Will the Real Ella Hicks Please Stand Up?

EllaIcon

May I have your attention please?
May I have your attention please?
Will the real Ella Hicks please stand up?
I repeat, will the real Ella Hicks please stand up?

Change can be weird on all accounts. When I first started social media I knew it would be a big risk for me. Putting myself out there in the public arena is not exactly safe for a woman/mother who is living in “hiding” from her abusive ex-husband. No more stalking please! Getting “out there” and sharing my story was the only way I figured that I could stay sane and make some sense out of what my life had become. So I took a leap and started a blog and called it Rebel Thriver because I was determined to not get to comfy in my survivors coat. I wanted to upgrade to a thriver and in order for me to do that I needed to be a bit rebellious and speak out in a public way, even though I knew there was a BIG risk factor involved.

So the name came easily, Rebel Thriver. Who is Ella Hicks though? Do you realize how many times in a single day a blogger, writer, or public figure will show their likeness publicly? What was I to do? I knew I couldn’t show mine so I decided to adopt Brigitte Bardot as my public face. Besides the fact that we both have a mop of blonde hair, I admire her for many reasons. She is a fearless activist for animal rights in France. Animals are so often the unspoken of victims of domestic violence. They are often tortured in an attempt to hurt the human victim even more. I am so grateful for the work she does. She was an incredible beauty when she was younger and has been slammed in the press for not “aging” well. The reason is that she has opted to grow old naturally is so her money is used to help animals, not her vanity. Instead of being praised for her selflessness she is so often ridiculed and it’s heartbreaking.

As Rebel Thriver poises to grow I knew that the day would come that I would have to find another “face” for myself. Ella Hicks needs her own identity other than a photograph, and so the search has been on for years. As luck would have it the other day I came across a painting that was spot on. Immediately I knew that this was the perfect representation for me and so I contacted the artist Elizabeth Mayville and explained to her in a nutshell my colorful and complicated conundrum of a story. Not only did Elizabeth agree right away to allow me to use this beautiful painting of hers as my public “face”, but she waived the fee she usually charges because she supports what I am trying to do with Rebel Thriver.

So today is the unveil of the “new me”. I simply love it more than words because it really captures my day to day vibe. I want to thank Elizabeth Mayville from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to use her amazing piece of art and for having such a generous heart. You can see more of Elizabeth Mayville’s work at http://www.elizabethmayville.com or shop https://www.etsy.com/shop/ElizabethMayville

I know it’s going to take some time for me to get used to not seeing Brigitte everyday, but it’s time for a change and I am going to grow with it! xo Ella

Revolutionary

Revolutionary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xo Ella

Peace on Earth, Please.

olgaonga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace be with you.

xo Ella

Don’t You Dare Give Up.

Stay

The Christmas Holiday Season has arrived. This time of year can often be the WORST time for people in abusive relationships. I know this because it was that way for me. I wish I had the freedom to really tell you all the details of when and how I left, but I can’t. One day when I am safe I will spill.

The holidays can be so joyous for some and so dark for others.

I remember the last holiday that I was married to an abusive man. I was terrified because Christmas was looming closely ahead. Stress levels were running high and every where I turned I felt more trapped then ever. We all know how tough it can be when thrust amongst our family on certain days of the year. Imagine having to hide your brokenness when you are feeling completely isolated. My mother told me I deserved an academy award.

Isolation is one of the favorite tools of an abuser. They slowly and methodically separate you from your family and friends. Ultimately, you end up lying to all of them because how can you even begin to explain how your life has fallen apart. How you have fallen apart and have become a prisoner of sorts. That you have lost your freedom to be who you are meant to be. That you are losing your identity more and more every day. That it’s slipping and you can’t seem to tighten your grip.

Today my boyfriend’s sister had to be rescued from an abusive situation. I don’t even know all of the details yet, but what I do know is that her husband is an abuser. It got so bad that she took her child and split. Thank God she had an opportunity to get out and luckily for her she has two brothers who were able to go back with her to get her stuff. For those of you who do not know, this is the most dangerous time for victim’s of abuse. This is when the abuser feels they are losing control. Out of desperation they react and can do the worst imaginable things. I’ve been terrified all afternoon because I understand this better than anyone. I didn’t want him to go, but I knew he had to. They are on their way home and safe. Thank God.

I know that life can be hard, and at this time of year it can be almost impossible to hold on to even the tiniest spark of hope. I am here to beg those of you reading this that might be in the same situation to hang on.
Don’t give up because there is always a way out. Even when you feel like you are completely alone there is always help. I know that if there is NO reason to stay then that alone is a good reason to go. I also know that you have to leave if you are being abused. It will never get better…only worse. Sometimes you have to leave with the clothes on your back. Know that there are shelters and people to help you. You deserve to be happy, safe and loved. I KNOW how scary and hard it is to leave, but I also know how beautiful and free life can be once you do.

Be brave. Find your voice and speak up. Please know that there is no shame in this for you. There are so many people in this world (both men and women) that have experienced abuse at the hand of someone they loved. You have to trust and take that step to get out. There is never a good time. I kept waiting for a “better time” and it never came. I ended up leaving at the worst possible time, but in retrospect it was the perfect time. It was the perfect time because I got out alive.

If you know anyone that is in an abusive relationship please share my blog with them. It’s hard to talk to people who haven’t been through this because so often your reality starts to get muddled. If you can let them know that they are loved and worthy of that love, and that there is always a way out. Don’t you dare give up. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.

xo Ella

Duck & Pivot

Coconuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You cannot touch without being touched.”

xo Ella

Arriving Home

BethArrived

We come from all different backgrounds. Each of our stories are different. Yet how can we come together and understand each other? Our humanity forever links us. We all feel pain. We all know joy even if it’s fleeting, and laughter is a great connector. We recognize this in each other and in this there is a sense of understanding. However, the empathy we feel for others who are in the struggle I feel is the strongest. Today we can connect with people in social media and become dear friends on a soulful level. It’s not based on culture, socio-economics, religion, race, or personal style. If you throw out all of the superficial stuff and allow souls connect is it then just somehow more real? Perhaps it not a matter of being more real but I certainly think that it allows things to move faster to a soulful place.

This poster was made by my dear friend LB. She is also a survivor of domestic violence. Of anyone I have met I feel that she can understand my story the best for we walked a similar one.  When I first met her here on the Rebel Thriver Facebook page she was still in her abusive marriage, and I thought that if she and her kids made it out alive it would be miracle. I am happy to say that they are not only out of the bad situation and free from the abuse, but they have moved on and are working hard on healing & finding peace in their new life.

To any of you who are out there and feeling stuck remember LB and Me. Statistics would have both of us, and our children victims. Victim meaning we would be dead. How is it that we “made it out”?  We held onto the small spark within, knew we were destined for more, and ultimately as mothers knew we couldn’t give in. Even if we didn’t feel that we deserved something better we knew our children did. LB and I beat the odds. We are the lucky ones and we know it. So this is why we both work in our own ways to help others who are still trapped in an abusive relationship/marriage that feels more like a cage.

LB made the above poster for me to use for Rebel Thriver. As she moves along on her journey and heals I love seeing what she is awakening to. To see a woman go from being so broken that a gun to her head wasn’t the worst thing to happen to her bloom into a woman who is embracing her freedom and true self is beyond words. Her children are watching her grow and stand up for herself and that is powerful medicine. She broke the cycle and gave her children the thing she could…a chance.

That’s our story, but it can be anyone’s story if you just switch the details around. Once you make that decision to find your true home in this world you are on your way. It will be hard. There will be setbacks and possibly heartbreaks, but you can do it. Stay the course knowing that you are worthy of a peaceful life that is centered in joy. The journey is not about arriving at your destination, because you have already arrived once you make that decision to fly. You are home no matter where you are if you are free to be you authentically. Your destination is in every step you take. Never, ever, give up.

xo Ella

(Poster by LB)

The Space Between

Beyond

Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting. – Joyce Meyer

There are a certain universal truths about being human and one of them is that we will all spend a good amount of time in this lifetime waiting. Passing time sounds like it would be a passive sport, but think again for it is anything but that. It can be brutal when you find yourself in those in-between spaces, frustrated, and over-anxious because you know that you have no control. Desperately wanting a glimpse into that fortune tellers all-knowing ball you have no choice but to white knuckle it some days. It’s not an easy path to walk for those of us who like to have everything under control. You do realize that control is usually a reaction to fear (and even if you do realize this, it can still be a struggle). Waiting, simply put, is not a game for the faint of heart.

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.  – Joseph Campbell

Most of you already know all of this. This is the part of being human that I find a drag. We continuously to try to control the outcome of things even when we say we aren’t. Deep inside we are plotting as though our thoughts, if focused intensely enough can manipulate the outcome in our favor. Actually, I do believe that is possible for us to manifest outcomes, but do you really want to spend your life trying to telepathically create your entire life, one event at a time? I know that I’d personally rather glide forward with a sense of intention and hope in my heart for the days to come. I think am way too laid back to be spending so much energy everyday trying to “create” the outcomes that I want instead of allowing things to flow. A laid-back control freak? Yes, I see the irony here. (And I prefer to think of myself as “reformed” as opposed to “freak” currently). We really have no idea how things are going to roll out, but we certainly can learn to be a little more open-minded to the bigger picture of our life, can’t we? The options are endless and yet we can so easily latch onto the idea that only one outcome to a situation is the right one, and if it doesn’t happen the way we want it to then we are going to explode! I know this because it is one of many lessons that I have learned from my walk on this planet thus far.

The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.   – Bertrand Russell

Some people call time the school in which we learn. I can’t argue with that. Time is the only sure thing I know that can bring true levity to a situation. Perhaps it’s meant to be this way. I believe that the act of waiting teaches us so very much. This is the one lesson I have been working on most my life. Even as far back as I can remember my mother would repeat to me day in and day out, “Ella you need to learn patience and once you do things are going to be easier for you.” Life can be a cruel teacher in that regard. I have paid my dues in the waiting rooms of life over many times over.  It’s not that it gets easier because most of us are born with an innate sense of avid curiosity, and thank God for that or our species wouldn’t have gotten very far (debatable I know), but there is a tempering that needs to be learned if we are to find balance. At the heart of the issue I think is the inability to truly be content with what we have in the moment. Isn’t that what we are all waiting for after all? Fulfillment? We are all waiting…it could be the return of a lover, a phone call, a new job, your final exam grade or money…the list can go on and on and on. It’s not easy to have patience and faith which is why they are considered virtues. This is what life teaches us and we all have choices to make in regards to how we choose to frame our days. Life is happening all around us and the truly living are reacting to it, and not sitting around like wall flowers waiting to be picked. After a while you will grow tired of the incessant internal rambling and stressing, and I hope you ultimately choose to lay it down. While I strongly believe that we need to take an active role in the navigation of our lives I also know that this will one day pass and what we are looking at is infinite. Far greater than we can ever imagine here in this mortal coil. The space between here and there or between me and you is an illusion in the end. Time is just a way to measure our lives here. Lose the watch and accept that being in the moment is so much better than waiting for the next one to happen. Peace of mind is where you can rise above it all, the schedules, the wants, and the daily grind to find that all is well in that moment.   xo Ella 

When you’ve seen beyond yourself, then you may find, peace of mind is waiting there.  – George Harrison