Surfacing

September 11, 2001

This year I was hoping to write about my experience, but I can’t find it in me to be honest. The truth is what I saw and experienced on this day 20 years ago, may never find a voice from me. The weight of the sorrow holds me back. I don’t want to feel the pain.

I was in Manhattan on September 11, 2001. I was living in an abusive marriage to a mentally unstable, and very scary man. That day was terrifying, and he was even more terrifying. It’s hard to talk about it, because it was just too much. The tricky thing about trauma is that it screws with your memory, and the truth is that I’ve not had it in me to try to face them. I buried that day within me while it was still alive.

It’s been 20 years. My first baby was one years old in 2001, he’s now a 21 year old young man. What I can share today, is a window into how trauma presents itself, even after 20 years: I am numb. I can’t turn on the radio or tv because I cannot bare to hear a word about it. I have a heavy sob stuck in the center of my chest and I am terrified to let it out, but I desperately want to. AlI I want to do is forget, and leave it buried. But we can’t forget can we? Nor should we, people deserve to be honored. There is a film reel playing all the time in my mind. I cannot stop it, because I cannot access it. Perhaps one day I will be ready to. Perhaps I won’t.

There was not a cloud in the sky on that crisp September day. We had no idea what was coming when the bottom dropped out. It felt like the city crumbled around me. We were a city of zombies, everyone in shock. I have yet to process what happened, but once a year I am reminded that I need to. Maybe one day I will be able to speak more about it, just not this day. To those of you who were personally touched or lost loved ones, parents, friends, and colleagues I send you my love. It is my belief that the 2,997 that died that beautiful September day are dancing in another realm, untethered from the weight of their human bodies.

Today was a hard day for so many, but we survived.

Ella xx

Buckle Up

I find myself at a loss of words over the Supreme Court decision that in short tells women what they can and cannot do to their bodies. Oh, and basically deputizes citizens to turn in their neighbors. It feels like we are in 1942 Germany or in the Soviet Union in the 1980’s. I have dedicated my life to working with women. I help them find their path to healing and I help them find their voices. What happened today pushes back against all of this. It’s a push back against women themselves. There are a lot of ways I could write on this subject, but I’ve decided to tell you my story, what I have learned, and what I know.

I was raised in a born again Christian household where we were forced to go to prayer meetings, church, etc. During my middle school and teenage years I watched as my parents marriage changed as a result. My father became even more controlling than he already was, my mother more submissive, and as a result, unhappy children. This was a formative time for me because I learned exactly the kind of parent I did not want to be.

When I was 15, and still a virgin, I was raped. I was traumatized and terrified, but I couldn’t tell my parents. What if I was pregnant? They were so pro life that I knew they wouldn’t be on my side in this situation. When I finally got my period I was beyond relieved. I then proceed to promptly stuff that memory into a dark corner of my mind, and I kept going. At 22 I decided to finally tell my mother about it. She ended up breaking down and took to her bed for 3 days. She cried and begged me for forgiveness. She wanted to know why I didn’t just tell her. Then she made me promise that we would never tell my father because it would kill him. Imagine if I had been impregnated? What then? I stuffed it back into the dark corners of my mind, and went about the business of living the best I could.

When I was in my mid twenties I met a guy. Our worlds collided and we fell madly and deeply in love, and got married. This is where it gets a little more personal. I have always had an unpredictable menstrual cycle. Sometimes I won’t get it for months, and then there are times when I have it for months. It’s just how it’s always been. I had an amazing career, and I made good money, so we decided not to use birth control. After 5 years of marriage I finally got pregnant. I didn’t know I was pregnant until I was 7-8 weeks pregnant because I continued to have my period. In fact, I had my period for the entire first trimester for both of my kids. I had NO IDEA I was pregnant at 6 weeks with either of them.

We were married for a total of 11 years and during this time my career was exploding, but my marriage was crumbling. I was being abused by my husband. Now just to explain a little about domestic violence…it is not a straight line. You live in a cycle of abuse. There is a period of time where the tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife. You walk on eggshells, and try to avoid the tension from building, but no matter what you do it inevitably leads to an explosion. Abuse is abuse. Period. To those of you who are wondering if you are being abused because you haven’t been hit yet, the answer is if you are feeling it then most likely you are. Don’t use physical abuse as the benchmark for getting help. Now back to the cycle. After the explosion of abuse there is a period of calm much like after a big storm. This is when the Honeymoon phase begins. The abuser will love bomb you to try to smooth things over. They will tell you what you want to hear. You are so exhausted by this point that you are just grateful for the peace, and you promise yourself that there won’t be a next time, but here always is. I was married to Jekyll and Hyde. As evil as he could be one day, he could also be the amazingly intelligent and funny man I fell in love with. It got to the point that I didn’t know who I would be talking to on any given day.

Over the next 5 years while living in the exhausting and chaotic cycle of violence I became pregnant a couple more times, but I miscarried. I desperately wanted more children. When I finally did get pregnant again I didn’t know until after 6 weeks, because I continued to menstruate. At about the three month mark into the pregnancy, Mr. Hyde showed up and decided to kick Dr. Jekyll out for good, and took up full residence in our home. This is when the nature of the abuse took a turn; I was being abused while pregnant. I was having a hard time gaining weight, I couldn’t sleep, and I was trying so hard to keep the peace. My baby came early as a result of the abuse. It was if he couldn’t tolerate another moment inside of my traumatized body. It was during this pregnancy that I accepted the truth about my situation. I needed to get out, but how?

The next two years my life were a living hell. I was a nervous wreck. I went from a size 10 to a 2, and didn’t even realize it. It was during this time where my personal rights were challenged. I was isolated from my friends and family. The only thing I was truly allowed to do was work, and as a result it became my salvation. Someone had to make money and it certainly wasn’t going to be him. He was a nasty drunk most nights. He threatened me with his fist, and a big old butcher knife. I woke up with his hands around my neck so he could tell me that he could, “snuff the life out of me”. It was bad. It was intensifying, and he was threatening to hurt my mother. He told me that he would never let me leave him and take the kids, that he would rather take them out of this world. That is why I stayed until that one miraculous night when the opportunity presented itself, the door opened, and I ran through it as fast as I could with a baby on each hip.

I have never been in a situation where I have had to really consider an abortion. But I know that I would have wanted that option after the rape (even though I know my parents would have made me have it and put it up for adoption). I have experienced the loss of my freedom. First as a kid in a conservative Christian home, and then as an abused spouse. It wasn’t until I lost my freedom as an adult that I realized how precious it was. I was caged and I wasn’t allowed to make decisions for myself. It’s not hard to understand why my favorite word is freedom.

What has happened in Texas is terrifying. I feel like it is the beginning of Gilead (Handmaid’s Tale reference). There are over 29 million people living in Texas and 50% of them are women. The other 50% is made up approximately of 74% white men. (1) For me this is not just about the right to choose, because that is just a boundary that they will attempt to push out again in order to take more rights from women. As a survivor of abuse this feels all sorts of wrong, and I know this is triggering many other women survivors. No one has a right to take away your choices for your own body. And it is especially worrisome that the majority of men that are doing this in Texas are white. What’s it going to be next? What state is going to follow suit?

Women who have money and seek an abortion in Texas will be inconvenienced by having to go to another state. Women who do not have a means will have children that they are not emotionally or financially prepared to care for. Women who are in abusive relationships that are repeatedly raped will have no recourse. It’s hard enough trying to get out of an abusive relationship, but the more kids you have the harder it will be. Do you see where I am going with this? In the state of Texas they have been fighting for their rights against mask mandates, but they think it is okay for the government to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her own body.

It sounds just like abuse, but now the government is taking a piece of the action. Women should have guaranteed dominion over their own bodies. Full stop. If this is taken away then women are not free in this country, and women of color will have it all the more harder. This is resoundingly unacceptable for all women, regardless if they are pro-choice or pro-life. And on that note I want to remind you that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk collecting dust. Without the protection of this law women are at risk. My understanding is that the hold up is over gun rights. They added into the law that anyone found guilty of domestic violence will lose their right to have a gun. Imagine that?


One in four women will experience domestic violence in their life. The Domestic Violence Hotline receives over 20K calls a day in the USA. (2) Over half of all intimate partner homicides are committed with a gun. A woman is 5x more likely to be murdered when her abuser has access to a gun. In order to protect women and reduce the homicide rates for domestic violence we must insure that people who abuse their partners or family do not have access to firearms. (3) Again, this is just another example of women losing their freedom because men are not willing to give up control.

I am very scared about what is going to happen after this. I am scared for the women who live in other states because you know it’s only a matter of time before similar laws are passed in them. Women are not confused. We do not need men (or Amy Coney Barrett) to tell us how to take care of our own bodies. They don’t want to wear masks, they don’t want us to take away their guns, but they want to take away a woman’s right to decide what is right for her own body. This is the Patriarchy in all its white glory. It will continue to do what it needs to in order to retain power and hold all women and men of color back.

I’m thinking of moving north. If I see Handmaids in their red capes walking north in orderly lines from the south I want to be able to run across the border to Canada. Just as all the Anti-maskers in Texas are crying “My Body, My Choice, My Rights”, so are women shouting the same thing, but apparently no one gives a shit about that.

(1) Census.gov
(2) thehotline.org
(3) efsgv.org

Empty House

“I began to shiver. There was a wind blowing through me; I felt like an empty room with all the windows shattered, terror blowing through me, no comfort left. That was how I felt consciously and distinctly.” – Frederic Prokosch

This is how domestic violence feels at times. It guts you and leaves you feeling utterly alone and isolated. A shell of your former self. There is no comfort to be found in it and when you do find a moment of peace you are always preoccupied with the fear of it ending. You are never able to fully relax. To experience the relief of being able to collapse into yourself. No fear. No worries. You are on guard and vigilant 24/7, walking on eggshells and always praying that it won’t happen again. But it does. It always happens again. This is the cycle of violence and what makes it so incendiary is that it always circles back on itself. It runs deeply infecting one generation to another. Unless the cycle is broken.
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The road back is not an easy one. It is riddled with road mines and much strife. But we the survivors are strong and must never forget to celebrate that. Freedom becomes our favorite word and courage our middle name. Day after day you must take steps forward and find support that you can lean into. Find role models of women who have walked your path before you and who inspire you. The path to healing is where you will learn to rebuild yourself on a solid foundation and begin the process of discovering who you are again. No longer will you feel like an empty house with shattered windows. Instead, you will feel a fire rising up within you declaring that you are worthy of so much more. You are so very worth the effort it will take to rebuild. You deserve a peaceful happy life. Healing takes time so you must tend to your garden with much love and self care. 🦋Ella
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Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233 (United States)
The hotline.org
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✨ If you are interested in life coaching please reach out to me at Ellahickscoaching@gmail.com or you can get more info and book your sessions at ellahicks.com.

Tribute


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Lay it Down

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

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

Lay it Down

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

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

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

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

Howl

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

xo Ella

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

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

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

 

A Rogue Wave

Sometimes

There have been times in my life where sadness has hit me like a rogue wave that sneaks up from behind bringing with it a wicked undertow that tries to pull me out deeper. The wave plants me on my ass in a mess of sadness and despair when it comes crashing down…there are things in life that can derail you. There are things that have tremendous momentum even though they may seem to appear out of nowhere. There are things in life that no one is prepared for. 

Recently, I found out I was going to have another child. The news sent me reeling. Getting pregnant has never been easy for me. My two children are my precious miracles to this world. Sadly, along my journey I have lost three angels. I bear witness that a miscarriage is a horrible experience. If you have experienced one you might find that you want to hide yourself trying to avoide telling people that you are pregnant out of the fear of what is or isn’t to come. Having a high risk pregnancy brings a weird mix of excitement, fear, and isolation.

This pregnancy definitely caught me off guard. It was the last thing I expected to happen in 2016. I prepared myself for a wild ride this year, but nothing could have prepared me for this. That being said I embraced it immediately even though my partner and I have been walking a rocky road recently. I am always an advocate for a woman’s right to choose and I chose to have this baby regardless to what was happening in my life. This child was being sent to me for a reason and I was going to embrace it with all of me. 

What you don’t know until you experience it is that losing a baby is a massive trauma to your body, your mind, and your soul. Sure you move past it and hopefully are able to conceive again, but that feeling never quite leaves you. Growing a life within you is an amazingly awesome and incredibly weird experience. The minute that I find out I am with child everything in the world shifts for me. Out goes the caffeine & the alcohol, and in comes all the goodness. I STOP and take a full inventory. I commit to taking pristine care of myself as the incubator for a new life. I am in 100%, sleeves pushed up, saltines in hand, and ready to roll. 

When I realized that I was losing my baby a few weeks ago all I wanted to do curl up and hide. 

NOT AGAIN. 

I was sad and I was angry at God for allowing me to have to endure this yet another time. I felt broken. I felt like my body had failed me and I was devastated.  I felt like my body had let my baby, and my partner down. I laid in bed for two days and just went back and forth between crying and staring into nothingness. I was arriving at numb quickly. 

Thankfully I had told a couple of friends. THIS is not something you want to go through alone. It’s a tragic situation and you truly are helpless. My mind was screaming to the baby inside of me to “hold on”.  I was begging God to spare my child. I felt like such a failure every time I looked at my partner. The worst part was that as a mother I was unable to prevent my  baby from dying inside of me. A crushing experience that is beyond any words. 

I decided to write about this for the same reason that I write about my experience with domestic violence…to break the stigma. There is always such a “hush hush” about these issues, and for what? The silence is isolating, and in situations like this you need support from loving people. It’s hard to go through something like this and carry it alone. Women have been dealing with these issues from the beginning of time and yet I find that it’s still taboo to speak up about them. I am opposed to shutting it down, hiding it, and just moving on. Stuffing your trauma doesn’t help you to heal and move past it. It just leaves it festering for another day to explode into your life unannounced in another form. 

Life is happening all around us. People are born and people die every single day. It is the great circle of life and we are as much of a part of it as the next guy. No one gets to run away from nature as much as they would like to think that they can. We are all here dealing with the same human conditions. Life is going to push you. It is going to stretch you, and it is going to hurt you, but just as this is true it is also going to reward you. You cannot seek out only the good for life is made whole with the balance of both. The duality of life. We must embrace it all and appreciate the good when it is here and understand that the pain comes as our teacher. Understanding of this is helpful in accepting your life as it unfolds…perfect or imperfect. Joyful or sad. This is your life. 

I lost this baby at eight weeks and It was my 4th miscarriage. It doesn’t get easier, but you do get stronger. Understanding that it is natures way and that some life is just more viable than others is critical. Trust me, nature is not out to punish you. Through this I’ve learned to embrace life as it is thrust upon me and I am learning to let go of it when necessary. Learning to trust the timing of my life and having faith in the outcome is what sees me through. Life has taught me that acceptance and release is all about flow. You can’t stop it…you have go with it. When life hands you this kind of pain you embrace it as a gift and know that it has the power to transform you. 

xo Ella 

The High Road.

It was 4 years ago this week that I began to write in my attempt to heal myself. One sentence turned into two, then three, four and so on until my words started telling my story.  I share it in pieces, and when they are connected they create a whole. Perhaps the reason I haven’t written a book yet is because the thought of stringing the pieces all together at once terrifies me.  I am still live the nightmare to a lesser degree and so the book hasn’t reached the final chapter yet…stay tuned.

TrenchesI often feel like my writing has a cryptic feel to it. That’s because I can’t fill
in any of the finer details. The more colorful stuff that gives life it’s personality I have to dance around because it can betray me. All the nuances of my past life are known to the one I want to hide them from.  However, I know that my words, my example of living in spite of
it all is helping other women to
stay strong.  Just by moving forward I can show others that even though life may not be perfect you can still live a happy life and find a way to thrive in the midst of chaos. The calm in the center of the proverbial storm.

I’m not entirely sure if  I’m strong or stupid. Either way I keep on going and believing that I can rise above it all within myself one day. Eleven years ago I ran with my children. I ran for my health, my sanity, my soul, and our lives. I struggled through many years in a fog that I wasn’t even remotely aware I was living in. It was only four years ago that my healing truly began, and it was simply because I started to tell my story. I told my story in an attempt to help other women feel connected. So that they would know that someone else understood them and that they were not alone. I had no idea that by writing my first blog post I had really embarked on a journey in the search for ME.

What have I learned?

First, You need to chill the fuck out. No really, just sit down on the beautiful Earth and breathe deeply. In and out. In and out. You get the picture. Anyway, call it what you will but that really works. I have learned not to waste my pain because I know that it can’t hurt me, and that it’s there to teach me. Sometimes the pain can be brutal but so far I’ve stayed the course because I can feel the shift happening in my life. I know it’s a necessary part of my journey. I am so much stronger now and I value myself which is something I can’t say I had much practice in before. In fact I’m cheering myself on and it great to be able to feel it all and not be paralyzed by the fear that some memories can conjure up.

I am braver. In the process of becoming Ella I discovered a strength and resolve that I didn’t know I had. I have taken my own road in life, which has never been in the popular part of town I can tell you that. I have learned to stand up for me in the process and I am determined to show people that bullies are really just incredibly weak and fractured people. They need our love…even if we keep it to ourselves. Hate, even for bullies, won’t get us very far. Forgiveness is important.

I have realized how incredibly important it is to have a life of your own; to live as your own country while surrounded by many others. You may be in a relationship, but you don’t have to lose your voice. Your relationship with yourself is by far the most important one you will ever have. Don’t ever let that spark within go out, you will need to fan it to see yourself through the dark days ahead. Stand tall, be your own person and always BELIEVE in a better tomorrow.

It’s imperative to create a healthy inner circle for yourself. A few good people that you can confide in, find mutual support, and truly be free to be yourself with (warts and all) is what being in a tribe is all about. Isolation is not healthy…no living thing can be an island. We need our own kind. Don’t stop looking for your tribe. You will find them as long as you are being true to yourself.

We are all connected energetically and this is why it’s so imperative for each of us to surround ourselves with like minded and good hearted people. It’s not about the shoes, the car, the job, the house, the education, or the status spouse. It’s simply about kindness and good will to all. Think of how beautiful the world would be if we could all just be kind and decent human beings. The truth is that no one heals themselves by harming another. My choice has been to take the high road. It wasn’t easy pulling myself up out of the trenches so I am going to do what I have to do to stay here. It has a much better view. 

xo Ella