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

Following Breadcrumbs

“We rise by lifting others.”
-Robert Ingersoll

For those of you who follow my blog then you know already that I started the Wildfit 90 day Challenge 6 weeks ago. Wildfit is a program that helps you to find your way back to how we evolved to eat. In the last 6 weeks we have cut out everything but vegetables and proteins. Sound horrible? It’s not. Eric Edmeades, the founder of Wildfit has this program down to a science and because so much of it is psychology it doesn’t allow you to really feel deprived. Of course I miss my coffee and my avocado toast, but let me tell you about how I feel. I feel incredible. My energy levels are soaring and my skin is glowing. My allergies have been diminished and I am losing inches. It’s working.

A few weeks ago I was cruising Instagram and an invitation to join a free three day seminar on Business Freedom popped up. The facilitator was none other than Eric Edmeades from Wildfit. Now I am a trained artist/designer with commercial experience, but never have I been trained as a business person. Most of you know that my dream is to one day open a retreat for women and children who have survived domestic violence. I feel like I am treading water though because I just don’t know where to start. Aside from the complexities of my personal life (needing to stay on the down low for safety) I need help. So I decided to sign up for this live three day Business Freedom seminar and see what it was about.

I had the benefit of “meeting” Eric through Wildfit already and I knew that he has a communication style that resonated with me. Perhaps he could actually talk business with the same effect. For 3 hours a day, 3 days in a row,  I was glued to my computer for this live seminar. It wasn’t boring at all. I understood everything that was being presented. It got my blood pumping and my mind churning for all the possibilities. I started re-working my vision board and I stuck this image in the center of it.

944443_480424378706323_1885200404_nI created this little image back 2015 when I first started toying with the idea of creating a place where women could come again and again to reboot, recharge, re-connect with themselves, and re-energize. A place where healing could begin after domestic violence had ended. You see there is help to get you out of the crisis. Shelters, domestic violence advocate organizations, churches, etc., have programs to help you to safety. But, after the triage is over you are left alone with someone you don’t really know. Domestic violence is the systematic breaking down of a person over time. It is not easy to just start over when the person you used to be is lost and you don’t recognize the face staring back at you in the mirror. I know this because I lived this. In fact, this is why Rebel Thriver was born over 8 years ago. I was isolated, scared, and completely lost. If I could connect to one person a day I would have felt successful. I knew that there had to be other women out there who could relate to me, I just didn’t realize how many. There are thousands of us from every walk of life around the globe. Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate against social economics, education level, gender, or religion. Domestic violence is all inclusive, and whether you realize it or not there is most likely someone in your life who has been affected by on some level. True Story.

On the second day of the business seminar we were told that there was going to be a giveaway of two tickets to the Business Freedom five day intensive conference in Tallin, Estonia (March 2019).  I needed to write an impact statement as to why I thought that this would help me with my business (Rebel Thriver). You can read my impact statement here: Sweet Lemonade. I wrote about the retreat that I want to create so desperately to help other survivors so that they can reclaim their lives and learn to be thrive again.

On the third day the winner was called. I knew that my chances of winning were slim to none. I knew that there were hundreds of others from around the globe in this group who already had thriving businesses and knew exactly how they could make an immediate impact. I prayed to God right before the winner was chosen. “God, if you want this dream of mine to become a reality then I need help. I need this help. Give me a clear sign.” Then I heard my named called out as the winner! It came to me as though through a wind tunnel. Out of nowhere the girl who cannot cry started sobbing. I couldn’t have gotten a clearer sign from above. Divine Intervention? I am sure of it.

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I started following the breadcrumbs that have been left for me, and now I am going to Tallin, Estonia in March to learn how to turn this dream into a reality. I am also starting a year long Mastermind Group next month to make sure that I stay on track. I will be meeting and working with so many other amazing talented people who are going to help me make this dream a reality. Now part of the reality is that there are going to be costs associated with the travel and the Mastermind. I will be starting a fundraiser to cover these costs and I will ask all of you to help me. Help me help Rebel Thriver. Help me help you.

There is so much work to be done, but I don’t feel overwhelmed about it anymore. I know that it’s going to come together. One day Rebel Thriver is going to have a Hotel for the Soul. Until then we will keep supporting each other the way we know best, through love and understanding. xo Ella

* If anyone reading this feels that they might have a skill that can help me along this journey I would be thrilled to connect with you. I cannot do this alone. It takes a tribe. You can reach me at rebelthriver@gmail.com.

Incremental Growth

sharma
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions and I don’t believe in diets. I don’t think that quick fix fads work, and I believe in buying quality over quantity. I often find myself at odds with the rest of the world, but it wasn’t always like this for me. In fact, there was a time when I lived in the fast lane and was all in. I had a long list of goals tucked safely into my passport. I was on the move and I wanted to do it all.

I have changed since then and doing it all just doesn’t feel as enticing or thrilling to me as it used to. The fear of missing out or not keeping up has dissipated, and I am living a much different life than I could ever have dreamed of before. That’s the thing about your dreams…they need to be flexibile. If you don’t have flexibility in your life you will inevitably end up feeling like a failure. It’s much better to set out with a goal paired with an open mind & heart and just see where life will take you. Life is always changing and I find it so much better to flow with it than feel like I am being dragged by it.

How do we adjust our sails as we live headlong into heartbreak and defeat? Life is full of it and it can’t be avoided. If you think you can avoid the heart breaks then you are in for a rude awakening one day. When I go to see my therapist I occasionally get handed a questionnaire to answer before I go in. It’s a benchmark guide to see how I am doing compared to past visits. I’m given statements and I have to rate where I feel in that moment. One of them is, “I feel like a failure.” Another is “I feel like I am being punished.” Each time I read them I hear a voice in my head say, “You have every right to say ‘YES’, but it’s simply not your truth.”

What is my truth? I don’t believe in failure. I believe in learning lessons, and sometimes those lessons are harsh. For instance, there was that time I married a man who I thought was my soul mate only to realize that he would be my biggest life lesson. I don’t feel like I failed because I chose to learn from it instead. How was I to know that my soul mate would be mentally ill, and abusive? I followed my heart and I gave it my all, but it didn’t work out. In fact, it ended very badly for all involved. I could have stayed down on the ground, and quite honestly I don’t remember getting up. The point is that I got up and I don’t see myself as a failure.

When my marriage blew apart it honestly felt like the apocalypse had snuck up and screwed me from behind. I had been living in a prison and when the door opened I ran. I didn’t see it coming, but when it did, it exploded into a fire-ball and left a lot of collateral damage. Some people may have felt like they were being punished, but I simply don’t believe in that.  I could choose to blame myself and label myself a failure, but I know that I did the very best that I could, so how could I be a failure? When I look back at the charred Earth and all the loss I often wonder why I don’t. I know it is because of my audacious hope.

I don’t know what I am doing any more than the next guy, but I do know that I give a shit. And I truly believe that here in this moment is where my life is happening. I take a daily inventory. I check in with myself. I make sure that I am taking care of myself, and I am really grateful for my life. It’s not easy to have the bottom drop out on you. It’s not easy to pick up the pieces and sort through the debris. It’s been years, and I am still sorting through it. Healing and self enlightenment don’t come easy. It’s not for the faint of heart. Accepting where you faltered and what you should have done differently isn’t easy, it takes a lot of honesty and patience.

There are so many choices to make and each choice that we make brings definition to what will be our life story. It goes a long way when you can accept that you will make mistakes and yet still believe that when you come up on the other side it will be okay. It has taken me a lot of practice and patience to be understanding and compassionate with myself. Every single day I put that into practice because the world keeps telling me the opposite. It takes hard work to break down the all the armour we spend years building throughout our younger years. The beauty is that redemption is possible. It’s there for the taking.

xo Ella

Revolutionary

Revolutionary

“I decided that the most subversive, revolutionary thing I
could do was to show up for my life and not be ashamed.”
                                                                               – Anne Lamont

I have have a long history of fighting with myself.  You know what I am talking about.  That inner bickering between yourself and yourself.  It can be downright cruel can’t it?  Can you imagine saying half of the things that you say to yourself to someone else?  Hell no!  So why do we continue to berate ourselves silently and shame ourselves into submission?  While the answer is clear to me now it took me a long time to figure it out.

How is it that we know how to love another?  It’s both nurture and nature. We want to love. We want approval. We are taught to know right and wrong. We are taught to show compassion. We are taught to treat others with respect. Why aren’t we taught as children to love ourselves in the same way as we love others?  It was never taught to me that loving myself was imperative. I didn’t know that the most important relationship that I would ever have would be with myself. It took me many years to learn this simple truth; and in fact, I almost broke up with myself a few times, but somehow deep down I knew that I deserved to be loved.

Many years of my life were wasted in a relationship looking for the love that I really needed from myself.  When I met my ex-husband he immediately put me on a pedestal. He made me feel like I was the most beautiful and special woman in the world. He quelled my self doubt with his constant encouragement and loving reminders of how incredibly special I was. I had never felt that from anyone before. For the first time I was able to see myself though someone else’s eyes, and for the first time I felt worthy of the admiration. He convinced me that I was beautiful, because I couldn’t see it for myself. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long and I mistook his obsessiveness for love. I married an abusive man who hated his mother and then turned that hate upon me. The self-worth that I thought I had developed was ripped abruptly away. The void was wide open again and I had nothing to fill it with now.  I was just never taught that I needed to fill that void myself.  Everything shifted. I could still see myself though his eyes, only now  I was the enemy;  stupid, ugly, and a bitch who couldn’t do a damned thing right.

It was a rude awakening when I saw how quickly he could change into a monster; a true Jekyll  & Hyde. I was never taught to look for the “red flags” in a relationship. I was never taught how to value myself and defend myself against attack.  I grew up to be a people pleaser. I bent over backwards to make others happy at my own expense. That is how I derived my self-worth. So when I fell from grace in my marriage I was lost. I tried so hard to be better which only helped in crumbling my self-worth even more. It’s a cold hard world out there when you don’t have yourself to turn to in troubled times. The irony is that professionally I was a force to reckon with, but once I returned home all my accomplishments didn’t seem to matter. I was a failure in his eyes and nothing could change that.

I wish I had known then what I know now… that the love I needed had to come from me.  My big inner void needed me to fill it.  I was like the Tin Man who thought he needed a heart only to learn in the end that he had the biggest heart of all.  It took Dorothy to teach him that. Like the Tin Man, I didn’t know that I needed to love myself.  I was so lost, and trapped at this point; it took me many years to finally find that open door I could escape through. I feel heartbroken for the woman that I was back then. I had never felt that alone in my life. He had broken me down so much that I didn’t even recognize myself. I couldn’t trust my thoughts for I always heard him berating me in the background, as if I was a bad child who needed to be taught a lesson the hard way.

“In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.”- Unknown

So many of us are set up for such hardships because we are never taught how important it is to love and respect ourselves. We aren’t taught healthy boundaries or that sometimes you just have to command respect. Then again how can we expect to be respected when we don’t respect ourselves or we feel unworthy of respect. This is how so many people end up in unhealthy, one-sided relationships. There can be no balance in any relationship if you do not have a healthy and loving relationship with yourself. Children need be taught self-respect and compassion in school and I think that has started with the anti-bullying campaigns. Our youth need to understand that not only are they not to be picked on, but there is so much more to them.  They need to understand that knowing themselves and having solid ideals, dreams, and boundaries set are critical. They need to know that as they grow they will learn more about themselves, and to be patient with themselves through he process. They need to be surrounded by healthy role models and if they aren’t in the home with them then they need to find them in their schools and clubs. THIS is important. The world is counting on our youth to shake off the past and break the perpetual cycle of self loathing that we see all around us.

This year I am going to remain focused on the things that I want to change in my life. I am going to give myself more self-care. I am going to listen to myself and stop berating myself.  While I am teaching my children to know themselves and to honor that knowing I realize that I am not always a good example of it for them. I am going to do my best to stop body shaming myself, and I am going to do better for my children.  This year I am going to be a true rebel and I am going to focus on me and the shifting sands around me. I am going to hold true to the fact that as long as I have myself I am going to be okay. 

I am going to be okay because I am no longer looking for someone else to fill my void. There is no void now because I am filling it up with myself.  I have a map in my hand to help me navigate my way. If I get lost I will ask for help to get back on course. It took me way to long to understand the personal dynamic I needed to have with myself in order to simply be okay. I finally understand that the most revolutionary thing I can do is to show up for my life and not be ashamed. I must commit to being real and utterly honest with myself. I must change and let go of the old ways to make room for the new. The time is now. I am rising. I am a revolutionary.

xo Ella

Peace on Earth, Please.

olgaonga

I really wanted to write a piece entitled, Peace on Earth, for the holidays this year. In fact, I told everyone that the theme for my December Newsletter would be just this. I have tried so many times to start this but all my words have fallen short. I simply can’t write about Peace on Earth when we are living on such a war torn planet. 

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” – Mother Teresa

I carry the above quote with me everyday lately. If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. Have we, the human race, forgotten or disregarded this truth?  How is it that in such a short amount of time, relative to our existence on this planet, have made such a mess of everything? Earth has become a very scary place for so many. We are divided, labeled and marginalized. People have become complacent and jaded. They think that there is nothing that they can do on an individual basis and that is not true. Bad things happen to good people everyday and we all have to keep fighting for truth and for justice. 

In the last 15 years my children and I have survived some horrid shit. I lost a best friend in a mass shooting. My children and I lived in NYC on 9/11 and lost colleagues & neighbors who were in harms way that day. We ran from my abusive ex-husband who wanted nothing more than to see us hurt in the very worst of ways. We ran so far that we ran off the map. I survived a massive hurricane that wiped out much of my material belongings and left us homeless. All these horrible events, and yet I know that as bad as it was for me, it isn’t anything compared to what so many people on this planet are going through today. I know that I am painting a bleak picture, but as most of you know I am a pretty straight shooter. I call it like I see it, and lately it’s a shit show.

The German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, was writing at the time of the Nazi occupation of Germany. He wrote, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.” We can see examples of this everywhere these days…so obvious they are that I feel I don’t need to reiterate them. The oppressed become the oppressor, and so it is that he who does not control will be controlled.         Is it human nature to crave the will to power and the ability to reign fear over others? I don’t think so. Have we not learn from the past though? Nietzsche also wrote, “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” 

That last quote is in direct relation to Mother Theresa’s quote above. We have forgotten that we belong to each other. We as humans forget that we are a part of the Family of Man. We are no better then our neighbors, no matter how much we may have or how right we think we may be. Power and money do not make us better people and our opinions are just that…opinions. Taking time to truly know ourselves by doing inner personal work can help us to over come our inner demons and insecurities. It is the only thing that can ultimately create change. When mankind can make the choice to become enlightened individually, perhaps we can see a new movement arise from the ashes collectively.

There is HOPE in all of this, and this is what you need to focus on. I believe that no matter how much we beg for world peace it won’t happen until there is a mass shift in consciousness. Let there be PEACE on EARTH and let it Begin with ME. If we are to get from here to there then this is the way. We must find our convictions and stand firm in them. We must:

  • Do No Harm.
  • Be Kind.
  • Learn to Love Ourselves.
  • Pay it Forward.
  • Fight Against the Fear of the Unknown.
  • Love One Another.

It may sound simple to the people who are reading this, but to the masses I gather it isn’t that obvious. Hate has become generational, and people live with this without questioning it. Somewhere along the line people have forgotten to fight for the greater good. Whoever thinks that it’s okay to hurt another is just WRONG. So much hate. So much hypocrisy.

Yet we are not helpless. We can help our world by spreading love and acceptance. We can help by keeping healthy boundaries and by always doing the right thing, even when it is hard. It’s really quite simple. If we treated others as we wanted to be treated then this world would be quite a different place…I would hope. Love is the only thing that can conquer the darkness and bring us true peace. Won’t you join me this Christmas in remembering all of those who are less fortunate than we are. Those who are marginalized, scared, and hopeless. Those who can’t see a clear path to tomorrow. We are the ones who can make a difference and if anyone tells you differently, don’t believe them.

Peace be with you.

xo Ella