Love is Infinite

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When I first left my abusive husband, kind-hearted people would often say to me, “Don’t worry you are still young and beautiful. You will find another man and fall in love again.” That was not what I wanted or needed to hear though. I didn’t feel young and beautiful. I didn’t want another man. I wanted the man who I had married to return to me without the mental illness. Now, I knew that couldn’t happen and so I just wanted to find myself and fall in love with her.

Every relationship both good and bad are unique unto themselves. I have one friend who I can honestly say probably understands where I have been because she lived a similar experience. When I married my husband we were so in love. He was my best friend and I just wanted to be with him every minute of the day. We planned a life together and shared dreams. Big dreams. Reality bites and sometimes dreams are crushed. It’s hard when a spouse gets sick. I vowed to be with him through sickness and health and I meant it. I never thought that the sickness would be mental. I never ever thought he would turn it all against me. I had never been abused before. I never wanted to break my vows, but the reality was that my life depended on it.

If you lose a partner to mental illness it will leave you shattered.  There is no way around that. For me it was akin to watching Mr. Hyde turn into Dr. Jekyll. Over time Dr. Jekyll came to stay permanently, but the memories and fleeting glimpses of Mr. Hyde kept me praying for a miracle. Years later I accepted that no miracle was coming for our marriage and I left. I stayed too long as it was. I took my heart and wrapped it up for good and put it on a shelf. The divorce was final and that was that. There was no desire left in me for another relationship. I felt like an old woman inside and I was content on surviving and raising my kids. That I thought, would be my life.

Now I know there is at least one person out there reading this who can relate. When you truly fall in love with someone and they disappear on you, that love doesn’t just disappear. You have to mourn and grieve that loss. So when you are in that place and someone tells you that you are young and will find another man it really just makes you want to throw up. Finding LOVE is the last thing you are thinking about. You are still reeling and trying to figure out what happened to the man you still love. There is no love switch to flip on and off.

Life can be so confusing and at times we feel our smallness amplified.

Years have passed since I left my marriage and I have spent that time finding Ella. Not only have I found her, but I love her with all of my heart. It just so happens that in the midst of looking for myself I found love. You know that old saying, “when you least expect it…” Well, that’s exactly what happened. I met a man who became a best friend. I had no idea that I would fall in love. Love? Yes, I said love. He didn’t look like someone I would have fallen in love with, but I did. He was an amazing person and he helped me grow more than I even realized at the time.

We have already established here that life can be cruel. I found love, lost love, found love, and then I lost it again. This beautiful soul that I had fallen in love with disappeared on me…just like that. We didn’t have much time together, but I loved him. He helped me to see that I wasn’t broken, just a little bent. He showed me that I was lovable and that I could love again. Sadly, it wasn’t long after he proposed to me that he left me. Twelve years sober and strong lost to drugs and all from a prescription cough syrup he got for Bronchitis. He fell off that wagon so hard and so quickly that within a month I didn’t know him. Four months later he was gone. Poof…

I don’t feel like I am plagued by bad luck. What I experienced could happen to anyone. I grieved his loss. My kids grieved his loss. Yes it was devastating, but through it all I knew that I was strong enough to survive it. However, this time around when people tried to console me they would just give me a heartbreaking look and say that they were sorry. I mean, what can you really say to this? “Run girl, you are cursed. Close your heart and your legs and leave the love shit for another girl.”

Well, here is the thing. What I learned from loving him was that our love is limitless. We don’t get to choose who we love, we just do. Our hearts are boundless and ready to stretch and be filled up at any given moment (even if we are feeling to the contrary of that). It’s fear of being hurt again, and I get that because that pain is brutal. Through his death I learned that I will never stop loving for it is who I am. I tried to deny it after my marriage, but love was stronger. The lesson here is that just because one person broke your heart doesn’t mean that the next person will. Love is infinite.

For any of you who are out there licking your wounds and hiding behind your fortified walls I want you to know that you are free to fall in love again. You know that you can love because you already have. Just because one person was a bad choice doesn’t mean that you have to punish yourself forever for their shortcomings.  I have forgiven my ex-husband for everything that he couldn’t help (and it helps that there is no contact with him). I forgave my fiancé for being weak and failing himself (and us). I forgave myself for not being able to “save” either of them, and then I moved on. Yes, my friends I am here to tell you that I am still young and beautiful…and I am in love. I am praying for a long romance, but I know that all that is guaranteed to us is today.  So today I will let him love me and I will love him back with all of me.

xo Ella

The Rebellious Act of Loving Yourself

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

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m upset ….”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xo Ella

Surviving is Just One Chapter of My Story (By Guest Blogger Tia Jane)

Tia

As a survivor of child sexual abuse and adult domestic violence I constantly stand on the precipice of wanting to seek out fellow survivors for solidarity and support and needing to protect the wounds that remain from those experiences. I work in front line child protection and see the evil that exists in the world on a daily basis.

This is both wounding and healing.

How can it be both is a question which I have asked myself more than once. The wounding is obvious in its nature. Hearing the stories of experiences of children and their families touches on my wounds which, while no longer raw, are tender. The healing comes from knowing that I am an unseen survivor, that my trajectory didn’t follow the path that may make other survivors more obvious in their pain and I see so many others who break the mold set by society about what a survivor looks like.

I have discovered a passion for justice for these children and young people that eclipses justice in terms of the law and encompasses a sense of justice that results from the capacity of a society, to not limit their future lives to the expectations that are set by how we view victims of abuse. To set no bounds to their achievements and to provide them all with opportunities to become so much more than what we are lead to believe.

I am an advocate for changing how we view survivors and how we allow those other, richer experiences to come forth for a more balanced and holistic view of the person in a whole of life context and not through the veil of abuse. This frees people, like myself, who search for answers and a sense of self after an annihilation of the psyche which left me floundering in a sea of self doubt around “how do I become a survivor?”

So, I searched for a cause or a way to integrate my experiences into my life. To find those pieces of myself that I kept apart from the moments of abuse. I say moments because quite literally they were only moments, in a life which contained so much more of me without those abuse experiences. This is where I needed to begin my search, to look at those moments that were not imposed on me by others, which I can take complete ownership of and say “this is me”. The me that rejects acts of evil and exclusion and stands for love, stands for kindness, stands for acceptance and inclusion and that stands for strength, survivorship and healing.

I advocate through both thought, deep seated beliefs and action. I advocate through not accepting the perpetuating of victims trajectories which does not allow room for movements of the self from victim to survivor to thriver. I have my days, like any other, when the world and its focus on news worthy sensationalist topics of pain and suffering eclipses the stories of survival, and it affects me and I withdraw to wrap my internal wounds in a blanket of solitude. But I emerge again to rejoin the people who stand, who focus on strength, goodness and inclusion and who often work in silence to create healing pockets of a world in which I like to rest for a time.

I will forever remain an advocate for others, survivors of abuse, survivors of tragedies, survivors of any experience which leaves them searching for something to anchor themselves to a spot where they are safe from the storm. A harbor of support where they can find their direction. It will always be a tough journey for me given my wounds and experiences and the world I choose to work and offer my knowledge in, but given that I also contain a rich internal tapestry of alternate experiences which allow me to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, I will remain optimistic of the future. I know that I will continue to be more than those experiences that I endured and I will offer myself as a resource to others who also seek to find their own inner strength, light and purpose. I am not blind to the world and all its difficulties, I know that while I experienced abuse I have not experienced other forms of hardship and that I have had opportunities that others have not had.

My story is not unique, it is a single story that reflects my personal journey but all survivors have similarities in their stories and I choose to focus on their alternate stories, the survivor story, the triumph over tragedy story and I choose to seek out others who have walked this path before me, hand in hand with those who now walk beside me and to lead the way for those who will follow.

By Tia Jane

Who Knew

Pink-WhoKnew
Who Knew
You took my hand
You showed me how
You promised me you’d be around
Uh huh
That’s right
I took your words
And I believed
In everything
You said to me
Yeah huh
That’s rightIf someone said three years from now
You’d be long gone
I’d stand up and punch them out
Cause they’re all wrong
I know better
Cause you said forever
And ever
Who knew

Remember when we were such fools
And so convinced and just too cool
Oh no
No no
I wish I could touch you again
I wish I could still call you friend
I’d give anything

When someone said count your blessings now
‘fore they’re long gone
I guess I just didn’t know how
I was all wrong
They knew better
Still you said forever
And ever
Who knew

Yeah yeah
I’ll keep you locked in my head
Until we meet again
Until we
Until we meet again
And I won’t forget you my friend
What happened

My darling
My darling
Who knew
My darling
I miss you
My darling
Who knew
Who knew

– Lukasz Gottwald, Alecia Moore, Max Martin

*Those who know me know who this is for *

Catch & Release

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Why is that we contradict ourselves over and over again? We know better. We’ve already determined that life is a full on roller coaster ride with its ups and downs. We’ve learned from our mistakes and we know that fire burns if you put your hand to it. We are seasoned and yet we continue to try to control the outcome of our lives. I tell you it’s is as pointless as trying to catch the fading sunset in your hand.

Man plans and God laughs. – Yiddish Proverb

If I were a superhero I might just be Anxiety Girl because I can shoulder an incredible weight of it every single day. What I deal with daily might just cause another to keel over. Although I am getting better at juggling and quelling it, it doesn’t mean that the anxiety is lessening.  I am getting better at backing away from it so that I don’t add more to the pile. My anxiety is a result of extended intense stress I lived with for over 15 years. It’s PTSD, adrenal fatigue, and generalized anxiety all rolled up into one big massive package that has a tag marked “f*ck you” on it.

I understand that my brain chemistry has been altered. I have tried just about every combination of medicinal cocktails prescribed and self prescribed. I try to meditate. Well, I do it the best way I know how which is walking on the beach. I walk and walk until my thoughts just fall into a linear projection of all that I am. I stop trying to figure things out and I just fall into pace with the crashing of the waves. Picturing me in a mediation class or on a retreat makes me start to itch and laugh a little. Let’s face it we all can’t be the same, and meditation is one of those things that must be tailored to the individual. Don’t get me wrong because I believe in its benefits, I really do. For people like me though trying to control my thoughts by not controlling them is just another word for PANIC!

Calm your mind and catch your aggressive thoughts then cast them out into the ether. You are not required to carve them all in stone and own them all. In fact, your attempts to try to nullify them will only create a bigger issue. That is why I turn to my practice of Catch & Release. As you feel yourself adding more and more crap to your pile of things that you need to do, people you need to respond to, calls you need to make, household chores, work, relationships, etc., etc., etc., STOP yourself in your tracks. Breathe in and out a few deep times and be present in knowing that you caught the ball before it got thrown into play. This is where discipline comes in handy. I like to give myself a gentle talking to about not overdoing it. I remind myself that none of these things are an emergency and I try to prioritize. (Sometimes I have to lay down in a dark room for a few minutes to reset even). Never underestimate the power of a list or a nap…they really help!

In the end we are all constantly adapting to our surroundings. Only we know what is best for ourselves so boundaries are a brilliant idea. Just KNOW that you do not have to be tied to all of the baggage that you are carrying around, but you might have to work pretty damned hard to unload it. It’s worth it…don’t you think that the freedom that comes from a job well done is priceless?! Keep working at catching the negative shit and releasing it before you allow it to permeate your life.
You deserve so much better than that.

Buckle up and grab the wheel for it is up to you to figure out the best way to deal with your shortcomings. We all have them and I am sure there are plenty around that have the same ones as you. Seek them out for they are the wise ones who can give you other ideas for dealing with the same crap you have to carry. They are also a great source of inspiration for how you want to live your life. Catch the good and release the crap…it’s not brain surgery…it’s discipline.

xo Ella

Everybody Hurts

HangOn

Everybody Hurts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– R.E.M

It Did Not Ruin Her

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“Never allow your loyalty to become slavery. You only live once.”             – Author Unknown

While sitting on the beach the other day with a dear we talked about writing. Why do we write what we write? I admitted that I am sick of my story. I am sick of being a poster girl for domestic violence. Many people suffer abuse, exit, and then move on. In fact, I help facilitate this process for them. The abuse becomes a chapter in their book of life. Somewhere along the line I found my calling in the aftermath of this monster (abuse) and so my chapter is becoming my book. I admit for a moment I was having a bit of a pity party. I have a desire to write about lots other things, but when I sit down here at my computer I inevitably find myself writing about overcoming abuse. I have this compulsion to reach out to those who are still in an abusive situation and might be questioning their own sanity. Yes, this is a common occurrence when you live with an abusive lunatic. I write to those who need a roadmap out. I suppose I find my strength here, and the comfort of knowing that I didn’t live those dark years in vain. I get frustrated, but I know that it is here, in my writing that I learned to thrive again. I want to direct this to all of you who are reading these words. I write for you. I am writing to help you find your way. I am writing to be a shining light and example to those of you who are still trapped in that dark place where you see no way out. I am here to give you HOPE for if I can make it out and I can turn my life around then so can you.

It did not ruin me.

I possess a deep strength that came from battling my ex-husband. I would not be the woman that I am today if it weren’t for this experience. In my darkest moments I held out hope for I knew that I wasn’t done here on this earth. There were many nights that I literally stared death in the face (I don’t mean to be a drama queen) and I had no other option but to surrendered to it. Somehow that spark of HOPE never extinguished. That in itself is one of my many miracles.

There are a lot of things that I don’t know, but what I do know is that there are so many other women (and men) out there that can relate to me. My inbox is full of your messages. I hear you when you write to me with thanks for giving your struggles a voice. I know that you find comfort in knowing that you are not alone and the simple fact that someone else out there can understand you. No, my darling girl you are not crazy. You are valid and you are so very worthy of everything good that this life has to offer.

The world needs more survivors to speak up. In telling our stories we make ourselves approachable. We enable others to step forward to be brave enough to speak up and out about what is really happening in their lives. Domestic violence has a long reach. It doesn’t just end when the abuser is removed from the situation. There are years of recovery that are needed and that is the hardest part to navigate. This is where the shelters and local support groups tend to fall off in my opinion. They are great when you are bleeding out and need triage, but in the long term aftermath survivors need other survivors to help them get back to the business of living.

I was told once that I wasn’t schooled enough to help counsel survivors of domestic violence. Well, I have earned the equivalent of a Phd in Domestic Violence through living this shit, and I have proved them all wrong. I have helped many women exit abusive situations and move on. It’s not work for the faint of heart I must say. I have learned over the years that I am good at helping survivors reclaim themselves after they are able to exit the situation. I am good at what I do because I understand the psychology of the aftermath of abuse. I live it every single day. So, I have accepted this truth into my life.

I am stronger than he was . He tried his hardest, but he couldn’t break me. I am stand taller because the struggles, and I am wiser. The help I can offer doesn’t come with a college degree but with years of deep personal work, and a burning desire to help others (and a proven track record). Never discount yourself, and don’t allow yourself to get lost in the aftermath. There is always a way out because HE DID NOT RUIN YOU. You are alive and capable of growth and pruning. It is in this process that you will bloom and become a new you…the person you are destined to be. Don’t you dare give up, not now, not ever. Be brave.

xo Ella