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

Duck & Pivot

Coconuts

When Sir Isaac Newton discovered the Third Law of Motion he made incredible ground in the world of Physics & Mathematics (at the tender age of 43). He stated that, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Forces always occur in pairs; when one body pushes against another, the second body pushes back just as hard. For example, when you push a stroller, the stroller pushes back against you; when you pull on an rope, the rope pulls back against you; and when gravity pulls you down against the ground, the ground pushes up against your feet. The simplified version of this phenomenon is, “You cannot touch without being touched.”

How does this affect us you may ask? Well, I am NOT a physicist or a mathematician, but I am pretty good a falling down so I have gotten somewhat comfortable with the ground pushing back. In fact, this pushing back in nature is probably responsible for that boost that gets me back up again. I might otherwise just stay prone right there on the ground for a while.  There are days that I don’t mind…the ground can be a pretty safe place; once your there the fear falling isn’t as great. You can take a rest and really think things through.

I fall down a lot, literally. I just fell down the steps and skinned my right knee. To be honest I didn’t feel an opposing force helping me get back up. I had to pull myself back up all by my lonesome, and in skinny jeans no less. The upside to being all alone was that I could just wipe the blood (and a few pebbles) off and go about my day. I really hate when that happens.

I must admit when I fall I usually do feel a force, like something is there pushing me right back up.  Call it a well honed reflex perhaps, but I jump back up as though an invisible force is underneath me jabbing at me with a hot poker. Let’s face it, falling down is scary and not very sexy. I mean who likes to lose complete control of  themselves? I’d have to say, “NOT ME”.  It hurts, it’s exhausting, and quite frankly em-bare-ass-ing. (Yes, I know I spelt that wrong). The truth is we most often fall theoretically which may not bloody the knees, but it can really put a hurting on the ego.

So what of it? We do the best we can, right? I mean we can’t really fight a Law of Motion now can we? Shit happens and we have to learn to “duck and pivot”. It gets easier with age which is actually contrary to what one might think (that age slows you down and ruins your game). In the game of life, as long as you are not a dumb-ass, age is on your side my friends. We learn (over time), much like Pavlov’s dog, what works for us. We hone our skills until our “duck & pivot” is as close to seamless as can be. It sounds exhausting, but trust me this is something that really becomes a second nature reflex (if you’re not a dumb-ass).

When this Law is put into a simplified version it makes so much sense. It explains the human connection. “You cannot touch without being touched.” Once we pull our heads out of our own asses we can begin to see that we may not be the only ones lying on the ground. Look around and you will see that this affects all of us. We will all take falls (physical, emotion, mental, spiritual, social, financial, etc., etc.,).  I have found that kicking the EGO to the curb makes it easier (the sooner the better) to get back up.  That ego really is an attention grabber and has been known to hold people back from developing properly, and in a timely manner. Believe it or not there are a lot of stunted “adults” out there. I always find that a good ole’ laugh helps smooth over the void that is left from the ego’s departure. That laughter has the power to connect & heal us all.

When we can learn to laugh at our most epic falls/fails we are capable of healing not only our own ills, but those of others. If I can fall down and not only laugh about it, but let others share in my experience then what in fact is happening is Newton’s Third Law, “You cannot touch without being touched.” When your shitty experience helps another person feel better about their own sad circumstances or helps them to accept their own falls, then you have touched them. You survived and have now given them hope so that they can get back up and move on like you have. They are not alone in this world anymore and can see that others can have similar experiences in life and get on with it. Our reaction to them is also important. When we see our mess inspire another it is then that we can feel them touching back.

This is exactly why I write. I write so that my pains, sorrows, and defeats can help others to realize that they are not the only ones who fall.  For every person that I have helped through a sticky situation, the return of watching them rise again is of immeasurable inspiration back to me. We are truly in this together; we are all bound by the Laws of Motion. The inspiration will flow both ways, right in step with nature (lose the ego and the insecurity that goes with it though).

“You cannot touch without being touched.”

xo Ella

The Rebellious Act of Loving Yourself

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It’s so true isn’t it? In our world today we are constantly being dumbed down and the reason is very simple. We will buy more shit if we think it will make us feel better. So, we end up accumulating a lot of stuff that we don’t actually need. This is what our society is based on…we are a consumer society, period. I was raised in a home where retail therapy was a way of life so my skills were well honed as I grew up and started to spend my hard-earned money on trying to find a better me.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m upset ….”

“I know what will help you feel better, let’s go shopping.”

This is how I learned to deal with my feelings of inadequacy and imperfection. I was taught that a new outfit or a pair of shoes was just what the doctor ordered. It was how I dealt with my pain. In fact, my entire career ended up encircling our massive consumer market. I not only was the consumer, but the supplier. I was hooked.

It’s sadly understandable. Our media has a constant loop of over hyped “stories” on twenty-four hours a day. Magazines and T.V. commercials are packed with edited photos of imperfect women appearing to be perfect. If they look that good then we perhaps we will think that what they are selling must really work, right? God help us, for even when we are smart enough to know better we can still get sucked in.

I happen to be a product junkie. I love beauty products and I am always looking for the best eye cream, lip gloss, hair volumizer, concealer, etc., etc., etc., I would like to say that I have no idea how it happened, but it’s all there right in front of me. I bought into the hype and for years I have tried in vain to make my long fine hair thicker, my skin more radiant, my nails stronger, my lips fuller….and the list goes on and on…

Keep in mind that I approach my life from a holistic viewpoint. I really do believe that you get out what you put in. You are what you eat. Exercise, sleep, organic food, and meditation are all cornerstones to feeling the best you can.
So, I question myself as to why I continue to buy into the hype of the marketing giants all around us pushing their goods on us like legal drug dealers. Is it that we are holding out hope for a quick fix or have we just become addicted to “the buy”?

It’s a pretty vicious circle you know. We buy to feel better and then when it doesn’t fill our needs we feel upset that we spent money that we didn’t have on something that we really knew deep down wouldn’t fit the bill. Why do we do that? It’s all learned behavior my friends. Most of us have bought the ticket and drank the cool-aid that has been served up to us. We have fallen for it hook, line, and sinker.

Now this is not something that I am just discovering about myself. It is firmly rooted in me and I am constantly waging war against it. I KNOW that natural remedies are the way to go. They may not come in slick packaging (I think that is what really does me in. I am a sucker for a pretty package) but they are cheap, readily at hand, and they work! One of my favorite’s is to mix a little baking soda in with my facial wash for a gentle exfoliate for my face. There are so many good ones that you can actually buy books about them…imagine that?!

Ultimately, we are just being distracted by believing that we need to buy stuff to feel better about ourselves. I admit that I am working really hard to fight this in my life. It took me years to find my freedom and my voice in this world and I have decided that I am not going to hand over any of it over to companies who are trying to wholesale me self-worth. I am rebelling against the powers that be. I am standing tall and laying claim on myself.

I am beautiful without having to spend a ton of money on designer products. I don’t need the newest facial scrub when I have a kitchen bursting with organic goods. We can do so much for ourselves without having to buy into the lie that we are being told. It’s so very true that in this world today, creating self-doubt in the consumers equals profit. Why do we want to continue to support these false ideas of beauty and wholeness. It’s simply false.

In a society where self-doubt is profited from, liking yourself for who you are is an act of REBELLION. I think it’s time for all of us to stand up to the brainwashing and simply accept ourselves. All of us, that includes our assets and flaws. How empowering it is to take back control and a nice wad of cash from people who only want to see you consume more of their lack luster products?

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

Everybody Hurts

HangOn

Everybody Hurts

When your day is long
And the night, the night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life, well hang on

Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes

Sometimes everything is wrong
Now it’s time to sing along
When your day is night alone (Hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go (Hold on)
If you think you’ve had too much
Of this life, well hang on

Everybody hurts
Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts
Don’t throw your hand, oh no

Don’t throw your hand
If you feel like you’re alone
No, no, no, you are not alone

If you’re on your own in this life
The days and nights are long
When you think you’ve had too much of this life to hang on

Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody cries
Everybody hurts sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes

So hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on
Everybody hurts

– R.E.M

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