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

Bottled Up

Hi everyone, I would like to introduce to you my friend and fellow writer, Joseph Dittrich. He shared this with me and I just loved it. He followed a writing prompt on Reddit and here is the story he wrote in tandem to it. I hope you enjoy it like I did. 
xo Ella 

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PROMPT:
One day, you’re approached by a rather annoyed angel, who takes you to a warehouse filled with nothing but thousands of bottles. Turns out, every time you’ve bottled up your emotions, it’s literally filled a bottle of that exact emotion in the warehouse, which is nearing capacity… 
RESPONSE:

Real men don’t cry.

That’s how I was raised. That’s how my dad was raised, and my grandpa, and my great grandpa, and probably every man in my family forever.

Real men don’t show emotion. Well, happiness is okay, and anger if it’s controlled. But sadness? Crying? Never.

So when they said my six-year-old daughter had leukemia, I stuffed it. Every time I took her for treatment, every time I saw the pain she was in, every time someone asked me how her recovery was going, I stuffed it.

And when she died three days before her eighth birthday, I stuffed it. The worst of it is, I wanted to hurt. Well, I know that doesn’t sound right. But I think you know what I mean. I wanted to express it. I wanted to be sad. I wanted to cry. I wanted to be angry, but I knew I couldn’t control it. So I stuffed it all.

I became cold, impersonal, antisocial. Nothing was good enough to make me happy, to make me smile, to make me laugh. I wasn’t proud of anything or impressed by anyone. I had no interest in anything that I had once enjoyed. I was just trudging through life. My hopes, my dreams, my only child. All gone. Even my wife left me. She said she’d rather be miserable and alone than miserable with me. And I stuffed it.

After the divorce, I sold the house and moved a thousand miles away. I wanted a fresh start, away from everything and everyone that reminded me of what I had lost. I rented a crappy little one bedroom apartment. I got a crappy job. I bought a crappy car. And every crappy, miserable day, I stuffed it.

But you see, the problem is that no matter where you go, you take you with you. My little girl would’ve graduated high school this past spring. So, yeah, I’ve been stuffing it for a lot of years. It’s not like I could go talk to a therapist or anything. That was against everything that my father had taught me. You handle your own problems. You don’t bring them outside the family. You don’t show signs of weakness like that.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago I got a visit from someone claiming to be an angel. I don’t really believe in that sort of thing, so of course I was skeptical. They always tell you that angels are dressed in white and have huge wings and they’re beautiful and they carry harps and they sing and all that stuff. Well, my supposed angel looked like she was pulled from the front row at a Rancid concert. Red flannel shirt, ripped jeans, black spiky hair, tattoos and a nose ring. 

She didn’t float down from a cloud or anything like that. She popped up in my backseat after work one day and told me to drive. I couldn’t figure out who would want to carjack me, or what part of my crappy life gave anyone the idea that I was worth kidnapping. She started to laugh, but I couldn’t.

 

So as we were driving, we started talking. She didn’t have a real or official name. She went by whatever people called her. I asked her if it was OK if I called her Sweet Pea, because, you know, my daughter’s name was Piper and that was my nickname for her. She told me that would be OK. She started to sob a little, but I couldn’t.

After what seemed like forever, we pulled up to a giant steel building. There was a huge lock on it with 16 spinners. She told me the combination was the best day of my life followed by the worst day of my life. That seemed simple enough. I rotated the dials so they showed the day Piper was born and the day she died.

I pulled on the lock, but nothing happened. I looked at Sweet Pea, but she just shrugged her shoulders. There was no better day and no worse day. I tried the day we found out she was sick. I tried the day the doctors said there was nothing more they could do. I tried the day we buried her. I tried every horrible thing I could think of. Still nothing.

I sat down on the ground in front of the door, staring at the lock. I had no idea what it could be. After what seemed like weeks, it dawned on me that I had to be there for a purpose, for a reason. I spun the numbers so they read today’s date. Well, the last date I knew it was, the day Sweet Pea appeared in my car.

A knowing smile began to crawl across her face. I did the same with the first eight digits and cautiously pulled on the lock. It finally released. I shoved it in my backpack, not even considering the fact that I wasn’t wearing it when I got out of the car, or the fact that I didn’t own a backpack.

I pulled open the doors and we went inside. The building was massive, somehow larger on the inside than on the outside. It was full of shelves, floor to ceiling, wall to wall, each row maybe three feet deep and three feet apart. And every shelf was packed with glass bottles. They were mostly clear, some green, blue, brown, and a few red. They all had a strange glow inside them.

I turned toward Sweet Pea to ask what was in them. For the first time, she looked serious. She said they were my emotions. Whenever I bottled up what I felt, they appeared here. She told me the red ones were a recent development. They were emotions like despair, regret, loneliness, anguish, and hopelessness. They were the ones that usually took the place of sadness and anger and were a sign that someone was about to give up completely and try to end it.

 

Now, I had never considered the possibility of taking my own life. But everything that she said made sense. I can see that I was heading down that path. When I asked what to do, she told me that I would have to either take a taste from every single bottle or smash them one at a time.

It seemed easy enough. I reached for a brown bottle on the shelf next to me. Sweet Pea snatched it out of my hand and placed it back on the shelf. I felt something ugly welling up inside me. An orange bottle appeared next to the brown one, then a blue one and a red one as I tried to regain a sense of calm.

She then explained to me that they had to be eliminated in the order in which they appeared in the warehouse. She pointed to the three new ones, labeled ​confusion​, ​despair​, and ​rage​. Three more bottles in less than a second. For the first time, I realized how difficult a task this would be and how quickly they could accumulate.

We climbed up dozens of stairwells and walked along miles of catwalks and scaffolding to reach the very first bottle. I was barely a year old. My brother had just been born, and my mother was spending all her time with him and ignoring me. I watched my father telling me to just suck it up and deal with it, that no son of his was gonna be a wimp, that I’d better not cry because crying is for babies.

I could feel the jealousy and the anger and the frustration all over again. I could barely reach the pale green bottle marked ​jealousy​ on the end of the shelf, but I knew it was the first one. I removed the cap and took a sip. It was bitter, as I somehow expected. It disappeared from my hand as I grabbed the second bottle, this one with a pinkish tint. As much as I like spicy food, I was no match for the fire from ​anger​ that hit my tongue.

Every emotion that I had never felt burnt my lips, tore down my throat, seared my insides, torched my soul, and fried my brain. Even ​joy​ in its sunny yellow cask felt bittersweet. The worst part was that as I was going through the old ones, I knew that new ones were appearing. I was exhausted, I was frustrated, but I was determined to get through this.

It seemed like months had gone by since that first taste of jealousy. I had never been on such a painful journey in my life. Dealing with the death of my little brother, all my failed relationships, the roller coaster that was Piper’s last couple years on earth, and ultimately the deaths of each of my parents. I cursed my father’s memory hundreds of times because of the way he raised me. I never should’ve had to go through this.

We finally reached the doorway. A pearl white bottle stood alone on the threshold. She told me this was the last one, that it was something no one would ever consider. Happiness, joy, satisfaction, they all fade away. Anger, frustration, regret, jealousy, they can kill you. Ignorance, apathy, hatred, they can kill someone else.

No, she said this one was special. I picked it up and examined it. It was unlike all the other bottles. It had no label that I could see. No markings, no etching, nothing. Sweet Pea looked serious.

 

“It says ​peace​,” she stated. “But you can’t see it unless you drink the contents. Obviously, a sip wouldn’t do the trick. You would have to drink the whole thing. Dumping it, breaking it, that won’t work. Neither will leaving it alone. Everyone drinks this one, but no one realizes it until it’s too late. I will tell you this, though. You don’t have to touch it, at least not yet. I told you what you needed to do to clear this place out, but this last bottle…I can’t tell you what to do.“

“I’m not quite ready,“ I replied, stumbling over the words. I turned to put the bottle on the shelf and was stunned by what I saw. The entire room was maybe twenty feet in each direction. I could reach the top shelves while standing on the floor. They were narrow, with wide aisles between them. “What the…?“

“You finally dealt with it. You finally allowed yourself to feel. You finally realized that it’s OK. You finally accepted that your father was wrong. Don’t ever forget what happened here, and please, don’t ever give yourself a reason to come back.” Sweet Pea smiled and walked out the door.

“Wait! I still have so many questions for you.“ I ran through the doorway after her and found myself standing next to my crappy little car. She was gone. I climbed into the driver seat, leaned on the steering wheel, and for the first time in my memory, I cried.

By Joseph Dittrich

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.

Dear Evan Hansen

In February my sister took the kids and I to see the brand new musical, Dear Evan Hansen. The story is about Evan Hansen, a high school senior who deals with crushing anxiety. He see’s a therapist, takes medicine, and just doesn’t fit in…anywhere. My darling son also deals with these issues at times and we thought that it might be a great way for him to see that he isn’t alone. There are so many people out there struggling from depression & anxiety, and it can lead them to feel incredibly isolated. For a moment we worried that it might actually trigger him, but in the end I thought it was worth the risk. It was.

What an incredible show! I cried through most of the show (as did everyone else). Evan’s is being raised by a single mother (like me) and it was so incredible for me to see that I am not alone. There are plenty of other parents who have highly sensitive children like mine…like Evan Hansen. Her struggles are my struggles too. His struggles are my sons struggles too.

Last night at the 71st Tony Awards, it was nominated for nine awards, winning six including Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Actor in a Musical for Ben Platt who was AMAZING as Evan Hansen. I am still cheering today!

In this crazy upside down world, leave it to the artists to keep us grounded. I never thought that a musical about an awkward and anxious kid could sweep the Tony’s and win over the hearts of so many, including mine. And in the process shine a much-needed light on the struggles of mental illness that are more common than we like to think.

I tell my son that he takes his medicine because his brain doesn’t make enough of a certain chemical. It’s like a diabetic who needs his insulin to balance his blood.

Thank you Dear Evan Hansen for helping me show my son that he isn’t alone. That there are others that understand him and his very personal struggle. Last night was just the cherry on the top as it won critical acclaim, reminding us that it’s okay not to always be ok. What makes us different is also what sets us apart and makes us unique to this world.

If you get a chance to see this amazing play, do it! If you have a teenage kid who struggles like mine, and Evan Hansen, then save your money and try to take them to the show. You cant get much better therapy than this. xo ella

“Don’t waste your time trying to be like everybody else because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.” – Ben Platt

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https://youtu.be/0vkTxakkho4
(click on link to see the performance of Waving Through a Window at last night’s Tony Awards.)
Waving Through a Window
I’ve learned to slam on the brake
Before I even turn the key
Before I make the mistake
Before I lead with the worst of me
Give them no reason to stare
No slipping up if you slip away
So I’ve got nothing to share
No, I got nothing to say
Step out, step out of the sun
If you keep getting burned
Step out, step out of the sun
Because you’ve learned, because you’ve learned
On the outside always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?
’cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass
I’m waving through a window
I try to speak, but nobody can hear
So I wait around for an answer to appear
While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass
I’m waving through a window
Oh, can anybody see, is anybody waving
Back at me?
We start with stars in our eyes
We start believing that we belong
But every sun doesn’t rise
And no one tells you where you went wrong
Step out, step out of the sun
If you keep getting burned
Step out, step out of the sun
Because you’ve learned, because you’ve learned
On the outside always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?
’cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass
Waving through a window
I try to speak, but nobody can hear
So I wait around for an answer to appear
While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass
Waving through a window
Oh, can anybody see, is anybody waving?
When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound
When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound
When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound
When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound
Did I even make a sound
Did I even make a sound
It’s like I never made a sound
Will I ever make a sound?
On the outside always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been
’cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass
Waving through a window
I try to speak
But nobody can hear
So I wait around for an answer to appear
While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass
Waving through a window
Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?
Oooh, is anybody waving
Waving, waving, whoa-oh, whoa-oh-oh-oh
“Waving Through a Window” is a song performed
by Ben Platt (Evan) from the Broadway musical
DEAR EVAN HANSEN.

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

Incremental Growth

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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

Love One Another

Mandela

I was born into a large Irish Catholic family. I attended Catholic school and have been fully indocrinated with it’s teachings. I’ve studied the Bible, and I know that I prefer the New Testament to the Old, but that they must stand together to be whole. I don’t go to church anymore, but all these years later there are two things that I lean upon in my daily life. They are a part of my personal foundation and ironically they are both attributed to Jesus. 

“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Luke 6:31 (The Golden Rule)

I have studied many religions and philosophies over the years. From Buddhism and Toaism to Rastafarianism and Wicca.  I have come to believe that it is not religion that makes the person, but rather the heart. I prefer to think of myself as a highly spirtiual person rather than a religious one. It is my relationship that I have with my God that is what is most important to me. No laws made by man can ever change what I hold in my heart and soul. I know my truth. 

It is a wonder to me that after all I have learned that the two things that I return to time and time again are the simple words of Jesus Christ. It’s honestly a wonder to me, because growing up in a house where religion was crammed down my throat, I chose to reject it all for many years. I was angry and I thought it was bullshit mind-control. One day my high-Catholic school history teacher tried to make sense of it to me. He said,”No matter what anyone says, I challenge you to read about Jesus and find one thing that you truly disagree with.” And so being the rebel that I have always been, I took his challenge and I read even more.  I learned that this man that walked the Earth so very long ago was of my tribe. He hung with the outcasts, the beggers, the downtrodden, prostitues, drunks, and lepers. He didn’t judge on outward appearances. He loved, because love was what he was sent to teach us how to do. 

Whether you believe that Jesus walked this Earth is up to you. If you believe he is the son of God then that is your truth (I would like to believe that, but I am honestly still on the fence.) I do know that this man is the greatest example of what Love incarnate is to us as humans. His words, examples, and life sacrifice have stood the test of time, and the world is forever changed by him. 

Today I awoke to the tragic news of a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. A man full of hate targeted a gay dance club and opened fire. By now you all know the horrid details. I tried to stay away from the news, but I have been drawn to it. I lived in NYC on 9/11 and I know this kind of hate and the fear it breeds. I have tried to stay away from social media because the there is so much anger and hate which is breeding more anger and hate. It’s a vicious cycle that is going to get us nowhere. We cannot attempt to destroy an ideology no matter how much we try for it will only breed more hate. The only solution is love. 

This is what I know. The only true path is LOVE. In order to truly love you need to be able to forgive. To love is to live your live with compassion and empathy. It is to be tolerant, even those who do not align with your beliefs. To hate the sin and not the sinner for we are all marred by the weaknesses of the human condition. I didn’t ask to be born an American, but I am so grateful that I was. My life has not know the kind of war that so many other people have been born into. We are products of our environments and not all are blessed to be raised in peace. Ultimately, we all have to choose our path. We must think for ourselves and stand up for what we believe to true. I know that fear is stronger than hate. And I know that if we could all just learn to drop our anger, biases, and fears then perhaps we could one day know peace. As a realist I know that as humans war is our Earthly tradition. Who ever does not control will be controlled and we can see this played out over and over again throughout the centuries. Power is mighty drug.

In spite of all of this madness I will hold onto the philosphy we were all created equally. That the only true way is to love one another and treat each other as we would like to be treated in return. It’s really so simple, but we make it so complicated. In the end love is the only true path to freedom. Love is always louder than hate.

xo Ella 

Honor the Truth

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In 1991, a 35-year-old professor named Anita Hill was brought into the public eye when she testified to a Senate Judicial Committee about the sexual harassment she had endured by her former boss, Clarence Thomas. Thomas now proudly sits on the Supreme Court of the United States. I was a young professional at the time of the hearings and I can remember clearly feeling that she was telling the truth. Why would a woman, a women of color at that, want to face off with a panel of white men in power without good reason. I just finished watching the HBO movie, Confirmation, which attempts to tell the story from a different perspective then we were provided back in 1991. I believed her then, and I didn’t need to watch this movie to confirm it, but I am glad I did. 

“It’s going to take undoing centuries, if not longer, of devaluing women — all women. Adding race to it only makes it harder to overcome. I think today we’re in a better position to do that, by listening to women’s experiences and honoring the truth of our experiences and putting aside all of these myths that we’ve heard about women in these situations and what we’re supposed to believe versus looking at the reality.” – Anita Hill

It is amazing to me that people to this day can still argue the existence of sexual harassment that women have had to endure. I was a young single woman in 1991, just starting my career and men ran the businesses back then. In my first job I was an assistant, which meant a lot of color copying and errand running. Not very glorified for a recent Cum Laude graduate, but I was determined to climb to the top. One day while I was in my (male) boss’s office I was asked to bring some files into a board meeting that was taking place in another building. At the same time, my boss had the conference room, which was filled with all men, on speaker phone. When he said, “I am sending Ella over with the files” a male voice came through the phone and responded with, “Good, I hope she isn’t wearing any underwear.”

That was my first job as a professional. A job I had busted my ass off in college for.  My mouth dropped open and my boss turned red as he laughed and hung up the phone. I quickly told him that I wouldn’t be taking the files over. He told me I was being over sensitive. One of the women in the office stood up for me and said, “Joe, you can’t allow this! You can be sued for sexual harassment!” What I did next I still regret. I took the files and I walked across the street into that conference room and handed them to the man in charge. My cheeks burned red as the room got quiet and I felt the eyes of a dozen men upon me. 

I went home that night shaken and disillusioned. I can remember calling my father and telling him. We spoke about my options, but we both knew that my career would have been over if decided to sue. I most certainly would have been fired for some ridiculous reason, and then what company would hire me with a reputation for calling “sexual harassment” on its owners? I felt defeated, diminished, and shamed. That experience opened my eyes wide to the realities of the workplace and as I watched Anita Hill testify I new as well as any other woman that she was telling the truth. 

A lot has changed since then and I am grateful, but we have a long way to go. There’s a Sexual Harassment Law that is supposed to prevent this from happening in the work place now. The reality is that it still does. It happens everyday. I am sure that now the script has been flipped and there are women who harass men as well. I am not saying that this behavior solely belongs to men. However, men still have the majority of leadership roles in this country and the “old boys club” is still alive and kicking. I know that it is still an issue with young women trying to further their careers….play ball if you want to get ahead. 

These scenarios are still going on in all manner of business be it corporate or not. Power is a thirst that some people need to quench. There’ and old adage that many people out there believe, ‘he who does not control will be controlled.’ This is demonstrated over and over again in world history. What happens when a person stands up to the controlling party? The controlling party pushes back and discredits the attacker. Look around the world today and you can see that this is systematic of patriarchal societies. Women have always been the ones burning at the proverbial stake. 

I want to make it clear that I love people be they men or women. I have never had a prejudicial bone in my body. My heart aches for the oppressed and the disenfranchised. My mind fights against other people’s prejudice, hate, classism, bigotry, and sexism everyday. It is everywhere and it is abundantly clear who is leading the ranks. My heart breaks for Anita Hill and for all the women who have had to deal with this degradation in the workplace after fighting so hard to get where they are. Harriet Tubman was just declared the new face for the $20 bill and the derogatory comments I have heard about it in passing are so upsetting. What an incredibly BRAVE and loving human she was. It’s wonderful that she will be honored in this way. 

Times are changing and Ms. Hill is right, it is going to take a long time for things to change, but we are in the process. Our voices are our most powerful asset in this fight. By listening to women’s experiences and honoring the truth of our experiences things will begin to change. We’ve come a long way since 1991, but I still think that the majority of people will hold a man’s opinion over a woman’s.  As a survivor of abuse I know how this type of culture not only exists in the workplace, but permeates into the home as well. We must make sure we raise the next generation of men to understand that this is a human issue…not an issue of sex or power. It’s about being human, kind, decent, respectful, and fair. 

xo Ella

 

Peace on Earth, Please.

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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