Endless

love

“Love. It will not betray you, dismay you or enslave you. It will set you free.”
– Mumford & Sons

I used to have a warped idea about love. I believed that if I loved deeply and intensely with all of myself I could change the world. My ex-husband walked into my life-like a black hole. He sucked everything that I had out of me and then he demanded more. Everyday I paid a toll for being alive and it wasn’t cheap. He took everything I had to give, spit it back into my face, and then took more. I loved him though. I just kept scraping up what I could find of me to give to him. Little pieces, tiny shards of myself, were all I could find in the end. Never have I met another who could find so much to take from so very little. I left him as a shell of the person I had met him as, but I also left him with so much more than I had come to him with.

My world has never been the same. Even after years of separation he is with me everyday. How can you turn off love? I have my moments of anger and regret, but my love for that incredibly sick and imperfect man is still there. It’s changed in scope and I don’t respect him, or speak to him for that matter, but for a fellow human, hurting and damaged, I still have love. As a child I was raised to love and turn the other cheek. As a wife I learned to survive. As a single mother I learned to fight back to protect my young. We live so many lifetimes over and over in this single life we are given. And we have the potential to love many times over. When my marriage crumbled I thought that was it. Party over. The ship sailed. I didn’t think that I could ever have the capacity to love another person in that way again. Love taught me differently though.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8

After my marriage exploded I focused on what I knew would never fail me; the love for my children. Pure and unconditional love knows no deeper depths than that of a mother for her children. I poured myself into them so that they would know that I could love them enough for both their father and I. I alone was going to be enough for them. That was going to be enough. I was going to be ok. And as time passed I realized that love was not a one way street. If you loved the right people then love could come back to you as well. Loving people has always been easy for me, but It took me a long time to get comfortable trusting someone enough to allow them to love me back. To be able to believe in that love and accept it was something  I had to learn.

I learned, that I needed to love myself first, way too late into the game. If I could love myself then all future relationships had a chance of being balanced and healthy. It’s somewhat impossible to have a solid relationship with another person if you don’t love and respect yourself. People throw the word love around like its candy. Love, true love, is so much more than that. It is layered, rich, and runs deep. It has a foundation of trust, loyalty, and an innate desire to bring happiness into another’s life. If you can have that kind of relationship with yourself how can love fail? True love is complete freedom to be you while sharing your life with another. It is fail proof because even if you part ways, love finds a way to carry on.

In our youth it is hard to comprehend the magnitude of love’s depths. Love has a very narrow view. We know love for family and then we know the Hallmark version. As we grow, get hurt, heal, and deepen our personal awareness we learn that love can be so much more than that. We humans get so hung up on the idea of romantic love to come and save us and it’s a sham. Love is peddled as an industry generating millions each year. It starts with Valentine’s Day and continues through, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and funerals. Our society spends so much money trying to buy and capture love when in reality true love is free and it is endless.

Love is not something we buy in a store. It is living, breathing, alive. It has the ability to change the course of your life. Love can end wars and change nations. If we want this world to survive than love is the only thing that can save us. Love is stronger than any kind of hate. Love endures and love is the only thing truly worth fighting for.  Love is boundless. And if  love finds you worthy then you must be prepared to love in return. Love is not one-sided. It is patient and it is kind. Love is long-suffering, humble and loyal. It will be the sunrise and the sunset of your days. Embrace it and cherish it. Give it space to grow and nourish it. Just know that true love can crown you and crucify you, but if you want to love then there is no half stepping. Love is endless…it goes on and on and on.

xo Ella

Surviving is Just One Chapter of My Story (By Guest Blogger Tia Jane)

Tia

As a survivor of child sexual abuse and adult domestic violence I constantly stand on the precipice of wanting to seek out fellow survivors for solidarity and support and needing to protect the wounds that remain from those experiences. I work in front line child protection and see the evil that exists in the world on a daily basis.

This is both wounding and healing.

How can it be both is a question which I have asked myself more than once. The wounding is obvious in its nature. Hearing the stories of experiences of children and their families touches on my wounds which, while no longer raw, are tender. The healing comes from knowing that I am an unseen survivor, that my trajectory didn’t follow the path that may make other survivors more obvious in their pain and I see so many others who break the mold set by society about what a survivor looks like.

I have discovered a passion for justice for these children and young people that eclipses justice in terms of the law and encompasses a sense of justice that results from the capacity of a society, to not limit their future lives to the expectations that are set by how we view victims of abuse. To set no bounds to their achievements and to provide them all with opportunities to become so much more than what we are lead to believe.

I am an advocate for changing how we view survivors and how we allow those other, richer experiences to come forth for a more balanced and holistic view of the person in a whole of life context and not through the veil of abuse. This frees people, like myself, who search for answers and a sense of self after an annihilation of the psyche which left me floundering in a sea of self doubt around “how do I become a survivor?”

So, I searched for a cause or a way to integrate my experiences into my life. To find those pieces of myself that I kept apart from the moments of abuse. I say moments because quite literally they were only moments, in a life which contained so much more of me without those abuse experiences. This is where I needed to begin my search, to look at those moments that were not imposed on me by others, which I can take complete ownership of and say “this is me”. The me that rejects acts of evil and exclusion and stands for love, stands for kindness, stands for acceptance and inclusion and that stands for strength, survivorship and healing.

I advocate through both thought, deep seated beliefs and action. I advocate through not accepting the perpetuating of victims trajectories which does not allow room for movements of the self from victim to survivor to thriver. I have my days, like any other, when the world and its focus on news worthy sensationalist topics of pain and suffering eclipses the stories of survival, and it affects me and I withdraw to wrap my internal wounds in a blanket of solitude. But I emerge again to rejoin the people who stand, who focus on strength, goodness and inclusion and who often work in silence to create healing pockets of a world in which I like to rest for a time.

I will forever remain an advocate for others, survivors of abuse, survivors of tragedies, survivors of any experience which leaves them searching for something to anchor themselves to a spot where they are safe from the storm. A harbor of support where they can find their direction. It will always be a tough journey for me given my wounds and experiences and the world I choose to work and offer my knowledge in, but given that I also contain a rich internal tapestry of alternate experiences which allow me to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, I will remain optimistic of the future. I know that I will continue to be more than those experiences that I endured and I will offer myself as a resource to others who also seek to find their own inner strength, light and purpose. I am not blind to the world and all its difficulties, I know that while I experienced abuse I have not experienced other forms of hardship and that I have had opportunities that others have not had.

My story is not unique, it is a single story that reflects my personal journey but all survivors have similarities in their stories and I choose to focus on their alternate stories, the survivor story, the triumph over tragedy story and I choose to seek out others who have walked this path before me, hand in hand with those who now walk beside me and to lead the way for those who will follow.

By Tia Jane

Catch & Release

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Why is that we contradict ourselves over and over again? We know better. We’ve already determined that life is a full on roller coaster ride with its ups and downs. We’ve learned from our mistakes and we know that fire burns if you put your hand to it. We are seasoned and yet we continue to try to control the outcome of our lives. I tell you it’s is as pointless as trying to catch the fading sunset in your hand.

Man plans and God laughs. – Yiddish Proverb

If I were a superhero I might just be Anxiety Girl because I can shoulder an incredible weight of it every single day. What I deal with daily might just cause another to keel over. Although I am getting better at juggling and quelling it, it doesn’t mean that the anxiety is lessening.  I am getting better at backing away from it so that I don’t add more to the pile. My anxiety is a result of extended intense stress I lived with for over 15 years. It’s PTSD, adrenal fatigue, and generalized anxiety all rolled up into one big massive package that has a tag marked “f*ck you” on it.

I understand that my brain chemistry has been altered. I have tried just about every combination of medicinal cocktails prescribed and self prescribed. I try to meditate. Well, I do it the best way I know how which is walking on the beach. I walk and walk until my thoughts just fall into a linear projection of all that I am. I stop trying to figure things out and I just fall into pace with the crashing of the waves. Picturing me in a mediation class or on a retreat makes me start to itch and laugh a little. Let’s face it we all can’t be the same, and meditation is one of those things that must be tailored to the individual. Don’t get me wrong because I believe in its benefits, I really do. For people like me though trying to control my thoughts by not controlling them is just another word for PANIC!

Calm your mind and catch your aggressive thoughts then cast them out into the ether. You are not required to carve them all in stone and own them all. In fact, your attempts to try to nullify them will only create a bigger issue. That is why I turn to my practice of Catch & Release. As you feel yourself adding more and more crap to your pile of things that you need to do, people you need to respond to, calls you need to make, household chores, work, relationships, etc., etc., etc., STOP yourself in your tracks. Breathe in and out a few deep times and be present in knowing that you caught the ball before it got thrown into play. This is where discipline comes in handy. I like to give myself a gentle talking to about not overdoing it. I remind myself that none of these things are an emergency and I try to prioritize. (Sometimes I have to lay down in a dark room for a few minutes to reset even). Never underestimate the power of a list or a nap…they really help!

In the end we are all constantly adapting to our surroundings. Only we know what is best for ourselves so boundaries are a brilliant idea. Just KNOW that you do not have to be tied to all of the baggage that you are carrying around, but you might have to work pretty damned hard to unload it. It’s worth it…don’t you think that the freedom that comes from a job well done is priceless?! Keep working at catching the negative shit and releasing it before you allow it to permeate your life.
You deserve so much better than that.

Buckle up and grab the wheel for it is up to you to figure out the best way to deal with your shortcomings. We all have them and I am sure there are plenty around that have the same ones as you. Seek them out for they are the wise ones who can give you other ideas for dealing with the same crap you have to carry. They are also a great source of inspiration for how you want to live your life. Catch the good and release the crap…it’s not brain surgery…it’s discipline.

xo Ella

It Did Not Ruin Her

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“Never allow your loyalty to become slavery. You only live once.”             – Author Unknown

While sitting on the beach the other day with a dear we talked about writing. Why do we write what we write? I admitted that I am sick of my story. I am sick of being a poster girl for domestic violence. Many people suffer abuse, exit, and then move on. In fact, I help facilitate this process for them. The abuse becomes a chapter in their book of life. Somewhere along the line I found my calling in the aftermath of this monster (abuse) and so my chapter is becoming my book. I admit for a moment I was having a bit of a pity party. I have a desire to write about lots other things, but when I sit down here at my computer I inevitably find myself writing about overcoming abuse. I have this compulsion to reach out to those who are still in an abusive situation and might be questioning their own sanity. Yes, this is a common occurrence when you live with an abusive lunatic. I write to those who need a roadmap out. I suppose I find my strength here, and the comfort of knowing that I didn’t live those dark years in vain. I get frustrated, but I know that it is here, in my writing that I learned to thrive again. I want to direct this to all of you who are reading these words. I write for you. I am writing to help you find your way. I am writing to be a shining light and example to those of you who are still trapped in that dark place where you see no way out. I am here to give you HOPE for if I can make it out and I can turn my life around then so can you.

It did not ruin me.

I possess a deep strength that came from battling my ex-husband. I would not be the woman that I am today if it weren’t for this experience. In my darkest moments I held out hope for I knew that I wasn’t done here on this earth. There were many nights that I literally stared death in the face (I don’t mean to be a drama queen) and I had no other option but to surrendered to it. Somehow that spark of HOPE never extinguished. That in itself is one of my many miracles.

There are a lot of things that I don’t know, but what I do know is that there are so many other women (and men) out there that can relate to me. My inbox is full of your messages. I hear you when you write to me with thanks for giving your struggles a voice. I know that you find comfort in knowing that you are not alone and the simple fact that someone else out there can understand you. No, my darling girl you are not crazy. You are valid and you are so very worthy of everything good that this life has to offer.

The world needs more survivors to speak up. In telling our stories we make ourselves approachable. We enable others to step forward to be brave enough to speak up and out about what is really happening in their lives. Domestic violence has a long reach. It doesn’t just end when the abuser is removed from the situation. There are years of recovery that are needed and that is the hardest part to navigate. This is where the shelters and local support groups tend to fall off in my opinion. They are great when you are bleeding out and need triage, but in the long term aftermath survivors need other survivors to help them get back to the business of living.

I was told once that I wasn’t schooled enough to help counsel survivors of domestic violence. Well, I have earned the equivalent of a Phd in Domestic Violence through living this shit, and I have proved them all wrong. I have helped many women exit abusive situations and move on. It’s not work for the faint of heart I must say. I have learned over the years that I am good at helping survivors reclaim themselves after they are able to exit the situation. I am good at what I do because I understand the psychology of the aftermath of abuse. I live it every single day. So, I have accepted this truth into my life.

I am stronger than he was . He tried his hardest, but he couldn’t break me. I am stand taller because the struggles, and I am wiser. The help I can offer doesn’t come with a college degree but with years of deep personal work, and a burning desire to help others (and a proven track record). Never discount yourself, and don’t allow yourself to get lost in the aftermath. There is always a way out because HE DID NOT RUIN YOU. You are alive and capable of growth and pruning. It is in this process that you will bloom and become a new you…the person you are destined to be. Don’t you dare give up, not now, not ever. Be brave.

xo Ella

I Hope That You Never…

I hope that you never have to make a call to save your life. I hope you never know that kind of fear. Knowing that your life hangs in the balance; on a thin thread which is about to snap. I hope you never feel hunted or like your next move, if you are lucky enough to get one, has a narrow margin of success. I hope that you never know what it feel like to face death in the face of someone you thought once loved you.

It’s that time of year again where the subject of Domestic Violence gains media traction because the Super Bowl is approaching. Urban Myth has it set that it is the day with the highest rate of reported abuse of one domestic partner to another. This year we saw the NFL struggling to keep face after Baltimore Raven’s player Ray Rice knocked his then fiancé out in an elevator. Rice was initially suspended for two games. The relatively small penalty caused national controversy. He was later suspended indefinitely, but that decision was overturned. We saw other players being called out on domestic related violence as well. It wasn’t a stellar year for the old boys club.

I want you to know that Domestic Violence Happens Each Sunday—Not Just Super Bowl Sunday.

I am glad to see the NFL responding to this with a little proactive flair. This Super Bowl Sunday which is quickly approaching will have millions of people world-wide watching. Some just watching for the ever so famous commercials. On February 1, 2015 the Super Bowl will air, but what is a little different this year is that there will be a PSA about domestic violence.

No More, an anti-domestic-violence campaign, and the ad agency Grey New York have come together to produce a few chilling reminders that THIS is still a HUGE problem in our society. The NFL donated a 30-second slot for the ad and paid for its production. The video is a chilling reminder that so many women live in fear in their own homes. Everyday, not just on Super Bowl Sunday.

To some I realize that it will be a mere bleep in the days advertisements. It may not be memorable to many. It may even cause a backlash in some homes, but it is worth it.
This weekend when millions are riveted to the television, my hope is that it will create a ripple across the land. Something positive out of a horrid situation that occurred the day that Ray Rice decided to finally call the darkness into the light.

The PSA is very simple. There is a woman making a call for pizza from her slightly disheveled home. When the other end answers you don’t hear “Hello Domino’s”, but rather “Mam, you have reached 911. This is an emergency line.” She continues to order her pizza, “Large with half pepperoni, half mushrooms.” The 911 operator keeps trying to tell her that she dialed the wrong number and she just keeps ordering her pizza, until he asks her if she is okay. Is this an emergency?

I hope that this will resonate across the millions turned into the game that will be peppered with commercials of scantily clad women selling chips and celebrities self promoting. I hope that this commercial is THE ONE that will have people talking. I know that my hopes may fall on millions of deaf ears and blind eyes, but I desperately want this to be seen. This is the real deal. According to Grey New York, the ad was based on a real 911 dispatch (paywall), found on a Reddit thread asking dispatchers about their most memorable calls.

Reality really sucks sometimes. I once had to make a call like this myself. It was either me or him, and I decided that I wasn’t going down like that.   xo Ella

The Clarity in Being.

You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.      – Marianne Williamson.

Ever since I can remember I have been hyper organized. In fact, I used to be called anal retentive. I laugh at the thought of that now because my life has changed so incredibly much since then. When I reflect on the young woman who was so fastidious with everything I see fear. In an attempt to fight back I tried to control. What I learned was that I have no control. It was an illusion and I felt like such a failure for trying so hard to beat an invisible opponent that could never lose.

A shift happened in my life when I left my abusive husband. I finally saw my borderline OCD for what it truly was.  An all-consuming attempt to cover up the real lack of control I had been living with for so long in my marriage. My desire to keep things looking “together” for everyone else was a failure. I was a fraud and one hell of an actress.

I left and let as much of it go as I possibly could; I let go of the husband, the career, the abuse, the money, the fancy car, the clothes, my home, and my friends. I left it all behind, and with it I left my need to control. My attempt to create the facade of “normal” just kept me bound to the abuse. If I had exposed the truth of my situation I felt like I would look a failure for not succeeding in my relationship. In trying so hard to win I lost.

I have been searching for clarity ever since my divorce years ago. If asked what I am looking for in my life, I respond with one word, clarity.  Unfortunately, most days I live with what I refer to as brain fog. My thoughts are disjointed and so very far from the woman who had once run an empire in a busy city. I couldn’t figure out how I could have gone from being so hyper-aware and organized to this. I decided that I would passively seek for clarity. I had no idea what end was up, but I just knew if I stopped trying to force everything, it would present itself to me at the right time.

I didn’t know how to seek clarity. I thought if I read books, took classes, and sought guidance that I would finally come into it in my own time. I found myself always looking for some sort of clear channel that would tell me what the hell to do. It never came, and so I waited and attempted to sit with the unknown. Moving forward on my foggy journey was hard because I had no idea where I was going. I wasn’t able to look at the big picture. Starting over is hard, especially when you have a lot of baggage to unpack.  I was on the one step at a time plan, and it was here that I learned to rely on my faith.

It took me many years to see that I wasn’t gaining clarity, but learning patience. I finally understood clarity when I stopped looking for it, and decided to be it. If I had taken time to focus on my inner self rather than just keeping busy (in a lame attempt to hide the fact that I had no idea where I was going) I may have realized sooner that it was futile. You can only become clear when you are able to sit and just be. No journey. No seeking. No controlling. Just me, myself, and I, sitting very quietly and listening.

xo Ella

ClarityFog