how little I observe. The only one that gets to judge my path is G-d. And I try to understand G-d’s will in order to work on redefining that journey for myself every single day using the tools of mystical wisdom passed down from way more holy people than I can ever claim to be. I do this freely and without judgment because my Hassidic teachers encourage me to choose and use my higher consciousness every day.
To be hassidic means to have focus, it means to grapple with doubt, to be one with our Higher Power and to be on a constant quest. One cannot be on a quest while remaining in a box. To be hassidic is to live outside the box, outside the label. It means to be part of the symphony of life. Every single note on the musical scale brings purpose and yet has clear rules that help create myriads of songs. Without those rules music would be discordant noise. I would much rather play in harmony rather than in conflict where direction and principles permits freedom to reign and self discovery is palpable; where life’s meaning is exposed.
Maybe I need to change and evolve and accept the labels which has defined my lifestyle as
Or maybe I will stay the same, and watch the world do the changing instead. Maybe the label orthodox Jew can finally mean something else. Maybe living a Hasidic life can stand for living out of the box. Maybe it can mean leaving the confinement of the media’s opinion of what my life should look like. For if I allow the media to dictate how my label should be defined, then I lose joy, I lose my full expression, an expression hassidic philosophy has paved from me. If I acquiesce to what the world's script thinks my label should be, then I lose myself, I lose the ability to write awesome music, produce fabulous films, sing moving lyrics and paint my life in the colors that inspire my children and my children's children through the revolutionary hassidic lens that has enabled my dramatic journey.
So what am I? What answer shall I give? Here it is in black and white, like the composition on a musical scale, and if you squint you might see the color in between and hear the layers of notes dancing to the tune of my answer.
I am the light that shines when the colors go dark. I am the face that smiles when the world tears. I am the cries that sing when the pain has creeped in.
I am me.
I am my beautiful soul.
I am the one that screams at injustice and the one that comforts the unfortunate.
I am kicking the box open.
I am the unlabeled and the labeled.
I am everything and I am nothing.
If we dare to try, we can break down the stereotypes, the dogma, the social rules that tell us we must have an answer to “What am I?” and instead yearn to answer the question “Who am I and how do I find meaning in it?”
*Please join Chava as she M.C's the first of its kind event called "A Day of Jewish Unity" scheduled for Sunday, April 28th in Thousand Oaks. https://www.facebook.com/ADayOfJewishUnity
March 10, 2013 | 11:38 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
Regret is a difficult thing to get over. It can eat at one's psychey like a cancer and force a person to relive painful memories over and over. I've gotten caught up in regret before. The problem with regret is it forces a person to stand still, feet wedged in the past, with eyes looking inward rather than forward our outward. Sometimes the best way to resolve regret is to start living in the moment. I used to get really mad at people and feel unable to let go of my resentments. I'm not saying today I am perfect, but today I am aware. Today I see the day beginning with the sun and ending with the moon, rather than the day starting with yester-year's ski injuries and ending with an untelling future that I am unable to nagivate.
I can still remember that last week of my father's life, and my inability to get over things that I thought were so important at the time. I wedged myself in a long winded battle of resentments and I had forgotten what was really important. Next week I kept telling myself. Next week I will call my dad and work things out. Next week we will visit. Next week we will finally understand each other. You know what, there never was a next week. While I know deeply that he died with love in his heart towards me, because my father and I were so close and in some ways the same person to our core, there is still so much I needed to say to him before he past. So many words that I still needed him to hear.
When a person in your life that you love so much dies suddenly, it forces a new reckoning.
So today I am doing things differently.
This week my sister recently called to ask if she should spend the funds to fly out to Los Angeles to visit my 87 year old grandmother who has been diagnosed with Parkinson's and has just been assigned to hospice. I went to visit bubby to bring her some joy and also to assess the situation. Although my grandmother cannot move on her own, cannot sit up with out assistance and has lost a tremendous amount of weight, she is still a light of life that shined as soon as she laid her eyes on her granddaughter. She took one look at me and smiled with so much joy, and I was immediately reminded of how much life can give even in the face of the end. The truth is I don't know when my bubby will decide to leave this world, but I do know, that she will continue to seek joy when we visit, and she will continue to get uplifted when she hears our voice on the phone. She will continue to enjoy the little things, like eating a turkey sandwich, watching my grandfather walk into a room, stroking my hair and gazing deeply into my eyes without telling me she is leaving me soon with words but with her stare.
And so my advice to my sister was that there are two things a person never regrets spending funds on, visiting someone they love and showing up to a celebration. Maybe by living in the moment and learning from the past, I will finally reckon past regrets.
January 20, 2013 | 11:58 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
As Lance Armstrong’s latest Oprah interview hits the network, it has me thinking deeply about heroism and our society’s obsession with labeling people into perfect role models. While like many I am saddened to hear about Lance’s use of performance drugs, I am far from devastated as a result of not being a particular follower of his, however I can deeply understand the devastation and loss that comes from the disappointment in being let down by a role model. I’ve been fascinated by the negative and deeply disturbed response he has gotten as a result of his departure from honesty that took away his heroic title. Mainly I am interested in addressing one of our society’s biggest hurdles in becoming evolved human beings, the fixation with superheroes.
I think one of our generation's biggest problems is the "Lance Armstrong syndrome", otherwise known as society's obsession with an unattainable belief in the heroic man. With perfectly airbrushed high gloss magazines, super hero movies, and commercial ads depicting synthetic perfection, its no wonder we have become skewed in our ability to maintain a healthy realistic approach to human beings who tout heroic titles. We have become obsessed with the belief that certain people who are classified as society’s perfect image are not capable of falling. And when that fall takes place, after we have worked so hard to elevate that person whom we believe is our hero that now sits high on the pedestal of ideal, we are completely at a loss, devastated, and even cynical to heroism as a result. The truth is I want to have my cake and eat it too. I want to believe the heroic man exists, but I also don’t want to become disillusioned when I’m left disappointed. Does it really have to be all or nothing? Can’t we have heroism without the devastation and the disappointment attached when things go wrong? Is there really one person who can depict it all without contending with their fallible human vulnerabilities? Of course not! Maybe it is these labels causing our own downfall and forcing us to believe in an unattainable simulated figure perfectly airbrushed to sell copy. There must be a healthier way to believe in heroism all together.
For me heroic figures have been rediscovered many times in my life. I have been left angry and other times I have become weary over the possibility of their existence at all. But I think there is a way to look at heroes without all the calamitous emotion rearing its head forcing us to believe it is completely nonexistent.
I know I am always inspired by those folks that really mess up their lives but have the guts to take it back even when it seems all has been lost. But what about those who never take it back? What about those who don’t own their mistakes? The lost and disenfranchised heroes who really mess it up for the real ones? How do I stay inspired with those guys around? It is not always easy to achieve perfect. It is complex. I refuse to believe heroism is completely impossible. But, I’m pretty positive perfection is. Maybe those figures that have let us down remind us that heroism is a state of mind. If we look deeply at ourselves we can find a little hope that heroes can exist, probably in every one of us, but not as a blanket rule or even as a perfectly high glossed figure devoid of any and all human errors to contend with.
Rather, heroism should exist as an attitude, not as a person. It should be treated as a condition. Sometimes that condition perseveres, and sometimes it expires. The ones that fall the furthest after being infected by this “condition” have the hardest climb to make. Maybe you can’t take a pill to bring it back, but you can certainly find it again.
I’m not excusing heroes who fall nor am I defending their mistakes, I’m simply taking society to task on insisting we force our version of heroism down their throats. Maybe if we can re-brand the “hero” title we won’t be so devastated when the next president has an affair, the next golf athlete ruins his marriage, or the next roadracing cyclist takes performance drugs to earn a massive title. Lets not get stuck on whether heroes exist or not, lets get stuck on realizing heroic moments prevail, that way we won’t be so disappointed and readily discount it all when the curtain comes down and we see the man behind the hero.
Maybe a true hero is one who climbs that mountain and then falls, brushes himself off, looks in the mirror, sees his faults, admits them, lowers his head in humility, and then gets back up stronger, more determined, with a little less ego in the mix. Maybe heroism is not one person, but moments in a person's life that are fleetingly heroic. I haven’t watched Lance’s interview yet, so I can’t judge on whether his words were an attempt to retrieve what little dignity he has left or an honest approach at real amends and rediscovery, but just in the case he has decided to do the interview for the sake of making true amends, just in the off chance he is taking this moment to realize his human failings, will I try to glean a small lesson from his moment. Maybe this is his true heroic moment and not the moment he falsely won the Tour De France. For I do believe we all have it in us to become a Lance Armstrong, a hero who falls and then does some Oprah interview in an attempt to better ourselves so we can get back up, if that is indeed his true intent. If it is not, then once again, we may have to look elsewhere to find our hero moment from Lance Armstrong.
October 15, 2012 | 9:05 am
Posted by Chava Tombosky
A couple of weeks ago, I woke up to find my phone was gone. I could not remember where in the world I put it. I spent an un-G-dly amount of time making extra stops because I needed phone numbers, addresses and constant pee stops in between all the tea and water I was downing on the way to late meetings. I was a complete mess, and could not remember where my next appointment was or who I was supposed to meet. The only thing that I had going for me was my Onstar that had 3 numbers stored in there. My two sisters and my husband. If it weren’t for that I’d still be driving in circles looking for the address of one of my contacts I was set to meet at 1, but arrived at 2 since I was out of my mind and couldn’t remember where I put anything, including my eyeballs. It’s like complete Armageddon when you lose your phone. I was totally at a loss, and for the first time I actually had time to think. All meetings had to be eventually cancelled, and I was forced to just be. Ya sure, I was connected to my computer for part of the day, but the other part was connected to one thing.
OMG, what a scary place to be. All alone without the constant buzzing to distract my thoughts. Do you know how scary it is up there in that mind of mine? It’s like traffic on the 405 with police and ambulances 24-7. On Yom Kippur I spent a good portion of the day thinking about how bad I had been. How much improvement I had to make, how unworthy I felt, and by the time the fast was over and I was depleted of all guilt, confession and repenting, and was really looking to finally goin Blackberry and zoning out of my misery, and then I lost my phone.
So the week after was spent reframing, regrouping, and redefining. And if there’s one thing I hate to do, its Re- anything. Cause it means I have to change. And change sucks, and I loathe having to say I’m sorry and admit my wrongdoings, and more than anything I really wish I could just get it right the first time and really be awesome all the time.....but I grew up in the 80’s watching Animal House, so that it not sure to happen anytime soon.
So here is what I’ve decided this year. Since I lost my phone, and that is considered a “wake up call”, and since I had to really think in my big head all day without distractions, I’ve decided that this year I am going to stop thinking the bad stuff. I mean I know I can’t turn it off completely (I’d hate to get too healthy). But this year I want to stop speaking to myself like I’m a wicked awful criminal. I want to stop self loathing and nitpicking every little thing that I hate about myself. I want to be kinder to myself and I want to look in the mirror and really like who I see, not because I lost that last third pound, or because I had to earn someone’s love because that’s how I think I am worthy, but because I am G-d’s creature. Because I am someone who is worthy whether i call someone back or not, whether I am good at scrabble or not, (and I am damn good...) whether I make someone happy by baking them a cake or not, whether I show up or forget completely because I don’t have a phone.
This year is a new year. It’s a year of change, of positive thinking, of kinder thoughts, and of living in the moment. Truly living in it, not being in it while thinking....hey this is great, but really what’s next, and who the hell knows what’s coming, OMG it’ll probably be bad...real bad. NO This year I plan on thinking differently, wishing lovingly and listening to a new voice that’s a mixture of Wayne Dyer meets Oprah and Jimmy Kimmel. Cause we all need to laugh... especially when we lose our mind, our sense of humor, or our phone.
This year, when I start thinking the bad stuff, I plan on pushing it all into a delete folder that I hope I lose completely by year end. Hey, maybe it’ll finally be gone and end up in the black hole vacuum that my phone now lives.