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
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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.
February 7, 2013 | 8:55 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
This year at the Los Angeles Herzog International Wine Festival, I swore I’d figure out a way to dispose any loose ends so I wouldn’t have my hands full like in previous years. Navigating a room filled with bite sized kosher appetizers, dozens of fine kosher wines, while carrying a purse and a jacket is like climbing Mount Rushmore while carrying a chissel, a mink and a chihuahua. We won’t complain to head of corporate that they didn’t have high boys in the room. Listen, this is the sort of event that takes skill. It takes determination. It takes an empty stomach and preferrably someone to follow you around who’s carrying a platter and a handy napkin. But since this is my third year at the festival, I came prepared. I made sure to leave my jacket at home and I stashed a few dollars in my pocket just incase I had to pay off someone stupid enough to snatch my picture for their Instagram in a compromising position after downing a little too much Chardonnay.
Much like a trained mountain climber, it takes a lot of strategy to comb a wine buffet. First there are is the proper equipment. Wine glass, check. Small plate, double check. A tour guide named Shlomo, triple check. (We’ll get to him in a minute). That’s right I need a tour guide to make sure I get my money’s worth of the most expensive wine in the room. Last year my wine guide was master Jonathan Tabak. This year I got a chance to put his teachings to the test.
Usually I meet Jonathan, the self proclaimed wine enthusiast who has a blog called “Kosherwino” but apparently Jonathan was busy giving someone else a tour, that or I couldn’t find him because this year the event was even bigger than last, and I swear it seemed like there were Jews that flew in from Argentina and China just to come drink wine and eat chow at a premium hundred bucks a head. (Jonathan still thinks I ditched the event, but I got the hangover and the extra poundage this week to prove my presence.)
Last year Jonathan officially graduated me at the top of my class after giving me the 411 on wine decadence, (I even learned how to swish, sniff and spit- not that I actually did the third part) so this year I was excited to put my previous lessons to the test. I sipped a few wines, went French, Spain, Italian, you know did the rounds and then I finally settled on a Cabernet called “Alexander The Great” that I fell in LOVE with. Not gonna lie, I chose it because the label was gold and the wine pourer looked a little like Marc Anthony (the singer, not the conquerer). Still, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was just allured by the shiny label, eventhough I did taste hints of chocolate and rasbperry. It was extremely delicious and I kept asking the pourer for seconds, still, I do like shiny things. Was I truely a wine connoisseur? I couldn’t be sure.
Last year I got a little too tipsy, so I decided to spend a little more time in the fine dining section with Chef Todd and his magic. (The head chef at the famous Tierra Sur restaurant in Oxnard.) The chicken was breaded in a sweet powdered sugar with cinnamon, the lamb bacon was exquisite as usual, (Thank you Chef Todd for saving me some extra) and the pastrami sandwhich was perfectly lean, smoked to perfection. My favorite was the incredible one of a kind Ceviche, truly delicious. The best I’ve ever had. Wish I could have taken a vat of that stuff home. Finally after wandering around searching for my tour guide I fell upon Shlomo Blashka, a wine guide who flew out especially from New York to meet me. Okay he didn’t come specifically for me, but it’s my story, so lets assume he did.
I was feelin pretty confident about my ability to pick out the most expensive wine in the house. Before I could show off my chops, Shlomo lead me to a table serving Gen VIII ToKalon from Herzog, one of Herzog’s single vineyard, which was not only delicious but one of their premiums at a whopping one hundred and eighty bucks. Great, all that sipping last year and I was doomed to never truly learn the art of fine wine tasting. Jonathan clearly didn’t know his stuff. Either that or I was truly the worst student ever. So what if I get drunk during my lessons, so what if I have a hard time remembering details like recognizing basil notes and woody undertones, it is wine. Not like I’m climbing Kilimanjaro or anything. I guess Alexander the Great was just good because it rocked a cool label.
“You know, there is one other wine in the house that is the most expensive wine, it is pretty amazing and it definitely compares to the Gen VIII, would you like to try it,” Shlomo asked me.
Um, hello, does Taco Bell serve burritos? YES I want to try it.
Before I knew it, Shlomo had lead me back to Marc Anthony with the shiny label, and sure enough Alexander the Great had been served at a whopping two hundred twenty dollars a bottle, I had clearly finally attained wine connoisseur status!
To celebrate my new found genius, Shlomo introduced me to the most decadent dessert experience, the Morad Passion Fruit, which we downed while eating lemon sponge cake with mulberries and cream.
Jonathan Tabak, you still rock as the best teacher. Clearly you’ve earned your stripes big guy. Keep whining:)
And yes I had a driver. I might be a slow learner, but I’m not stupid.
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.
December 21, 2012 | 11:23 am
Posted by Chava Tombosky
Today I was chatting with a colleague of mine who was adamant that he did not want to write, read or comment on the Sandy Hook shootings. While I have been engrossed in the media frenzy, combing Google articles, watching CNN and FOX and reading blogs, he has flat out refused to become engaged in any of it. He argued that reading about it and immersing ourselves in this tragic news doesn't do anyone any good at all. He felt that it was exploitive of the media to expose this ongoing tragedy like the circus it has become and was adamant that the more we speak about this sort of negativity, the worse it stains our fragile society. He felt like the actual exposure of this tragedy was just as harmful as the massacre itself. While I could hear his point, I couldn't help but feel very differently. While it does seem like for the past two years, every few months there is a devastating tragedy that pushes its way to the forefront, I can't help but think that it is our obligation as writers and artists to comment on it, whether it adds to the "media frenzy" or not. Massacres have become the norm. Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass murders carried out with firearms across this country, with killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. Over a period of 28 years that is a little more than two massacres per year. Just this past week alone, there have been three mass shootings. This number is absolutely astounding, and yet, incredibly real. How many more massacres will it take for us to understand what humanity is up against? While speaking with my friend, it dawned on me: I will never ever tolerate or understand evil. I will never comprehend senseless murder or be able to empathize with a cold-hearted killer. I will never unravel it. And maybe in watching every minute of these details unfold, I am hoping to finally get it. Like an epiphany will be staring me down with ah-ha moment that will finally tell me how and why bad things happen to good people. It almost seems as if evil has begun to have a mind of its own. In certain places that evil exists, there is at least an argument, a stand, a particular reason, albeit a demented sometimes even an irrational reason for murdering folks, but there are always some form of rationalizations. Whether it is a ploy for power, or land or religious extremism, killers typically have a laundry list of reasoning behind their crimes. But lately, it seems mass murder has taken a life of its own. You don't need a cause, a case or even rationality anymore. Now murder has become completely arbitrary. It has become completely discerning and has refused to even hide behind an excuse. Evil is naked and bare and we as a society must recognize it for the first time, without incident, without excuses, completely disconnected to reflective rational thinking. For the first time we as humans must know in our veins that evil exists beyond a shadow of a doubt and lurks among us and we must be vigilant in fighting it every moment. The only reason I have decided to comment on this incident is because I want to understand our world we share with others and have a true understanding of how to eradicate evil's corruption in an intimate way so that maybe we can figure out how to really face it without falling apart. I want to know these answers, like I know the lines in my hands. I want to memorize it the way I memorize the spelling of my own name. I want to see evil from the inside out and take in its DNA so that I can come up with ways of combating its presence and finally defeat it. As in that saying, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. I watch and read and immerse myself in the story of Sandy Hook to fully figure out a way to comprehend what we are up against. For to ignore evil is to give it space to breathe. When we as a nation come together to mourn, to show we are there for those who have lost their children and mothers, to hold their hands and embrace their cries, we are changing the tide of their loved one's fate by refusing to allow evil to take over. I have watched and read these stories, not because I am sensationalized crazed, but because I feel a sense of belonging to the victims and to their pain. I want to have their beautiful children's faces imprinted on my mind every time I meet evil as a way of asphyxiating this poison from existence. It is their memory we should aim to be consumed with, not the actual perpetrator. Which is why I was so moved by CNN when they dedicated an entire hour to remembering the victims on the Anderson Cooper show. He was adamant about NOT doing any reporting on the shooter but rather on focusing all of his efforts on reporting on the victims and their stories. He cried as he read off each name, and then cried a little more after he announced their ages. Six years old, 7 years old -- never in all the years have I watched the news, have I ever seen a journalist break down in tears while reporting on an incident as I had witnessed this past Sunday night. Before change can occur, we must understand that evil lies among us through and through, and we must memorize it like we know the color of our own eyes. We must become vigilant combating its existence, so that we can spend our waking hours living more meaningfully, living with consciousness, living to light the world, and affect it through significant conversation and profound shared experience. If we are watching evil just for the sake of being mesmerized by it, then my friend is correct in saying that the more we speak about this sort of negativity, the worse it stains our fragile society. But if we watch to learn from it, to learn how not to be, to learn how to become empathetic to those lives lost, to learn how to connect deeply with one another, to learn how to remember, to learn how to cherish one another, to learn how to share and become useful rather than useless, we can truly eradicate evil once and for all.
November 14, 2012 | 4:17 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
Do our negative thoughts and fears have the power to control our outcome? Over the course of the last few months I have had several people call me for advice in the midst of their serious crisis of faith. Their crisis of faith was not just faith in G-d but in the faith they had in themselves. More than one person admitted in a quiet hush, with shame and trepidation, almost afraid to unleash these frightening beliefs from their minds and form them into words that would have the power to be set free in the cosmic universe, that they believe painful experiences they are in the midst of facing is their fault because their fears have willed it to happen. Because of that, G-d must surely have it in for them. One young woman went so far as to say, “I think I’m killing my child,” when she was referencing her deep belief that the illness that struck her son must have heard her. His illness must be her fault since her fears of ever having a sick child were so pronounced, that the thoughts of hoping it would never happen may have actually triggered the illness to unchain itself in her wake.
I can understand this backwards thinking. I too, thought that because my fears were so acute they actually willed bad things to happen in my life prophylactically. That old famous saying heard from parents- “Don’t cry or I’ll give you something to cry about,” rang in my ears as a constant reminder that if I cry enough over displaced fears, G-d will strike me down just to prove a point...that I shouldn’t cry at all. I had so many fears as a child, that by the time I reached adulthood, I needed a lot of therapy and ended up writing an entire book about it just to finally get over all of them. (I am over them by the way. Except for iphones. You never know when you might get caught on someone’s camera phone in a compromising position. Keeps me up at night sometimes. Scares the hell outta me.)
What emerged from that process was an incredible understanding of how much power we do have if we trust our ability to get real and decode our thoughts. When G-d created the world, the process of creation started with a thought that then led into a word and finished with an action. This procedure of creation is exactly how human beings dive into their own creativity as well. It begins with a thought, those thoughts extend into sentences that can then go on to create the experience through an action. If this formula is to remain true, than surely the young woman who’s thoughts of her own child becoming sick must have indeed created the outcome for her poor son. For she thought it, then spoke about it, which must have willed it.
However the thoughts that unleash creativity are thoughts that we as human beings have the ability to truly believe and have massive faith and enthusiasm over. The thoughts it takes to create something magnificent takes planning, it takes ambition, it takes motivation and inspiration. Thoughts of fear are not from that same place of creation. Thoughts of fear are not inspired thoughts. They are not thoughts that provoke deep excitement or enthusiasm. Usually when we have those kinds of sad, sick, self destructive thoughts, they come from a place of anxiety, worry, neurosis, and apprehension. Like a deer caught in headlights, these particular emotions instill a frigid self enforced crippling that can not possibly engender the surge of energy and greatness that comes as a result of true authentic creativity. Fear is the master to all self paralyzation. Fear does not have the ability to create beauty, love, humor or structure that is envied or admired.
Fear usually does what it does best, it forces one to be beholden to it. It is such a good manipulator, that it can even maneuver our thinking into believing that our painful outcomes, the same outcomes we despise, hate and abhor, must be of our own making.
So why did G-d create fear? Besides warning us against a hot stove, doing something stupid like jumping out of space ship (so much for that), and getting us to react in the wake of danger, I do believe that fear is also meant to be the mechanism that forces inner change. It is meant to remind us that when we feel unnecessary fear, we have an obligation to ourselves to not allow it to become our compass only our teleprompter. It is there to give us insight in ourselves. It is not there to take the shape of a BIG GREEN HAIRY GOBLIN who lives in space with a t-shirt that says “I created the world and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” G-d does not have to be that mean alien in the sky waiting to strike like Darth Vader. Or Hello Kitty. That cat scares me. She has no mouth. Seems wrong.
I’m sorry, I will not allow fear to rule anymore. I will not allow fear to dictate to me how I will run my life, how I will react to pain, or how I will overcome adversity. Fear is there to remind us that the only one in control of it is us. (And those idiots that work at Knott’s Scary Farm on Halloween.)
So do our negative fears have the power to control our outcome? The question should really be, do we have the power to control our negative fears? Can our negative fears handle what we plan on doling out when we open our eyes to realize its sneaky little schemes? To the woman who was afraid that she unleashed an illness on her own son, I say that to believe in fear is to believe she is the reason for her sad fate. That is just not something I am willing to let her or anyone else believe. Because when we start believing in our own fears, then we can lose focus on concentrating on our destinies that can be filled with a brighter future rather than a dark bleak outcome. We may not have the power to control our destinies, but we do have the power to terminate our crafty fears that unleash unnecessary torment.
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.
July 20, 2012 | 4:07 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
When walking in to the Feldman’s home, one can’t help but notice the challenge they face. The sign on the front door kindly asking visitors who are sick to refrain from coming in, the large bottle of hand sanitizer that sits on the side table in the foyer, the smell of alcohol that lingers under baked chicken and chocolate dessert. And yet, their home, now thrust in a cacophony of crisis has energy of hope, optimism and unconditional love pulsing through its veins. Zoe Feldman, a bright eyed two year old child wearing a pink tutu came outside to greet me. Her head bald from chemo therapy, her chest covered in bandaids her arms plastered with stickers and pretend tattoos, gifts she got from the children’s ward during her chemo treatment. We played in her room while she painted my nails as I interviewed her parents about what they thought the meaning of life was.
Zoe’s diagnosis came as a surprise to Jeffrey and Ravit Feldman. Seven weeks ago, after ten days of their small child writhing in pain, the unthinkable was diagnosed when a malignant mass the size of a grapefruit was found in Zoe’s belly. I’ve seen families go through this sort of hell before. I have witnessed first hand how illness can violate a person’s faith. Yet, Jeffrey smiled and told his story with uplifting conviction. As if to say G-d himself was sitting on his shoulders holding his hand the whole time and nothing could shake his confidence. The optimism and sheer blessing he felt relayed filled the room so deeply, even I stopped seeing Zoe’s cancer. All I saw was Zoe’s opportunity.
Jeffrey’s life before Zoe’s diagnosis was like every other American, working, trying to get by, trying to make a life for his family, not thinking about much else but being a good father, a good provider and a good husband. But since the diagnosis, Jeffrey’s eyes have been widened to stories and events he had never thought possible. He truly is inspired by his daughter’s gregarious personality that has emerged. “Before this, Zoe kept to herself was shy and withdrawn, now she is alive touching people’s lives with her bright soul,” Ravit shared with me. Jeffrey is truly inspired by the friends that have come together for him from all across the city to support their family. He has been touched deeply by the unity that has formed as a result of his daughter’s struggle.
Nothing prepared me for the meeting I was about to experience as Jeffrey introduced me to one of the reasons for his hope and optimism. “Big Zoe”, as he called her was an eleven year old soft ball player that had never met the Feldman family before. So inspired by “little Zoe’s” illness, “Big Zoe” decided to take some action- a gesture that created a butterfly effect of possibility and hope. What has emerged from this illness is truly astounding and I don’t think I will ever see cancer the same way again.
Before I left that night, Jeffrey started talking about this as a tragedy, and insisted on correcting himself, saying, “This is not a tragedy, this is a challenge.”
I guess the difference between a tragedy and a challenge is that tragedy lacks hope, tragedy lacks optimism, tragedy lacks possibility. Challenge is reframing oneself to see the potential within the struggle.
Below is a short film that showcases one of the most incredible stories I have ever seen emerge from pain and suffering. It is stories like these that we hope to develop more of on our Life means what site.
Today the meaning of life was taught to me by two small girls who have used their power to find meaning in life by believing.
As an added bonus, part of this film was scored with my music partner, Marcos Moscat . I feel privileged to have had the honor to add the lyrics and vocals. As part of our way of paying it forward, once the song is up on itunes, a portion of the funds will be given to Zoe Feldman’s family to help with medical expenses. Click here to hear the full song entitled “SEARCH FOR THE LIGHT”
To be part of the search please go to http://www.indiegogo.com/lifemeanswhat?a=639881