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Learning That I Deserve Love and Finding My Voice

tziona resiezed

TI always feared deep down that I would never be truly loved, just as I am. That fear comes along with a deep desire for an unconditional, encompassing love. To me, that means there was always this empty place that was never filled.

When I was 26, I was living in Berkeley, California, I had a day job in a bookstore, and I was recording my first album of original music. I went to a concert of free improvisational music, and found myself on stage, just singing, without thinking about what I was going to sing. My soul felt like a bird let out of a cage; an image that would come up again and again in my life. Whatever that freedom was, whatever that voice was, I called it G-d. I didn’t grow up with that vocabulary, but there was this nameless place that was pure and true.

I really didn’t know what it meant that I was Jewish. My Tai Chi teacher saw me searching and said, ‘Listen, you’re Jewish, you’ve got to give it a try.’ That began my journey to Judaism.

When I was well on my way to my journey, I made Aliyah and quickly I met the man I was to marry. Everything rushed forward, and we started what would prove to be a very unhappy marriage. It took me years to break free from it. I tended to blame myself, and I was so self-critical, always seeing my flaws and not what made me special. I was limited by my own self-perceptions and my soul still longed for true freedom.

Slowly the denial about how bad things had gotten in my marriage began to loosen. I was this successful performer with all these albums, constantly getting the feedback that my music was empowering and uplifting women and giving them strength to go on. But no one knew what my home was like. I almost felt like I was living a double life.

When I decided to leave, I left my support system behind too. They were not able to accept that my marriage was over.

I was truly on my own.

That time was so hard, being suddenly on my own with these little kids, and my family was so far away! I was plagued by self-doubt and paralyzed by fear. I had to leave most of my possessions behind, but I did have my piano, by a minor miracle. The problem was, when I would open my mouth to sing, nothing would come out. I felt like I had been blasted open by leaving my marriage, my community, my Rav, and by the birth of my son who was born right before the separation. I literally felt that I was fighting for my life against the inner and outer voices of blame and shame for leaving. My body had not recovered from the birth, I was nearly bald from shaving my head in the Chassidic custom.  I remember schlepping my baby up and down a million stairs in Tzfat every time I left the house. My kids were having a hard time too. Sometimes I would look at my piano and feel like it was judging me for not touching it.

My music helped me express and make peace with what had happened; the losses, the deaths, and the rebirths. It felt so raw and intimate as everything was so fresh and I still didn’t feel safe. But I was learning how to channel my frustration and rage towards the birth of my will. And I was learning to be vulnerable.

My therapist helped me to weed out the wrong and negative thinking that I had absorbed about myself and reframe some of the traumatic events without all the shame and self-blame. I started to know that I could once again experience emotional safety and honesty. It took years. It was hard to seek help, hard to overcome the habit of covering up what was happening, acting strong, being isolated. But it was so important to my healing to have support.

My life and career went on and flourished. Even when things were dark, I would see Hashem’s hand in my life, making miracles, blessing me again and again.

I was learning to believe in myself again.

When I finally got my get, nearly three years after leaving, there was a palpable shift. I started to allow myself to feel how lonely it had been.

At that moment, I was so scared of losing myself again; of being too willing to let go of essential parts of myself for the sake of a romantic relationship.

I still dream of a healthy intimate relationship with a man, face to face, built on trust, love, and support. As much as I long for it, I’ve decided to not make that my focus in life. I choose to put my focus on what I have, rather than just what I am lacking. What I have are my three beautiful children, music, good work, life, health, and something innocent inside of me that remains throughout it all. Thank God, I am creating the kind of home I promised before I left, to my unborn son: one where he would be surrounded by love.

I’m taking the time to really develop my music and creativity. Singing is the one place where I am truly and completely free. Free of fear, free to play, explore, be whole, and spontaneous. I make up the verses based on whatever I see in front of me, whatever reason, small or large, to be grateful, to be present right now. So, it’s always a new song, because it’s fresh in every moment. Then I am no longer running, but feel at home in my skin, in my soul.

As of right now, I don’t yet have love, not in the sense of being part of a couple. But I do have my soul. I’ve redeemed it from captivity. And I honor it with the knowledge that she, and I, are part of something far bigger. She is a little piece of God. And God is infinite.

And that makes me a little bit infinite too.

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Tziona Achishena has been performing women for the past 18 years. She has produced 10 albums of original music, including her best selling “Miriam’s Drum”, several music videos. Tziona has performed throughout Israel, across North America, and even has traveled as far as Moscow to inspire Jewish women with her soul-stirring voice. Tziona was blessed with a startling 4 octave range, and a voice that goes straight to the heart. Her most recent performance was before a crowd of 500 at the Geula Gathering in Jerusalem. Tziona also works for the non-profit Music & Memory, providing personalized music to nursing home residents across Israel, where she is a single mother of three children. Her life’s passions are interwoven in the healing power of music. https://tziona-achishena.com/
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