Reality Bites


The above quote was sent to me in a text from my young teenage son. This is where his head was as he rode the bus home from school. What’s it like for a mother to read something like this from their child? It’s heartbreaking, bordering on devastating.

I have been trying to explain to my own father for a long time how today’s world is impacting our youth. I tell him that they are feeling disillusioned and scared. They are angry at the “adults” who have overlooked their futures and are dismissing their current day concerns. Parents are afraid too, and they often deal with this problem by trying to act like everything is okay or that everything will be okay. Denial. Out of sight out of mind. I understand that they want to protect their kids. They want to keep the external peace as long as they can. But in the midst of this, know that the inner turmoil of your children rages on.

I am far from a perfect parent. Far. Far. Far. However, I try to be as humble as possible, and to adjust my sails when I see that I am heading down the wrong course. I grew up in a very traditional home where you didn’t argue or disagree with the “adults”. As a result I felt unheard, disregarded, and unimportant. That caused a lot of angst and rebellion from me as I desperately tried to be seen. But, I learned from my experiences and decided that when I had kids I would do it differently.

It’s not that my parents didn’t love me. They did. They do…very, very much. However, they were the products of their own upbringings. They were strict, afraid, and Catholic. They held a tight reign. My choice has been to raise my children along side of me. This started with the decision to have a family bed when they were babies. They have been raised to believe that they are an intrinsic part of this family. Their thoughts and dreams matter to me. They may have flowed through me, but I know that they do not belong to me. It is my “duty” here on this earth to make sure that I guide them to adulthood with honesty and as much love as possible.

The world has taken a turn for the worse in the last few years. My children are no longer babes, they are young adults with BIG ideas and passions. They are watching the world become more unstable and chaotic. They don’t trust our leaders and they are pissed that the “adults” in the room cannot get it together. The Earth is not-so-slowly dying and people’s lives are being turned upside down as a result. What will become of our world they ask? I was certainly not prepared by my parents for this future that we have arrived at. Why didn’t they understand that by polluting the earth at every turn we would be killing it? Who knew that there would be an expiration date in our lifetime?

I listen to the conversations of the kids who roam in and out of my home on the daily. I hear things like, “I am never having children.” Or “The end of the world is upon us so what is the point with school?” And, “Why should we try when it’s already too late?” How does one effectively parent in today’s world? I have no idea. I just try to listen. I allow them to emote and express themselves verbally. I am not going to lie and say it’s easy because it isn’t. It’s exhausting work trying to appear like you’ve got it together, day in and day out for your kids. They are not the only ones feeling cheated. I really want to be a grandmother one day.

I know that it’s not always easy when you’re a kid to see the big picture. It’s not always easy as an adult, but I believe it is our “duty” as parents to guide our children the best we can until they are capable of seeing it for themselves. The days are coming at us faster and harder. And I am not here to give answers. I am attempting to let others know that this is how things are right now. This is a window into our youth at the moment, and the world needs to be aware of it. There are children growing up all around the world in much more dire situations than my own. Where war is the norm what does the future look like?

The looming question that I try to answer daily is how do we instill a sense of hope and calm in our children while living in the midst of what feels like a cyclone? I want to help them see that peace is within reach, it is within them, at the very center of the storm. I remind them that while this world is seemingly unstable, they are not of this world. They are destined for far better things. I want them to understand that right here and now is of the utmost importance. That having HOPE in the midst of dire circumstances is possible. At the moment they don’t understand how I am continually looking for silver linings, because they have a hard time seeing them. I tell them that gratitude allows for a special type of endurance. When they fully can understand that they are divine beings having a human experience they will know that their time here is means to have a greater purpose. That they are here to help others understand that we are so much more than we appear to be on the surface. That time is not linear, and that our spirits will continue no matter what shall befall us.

I don’t have all the answers and to be honest, I am really scared myself. I have days that are riddled with anxiety and then depression as a result of my overbearing dread at the state of current affairs. It’s hard to watch the suffering of this world rolling by on its 24/7 media loop. So, when my child tells me that it’s hard growing up in a world that is coming to an end, I will always take a deep breath and listen. I won’t try to solve unsolvable problems. I will just listen to them, love them unconditionally, and hope for the best.

thank you

Being the uninformed technical person that I am I realized that I had been overlooking something very important for the past few years. While cruising around the WordPress dashboard of the Rebel Thriver blog I realized that I had 54 pages of mostly unread comments on many of my posts from over the years. These are comments that were left for me that I had never seen. I spent last night reading some of them and I was really overwhelmed with gratitude. I also felt very dumb. How could i have missed them for so long?!

Nevertheless, I kept writing.


I just want to say thank you to all of you who have been a loyal reader and supporter. I am honored and blessed to know that you are here with me on this journey.

Blessed be,
xo Ella

Tribute


I haven’t been able to write for a very long time. In part it’s due to being thoroughly immersed with my children, two masterminds, classes, and work. I just didn’t have the band width to focus on writing, although every inch of me desired to ooze out into words what I have been feeling. Much of this past year has been about me wrapping up the past and focusing on moving forward. I am laying new foundations and creating new dreams for my life. This has been a time of healing.

After leaving my abusive marriage I was completely disconnected from myself. I really had no idea who I had become or if I was anyone at all. My ex-husband left me a shell of my former self. I did the best that I could to be a single mom to my kids as I navigated the financial turmoil of a divorce while leaving behind a six figure salary for welfare. But, it was in the midst of all of this chaos that Rebel Thriver was born. In fact, it was born shortly after I lost one of the most important people in my life.

Roger Price St. John came into my life three years after I left my marriage. It started out as a professional friendship, but very quickly became more. He was the most interesting, creative, and intelligent man that I had met in a very long time. A recovered addict (14 years) who always supported others in the program. He worked the steps, donated his time for working the hotlines on holidays, and was a sponsor. He knew that good support was key in being able to make it through to the other side of recovery. Which is why it was so incredibly heart wrenchingly hard that he died of an overdose.

He was a teacher at a local college, film maker, Billabong surf camp photographer, frequent volunteer, and he ran his own non-profit surf camp that benefited needy kids in Costa Rica. Both of us artists we shared a love of photography, surfing, Pablo Neruda, and my children. After a long Summer beach day of surfing and family, he got down on one knee and proposed to me on the top of the sand dunes. The Atlantic bore witness.

I never got to marry Roger. About seven months later, after getting very sick with bronchitis, he relapsed. His doctor prescribed him cough syrup with Codeine and that was the beginning of the end. I had no idea what was coming down the pike when I saw him taking a chug of that cough medicine straight out of the bottle. Within a month he was barely functioning or even recognizable to me for that matter. The once fit and vibrant man who could tread water forever just to get the perfect picture of someone surfing out of a wave could barely shuffle his feet to get from point A to point B now. What the hell had happened? When he showed up to my home barely coherent I wouldn’t let him in. That was the last time he saw the kids, who by this time had already started to call him “dad”. And just like that he slipped away.

I watched Roger fall deeper and deeper into his addiction. The “monster”, as he called it, had laid siege and taken over. He lost his job, ended up in jail, and a psychiatric hospital before overdosing. It had been only thirteen months since he had proposed to me and only seven months after falling face first off the wagon. It was intense and it all seemed to happen at once. I was not in the head space to take this on. I was still healing from my 11 year failed marriage with a man who was mentally unstable and violently abusive. It was more than I was equipped to handle. Roger Price St. John was gone.


Writing became the outlet for my sadness, which in turn gave birth to Rebel Thriver. I started writing this blog in hopes of connecting with someone else who might have been feeling as lost as I did. If that was even possible. I never expected the response would be so great! I quickly found out that there were many other women from around the world who were in a similar place as I was. We were all trying our best to survive as we walked through that liminal space following the death of a relationship. The space of no longer and not quite yet.

Many people never get to experience true love, but I certainly did. I loved my husband with all of my heart, and it shattered into a million tiny little pieces when I had to leave him. Even though he was severely damaged before I met him, I felt like I had failed him. Roger came into my life when I believed that I would never be able to love again. He met me where I was and held a safe space for me on my path to recovery from abuse. In the end, I felt like I had failed Roger too. I had loved two incredible men, and lost both of them.

This week marks the eighth Anniversary of Roger’s death. I cannot believe that so much time has passed. He is still very much with me, and I could give you example after example of how he stays in touch; his sense of humor intact. He walks with me on the beach everyday and that gives me great comfort. Roger gave me the greatest gift that he could, love. He showed me that my heart had the capacity to love again after it had been shattered. He led me out of the darkness, into the light, and inspired my life’s work. This incredible man showed me that my heart will never stop expanding. And so on this eighth anniversary of his death my heart breaks open a little wider and my love grows a little deeper.

This is my tribute.
This is my love song. xo Ella

Lay it Down

After I left my husband I had a hard time finding a path to healing. I didn’t know anyone who had lived through domestic violence. No one spoke about it at least. It felt shameful. It was as though I had arrived at a cross roads in my life. Do I hide behind a mask or do I choose to be my authentic self…scars and all. I chose the later and decided that I wanted to help smash the stigma that surrounds domestic violence. The shame that the survivor feels is due to societies perception of it as a whole. People understandably will feel sorry for you, but in doing so that can trigger feelings of embarrassment/shame. Here’s the thing, the survivor did absolutely nothing wrong and the shame should be placed squarely upon the shoulders of the abuser.

Abusive people are a plague on society. Period. They infect the same invasive sickness from one generation to the next. Without education and support there is no way to end this cycle. The abused becomes the abuser. I want to impact the lives of others through Rebel Thriver. I want people to be aware of the red flags. I want to be a part of the public discourse about DV as there is with the #metoo movement. We cannot be afraid to be honest. We cannot be afraid to use our voices. The shame is not yours so lay it down.

Lay it Down

Where do the feelings of shame come from anyway? Is it because you didn’t walk away sooner or because you went back time after time? Often a person will endure abuse quietly for years. I wore those shoes. Now think about how you got there in the the first place? Was it because for some insane reason you didn’t think you deserved better? That in and of itself is an entire other chapter. You are enough. You have always been enough.

What happens when you combine a person with low self worth with an abusive controlling partner? An intense psychological game begins that slowly breaks the victims sense of self down as the game is played out in increments. Once you actualize the situation your realize how hard it is going to be to get out. My husband threatened to kill my kids, my family, me. What do you do when you are literally a captive, a hostage in your own life. It’s hard to break free. I lived that life for years and when I finally got out I know that people thought, ‘how could a woman who looked like she had her shit together be living in such duality?’ When your reality is skewed you can find yourself just struggling to survive around the daily landmines. Survival becomes the game. Later, my mother told me that I deserved an Academy Award. My father told me that I earned a Ph D in domestic violence. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

Back to standing at the crossroads. I chose to not give a damn about what other people had to say. I’ve taken my life back. I declared that I am not what happened to me, and I have learned some serious lessons. I am a deeper, wiser, more empathetic, and a very soulful person as a result. This is the time to heal. If you are holding space for your own healing be open to asking for help. It is a hard path to walk alone. You have lived in scarcity and fear for far too long and you need to learn how to rewrite the script that is in your head. You need to realize that not only can you move on, but you can live a thriving life.

Rebel Thriver has been my voice piece. It has allowed me to step up in a public way to tell my story and educate people to the fact that there is no discrimination with domestic violence. It can control the life of a highly paid, college educated, executive just as easily as it can any other person. It’s hard to shine a light on the fact that the person I loved with all of my heart had chosen to treat me like an enemy. I lived a life of “normalcy” during the work week, but once I left the office it was back to the cage. Trust me, if it can happen to me it can happen to your sister, your child, your mother, your best friend, your brother, your uncle, etc. Domestic violence is intrusive not only to the victim, but also to their entire universe.

Howl

The sooner we start to smash the stigma and speak out about our experiences the sooner we will be able to educate and shift peoples perceptions of what domestic violence truly is. When the laws change to hold abusers accountable in a real way then maybe we will see change. As for now I want to use what I’ve learned to help others begin to heal and live again. Shortly after I got divorced older women would say, “You’re still young with a pretty face and you will find another man, don’t worry.” As though that was what I wanted, a another man. Some will jump from partner to partner trying to fill that void. They never stop to take a breath, thus never healing or realizing that they are enough unto themselves. A personal relationship with oneself induces healing and can bring about transformative life changes. I lost my marriage to domestic violence, but in the process I found myself. I won the game.

xo Ella

Growth Necessary

I started Rebel Thriver a few years after I fled an abusive 12 year marriage because I was  isolated and needed to know I wasn’t alone. I fled one night with the clothes on my back and two small children on my hip. I left my home, career, colleagues, car, identity, and my life behind. And just like that I found myself broke and broken with nowhere to go. I have a supportive family, but I was afraid to put them in harm’s way. I was on the run and I had lost myself in the process. What most people don’t understand is that domestic violence is the systematic breaking down of one’s self. When you step outside of that reality you are lost. I found little or no support in any outside organizations to help with the process of rebuilding myself or my life. When I could not find connection locally, I looked internationally. I knew that there were other people who would understand and would want to join into a positive and supportive conversation with me.

Enter Rebel Thriver.

Fundraiser collage

What I didn’t realize at the time was that Rebel Thriver would grow into a vibrant worldwide community. For those of you who do not know my story, I still live in fear of my ex-husband finding us which is why I cannot post pictures of myself. I am still in harm’s way, and yet I won’t let this stand in the way of the work that needs to be done. This past year was incredibly difficult on a personal level and I questioned everything that I was and wasn’t achieving in my life. I decided that it was time to commit myself to serving this community of survivors with all that I am.

Once I made that decision things started to connect in miraculous ways. As a result (Following Breadcrumbs Blog Post ), I am now part of a year-long international Business Freedom Mastermind Group run by Eric Edmeades. I am heading to Estonia in March to participate in a week-long intensive business conference that will help me to be able to achieve my ultimate goal. That is to open a retreat house that will be able to help people learn how to re-connect with themselves, and to each other, so that we can heal, grow, learn, and find support; a place that will help in all areas needed to live a healthy life. I won the ticket to Estonia (Value $4k) because my pitch for Rebel Thriver laid out why I believed that this conference would help me to make the greatest impact on this community (Sweet Lemonade Blog Post ).

Now this is the hard part for me. I have taken a leap of faith and I have already started the Mastermind, but now I have to raise the money.  For almost 7 years I have worked daily to provide insight, inspiration, education, and support for many. I have run women’s groups, workshops, coached, counseled, and even helped some women leave abusive relationships. This is all because of my love for you and the burning desire to help. I have never asked for a money, but now I need help to further my dream to be able to serve all of you better. I need the education and the connections that will help me to achieve my goal of opening a Retreat House to teach people how to reconnect, reboot their lives, and thrive.
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I am raising money to cover the cost of the year long Mastermind and for my lodging and airfare to Estonia.  I want to be able to serve you better and this will take time and resources. Invest in me and so that I can serve you better.

Thank you for taking the time for reading this and thank you in advance for your generous help.

Love, Ella xo

Fundraiser Link: Rebel Thriver Fundraiser

Blog Posts Mentioned:

https://rebelthriver.blog/2018/08/28/sweet-lemonade/

https://rebelthriver.blog/2018/09/09/following-breadcrumbs/

I am RISING because I LOVE you.

I am RISING because I LOVE you.

In solidarity with all the others who have suffered or died at the hands of an abuser I recognize October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.domestic violence

Did you know that in the USA, 3 women die every single day, and a woman is beaten every 12 seconds due to domestic Violence. Also, the a high percentage of children who live with domestic violence in their homes, grow up to do the same. The cycle of violence runs deep.
My ex-husband had been terribly abused as a child.

I broke the cycle for my children. It was the hardest thing that I ever had to do. Being a survivor has altered every molecule and minute of my life. Today helping others recover from abuse is what I am called to do. Rebel Thriver welcomes all of the survivors out there to join us. You can learn to find your voice if you haven’t already. There is a way through the pain that you may be in. Here you can get advice, be educated, supported, and loved. Knowing that someone else understands the kinda crazy that you live with in your head is priceless. It is possible to live a thriving life. You just have to believe.
xo Ella

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

13256494_1057993907616031_3195574131118398619_nWe are in the cross fires of a political situation that shouldn’t be political at all. I know there are people who will call me brainwashed and misguided. They will say that George Orwell is turning in his grave because 1984 has come to fruition. I know these people well. Some of them have my same blood. Some of them know what happened to me back in 1984.

I was taken advantage of by a guy from a prep school. He locked me in his room, laid on top of me and hurt me. He took my virginity. I cried for him to STOP! He didn’t. When he finally got up, he put his pants on and leaned against the wall of the darkened room, the candle light was flickering across his evil face as he said in a very flip way, “What do you expect? I have wanted you for over a year?”

I was staying with my best friends family at the time. I was bleeding heavily. I was terrified. However, I didn’t call my parents. I didn’t tell them when I got home. I didn’t tell anyone. I tucked that experience away inside of me for years and “forgot” about it. Funny thing about trauma…it likes to pop up every now and then in the worst of circumstances. When I turned 22 I finally told my mother. She took to her bed for 3 days and cried the entire time. My father doesn’t know to this day because I saw how my mother reacted and I just knew it would kill my father.

People have been blaming the victim forever. Seriously, it is the culture of the world. A victim can be your mother, father, sister, brother, child, friend, and yes, even you. To add insult to serious injury it is also made clear that the victim is in someway responsible for the attack. This creates a wall of isolation and shame. This wall can barricade a victim behind it’s tall chalky cold walls for years. Sometimes for life. The mind is a mysterious thing. We have learned some about what trauma does to a persons mind though. I can speak to this because I am not only a survivor of rape, but of domestic violence. In an attempt to protect you, your mind will selectively shelf memories. It’s as though it opens a door within and shoves the trauma into it, and then it slams the door. Sometimes the door opens up again. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I live with debilitating PTSD. If you were to ask me what I struggle most with day to day I would say, my memory. I have big blocks of time missing due to domestic violence. I can’t remember much of my child’s first years. This is because during this time his father was so abusive to me that in order to survive my mind shut the memories away. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I am not mad about my situation. Rather I have chosen to channel that into helping other women recover, reclaim their lives, and move on after abuse and assault. This is how I heal. I run Rebel Thriver and this has become my life’s work. One of our agreements is no politics and no religion. This is because we know that this type of trauma doesn’t discriminate. I do not want to alienate any survivor over a political opinion or a religious belief. I believe that a victim needs to be heard no matter how long it takes for them to find their voice. And when they do finally speak they should not be shamed for it.

You do not know the path another has walked. We really need to start taking a step back at how things have been so that we can make changes and learn to move humanity forward in a more positive way. I believe that education is the only way. People can learn to become more understanding, better listeners, and develop empathy. We are capable of re-framing our thinking and doing better than the generations that came before us. We need to move towards coming together to tear down the old ways that allow isolation and victimization. We need to try to make this a better place for our children.

All I can do is continue to help the people who are trying to rebuild their lives and heal after trauma. I do not take political sides. I will never make a victims story divisive. It’s hard to stay out of the firing line these days. I pray the truth comes out and that people in powerful places are no longer able to wield their power to hurt others. Perhaps I am a bit idealistic, but that’s how I am and I will never give up striving to do better. My calling in this life is to help heal the wounds of survivors. It’s not fancy work, but it is everything to me, for how can we heal the world if we don’t work on healing it’s wounds?

xo Ella