Things I learned (or re-learned) in Kauai:

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

September 4th, 2016 • Leave a Comment

  • I need to play music every day. Music is my soul. In particular, I need to drum, sing, and play piano.
  • I need to be in and near the ocean. Someday I would like to live where I can see the ocean from my window.
  • I need to live in walking distance to nature, so that I can just step outside my house and soon be in a major natural place – ocean, mountain, etc.
  • I prefer an environment that is slower-paced, with fewer people and lots of nature everywhere. However, I also like (and miss when I’m away from it) being where there are social gathering places, like cafes and music clubs. I’m wondering how to balance both. I’d probably rather live in nature and drive into a city for nightlife.
  • It is spectacular to watch the sun rise over the ocean. I’d like to do that again and again. It’s witnessing and confirming Rebirth, every morning.
  • I thrive in an environment with lots of private space.
  • It is soothing to my soul to live somewhere safe – where I can walk around in the middle of the night and stand naked in the yard and not worry about locking my door all the time or having a burglar alarm.
  • I like sitting on rocks in the ocean.
  • I need a big kitchen with a blender and coffee maker and cutting board and huge salad bowl.
  • When things are not manifesting in one area, I can shift my focus to another. For example, when for whatever reason community is not happening, as was the case in Kauai, I can shift my focus to deep inner experience, personal communion with the water, stars, land, Gd/dess, and my Core Self.
  • I love trees and flowers.
  • There is healing energy to be accessed at all times. I need to consciously open my receptors and practice receiving and absorbing and embodying the Healing. This energy is especially present and/or palpable in Nature.
  • I love being around animals. Yes even around roosters, though I’d prefer them being a couple properties over when they are sounding their bugle call. I love how there are animals everywhere here – lizards on the windows, birds of all kinds and colors hopping and flying around – including the white birds with their beautiful angular bodies, soaring across the sky above the ocean, and birds playing in the ocean spray above the crashing waves when the sun rises, and crabs running sideways across rocks, and tiny sand crabs poking their cute heads up out of the sand and scurrying to the water, and fish floating around in the water where I’m swimming, and wild pigs and their piglets running around the farm, and owls soaring in the sky, and chickens and roosters hanging around on highways, in gas stations, in the shopping malls, and pretty much anywhere humans go.
  • I love moving my body in nature and in ways that are not externally demarcated – dialing in to how I am feeling, instead of how many miles I have swum/biked/run. When I move my body in harmony with nature – especially when my feet are bare – I absorb the power and healing forces of nature, and I heal in ways that do not seem possible in a swimming pool or on a treadmill. There is a whole lot going on at once when I am swimming in the ocean. So as I move forward on my healing path, I need to consciously put myself in natural environments as much as possible.
  • Even when people seem cool and in alignment with my lifestyle and belief system, and even if I reach out to these people, we may not connect, or they may not reciprocate, or for whatever reason, we may connect, but they may drop it after the initial connection. It is not mine to figure out or judge or wallow in or base my self-esteem on. Instead, it is mine to practice gratitude for whatever spark I received from them, and continue my path. Keep searching for my Tribe, and trust that I will find them, whenever, wherever. Also, as one person I met said, “Sometimes we meet people for the information they share with us.”
  • I feel truly Alive and Free and open and connected harmoniously with Gd/dess and Nature and my Core Authentic Self, when I am naked in the ocean or in the yard, barefoot, underneath a sky with a billion stars.
  • I am a Singing Drumming Priestess. I need to pursue drumming and chanting and singing sacred music, inspiring people to come to life through dance and call-and-response. I feel incredibly Powerful and Alive when I am in the center of a circle, drumming, and people are dancing in a circle around me, in particular when singing the sacred music of my ancestors.
  • I am very, very different from most people. On the one hand, my heart is huge and open wide, and I yearn to connect with everyone from a heart-and-soul place. So from that perspective, I want to be around people. On the other hand, given how most people move through the world, and how they think, it is often draining and painful to be around people, so I need to keep my distance. It is a practice of balance.
  • I love stormy weather and crashing ocean waves. The circumstances of my life have been very much like the ocean when it is most beautiful to me. So why try to change it? Love the storm, love the power and beauty and grace and joy that emit from the waves pounding against the rocks. Ululate and dance and sing in joy.

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Lowering My Expectations

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

September 3rd, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been feeling profoundly sad about my mom, on and off. Yesterday, for example, I felt depressed all day, but then went for a swim in the ocean and felt fantastic. I’m discovering that I don’t necessarily need to work through things or resolve things, but that I can just put myself into a completely different situation – in particular, swimming in the ocean – and immediately transform my mental state.

Four months ago, my mom bamboozled me when I talked to her about my trip. Mind you, my mom has been my cheerleader for many years, and is someone who typically really sees me and gets me like nobody else. We’ve easily talked five times a day – I regularly have called her, to share little things and big things and to ask her opinion on matters. I have considered her to be my best friend and chief advisor.

My mom has been an especially terrific person to call and hash through things with, not only because she gets me but because she is super insightful – she can really go where I go in thinking about things, far beyond the realms that people usually discuss or contemplate. And she offers some wonderful perspective that provides a combination of a bird’s eye view of a situation and also the core issue underneath, as well as their relationship to who I am and what’s important to me.

She also offers me the perspective of what she calls my “timeline.” She visually sees (in her mind) a timeline of my life and how things go. When I feel like my life is a complete mess and that I’m falling apart, for example, she tells me that every so often, she’ll get this kind of a call, and that within a day or a few days, I have everything figured out and am off doing something extraordinary and am thrilled with my life. And she’s always been right about that.

Which all goes to say, I feel the hit when I can’t call my mom and talk to her about things. Mostly I just miss connecting with my mom. I mean, she’s my mom. When I put my head on her chest and hear her heart beat, I plummet into profound relaxation and sense of security. It’s like everything shifts into alignment. Of course – it’s the same heart I heard beating before I entered this world, when I was growing in her stomach for 10 months (yup, I was in there 10 months).

Now this “time out” from my mom, over the past four months, has proven true something she said to me many times – namely that I can figure things out on my own, that I just really need to sound them out with someone who cares and listens and reflects me back. I can even just figure them out on my own without talking them through, I have discovered during this period, though I definitely need to reach out and have a caring person on the other end, when things feel really dark.

I’ve learned that a walk on the beach or hike in the mountains or swim in the ocean can really clear my mind as well. And I’ve discovered that I trust myself, and it feels powerful to figure things out on my own. Still, I miss talking with my mom, and I miss getting her input on things. I just really like her and value her thinking. Especially when it’s about some grand meaning-of-life type matter, like the conversation I wanted to have today.

This afternoon, I was having Shabbat lunch with my lovely new Chabad friends here in Kauai, and the conversation took a heavy turn. Long story short, I got angry and upset from the kind of thinking I have heard before, in both Jewish and non-Jewish contexts, that everything happens for a reason and that it’s in the divine plan, and that if someone experiences a traumatic event, they therefore need to look at why it happened to them, as opposed to (or in addition to) happening to someone else. The whole conversation started when one of them suggested that if you’re paying a big chunk of your income on medical expenses or legal expenses, it is probably because you’re not living your life properly – for example, you’re not giving enough to charity, and therefore that money is being taken out of your wallet through other means.

The part about the medical expenses (which was later retracted when I challenged it) and the thinking that if you’re the victim of a drunk driving incident, you need to look at why Gd chose you as the victim, really pissed me off. Things kind of got heavier from there, leaving me feeling in desperate need of leaving and clearing out the energy.

So I called my mom, whom I knew would be perfect to discuss this with, but felt ambivalent about talking with her. Despite four months of sending her emails and blog posts clearly spelling out how she had bamboozled me, she still has not acknowledged what she did or apologized for it. She didn’t even bother to respond to the last batch of emails (which I sent twice), which spelled everything out in bullet points, and broke matters down into three steps, to make it easier for her to understand where I was coming from and digest everything.

I don’t want to betray myself, in particular my younger self, by just forgiving my mom and dropping it and continuing like nothing happened, when the incident felt life-altering, when I felt she unraveled and more or less destroyed our relationship, in particular, 30 years of intensive work on healing our relationship. And on top of that, she doesn’t even seem to have noticed the destruction, while meanwhile I’m feeling abandoned and unloved by her.

Anyhow, my mom called back when I was on a winding road in the rain, with the windshield wipers not working well, so I said I’d call her back, in turn. But then I felt that I’d rather go for a swim – which I did (letting her know), and which cleared out the energy, without having to talk about it. In fact, I think that just doing something physical in nature might be how I want to handle things from now on, instead of, or prior to, talking them out.

My mom called me later, but I couldn’t talk to her because her voice was all messed up. Which is related to the way my mom bamboozled me four months ago. I have written about pieces of this story, but now I will write about how all the threads are woven together.

When I was a little kid, my sister – who was six years older than I – was hyperactive and probably had some kind of related learning disability, which society didn’t know much about back then (circa 1970s). Rather than teaching my sister to look inward and develop a self-reliant kind of self-confidence; rather than helping her recognize and celebrate her unique gifts and talents; and rather than teaching her to recognize and cherish the way I basically worshipped her and lavished love upon her, my mom essentially set us up in competition and treated me like the enemy, just for being a bright and talented little girl.

My mother did not provide me support of or encouragement for my abilities; instead she punished me for them. My mom and sister basically ganged up on me, and as a result, I experienced the most profound loneliness when I was a child. I felt abandoned and hated, and I literally thought my mother and sister were trying to kill me. For the rest of my childhood and adult life, my mom repeatedly threw me under the bus, as the saying goes, in sacrifice to my sister.

Fast forward to the period between 2008-2015, when my mom was in and out of the hospital for a series of life-threatening emergencies. My sister wholesale abandoned my mother, and by extension, me. She did find my mom a bankruptcy lawyer, for which I thanked my sister. Other than that, she didn’t show up to the hospital; she never contributed a penny to the nearly 6-digit expenses; and to make matters worse, she actively antagonized me by email.

Meanwhile, my mom fought me on everything I was doing to take care of her. Not only was I busy actively saving my mom’s life and facilitating her healing, repeatedly, but as part of doing that, I also was working everyone’s world around her, including my own world, and fiercely protecting her – micromanaging and “training” everyone who came into her midst, so that they would be as gentle, compassionate, safe, and effective as possible with her, and so that they would do things in alignment with her way of doing things, as much as possible without putting her life in danger. In other words, I specifically “got” my mom and understood her needs and was well aware of how horrifically challenging and distressing it was for her to be in “the system.” I was using all my strengths and talents and intelligence to support her and serve as her buffer and her bodyguard and her translator, and to shield her from the many exchanges that I knew would be anything from hard to traumatic for her.

My mom failed to recognize any of it. Instead, despite all my heartfelt and gargantuan efforts, my mom spent most of her time fighting me on every step, yelling at me about how she wanted to do it her way, not the way of the system, not “[my] way.” She effectively threw me in with the whole lot of “them” and patently failed to see me, to recognize me for who I am, for how much I care, for how I am her daughter, for how I am specifically not “them.” My mom was, hands down, the most difficult part of taking care of my mom. I didn’t mind the feistiness or vehemence; to the contrary, I loved and valued her ferocity of spirit. I also understood her anguish and terror at not having control over her life, which is specifically why I did what I did to take care of her. What hurt me was that she didn’t see me, and she didn’t see me seeing her, and she didn’t see me taking care of her – all of her, who she is and how she is.

Fast forward to 2014. My mom started to get hoarse in her voice. I presumed she had vocal nodules, which I’d had twice in my life and healed through vocal therapy. I advised my mom to go to the doctor so that she could get a prescription for voice therapy. She adamantly refused, because she didn’t want them sticking that awful camera thing down her nose. I told her that she could skip that step, that I would do all the calling and advocating, to ensure that she just went straight to voice therapy. She said no. She wouldn’t even allow me to call the doctor and verify that she could go straight to voice therapy without getting the camera thing. She wanted “time,” she said, and she would take care of it.

So I gave her time, and she didn’t take care of it. As per the usual.

Six months later, my mom still hadn’t done shit, despite my reminding her along the way, and her voice was worse than ever. I was put in the position that was common with my mom: She wasn’t doing what she needed to do, to take care of an important health-related matter. And yet if I were to step in and take care of things, I would be effectively disrespecting her autonomy. It’s an awful position to be in, because I care about both my mom’s physical wellbeing and emotional wellbeing.

Flashback to my childhood: My mom had several medical encyclopedias. She routinely would read one, decide she had fill-in-the-blank rare and fatal condition, tell me about it and about how she might die soon as a result of it, then refuse to go to the doctor to get checked. She did this constantly. It was psychological torture and therefore a form of abuse.

In 2014, my mom’s voice had on me the impact of nails on a chalkboard, and furthermore actually hurt my very sensitive ears. I clearly told her, repeatedly, that it was difficult for me to talk with her when her voice was like that. I often had to cut our conversations short, which meant we couldn’t have the heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul talks I so loved having with her. I begged my mom to remedy the situation. She refused. Again it was “her” way vs. “my” way. She wanted to figure it out on her own.

Of course, as per the usual, she didn’t do shit, though she kept saying she was “working on it.” Which meant she occasionally thought about it, without doing anything or letting me do anything on her behalf. As the months continued to roll by and become a year and then two years, it became increasingly difficult for me to talk with my mom, not only because her voice was grating on my nerves, but because the whole situation, represented by her nails-on-chalkboard voice, began severely triggering me. It brought up all kinds of ways in the past that my mom did things that she knew were very hurtful to me – that felt like energetic rape and had the accompanying physical sensations – but didn’t stop, despite my begging her. And so, the longer that my mother refused to take care of matters with her voice, despite my offer of total support, and despite my telling her how her voice and the situation were affecting me, talking to her set off a major and intense whole-body, physical reaction that easily fucked me up for 24 hours.

Still, I kept being the one to sacrifice my wellbeing, so as to be able to talk to her. She didn’t sacrifice her comfort – despite my offering her on a silver platter to do all the work for her – so as to be able to talk to me. Which feels like a form of abandonment and lack of care or love. And while those on the outside would advise me to stop sacrificing so that she could step to the plate, they did not understand my mom or the severity of things with her. Me not doing anything does not propel my mom to do something. Me not doing anything results in things festering as long as forever, or in some cases, easily could result in my mom being dead. Case in point: I have discovered my mother practically face down in her own black vomit, and refusing to go to the emergency room. If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. Period. So I always take the hit, and I always take the fall, on my mother’s behalf, and she yells at my ass the whole way down.

Fast forward to about six months ago, when my miserable specimen of humanity neighbor spread toxic fertilizer all over his house, right under my window, causing me to get sick. I was very upset. Among other things, I was feeling like a failure for being unable to properly take care of my mom during that time, because I felt I couldn’t even manage my own life, given the overwhelming number of things I was facing – including healing naturally from cancer, paying for it all, and scrambling to get enough work to foot the bills. I also was feeling horribly isolated and alone, frozen out by the Seattle Freeze.

When I expressed my feelings to my mother, she didn’t respond with care or compassion. Instead she started yelling at me about how I was trying to turn her into me, that she doesn’t do things lightning fast like me, and so on. I went from feeling like shit to feeling like shit and attacked and completely alone in the world. I hung up the phone and went to take care of myself.

A month or two later, I decided to put all my belongings into storage and travel the world. At first, I was terrified. But as I nonetheless stepped into this journey and began manifesting it, I began to feel my free spirit coming back to life, and I began to get excited about my adventure up ahead. I called to share this transformation with my mom. She was kind of like, “uh-huh.” She then volunteered that she was not excited because this is what I do – I work through things and do them, so it’s nothing to get excited about. You know, never mind the heroic strength it took to overcome my fears, and never mind the incredible daring of traveling around the world with multiple health issues, not the least of which was cancer. Since I have overcome adversity before, it’s apparently something to snooze at, instead of celebrate.

Flashback to my childhood, when I would come home with straight As, and my parents would basically say, “uh-huh,” but jump in joy over my sister’s B- grades. Because I was a strong student, I was not encouraged or supported. Rather than hear the parallel of what my mother was doing in 2016 and what my mother did in 1976; rather than hear my pain and take the opportunity to apologize for how she had hurt me as a child; and rather than take advantage of the opportunity to understand something very deep – namely, how I am the one who has to go through the effort of facing my fears and slaying my dragons, and that even if I may have done it a million times over, it still is a really, really big deal, and that regardless, I am her child and deserve to be encouraged and celebrated – instead, she justified her behavior when I was a child, saying vehemently, “But she [my sister] worked hard for those grades!”

I hung up the phone, devastated. In one fell swoop, my mother unraveled our relationship and the 30 years of intensive work on healing our relationship. It was no longer a 1976 issue. It had become a 2016 issue. Four months have gone by, and despite my numerous emails and blog posts, my mother has yet to acknowledge what she did, never mind apologize for it. Her response instead has been to say that I was calling her a liar, that she did not “justify” her behavior when I was a kid. She got fixated on this idea that I was calling her a liar and completely lost sight of everything else. She has failed to hear my heart or see that she broke it into a million pieces. She never tried to understand why I felt she was justifying her behavior. She never seemed remotely curious to know my experience. And so I was left feeling abandoned and unloved, yet again. And remembering why I felt abandoned and unloved my whole childhood.

In addition, it became more clear to me than ever that my mom behaved the way she did when I was a child, because she identified with my sister. Given my mother’s own cocktail of mental health issues, including ADHD and learning disabilities, I think that my mother saw herself in my sister, and that my mother saw in me the world that was out to get her. She did not see in me her daughter, someone who needed her love and encouragement and support and guidance. She saw in me a threat to her other daughter, as she saw the world being a threat to herself.

And so it made sense to me why she had fought me the whole way during the period that I was taking care of her, and why she fought me on the voice issue. I could twist myself into a pretzel, working my life and everyone’s else’s lives around my mother. It was never enough, because I was one of them. I was the “linear type,” as she calls it, the capable type. Never mind the fact that I am an artist and totally out there and that I have, throughout my life, felt alienated, misunderstood, and maligned by the very world that my mom sees as being out to get her. I have been able to successfully navigate that world and get shit done. Rather than accept my heartfelt offering to 1) be my mother’s buffer and do the navigating for her, where she’s been unable to do it herself, and 2) otherwise lend to her all my strengths and talents, I think that on some level, my mother has resented me and/or hated me for my abilities and perhaps still feels this way.

I don’t think she’s aware of these feelings or of how they play out in her relationship to me. But I think it’s very true. My mother has always resented me just for being who I am. And in this respect, she has never, ever seen me. Ever. And that’s part of why my mother has sold me out to my sister time and again, and why I think my mother has taken me for granted all these years. Because I have been able to overcome adversity time and again, she is blind to the inordinate amounts of courage and strength and risk and daring it has taken for me to accomplish what I have.

This hatred, dismissal, or jealousy of one who accomplishes things is intertwined with the dynamics of this world, where suffering and struggling are rewarded. The person who wins the lawsuit is the one who can demonstrate how horribly s/he was affected. If you take responsibility for your life and maximize every resource you’re given and heal your own damn self, despite all the obstacles in your way, and despite all the overwhelming odds, people assume that it must not have been that bad. You don’t get rewarded for activating Herculean strength. You don’t win that lawsuit. You effectively get punished.

When I was a little girl, a ritual during Passover was for my father to invite my mother to read the tam (simple son) passage of the h’gadah in Hebrew. “Simple son” can also be translated as the stupid son. My mom was called stupid her whole life, by a Midwestern 1930s-1940s world that knew nothing about chemical imbalances or learning disabilities. Given these learning disabilities, which we still knew nothing about when I was a kid, and given my mom’s nervousness of being put on the spot in this way – when my dad specifically knew that my mom would stumble her way through – my mom struggled through the passage, making mistakes on almost every word, while my father laughed. My sister and I also laughed, because this was the family tradition. And when I was a little girl, I understood the culture of the family to be true. This was what we called “funny.”

My mom, however, never laughed.

By the time I was no older than 11, I realized that this ritual was one of humiliation and that it was both gross and unacceptable. I told my father to stop doing it. I refused to participate in it anymore. I then took my mother aside and taught her how to read Hebrew. I helped her, one-on-one, learn to read that passage perfectly. And even try it in Judeo Arabic. And I helped her learn to read the Hebrew Shabbath songs we sang every week.

And yet, when I was 14, and my mother became a street artist and was really good at what she did and had customers cooing over her, leading her to get a surge of self-esteem, what did she do? She turned on me. She took out on me all the shaming and humiliating she had ingested from throughout her life. Why? Why did she take it out on me, when I was the only one who stood up for her?

Just a few days after the 2016 incident, where my mother justified how she gave my sister preferential treatment when we were kids, my father emailed to let me know that he could only pay 40% of what he initially had offered (unsolicited by me) to pay of my mother’s monthly expenses. Not only are my father’s claims of not having money more reflections of what he does and does not value than what he does and does not have, but the justification my father gave for being unable to come through on his offer/promise was that, among other things, he had bought a $350,000 house for my sister (an employed professor who already owned a house worth shy of $1 million, from which she receives monthly rent) and, on top of that, was giving my sister monthly financial support – thereby depleting what he had to offer me. “Me,” of course, really meant my mom, whom my sister should have been contributing to supporting this whole time.

It’s a mess. My so-called family is one hell of an abusive, twisted mess. I have devoted decades of my life actively working to heal our relationships. Only people who know me well know the extent to which I have gone. I have never witnessed or heard of anyone devoting themselves to the extent I have. And to what end?

People advise me to lower my expectations. They tell me that my mother doesn’t have the ability to comprehend her actions or to offer me what I need. They tell me to talk about light things with her and to “get off the roller coaster ride,” as one friend puts it. But my mom has the ability to see things, to get things that she doesn’t see or get initially. It’s just that sometimes it might take her a decade to understand, and even then, it might unravel, and you’ll need to start all over again. Also I don’t want superficial conversations with my mom. I want the heart-centered, soul-to-soul conversations. I want that spiritual juice.

But I am not willing to endure the torment I experience with her voice, and she’s not willing to recognize the need to treat the core issue and do the work it requires to resolve the matter once and for all (she gets fixated on temporary solutions that mask the symptoms but do not treat the root cause, that do not solve the problem once and for all), and I don’t want to just let this whole sister comment thing go, because it’s a really big fucking deal that is at the core of my relationship with my mom. And, bigger than all these considerations, I have to focus on me – on my life, on healing myself. I have devoted decades of my life to healing with my family, and I think that maybe I’ve gotten as far as I can get.

As a friend recently said, “You’re a magic maker. I think you’re frustrated that you can’t make the magic happen with [your family].” Truth.

So I am turning to writing to get it all out. Maybe it will help. I’m not sure. Meanwhile I have anxiety that my mom will Gd forbid die before any of this gets resolved, before I can connect with her in a meaningful and deep way again. I just wish she could hear me, see me, understand me. Why is it so impossible to communicate about this stuff with her in a way that reaches her, when I have communicated about it in every way possible?

I adore my mom and miss her terribly and want to share with her my adventures. We have been through so much together, with her healing from the inside and me facilitating her healing from the outside. My relentlessness, and my willingness to let her rail at me and cause me misery, and my refusal to give up on her or give into her shenanigans, no matter what, enabled her to rehabilitate. And now here she is! Alive and well. I want to celebrate with her. I want to party with her. I want to connect on the soul and heart levels. I want to enjoy the parts of her that are so unique and vital to my sense of belonging and happiness in the world. I want to go on road trips with her.

That’s all I got. There is no tidy ending to this blog post.








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By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

September 1st, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Kauai is like a condensed version of touchy-feely enclaves in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Everyone is an intuitive, and everyone has cosmic interpretations of the most mundane occurrences in your life, eight minutes into chatting with you.

It’s suffocating.

I was sharing with a neighbor here a challenge I was dealing with that week, and she tied it together with a story I had told her previously, declaring that she saw “a pattern.” Touchy-feely types are always seeing patterns in my life, as well as messages from the Universe, when they know a myopic spec of my story – not only that, but when they are getting a very specific slice of that myopic spec.

By way of example, I’ll share this anecdote: In my 20s, I painted regularly. All my angries and grief and sadness went into my painting. It was a way of releasing, cleansing. An acquaintance looked at one of, or maybe a few of, my paintings and declared, “You’re depressed.” I was taken aback. I was specifically not depressed, I informed her, because I painted. What she saw on that page was what was no longer inside me.

Over the years, I have had numerous vehicles of self-expression. Writing has been a key way of chronicling my journey and releasing from inside me all the frustration, rage, sadness, and other feelings that have come up through the challenges I have faced in life, and that interfere with my being in a state of radiant bliss. When people read my writing, that’s primarily what they see – the stuff I have released.

What interests me is that many or most people don’t get that. They judge me by what they see, as if that snapshot of my life is the sum total of who I am, as if it defines me. They are, in effect, sloppy journalists, not asking what’s behind or what’s around what they see, or what does it mean, or where exactly does it fit in the greater context of my life.

A friend of mine recently commented that only a few people are willing or able to do the soul journey of truly diving into things and engaging with them and expressing them. What that means is that there are a whole hell of a lot of people who don’t know how to cope with “difficult” emotions, who bolt from those emotions, who judge those emotions, who judge the people who have those emotions, who get stuck in those emotions if engaging in them, and who judge others from that general take on matters.

I make a living as a public relations (PR) manager. Everything in PR comes down to spin. Similarly I can “spin” things in my life in many different ways. But I don’t. I am deliberately, consciously raw. I say exactly what I’m feeling, when I’m feeling it, without “spinning” it. It is just what it is, a snapshot in time.

The anguish that I experience and express, however, is part of an extraordinary life filled with magic, power, freedom, glory, serendipity, and pure bliss. But I’m not here to explain that to others. I am here to do what I need to do, to say what I need to say, to shine the light on what I need to shine it on, for myself, to unfold what I need to unfold, to release what I need to release.

People may understand or not understand; they may condemn me or they may appreciate me; they may benefit from my writing or think it’s a ball of hooey. That’s really not my business. I release to the Universe because my Soul is communicating with the Divine, and magic happens when I am authentic and raw and throw it all out into the world.

That said, while I can share traumatic events with relative ease, I notice that extraordinary magic, blessings, and miracles have felt very private to me, and I share them infrequently. Maybe part of why I do that is that people will typically give me accolades for sharing the “good” stuff, and they will see me in this positive light, but they will typically condemn me for the “bad” stuff and tell me that I’m attracting all this stuff to my life, that I have bad karma, and that I am basically an idiot and fuckup and that my life is all wrong.

Bring it. If you don’t love the warrior, you don’t get the lover. It’s a screening device of sorts.

When I lived in LA, people would cruise a party, talking to people for three minutes, to suss out if that person could be of use. If yes, they would talk longer, exchange business cards, and so forth. If no, they would move on. By then, I had published in top media worldwide – Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, Marie Claire, CNN, Seventeen, BBC News, Self, you name it. When someone at an LA party asked what I did, I said, “I’m a writer.” When they asked if I had published my writing, I said “Yes.” When they asked where, I said, “Oh, you know, anywhere that pays me. I’m a publishing slut.” Invariably they lost interest and moved on to find someone more useful – to my perpetual amusement.

I find it extremely annoying when I share a miraculous event in my life, and someone judges it with a cosmic pronouncement that it means such-and-such – exactly as they respond to a traumatic event, but in the reverse. I think I find it far more annoying when someone makes a judgement about a miraculous event, which feels like a communion between me and the Divine, than when someone makes a judgement about a traumatic event. I guess I don’t want outsiders sullying the magic or something.

I also don’t want fake people with superficial overtures of friendship and connection. I’d rather dress in rags and have someone treat me like dirt than dress in splendor and have someone want to be my friend.

But I also really want to write more about the visions and miracles and serendipity and blessings I have experienced in my life. I guess I need to release and disengage from people’s responses all around, so that I have total freedom to share my story with the Universe. On that note, as much as on the one hand I think it’s important to hold complexities and love people for who they are, I also think it’s important for me to oust from my real life and social media life those who make superficial pronouncements and judgements, instead of listening to my heart and getting to know my soul.


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The Place that Called Me

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

August 31st, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Kauai CallingThis is quite possibly my favorite spot in Hawaii. It is my Gd/dess spot. It is where the Island told me to stay here and immerse myself in her Nature and allow the Island to wash over me and heal me. This is where I asked Kauai to Change Me. To change me in whatever ways I need to be changed, so that I undergo complete transformational healing. So that the cancer no longer recognizes my body, my being. So that the cancer no longer recognizes me as a host. This is where I felt a deep, deep connection to Kauai. In the peace and beauty and vastness of this trail.

Also this trail was very challenging for me, on the first and second takes as well as today, because it’s always super muddy. Muddy = slippery + getting stuck. Today I went three times as far as I went on the first time I hiked here. I went through a crazy muddy stretch, where I walked very slowly and carefully, planning ahead on each step like a chess move. Once I thought I would have to leave my shoe in the mud, because it was entrenched so deep! I had to work hard to pull my leg out with my shoe attached. I felt so very proud of myself. Going on these hikes, especially alone, is risky. I could slip and hurt myself badly, and possibly nobody would find me in time to help, because few people hike this trail. I could sprain my sensitive ankles and be unable to get back or, because cell phones don’t work here, call for help. I could get dehydrated. I could encounter a crazy dog on the lose. Or a crazy man. Gd/dess forbid to all of these, of course.

I bring this up because what I am doing here, on Kauai, on these trails, is bold and badass. I am risking and stepping outside my comfort zones, as a person with disability issues and health issues, and as a woman. I am allowing myself the space I need to grow into my big, strong, healthy self. And I am trusting myself. And I love this challenge of becoming stronger and healthier, always, on so many levels at once. And I love seeing how I can do more and more, and do it faster and easier, each time I do it.

Today I came to a place in higher up in the trail where there is a big fat tree all across the trail. You cannot go under. You have to go over. That involves hoisting and possibly slipping. It involves arm muscles, stomach muscles, leg and ankle muscles, all kinds of stuff. And I did it. I did it!!! I did it slowly and mindfully. And then I kept walking up, up, up. And on my way back, I stood and faced the mountain and view that told me to stay in Kauai, and I sang Hallelujah in a melody I made up. I sang it and sang it and sang it. Then I sang it walking. Then I sang the shebahoth – the Iraqi Jewish sacred songs. Then I climbed back on top of the tree, to get back down to my car. And then I sat on this tree and bonded with Her and sang and sang and sang some more.

And then…Dogs. On the loose. I hollered to the owner, asking her to please keep the dogs away from me becuase I have medical conditions and I can’t be near dogs. OMG she cared and responded! It took her a bit to register what I had just said, and her dog was running toward me already. But the dog went back when she called him. I then asked her to just give me a head start, so I could stay away from the dogs.

Then I walked as fast as I could down the path. I did not appreciate how my communing with nature was cut short because a dog owner disregarded the sign very clearly posted right at the entrance, that dogs must be on leashes. It was compounded by all the other dog owners who interfered with my ability to romp around freely, because they too disobeyed leash laws or entirely broke the laws about not bringing dogs. Then I got to the big fat long muddy part. Shit shit shit. I wanted to walk fast to get away from the dog but not walk so fast that I slipped. I felt the pressure. I heard the dogs. I was pretty damn impressed with myself how quickly, on the way back, I was finding where to put my feet and moving forward. And I also noticed my thigh-groin crease – an area that was injured many years ago during physical therapy, and that has been one hell of a bitch to heal – was getting pulled at and overextending, causing pain. Fuck!

Either way, a dog on the loose can hurt me, I thought, either by barreling at me or by me bolting from it, to avoid it barreling at me. I heard the dogs right behind me and got heightened anxiety and turned around to gauge how close they were – why was the owner allowing them to get so close to me!? – and saw, to my great relief, that the owner had leashed both of them. I thanked her profusely. Even though, by law, she should have leashed them to begin with. Focus on the positive! Then she told me it was good I caught them in time, because the dog had attacked another woman on a tree, earlier. She then clarified that she meant the dog jumped on the tree and started licking the woman, because the dog is still like a puppy at 4 years old. She said that woman was totally freaked out. I’m saying uh-huh, uh-huh, and thinking, why would you keep your dogs off-leash, when not only the sign says to leash them, but also you just freaked out a woman as a result of the dogs being off-leash? How many women do you need to put in fight/flight mode before it occurs to you to keep your dogs on leash?

Anyhow, I let them all pass, and then I was able to slow down and enjoy the beauty around me. I called my mom and asked for healing energy, and I was really quite alright – I didn’t get affected as I had in the past and as I anticipated might happen given the thigh/groin thing. Which was amazing. Because other than that, this was just a glorious experience.

Thank you Kauai. Thank you Trail. Thank you Mountain. Thank you Tree. Thank you Sunlight. Thank you Clouds. Thank you Grey. Thank you Gd/dess.

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Prayer for a Stranger

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

August 27th, 2016 • Leave a Comment

A couple of months before I left Seattle, and the reason I left the lovely house and neighborhood where I was living, the neighbor to my east (the one who had done four months of heavy construction tearing up the street in front of my house, to fix his sewage, and refusing to let me know specifics about loud machinery, so I could protect myself) struck again. When I woke up that Shabbat morning, it smelled like a cow farm. I opened my front door and got hit by an overwhelming noxious odor of manure. Why did it always come down to shit with that neighbor?

Despite it being a hot day, I left all the windows shut. It still reeked, though not as bad as when anything was open. Within an hour, I had an intense headache and realized that there must have been toxic chemicals used in fertilizer, most likely by the neighbor to the east. As soon as I was able to get myself together, I left for the day, to get away from the stench and toxins. That evening, I emailed the neighbor – sharing my experience in a polite, matter-of-fact way, asking if perhaps they had used fertilizer and if it might have had toxins in it, and requesting that in the future, if they plan on using such products, to kindly give me a heads-up, so that I could leave in advance.

I received a snarky and overtly hostile email in reply, saying it seems I have lots of health issues, that he’s “so sorry” about that, and that maybe I should move to some remote location, far far away from other people (ie him), where I could have the serenity I need and where I could play my constant loud music and do my constant band practice (we’d been broken up for two months from then, ie, zero band practice) and my constant singing. He further advised me that using fertilizer is totally normal and that therefore it’s intrusive for me to attempt to involve myself in what he’s doing and that he will not under any circumstances notify me about that or any other matter, now or down the line, and that in the future, I should direct all correspondence to my landlady, not to him.

Back when I moved in, I went to all my neighbors and asked if it was ok with them – I actually asked for “permission” from this neighbor to the east – to practice with my band in my garage. Everyone, including this neighbor, was fine with it. I said if they changed their minds, once they heard the music – ha – they should let me know. The neighbor to the west requested that we practice in the early evening, sometime after 5 pm and before 8:30 pm, so that we avoided the napping and sleeping time of her daughter. We subsequently practiced from 6-8 pm, once a week, and avoided Sundays, because that’s when neighbors liked to be in their backyards, barbequing or whatnot.

This neighbor to the east never communicated with me that the band rehearsal or singing or general music I played (none of which were “constant”) were in any way disturbing to him. I doubt they actually were. I think he was miffed that I had asked him to be courteous and communicative with me about the construction issue and that he went off on some major power struggle. It’s a whole big mess of a traumatic story, which I don’t feel like getting into here, and which I wrote a bit about previously. Suffice it to say, I actually had been mindful of my music and singing – checking volume outside my windows, closing my windows, and/or leaving one window open a crack for air, but in the kitchen, when I was practicing in the living room. In other words, I demonstrated care, actually to the point that it irritated me, given that this jackass didn’t give a shit about his impact on my health.

The long and short of it was that being hated on for creating music – for singing from my heart, in particular – adversely impacted me. Ironically, because I actually do care, I became anxious about irritating people when I played music or sang, as if making music was a bad thing.

Fast forward to the magical apartment I scored in Kauai, with the ocean to one side and the mountains to the other, and a grand piano in the middle. I promptly began creating music on the piano, which is one of the manifestations of my soul, and singing in accompaniment. It was glorious and powerfully healing. Meanwhile, I had constant background anxiety about whether I was annoying the neighbor next door, outside the window near the piano.

About a week into my stay at this apartment, I bought a djembe and started drumming on the beach just down the street from me. One day, when I walked toward one of the shady spots on the beach, I saw a young woman sitting right next to where I had planned to drum. I asked if she would mind it if I drummed. “I would love it!” she replied enthusiastically. Before I began drumming, I looked at the ocean and said a prayer that the drum rhythm would be healing to her, in whatever way she needed healing. I then began to drum.

As I continued drumming, I had anxiety about whether I was drumming “too loud,” and I was anxious about singing in addition to drumming, not wanting to annoy this person. I thought about moving to a different part of the beach but decided to stay. The woman was writing in a notebook, and at some point, I asked if she was journaling. She said yes and shared that she initially had been unsure what to write, feeling kind of bored, but that as soon as I started drumming, she felt the rhythm throughout in her spine. Suddenly she felt inspired, and all this stuff came gushing out, into her journal.


“It just takes a pinprick of focus,” she then said, “to open a world of magical possibilities.”

Again, wow. It was like my prayer had come back to me, guiding me. Right around that period, I’d started thinking about focus – namely, that by focusing on healing naturally from cancer, I can make it happen. Her words were affirming to me.

We kept chatting, then asked each other where we lived. Turns out this woman was the very neighbor right outside the window near the piano! I laughed and laughed and laughed with my head thrown back. I told her that I’d been traumatized about playing music, that I had resultant anxiety about irritating other people when I created music, and that I was nervous about annoying the neighbor next door when I played and sang. “And that neighbor is you, who said you’d love to hear me drum!” She laughed heartily too, and we agreed the serendipity was all very magical and healing.

This woman additionally told me that she heard singing from both my side and the other side, because the other neighbor is a singer too, and that she had liked it, that it had a kind of eerie vibe (she said it in a positive way, like “haunting”), because it got carried in the wind – which is very strong from the ocean, where we live – in such a way that she never knew where it was coming from.

I subsequently shared with her the prayer I had said before starting to drum, and she said, “It’s so beautiful that you would say a prayer for a stranger.” Yes, well, that’s how I roll.



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