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

 

Revolutionary

Revolutionary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xo Ella

Duck & Pivot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You cannot touch without being touched.”

xo Ella

I Hope That You Never…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Clarity in Being.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xo Ella

ClarityFog