What's happened over the past couple of years?

What's happened over the past couple of years?
Come and find out about our life-changing work!
Update April 2018: It's been a while my friends - and such a lot has happened since I was last active here!

When it finally dawned on me that I had been systematically abused - and not just by one person - my whole world collapsed around me.

You see, I had always believed myself to be a strong person. Capable. Successful and somewhat sassy to boot. A fighter. Someone who could overcome any challenge, as I'd proven to myself since early childhood, time and time again. So the knockout thud of recognition that I had been a 'victim' hit me with the full force of a steam train, tsunami and earthquake rolled into one.

"How could that have happened to me? How did I let it happen? Why didn't I notice it? Why didn't I stop it, or at least speak out?"
...and then came an all engulfing darkness of shame. And then the deafening silence.

It took me years to come out of that place. Years of hard work, self reflection and excruciating pain.

Which was how, ultimately, Light Up was finally born.

Now this work is being experienced and shared by many - and is growing in numbers and momentum. And I am grateful.

Grateful not only for my own experiences, also for the fact that Light Up gives people the tools to escape from their shame and pain in far less time than it took me!

We are already working with trafficked women, abused children and traumatised adults, successfully guiding them back to completeness (without having to relive their horrors) in as little as two sessions.

People are waking up and finding their voices. I am a firm supporter of the #metoo movement, and every other group that sheds light on and offers a platform for people to speak out and seek a complete way of living.

Yes, there is darkness in this world. Yes, there is much that has been hidden away. And yes, now people are speaking out. Thank goodness for those voices! The quiet ones. The angry ones. The sad ones. The loud ones. All have their place. All have their unique message to share. All are warriors.

I am honoured to be in service, and to play my part in reigniting this beautiful world of ours. We are coming together now. We are gathering force. And I am glad.

Fellow warriors, I salute you. I commit to continuing to stand in this arena alongside all my brothers and sisters who know there is a better way and a brighter future.

Come and find out more www.dnalightup.net

In continued love, recognition and gratitude

Mel xxx

Monday, 16 December 2013

The Sanctuary - How it all Happened

Since I've now announced The Sanctuary and have already had people to visit, I decided it's time to explain how it all came about and the magical weaving of 'co-incidences' that brought it in to being. I suppose there are  two key elements in this story - my own personal journey, and the history that is held in the fabric of the house. Both of which have their parts to play in the dance that gave birth to this space where people can come to heal from whatever challenges they've had to face. To find a profound connection with themselves and with the world.

So let's start with the house. I found it during an internet search in 2003. It was below budget, didn't look particularly attractive, and I really wasn't very keen on viewing it - I even twice changed the appointment with the estate agent before finally agreeing to make it the final rendez-vous on the last viewing day in France. It was marketed as "a pretty collection of Charentais farm buildings, house in habitable condition" but in the photographs the 100-plus year old house just looked sad and old. But the whole place reached out to me the moment I walked through the gates. It was Saturday 15th February 2003, and I remember the exact moment (later that same afternoon) when I shook hands with the estate agent - the deal was done.

For me, this was a time of new beginnings. It was intended as the start of a second chance for my marriage, and a more wholesome upbringing for my 7-year old son. The full story, of course, is laid out in my book and in the pages on this blog - so I won't repeat the details again here.

Little did I know at the time that the house held its own history of difficulty and sadness. I wonder whether that had something to do with my sense that the place was quite literally smiling and welcoming me as I entered? Perhaps I represented as much of a new start to the house as it did to me?

It turned out it had been empty for nearly a year. Prior to that it had been inhabited by a man named Philipe, an abuser of drugs and alcohol who terrorised the village with his wild antics and his penchant for breaking in and stealing from his neighbours. Prior to him, it was owned by an elderly couple who had great plans for renovating the house to provide a home for their family - in particular their beloved grandson Renaud, who spent much of his time living with them as his parents were separated. The wife, Marie-Noel, belonged to a well-respected family who in previous years had owned most of the surrounding farms and buildings. She was a popular and much loved member of the community. Her husband, Roland, had enjoyed a successful career in Paris where he had met and married his wife many years before. They had moved back to the village together when he retired, and were clearly doing a great job modernising the house.

French inheritance law dictates that property must go directly to your children - no choice, no option. It's the law. Roland and Marie-Noel had one son, a man they didn't trust and who had been in and out of trouble with the law for most of his adult life. He had a son, Renaud, and the elderly couple were determined that when they died the house should go directly to their grandson - bypassing their son. They had spent months if not years arguing their case with top lawyers. It was tough, but eventually they were successful and were allowed to specify that their grandson become the sole beneficiary on their death. My neighbours here knew this couple very well, and talk fondly about the shared joy and relief when they finally received confirmation that they'd won the case. The trauma and battle had taken their toll, and the entire village was behind them, supporting them through the ups and downs and spurring them on when times got tough. It should have been a happy ending. Yet it became what my neighbours refer to as a soul-destroying Greek tragedy.

For just a few short months later, while the grandparents were driving 9-year old Renaud home to his mother, they were involved in a horrific car accident and all three of them (together with their pet dog) died at the scene. The house went to their son, Philipe.

By the time I saw the house it had laid empty since Philipe had finally been marched out of the village by the Mayor and other residents. I remember feeling the imbalance in the house, although of course I had no understanding of its history at the time. It had a kitchen that had clearly been fitted relatively recently - and with great attention to detail. The upstairs spaces had carefully been marked out to create a bathroom and another bedroom. It should have felt full of hope... and yet there was a darkness about the place. There were burn marks in the linoleum flooring, dirty marks all over the walls and doors, empty boxes strewn around and a general sense of unease. Yet the house called out to me - and I knew it was to be my home.

It was the first place I've ever had the opportunity to renovate, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning basic building skills and planning a home almost from a blank canvass. It was wonderful to watch the house come back to life - as I was also coming back to life myself, and my son was thriving in a new country and culture. Over time I learned that the place rests on a healing ley line. I also learned that the simple 12th century church at the top of the village is known locally as The Jewel of The Charente, and that the region is steeped in Knights Templar history.  I learned that the area is on the famous Camino de Santiago (The Way of James) that leads thousands of pilgrims across Europe to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried.  I also learned that the village is home to a powerful healing spring, where people would go when their children were sick, taking an item of their beloved child's clothing and praying for their health. The more I learned the more I fell in love with the house, the village, the people and our new life there. I happily invested all of myself in to making it a beautiful family home where we could be happy for the rest of our lives.

But as you know, much like the old couple who had lived there before me, it actually turned out that I was living my own Greek tragedy, because I had no idea that the 'soul mate' I was living with was in fact a sociopath.

It was there in that house, in what was then our home office that I discovered the truth on the fateful evening of Wednesday April 22nd 2009. It was there in that house, sitting at the table outside the kitchen the next morning that I had to tell my thirteen-year old son what had happened, and hold him as his heart broke in two. It was there, at the end of the garden, where he and I then threw bottle after bottle of my husband's aftershave against the old stone wall, swearing and shouting as each one smashed in to smithereens - the perfume doing it's best to salve the pain and fury of our anguished cries.

That house became the container for my grief and confusion as I tried to make sense of what had happened - and did everything within my power to hold things together for my son as well as myself. That house provided safety and security while all around me fell apart. That house allowed me to splinter in to tiny pieces, and to slowly put myself together again. It held me - without judgement or criticism - and became my silent loving partner as I slowly waded through the endless mire of legal, financial and emotional battles. And when it seemed I would lose the house in the divorce war, I fought tooth and nail to make sure it stayed with me - so it could continue to provide a safe haven for me and my son.

Ultimately, both Dylan and I came through the battle stronger, wiser, brighter and more at peace than ever before. My own journey of awakening has resulted in the birth of a coaching and development approach that has the power to heal and change lives.

So that house and I, we've been through a lot together. And I truly believe that together we have cleared and healed each other. Now we are both shining, bright and happy. Now we are free from struggles and radiating light and joy.

A few months ago - after a number of co-incidental conversations, meetings and situations, I decided to open my home as The Sanctuary. There are a couple of barns on the property that would be ideal for conversion, creating bedrooms and workshop space to house guests. I figured the plan would take months if not years to come to fruition. But it seems it's something that's beyond my control - because it's moving fast, and people are already turning up for help and healing. It spurred me on to understand that I don't have to wait for the barns to be developed. I already have the capacity to run one-to-one retreats here using my son's room. And so a few weeks ago, through another set of coincidences, I found myself welcoming my first residential guest for a two-day intensive programme. It was an extraordinarily powerful experience, and I know it's the start of something huge.

In addition to the residential opportunities, I am also able to offer shorter sessions here as well. A couple of months ago I had the honour of working with a wonderful lady called Pauline. It was another 'meant to be' kind of meeting that is surely down to serendipity. We ended up completing a two-hour session here together - for me it was one of the most powerful sessions I'd experienced, and I was keen to find out how life was treating her afterwards. So I was absolutely overjoyed to receive an email from her that included these words:
I have never felt so genuinely happy, happy with myself and so happy with life I love it. I could never thank you enough Mel, you and the Sanctuary are two forces that when together whoosh... and the magic begins. You gave me a life I never dared dream could exist:-)
To say I'm overjoyed is an understatement! And Pauline's happiness resulted in me subsequently working with her husband, with equally positive results.

Next year I plan to start work on the other buildings - with the support of more like-minded and capable people who just seem to be turning up out of the blue. For the moment, space dictates that I can only offer this as a retreat for one person or a couple at a time. Because of that it means prices will be relatively high and likely appeal mainly to clients in the corporate arena. Ultimately though, that is not my only market - far from it. Ultimately I would like to set up a foundation. A charity. So that I can pass on everything that I've learned to people with less spending power who can really benefit - I'm talking about people who've been through similar experiences to my own. I'm also talking about dis-advantaged groups, as well as working with groups of children and their teachers. This, as many know, has been my dream for a long time.

Because I know deep in my soul that, when I was a child myself, if I had understood even some of the things I now know, my life would have been very different indeed. Our children are our future - I dream of a future where there is no need for remedial or coaching work. Where it is 'common place' for people to be filled with natural self-esteem and confidence that is our birthright... being taught as children how to lock in to their own power and how to keep shining, no matter what happens. This is work that I know will take far more than my lifetime to complete - but it doesn't mean I can't crack on with it now, so that others can continue long after I'm gone.

I am determined to play my part here. And my home, The Sanctuary, is just the start of it. Bring it on. I'm ready - and on the case :-)
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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Of Darkness and Light - and Ultimately of Love

A powerful light shining in the dark.
I think I should warn you right at the outset that this one is likely to be a little controversial - at least in some places. Some of the things I'm going to say might feel uncomfortable, even jolt a little, but please stay with it to the end... then decide what you think. It's about my current take on the 'dark-souls' - those we experience as the sociopaths, narcissists, psychopaths, bullies, or any other name we might give to disordered personalities who create chaos, confusion and pain in the lives of other people.

As you know from my story, I was married to such an individual - a man I had truly believed was my soulmate. Since discovering the shocking truth four years ago, I've spent my time healing, reclaiming my life and sharing what I've learned with others in the hope they can benefit from my experiences.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I've been experiencing a series of profoundly personal 'ah-ha' moments over the past few weeks and months. It feels as though I'm on a path that's rapidly gathering speed. Demanding my attention and acceptance - and inviting me to surrender more and more to what really is. This might sound a bit airy fairy, so I'm going to do my best to explain as clearly as I can - because the realisation that's just dawned on me has brought the deepest sense of relief and peace I've ever experienced.

A few weeks ago I came in contact with a man who caused my world to skip a beat. I met him purely by chance (if there is such a thing) on a country lane and the connection was electric - so strong in fact, that as I walked away from the first 'hello' I burst in to tears and felt as though I'd literally walked through a vortex. My dear friend Anna was with me, and can testify to the impact just a couple of minutes in this man's company had on me. I wasn't sure what it was. It wasn't sexual, it wasn't what might even be called attraction. Nope, it felt different and somehow stronger... and I was fascinated. I said to Anna at the time "this is important and life-changing for some reason" and now I know that to be the truth.

He (let's call him John) it appeared, felt exactly the same... which was no surprise since the impact of our first meeting was so strong. He quickly arranged to meet up - it was inevitable. Within a few short hours in his company I recognised exactly what I was dealing with - yet I was neither afraid nor concerned. Simply fascinated. Because here in front of me, in my home, stood another one of those empty dark souls. Only this one was much stronger, much more skilled and much more confident than the ones I've met before. He knew what he was, and he also knew his strength.

I watched him using all his powers to charm and manipulate me and at the same time openly revealing himself to me with every single thing he was doing and saying. It appears we share very similar interests and a fascination with the world of personal coaching and healing, or so he said. He's personally spent time studying with one of the great authors I admire. He's visited places that I'd love to see - and he "loves helping people, that's his greatest passion". Of course it is! Oh, let's not also forget that his "skills are superior" to mine. His "experiences are greater", and the myriad of things he has to teach me are things I "couldn't possibly begin to comprehend at this stage of development"... his liquid caramel voice delivering each put down with a well practised soothing smile.

The mirroring, the word-salad, the diminishing, the shifting stories, the self-importance... all the signs I've learned to spot were all there, and many more. Well disguised and artfully delivered, but there none the less. He also openly gave many insights in to his interest in the dark arts, and even referred to himself as a serpent - testing me maybe? Jibing? Trying to frighten? Showing me he knows I see him? I don't know - and it doesn't matter. Because try as he might he just couldn't get me. In fact the more he tried, the more at ease and peaceful I became. And this, my dear friends... this has ultimately given me a massive oomph of clarity and freedom that I'd like to share with you right here and now.

I've written here before about some of my ideas about light and the darkness - I'd like to make the point crystal clear now in the best way I can. I believe in the existence of dark souls - because I've come across them more than once. I also believe that darkness itself has no power. No energy. No life. It merely exists in the absence of light. It is light that has power, that holds all the power in fact. A tremendous power that dissolves any darkness.

Imagine this if you will. A huge cave, thousands of metres wide, deep and tall. A place that's dark - pitch-black. Then imagine someone lighting a match.... In that mass of blackness, the light can be seen. It has life. It makes a difference. Now on the other hand, imagine a relatively small container (cardboard box? Empty jar?) filled with light - sunshine perhaps, or artificial brightness. It doesn't really matter. Now imagine a huge great mass of darkness entering in to the container (I know, I did say imagine!) - what would happen to it? Would it damp down or drown out the light? Would it smother the brightness? Would it even be noticed...? No. Because it can't survive in the light.

And that's my point. The dark cannot survive in light. And yet even the smallest pinprick of light can be seen in an endless ocean of darkness.

And this got me thinking. Because over recent years, as you know, I've been consciously living on what could be called instinct. I've allowed myself and my decisions to be guided by something deep within myself - a great and beautiful light that has become the basis of DeNA, and as a result my life has changed beyond recognition.

For a moment I questioned why this man had been brought to me, why I had felt that massive jolt and been moved to tears when I met him.  Going back to that first encounter with John, I remembered how strongly I felt that our meeting was of huge importance - I just didn't know the details. So - if my ever-strengthening instinct is there to guide me, what on earth was it doing pushing me towards such a dark and empty person? Where is the good in that...?

I reminded myself of when I met the man I had called my soulmate all those years previously - and I remembered how strong the connection felt then. There have been times since discovering the truth about him when I've credited the connection to his power to mirror others. Put it down to his skills in attracting his target. Now, though, I had to accept the dawning truth... that is, that my instincts were and always have been right. They were never wrong. They never took me deliberately to be hurt - quite the opposite in fact. (I did warn you that this was going to be controversial!)

I now fully and utterly believe that I met with the empty souls in order to gain faith and trust in my own light within. That I was even guided there in order to shine brighter. Hasn't it been the case that since the truth emerged about my ex, I have become brighter, stronger and more confident than ever before? Isn't it true that through all the hardships and challenges I've learned to love and trust myself more than I could ever have dreamed possible before? Isn't it also true that I've woken up to so much beauty in the world that I didn't know even existed...?

So back to this latest encounter then. It's been a short swift powerful one - and was in many ways stronger in impact and personal growth than either the long journey with my ex, or the painful experiences with my guardian, whilst at the same time being very different from anything I've known before. The darkness and the threat was there just the same - perhaps even more powerful. But I recognised it very quickly, and knew the 'games' this individual was playing. Have you ever seen those cartoons or old comedy shows where one person is trying to punch another person, who simply keeps the adversary back by placing a hand on his head, keeping him at arms length from his body while he punches and flails at the air? That's what it felt like with John. And as his psychological punches kept coming, I kept feeling stronger, lighter and brighter. More peaceful and safe at his every attempt, knowing his antics couldn't touch me.

I've come out of this particular encounter neither damaged nor bruised - in any way whatsoever. Instead I've come out knowing without question that the light and love that exists within me (within all of us) is more powerful than any darkness. I now know I'm completely safe. I know I'm love. I know I'm light.

Many times I've said that I'm grateful to my ex because of the person I've become as a result of being with him - but I've never said thank you to his face because I've had no contact since I discovered the truth. With John I realised I had the opportunity to take things that one step further. So I thanked him. Warmly and with love. I thanked him for teaching me a valuable lesson that's now going to enhance my life further. For a second he was the jolted one. He seemed confused and asked me what he'd done. I responded in the best way I knew how...

"I truly believe that at some level you know how you've helped me. I see you. You see me. The lessons are done, and I wish you peace. Thank you and good bye"

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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

All Of Who I Am

It's been another of those 'ah-ha' kind of weeks in so many ways, which is why I'm once again putting
pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard to be precise, but hey, you know what I mean!) It kicked off last Monday, with a meeting which for so many reasons was just a 'meant to be' connection. A couple of days earlier, neither Penny Ferguson nor I had ever even heard of each other. It all started the Thursday before as she finished one of her typically inspirational talks to a gathering of high-level business people - my friend Gillian happened to be one of those people in the audience.

The way Penny tells it, this very glamorous lady (Gillian) came rushing up to her after she finished the talk saying "You simply have to meet Mel Carnegie, you've got so much in common!" and asked for her contact details. The first I heard of it was when I received Gillian's introduction email on Friday, titled in capital letters "YOU TWO HAVE GOT TO MEET!" I trust her advice implicitly, so I immediately emailed Penny - and she came straight back to me. Within just a couple of messages I felt as though I knew this lady, and we arranged to meet on the Monday morning.

It was like re-connecting with an old friend or family member - and as we chatted away like old friends both of us were stunned and delighted by the number of similarities in our experiences. Time vanished so quickly, we decided to meet the next day - Penny very kindly invited me to visit her and stay overnight at her home. We chatted, we shared, we marvelled, we walked... and we felt grateful for whatever this re-connection means for both of us. Neither of us know exactly how things are going to pan out - we just both know it's for good, and brings opportunities for a bundle of exciting and ground-breaking stuff.

I am delighted - and once again shown that this is indeed a kind and loving life, and that when things are meant to be... well, they're just meant to be! The rest of my trip this time has also been throwing up some interesting and wonderful coincidences and 'moments' for me. In particular, one pretty big eye-opener.

Because the thing is, beyond all shadow of a doubt I am finally learning that I am a healer - a term that for me, applies to both sides of the same coin. On the one hand I am a healer because I am healing myself. I seem to be on a consistent journey of self-discovery and acceptance these days, and I am becoming more and more used to feeling my soul expanding. Sometimes it's slow and gentle... stretching and yawning, blinking in the light; and other times it's a whooshing, bursting, vibrating and fizzling 'oomph' of an explosion that I hardly know how to cope!

On the other side of the coin, it seems I am also becoming some kind of channel for other people - and this is a whole new sort of an acceptance for me. I've known for a long time that I'm a coach, and over recent months I've happily become an "Activator" as the DeNA Revolution is claiming its identity and breathing life in to our methodology of 'lighting people up'. To be told however, out loud, and on three separate occasions over this particular visit to the UK that I am a healer has come as a bit of a shock. Along with the surprise and the accompanying squirm of embarrassment and vulnerability, at the same time these statements from others have brought a sense of warmth and safety - like a warm furry blanket wrapping itself around my nakedness.

There is clarity in what I'm being told. I suppose it all makes sense. I'm guessing that's why there have been so many life-shattering experiences in my life - so that I can deepen my soul-connection and also empathise with others. Now, I feel, it's my time to continue re-connecting with all of who I am - so that I can become even stronger and more stable, and better-equipped to follow the path I've found myself travelling.

Over the past couple of weeks I've been visiting old places that were part of my past - my old school, places I used to live, where I worked, where I fell in love, where I cried, where I danced... it felt like I was gathering up and connecting with a kaleidoscope of emotions, each time feeling more whole and at peace as I breathed in the memory and let my body welcome the feeling in to who I am today. I hadn't intentionally gone out to do this... I just followed an inkling to go out walking, then followed my heart along what turned out to be a series of smiling safaris.

Of course, I'm going to continue working in the corporate arena as well as with individuals and groups. And I'm wondering how people will respond if I use the word 'healing' in a business setting? Well, I guess I'll find out... and I'll let you know. Because I sure as heck ain't going to be keeping quiet, backing down or wearing any kind of mask just in order to be accepted. I did that for far too many years - and it made it very difficult for me to accept myself. Neither does it mean I'll be immediately shouting out "get your healing here!" in the boardroom, as that could equally become counter-productive.

Nope, so far as I understand at the moment, I am finding my own balance... and I know I'm always guided (hmmm... sometimes pushed prodded and darn-well kicked actually!) so I'm certain all will continue to unfold in the way it's meant to. For now? I'm learning to accept, stay curious, and continue following my instincts.

So watch this space... I'll let you know how things develop... :-)

Monday, 23 September 2013

Carry On As Normal

I've just had one of those whooshing light-bulb sort of moments... one of those "doh!" ones
(accompanied by the slap on the forehead) and I felt compelled to write it out. Exactly as my dear friend Anna advised me to do when I started this blog and was doing my best to come to terms with the craziness of my life. This time though I'm not writing about craziness - nope, this time I'm writing about normality which, for me as I've just realised, feels like a different kind of crazy! I'll explain...

Life has continued to be on the 'up and out' as the magic continues to happen and things continue to blossom and grow - often in ways I could never possibly have imagined just a short time ago. Because not so long ago things were completely different.... and this is where this latest epiphany has happened. Not so long ago I was fighting for my very survival - for me and also for my son. Further back in time I also found myself fighting - for me and for my sister. And right back in the early days I was fighting just to keep myself from tumbling in to an abyss of grief. For more than four decades I've been in fight mode, ready to respond, ready to take control, ready for anything. It's true, each battle has been different - but the war's always been the same. To survive and to keep my family safe, no matter what life throws my way.

So is it really any wonder then, that now - today, right here, right now - when it's finally dawned on me that there are no more battles to fight (as has been the case for a while now) it's come as a bit of a "woooooooaaaaah!" kind of a feeling? Because all of a sudden other stuff is falling in to place... nope... crashing and tumbling in actual fact!

I was chatting with my sister yesterday - she in her house in London, me at home in France - and it turns out both she and I were feeling a little bit flat and low. For the life of us, neither one of us could really provide any good reason! I am loving the work I am doing - I am fulfilled in so many ways and on so many different levels, and loving how it continues to grow in more ways than I'd dreamed of; Dylan has just started his second year at university - after the most joyful, magical and fun-filled weekend of celebrations for his 18th birthday; I live in a beautiful home that I love, and am surrounded by friends who enrich my life with colour, energy, vibrancy.... and so much more. My sister, Abby, had  a similar story to tell, yet the truth was there - that feeling of flatness and emptiness.

As we talked, we pondered the idea that since we weren't allowed to show emotion or be real as we were growing up, perhaps it makes it harder to for us to accept and enjoy the good stuff now? Perhaps for fear that it will be taken away....? I know for certain that's been a personal challenge for me - and one that I've enjoyed 'working on' as I learned to accept kindness and help, and a whole heap of other good things. Now the good stuff continues to shift up a gear or two, so I guess that kinda makes sense...

I carried on pondering long after we finished the conversation, which had finished on the conclusion that everyone has ups and downs, it's just part of life! As is now my way, rather than working it out, I allowed myself to 'work it in'... and it hit me this afternoon as I was mowing the lawn. Here it is...

If (as is indeed the case) I've been so used to slaying dragons all of my life - fight or flight mode permanently at the ready and poised for action - well then I guess that would have kinda given me a reason to stay alert. It would have kept me on the edge most of the time. It would have become, as I now recognise, a feeling of safety - better the devil you know and all that jazz - because it was something I knew and was used to. It doesn't mean it was a good feeling or way of life, but it was familiar to me. More than familiar. It was part of me.

So... over recent times (accelerated beyond measure since the publication of my book) well, the battles are over. The fighting has finished and the war has been won. I know, because I feel it in my soul, that the bad-stuff has finally been vanquished. I am free. I am safe. I have been for a good while now... so what was that feeling of emptiness all about then? That's something I'm not used to...!

Bhoff... there it was. The emptiness is there because fight or flight mode is no longer there - simple as that. Because as you know, I've finally accepted the good. The peace. The security... of just being me. It's been this way for a while, and I guess it probably took a while to finally believe it to be true - on every level. And now that's happened... well... there's space. And quiet. And yep, what could easily have been described as 'emptiness'.

This is all part of a new adventure. This is all part of learning to live a normal life.... hmmm.... normal? Well, probably not (thank you Edward Monkton) - then again, who is?

So now I know what it is, there's room for me to fill this space with even more good things. More love. More joy. More expression.... More life.

I'm ready - in a gentle, quietly spoken, understated sort of a way.... NOT!

Oh cummon, I've only just come alive over recent years - surely you didn't expect me to quieten down now did you?

Nope - now's the time to live life out loud and fill my life with bucket-loads of fun and adventure. This time it's without the need for my fighting equipment. All the old skills will always be with me of course - it's just that now I'm using what I've learned to bring more love and acceptance in to the world. Fighting is exhausting. Let's make love the normality now eh?

Bring it on :-)

Monday, 3 June 2013

Shine Bright Like A Diamond

This is a piece that has just been published in a fabulous new publication - here is the link to see the original and read other great stories www.40fabulousmagazine.com

Since I was very small, I have always had an unwavering belief in magic. I loved films like Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and I remember one time being taken to the cinema to watch Peter Pan. I shouted, clapped and stamped my feet as hard as I could to save Tinkerbell after she took the poisoned medicine. I willed her to come back to life, and was overjoyed when her light started to shine again! I know it appears silly writing it here now, but at the time I honestly believed that I had helped to bring her back to life – and I remember feeling warm and good.

Of course those are just innocent childhood memories… or are they? Because these days I am convinced that my early experiences played a major role in shaping how I coped with the numerous jolts that life seemed to throw at me. Over recent years when I was told by solicitors, debt companies and numerous other professionals that there was no way out of the nightmare after discovering that my soulmate was a sociopath, I simply refused to believe them. I just knew that somewhere, somehow there would be a solution – and I prayed for some magic to happen.

OK, there might not actually have been fairies or wizards at play, but I genuinely believe that my childlike faith (or stubborn pigheadedness perhaps?) helped me overcome every single hurdle that appeared in my path.  Yes, even against all the professional advice I’d received along the way… “You’ll have to lose your home” “You must leave France” “You’ve got to accept that everything is going to change” I remember one evening, over a large glass of wine, chanting to myself over and over again “I do believe in fairies, I do I do I do!” hoping that perhaps my own bruised and battered light would once again brighten and carry me back to some kind of normality!

And you know what? Through it all, my light did indeed come back. Bigger and brighter than ever before. Against the odds I made it – I overcame every challenge, and came out the other side much richer in life than I had possibly known could be possible. Richer not in material goods (although I did manage to keep my beloved home) but in the way I felt about myself and about the world around me. For the first time that I could remember, I felt ‘switched on’ and lit up. I felt safe. I felt loved. I felt that life was good. In short – I found the truth of who I really am, and I had come home.

This was how I first discovered the key to what is now known as DeNA – our revolutionary training approach that lights people up from the inside.

After finding and accepting myself, my life shifted and continued to shift for the better. On a regular basis I would experience out-of-the blue contacts from people keen to give me work. I’d find new connections with people – either deepening with existing friends, or with new people who would suddenly appear in my life. I stopped feeling tired – in fact I remember saying to my friend Marty one time that I just didn’t know what to do with all this energy that I suddenly had! Each day became like a miracle, and slowly slowly I began to relax in to this new way of being, this new and magical way of experiencing the world, and I began to enjoy watching things unfold. The stress had gone. The worry had gone. The bad feelings had gone. This was real-life magic, and I found I was pinching myself to check it was real…!

I came to understand that through all the ‘bad stuff’ I had been given the gift of connecting with something so profoundly life-changing that I felt compelled to share it with others. I had found that by attaching with myself from the inside, I could affect my outside world in a way that I had never dreamed possible. Yes, I’d already spent years studying and qualifying in all manner of therapies such as Louise Hay, NLP, Coaching and Firewalking. All of those techniques were a tremendous help to me as I faced my battles. But I knew from deep within my soul that what I’d discovered was something even more meaningful. Something that had changed my life beyond recognition. Something I knew I was meant to refine and share. So over the coming months I played with what I had learned, experimenting on myself and gradually introducing new techniques in to my coaching sessions, so I could test whether I was correct in what I believed I’d discovered. Could it really be that I’d be able to share with others in short sessions what had taken me over four decades to find in myself?

In short, the answer was ‘yes’. I found out that I could light-up others in the way that I had been lit-up myself. I was able to help others uncover their own inner power in just a couple of hours, and each time it happened the person in front of me literally changed before my eyes. They became calm. They looked younger. They were free – and their eyes shone clear and bright. Once lit-up I was then able to show them how they could use their new understanding of themselves – because I’d learned how to do it myself. That way it became a permanent life-skill, and I soon began to recognize that the shift people experienced through this process was more than just a mental shift…. It was a profound change on every level. And because of that, it meant it lasted.

Over recent months, and with help and guidance from some great friends, I have built this process in to a training programme that is equally effective in the corporate world (my profession for the past 15 years) as in what I now refer to as “Life plc” – it’s for people like you and me, it’s for parents, for teachers, for therapists, and for children.

Just a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to run an introductory light-up session with a room full of Brownies – little girls aged from 7-9 years old. Together with Tracy, my business partner, we worked our magic in the room and every single one of those children was lit-up. We invited them to draw and share what they had found, entitling their drawings “ME” standing for My Energy. The results were breathtaking – I am getting goosebumps now just writing about it and remembering the experience! These beautiful little souls created the most amazing pictures and wrote the most insightful words when asked to describe how they felt with their energy ‘switched on’….. “I feel pretty and confident” wrote one “I am strong, safe, and happy” said another “I am the light because the sunshine is within me” grinned another one, who until this moment had been quiet and kept her eyes to the floor.

Was I right to believe in magic as a child…? Well yes, I think I was. Because surely, what we’re now able to bring to the world is magic indeed. In the words of Rhianna “Shine Bright Like a Diamond” – because as more and more people light-up, so our world can shine bright like the diamond it is meant to be.

Find out more about DeNA here: www.denarevolution.com
Join our revolution on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/DenaRevolution

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

50 Shades of Shift

Hmmm... When the shift hits the fan I guess it's always going to be messy. You know how important growth and development is to me, and how often I have referred to it here on this site? You know as well, how I am one of those who is against the idea of enforced change, and more an advocate of invitation and coaching? Well, it appears that I've been going through so much transition lately that I'm not entirely sure who I am becoming or perhaps, who I already am...

And the shifts this time have just kept on coming. One after another - sometimes a bunch at a time. It continues to be an intriguing process and as I just said, it also means that I'm really no longer sure who I am.... and I reckon that's a good thing. Because surely that indicates real, profound growth?

I know for sure that in more ways than I can count I am no longer who I was. Whilst I do believe that I am still the same essence and soul I have always been, I know for certain that my behaviours and responses are wildly different from even just a couple of years ago. In fact, even from a few months ago when I stop to think about it. These shifts started as a conscious leap - of that there is no doubt. It's been my soul stretching and releasing itself in ways I didn't know were possible before... hang on though.... before what...? Hmmm... I suppose, before I learned how to truly and fully connect with who I really am - which arguably makes my title question appear a little contradictory to say the least! Ha ha, so please bear with me... I find that writing stuff out helps me to gain clarity. That's of course why I started this blog in the first place - as a diary for me to make sense of the nightmare at the time. And it worked. It did the job and it appeared to help others as well along the way. It's helping again now, so I'll continue...

You know what? When on the odd occasions I choose to look back on those early days of 2009 - seeing photos, reading through old personal and business emails, I can hardly recognise myself. So much has changed since then - both externally and internally. And now... well it appears that the process is speeding up again. This time though, these particular shifts are entirely 100% positive; no 'bad stuff' to deal with, just growth. So how come it still feels peculiar and somewhat frightening...? This is where teacher becomes student, and I remind myself of the many times I've explained to people that the physical sensation of being frightened and being excited are practically identical - it just the label we choose to give it ( a 'good' or a 'bad' experience) that determines how we then respond.

I know this stuff, of course I do - and each time I remind myself of something that's so fundamentally a part of me, it makes me laugh. Sometimes a quiet inside giggle, and sometimes a loud guffaw, which can be somewhat embarrassing when it happens in public - ask the shoppers at my local supermarket who were party to a particularly unexpected and noisy snort and splutter just a couple of days ago! I could have passed it off as a joke between friends had I been with anyone else - but nope, there I was all alone looking at the fruit and vegetables. So instead I raised my head, smiled and nodded directly at the people who'd turned around to stare, and walked off to the cheese counter before another serious fit of giggles took over. No wonder the French think we English are all somewhat weird!

At the end of last year things were very different. I was running my coaching and training as before, and life was ticking along very nicely. My son had just left for university (that was a darned tricky shift to make - one I've only just started getting used to!) and things were stable. I was in the process of finalising the publication of the book and I'd just got myself a base in the UK so that I no longer had to live in hotels during my frequent visits. I was feeling happy, settled, and also ready for much bigger things.

But I hadn't expected this..! Over the space of just a few months I've published my book so that my story is out there warts and all, I've completely re-branded my business, I've been interviewed for radio, newspapers and magazines, I've been contacted by people from all over the world thanking me for sharing my story, I've just agreed a new partnership to launch my new training programme to corporate and to wider audiences, oh - and of course I've signed a contract to appear in a movie. WOW! As if all that wasn't enough? Over recent weeks I've finally started feeling comfortable in my physical skin. I'm finally finding out 'who I am' not just inside, but outside as well...

I've finally learned to let my hair fall in to it's natural place (largely due to my sister's recommendation and cajoling - thank you!) Clothes-wise, I've stopped worrying about what might or might not 'look right' and instead have decided to brave my own choices in style, and live with the consequences. Oh, and my smile. That seems to have shifted as well. Again, something I hadn't really appreciated until just now when I had a look back at some old photos on Facebook (hmmm... I'd forgotten about some of those!) and I can see that I now smile with my eyes, not just with the rest of my face. For me, that's a sign that I really am finally free from 'the bad stuff' and from 'fighting'. Perhaps that's why it all feels so strange. Learning to embrace life for all the good that it really is, with no need to battle for survival... well, I tell you what.. it feels absolutely amazing!

I'm also continuing to honour who I am on the inside... I'm finding it even easier to pay attention to and act on my instinct (including politely declining a sizeable business proposal last week because it just didn't 'sit right' inside) and am also trusting my instinct when new people turn up - which they are continuing to do at an amazing rate. A few weeks ago I had a chance meeting with a lady in a bar - for some reason we locked eyes across the room, and for no logical reason we both just knew it was a 'meant to be' meeting. Since then that lovely lady has become my friend and my PA... we share so much in common in the way we have had to deal with things growing up, and I am absolutely delighted that we've connected and are now working together. Talk about haphazard and trusting gut feelings!

Speaking of which, a couple of weeks ago I had a completely different experience of trusting my gut. I'd arranged a meeting with a senior executive in the City. I had been very excited to meet this person, so it was somewhat of a surprise to me when my instincts went on high alert just a few minutes after we started talking. As the conversation continued, I paid even more attention to my feelings and suddenly was able to see through the polished mask that was being presented to me. With very little specifically 'logical' evidence to speak of, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was face to face with a disordered person. Someone who certainly didn't expect to be sitting opposite a person who would be able to see the truth! You know what though? Despite the fact I realised early on exactly what I was dealing with, it was still an unnerving and unpleasant experience. I recognised the attempts to charm and beguile, and I felt the body blows when this particular individual did their level best to rattle me. But I kept my guard high and maintained my position. When the meeting was over it took me  a while to steady myself and regain my composure. And then I felt glad, proud and free. Because maybe I won't be able to spot every sociopath, narcissist, psychopath or any other number of disordered people who might cross my path in the future - but I sure as heck spotted that one. I got the signals loud and clear... and that has added to my confidence that I can not be duped again.

All of this also adds to my conviction that the training programme we're in the process of launching is going to have a massive impact on the way we do things - in business and in our personal life. Because it teaches people in a very short space of time how to connect with and trust their instincts, and how to communicate with confidence and authenticity. The more people learn how to behave in that way, the less the manipulators can continue twisting values and dimming lives.

So yes... it's continuing to be exciting as my life path is quite literally developing in front of me... and yes, shift does indeed happen. I'm as certain as I can be that this is far from the end, and each time more shift comes along - the more comfortable I become with the process. New? Yes. Scary? Sometimes. Exciting? Most of the time. Growing as a result...? Oh yes indeed my friends... and I'm loving it.

"Another sack of shift, Madam?" "Yes, thank you - don't mind if I do. Bring it on!"


Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Four Years On...


Today is Thursday 23rd April 2013. I am relaxing with a cup of coffee at Limoges airport in France, sipping a café crème while I wait for my plane to arrive. I'm feeling excited about the coming two weeks in the UK, and am also taking this opportunity to give myself a big smile and a massive pat on the back. It’s only now, looking back with clear vision, that I can begin to fully comprehend exactly what I’ve achieved over the past few years – and I am filled with pride and love for myself. Does that sound boastful? Well, perhaps taken as a stand-alone statement I suppose it could indeed appear a little as though I’m blowing my own trumpet – although I still maintain there’s actually nothing wrong in that… but I digress. The recognition of exactly who I am and where I am, for me, feels like a huge release. A sense of lightness. Of freedom. And of peace. Because not so long ago it was a very different story…

Four years ago to this day I was also at an airport. It was Angouleme airport, and I was there with my son. It was the day after the evening when I had uncovered all the sordid, sickening details of the life my husband had been leading behind my back. The night before I had finally fallen in to bed, exhausted, sobbed out and totally empty (apart from the good few slugs of brandy I had downed). The next morning, four years ago today, I faced the toughest challenge that has ever been put in front of me. Because I knew I had to tell my son Dylan what had happened. That everything we knew had suddenly changed beyond comprehension... and I knew it would break his heart. It was beyond excruciating, because I already knew the pain that my words were about to cause the most precious person in my life. To this day I remember his innocent little face crumpling in agony as the dreadful truth sank in… heaven forbid that I ever have to witness anything like that ever again.

Four years ago, we were clinging to each other at the airport, broken hearted and numb with shock, glad to be  flying to be with people who love us (Dylan was going to stay with his father, and me with my sister) and at the same time facing a terrifyingly uncertain future.

To be honest, looking back over those early days and weeks, I really don’t know how I got through – well actually, yes, of course I do… but I sometimes wonder, had I known in the early days just how long the war was going to be, and how much tougher the battles would become as time marched on, well... perhaps I might not have continued with quite such determined force. But I didn't know, and I did battle on - and thank goodness  for that. Because now life couldn't be more different...

Now… Aaahhhh.... NOW…. Well, I can honestly look back over it all and feel glad and proud. Glad that it’s over, and proud at what I’ve achieved in a remarkably short period of time. Because today I am sitting here full of wonderment and excitement – about today and about the future.  Today I am prepared for a two-week trip to the UK that promises to produce yet more opportunities and adventures – and Dylan is at university in Bordeaux successfully finishing his end of first year exams. Incredible! We spoke on the phone last night, both of us remembering the road we'd travelled - how far we'd journeyed and where we'd got to....  

Things have of course become steadily better... and since the end of last year, my life has taken extraordinary leaps forward, in just about every way conceivable - and the hits keep on coming! I have published my first book; I am surrounded by an amazing team of people - both personally and professionally; I am contracted to appear in a movie along side such self-development luminaries as Brian Tracy and Don Miguel Ruiz; oh, and I am also just about to launch an ‘inside-out’ training programme that is destined to have a major impact in the way we do things, both in the corporate world and in ‘Life plc’… Talk about feeling fizzly - this is more of a full-blown supernova! (Wikipedia's description: "a star that suddenly increases greatly in brightness because of a catastrophic explosion that ejects most of its mass" - ha, well I couldn't have put it better myself, perhaps apart from changing 'mass' to 'mess'!) 

So how have all these shifts come about? Well, even while I was still fighting my battles and claiming my victories, even while I was still exhausted and wondering where I'd find my next burst of energy, I heard it said by a few people that “you are so strong, you always pick yourself up, it’s just who you are …” and on many occasions I felt somewhat peeved. Didn’t people realize just how bloody hard I’d worked to get through challenge after challenge - not just now but in my early years? Couldn’t they see that it’s not simply a question of “it’s alright for you…” it's so much more than that? Couldn't they jolly well see that I've been in training over many years to be able to get through this particular nightmare for goodness sake? And then all of a sudden it dawned on me that perhaps they couldn't see that at all... and I went quiet. 

And then I got to thinking. … Hmmmm…. OK, yes, I am strong and yes I always pick myself up - but was that nature, nurture or something else? Round and round the questions went while I explored reasons and theories (as many of my closest friends will witness!) until I became absolutely certain beyond any doubt that in actual fact there is nothing ‘special’ about me at all…. By which I mean no more ‘special’ than anyone else here on this planet. 

Because I came to understand that in actual fact, over the years I had been learning, checking and fine-tuning a set of skills that got me through the shifting sands of my experiences - so yes, it was indeed "just who I was" but I had become that way through a set of testing situations. I had learned how to be flexible. I had learned about responsibility. I had learned to ask the questions and not take 'no' for an answer. And above all, I learned about courage. I honestly believe looking back, that it was only once I'd successfully fought (and won) so many battles, that I knew I finally had the courage to go within and do the real work. To find out and connect with who I really am - because it was then that I finally 'got it'... 

I remember when it happened, because I wrote about it here in this blog. It was June 2010 and I remember feeling terrified as I came to understand that this sense of 'no way back' was upon me...! I also remember that once I actually 'got there' and found myself - well, there was really nothing at all to be frightened of - quite the opposite in actual fact. Because from there, things really started shifting and getting better. And as I got to understand what had happened on a 'soul' level, I began to realise that being so previously 'disconnected' with myself had caused me no end of difficulties. 

As I began to truly grasp the meaning of this, I started to understand that this is something that we all do in some way shape or form. And I became fascinated with the idea that perhaps I could find a way to guide others to do what I had done and clear whatever obstacles or challenges they were facing... eventually I succeeded, and it worked. Each time I felt the compulsion to 'go for it' in coaching sessions, I just seemed to be able to hit the spot - no matter the person or the situation. People would call what I did 'Mel magic' and I really did begin to wonder (and worry!) whether it was something that perhaps only I could do because of the trials I'd faced and overcome?  

To my absolute delight, in recent weeks I have come to absolutely know beyond any question, that the technique I have developed can be trained and repeated by other people. Simply put, it is a process that guides people to 'light up' from within, and by doing so create the life of their dreams. This methodology has recently become a brand. And this brand has become a product that (together with the fabulous people who have gathered together to create the key team) I'm now ready and able to launch to the corporate market as well as to "Life plc".

Very soon there will be a website and more to explain exactly what this programme is and how it is going to work. Until then, just ponder this... if I can deal with all the stuff life has dealt, and successfully turn my life around in the way I have... and if the techniques I used are now transferable through a specific training methodology... and if the approach for this training methodology can also be adapted to fit not just the corporate world, but also schools, parents, teachers, groups - people just like you and me - just begin to imagine now what this could bring to others... and ultimately to the world we live in... Are you feeling fizzly yet...?

What a difference four years makes eh? Thank you :-) 
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Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Darkest Hour Is The One Before Dawn

Dawn over Moreton Bay-1=
Phewy... and.... breathe.... Over the past few days I've been feeling somewhat 'stuck' and blocked. I know, it happens to all of us every now and again. Recent weeks have brought such a buzzing roller-coaster of experiences that I'd forgotten how much the 'darkness' can feel so overwhelming when it arrives. I guess like so many others, I can be prone to periods where I lack energy and motivation, where it seems (emphasis on 'seems') that all is about to be lost and nothing is moving forward. I have referred to these moments before as the 'blip' times and I accepted long ago that whenever things become uncomfortable or unsettling it always signifies a period of growth and adjustment. I know for a fact that it heralds the start of something new, and that always (and in all ways) it is a good thing. But crikey, it can still be tricky when I'm in the thick of it!

This particular dark phase hasn't lasted very long. It's been a powerful one though, prompting me to once again bring in to play the skills I've been fine-tuning for so many years. I learned long ago not to fight whatever feelings I may be experiencing - just as I've also learned that the 'trick' to this is to just go with the flow, allowing whatever feelings to arise, without any judgement or blame. Whatever is going on is just an expression of who I am - and since I have finally learned to love who I am... well, then it stands to reason that there simply can't be any criticism, right? And so it has been that from that place of love, I have watched myself over the past few days as I've slumped around the house, feeling tired and lethargic, and prone to tears for no apparent reason. And at the same time I have loved myself for being that way, knowing that given time, patience and kindness I would come out the other side even brighter than before.

I guess it's part of nature's cycle - and there is no point arguing with that! Things die away to make room for new growth, and I suppose it's natural to feel a sense of mourning through the process. "This too will pass" is a phrase that has been running through my head, as I've continued to smile at myself in the mirror and give myself comforting 'mental hugs'. And you know what? Daft though it may perhaps seem, I can honestly say that this last dark period has been one that I actually learned to enjoy...! It doesn't mean I'd like to feel that way more of the time, it just means that this time it posed no real threat to me. Before, I would have been afraid. Before, I would have been worried that perhaps I was doing something wrong. Before, I would have been so focused on fighting 'what is' that I'd actually have prolonged the agony!

This time, though, I knew for sure that whatever was happening would pass. I remembered that there is a gift in every experience, and that however I might reappear the other side I would be brighter and stronger. Another of my favourite sayings is "the darkest hour is the one before dawn" so this time I chose to embrace the darkness, taking myself off to bed when I felt tired, and crying whenever I felt like it.

Last night, just after midnight, I felt the darkness lifting. And I rejoiced, knowing for certain that whatever blocks had been there were loosening their grip. I thanked the darkness for whatever gift it had been bringing, and went to sleep with a smile on my face. After a night of the most amazing dreams, I woke up this morning with a renewed sense of energy and life.

Things have shifted. I have grown once again. And I am ready for the next leg of my adventure.

Today I have had some wonderful conversations, some 'out of the blue' contacts, and some pieces of very positive news. Oh, and today, by the way, is also the day that finally finally the paperback version of my book is available worldwide through Amazon. Coincidences? Well... you know my thoughts on those ;-)

Bring it on - I've just stepped up another gear. I am peaceful, I am free, and I am ready for the new day.
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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

And We Call This Humanity?

Humanity in Motion
Crikey, I've been having a funny old time of it recently, I can assure you! Mum would always ask me to qualify that kind of statement with the question "Funny ha-ha or funny peculiar?" and the truth is that this time it's been a pretty equal mix of both. So I'll stick with what I just said, yep it sure has been a funny old time...

You'll probably already have gathered from my last post that my roller-coaster life has once again kicked up a gear - and with that of course has come a few surprises. After my story appeared in the Daily Mail, I have been inundated with messages; from people thanking me for sharing my story as well as from media people keen to interview me. All good stuff, all confirmation that I'm doing the right thing, and all helping to raise awareness of my message that we all have the power within us to overcome adversity.

During this process, though, I have once again come up against one of my old adversaries. A part of society that plays a necessary role in protecting the innocent - but that also, in my experience, has also become part of the circus that unwittingly continues to support the less than innocent in their antics. What am I referring to? I am talking about the libel laws and their professional representatives. More of that in a moment.

Firstly, though, I am keen to highlight what I believe to be the media's misplaced thirst for selling bad news and discord. For those of you that have followed my story, you will already know that I am all about giving people hope, together with the necessary tools, to break free from being a victim (in any way) and to live life in freedom, choice and light. I know from experience that whatever life decides to throw our way, there is always something we can do to reclaim our freedom. There is always always something that is within our control - even if, as has certainly been the case for me in the past, it felt as if the only thing that I could control was my breathing. My message is about noticing and grabbing hold of anything and everything that allows us to regain our personal power - every tiny step is a step forward - until we are free from whatever chains (real or imaginary) that threaten to keep us prisoner.

You'd think, therefore, that perhaps I have some strong positive messages to share with people, that might actually serve to bring a little positivity in this increasingly confused world we live in? You might also think that publications with the power to reach millions would be interested in promoting such stories of hope? Hmmm... I thought the same. But it appears that instead of that, most of the publications that have approached me are only interested in the headline grabber. They want to focus on the 'poor woman duped by a sociopath' - and nothing else. Take the Daily Mail, who dictated how I should look (clothes, makeup, hair, pose, expression) to sell their story. They didn't want a photograph that shows the vivacious, positive person that I believe I am. Nope, I had to look severe, serious and (in my opinion) downright frumpy. Is it any wonder that the piece received a number of 'it serves her right she looks like a moose' type of comments?

I can ride those kind of storms - of course I can. There are always people who revel in making judgemental and negative comments. Sadly there seems to be a growing culture of cyber bullying and vile comments posted by a small minority. But that's not the point. I believe that we have a bigger issue. I believe that by consistently focusing on the 'bad news' we are only encouraging the baying mob and in the process we are in the process of dehumanising ourselves. I've seen it time and time again in my professional life - working with people who are either too afraid to speak out against wrong-doings, or who simply can't be bothered. "What's the point?" is, sadly, a phrase I have heard far too often for my liking.

So back to the libel lawyers. Those who know me well are already fully aware of the absurd battle I faced in even getting my book to publication. The details of which are far too complicated to write about here in a blog, so they are going to form a large part of my next book. The series of unbelievable events I went through are enough to make anyone's teeth curl! (Another wonderfully colourful expression my mother used on many an occasion). Suffice it to say that I have learned a huge amount about what can and can't be said. What can and can't be expressed. And how the most important thing is to make sure backsides are covered - instead of focusing on supporting those of us who have been through the ringer to get a real message of hope out there. It's skewed, to say the least!

But that's ok. I worked with these laws to get my story published - as I have said in the preface to my book:

"I am an ordinary woman who has faced a series of extraordinary circumstances to become the person I am today. Privacy laws dictate that I cannot divulge identifiable details about many of the people and situations that caused me so much pain. It’s a law that exists to protect the innocent, even though many of the people I’ve come across have, in my opinion, been far from innocent in their actions. That law, paradoxically, has actually worked in my favour while writing this book because this is not about ‘them’. In truth, it never has been; it’s about me. This is my story."

So I've done the hoop-jumping, and I've played my part. I have black and white evidence to support everything I've written about. I have witness statements and more. I've changed names, places and details so that people cannot be identified. And as I said, that's ok, it's more than ok in actual fact.

So last week, when I was contacted by a well-known morning TV programme inviting me to appear on their show to talk about my experiences, I welcomed the invitation with open arms. I was well aware that they'd want to focus on the tabloid headline grabber (that was inevitable) and I knew that once I was given air space I could work on getting the bigger message across to the audience. So I started talks with the programme producers. I supplied all the supporting evidence I had collected during my publishing journey. I explained the steps I'd taken to protect privacy. And I agreed to go in with their headlines. But that wasn't enough.

Ofcom rules dictated that they had to get a 'right to reply' from the people I was talking about - which meant making direct contact and asking for comments. Now, I understand the need for Ofcom's rules - of course I do. But in this particular case it seems crazy to me on so many counts. Not least of which is the fact that, having done so much to mask identities,  it would have meant divulging real names and locations to a bunch of strangers... how could I be sure that these details would remain confidential? (Not such a strange question to ask once you understand my previous experiences with another libel lawyer...) The main sticking point though, for me, was that I was once again being asked to put myself at the mercy of a disordered person. Someone who had already very nearly claimed my sanity with his lies, leaving me in a situation from which I had successfully fought so hard to escape. I was not about to give anyone that kind of power over me - not then, not now, and not ever again!

So politely, and firmly I declined the invitation, making this point at the same time: "... It's a shame that the 'rights' of someone who is clearly disordered takes precedent over sharing truths that help so many other people..."

And I felt pleased. I chose to step away from something that would have not only compromised my position (and that of others) but also given me a voice only on the condition that I talk about the headline grabbers rather than the bigger story. I had already been told "we only want to talk to you about the sociopath, nothing else..."

That same day, walking through the train station after a late evening meeting in London, I saw a young woman sitting and crying on her own on one of the benches. It was gone midnight, and there were very few people there - apart from a few policemen who were gathered at the ticket barrier - but I was astounded that nobody seemed to be helping her. So I went up and asked her if she was ok? Of course she wasn't, and as she shook her head, her face crumpled and her eyes filled with tears. I sat down next to her and held her hand as she explained what had happened.

She told me that she'd missed the last train to London by two minutes, and even though the train had been at the station, she had not been allowed to go through the barriers. She knew nobody locally, and was facing the prospect of spending the night in the train station. Hearing her story and seeing the policemen nearby, I went up to them to ask for their help. They'd been watching me all the while. Guess what they did as I came close to them?

They bristled, pulled themselves upright and shoved their hands in their pockets while the cold expressions on their faces gave me the clear message that I was to back off. You know, I actually felt I'd done something wrong! It's a darned good job that I am a trained communicator, because it took all my skills to crack through those defence barriers. They told me that they had it in hand, that the young lady was 'a mess' and was 'inconsolable' - rolling their eyes as if to say 'you see what we have to put up with?' My blood boiled but I kept calm. It turned out that they were waiting to hear whether they could get her on the last staff train home. But they hadn't told her that. And when I asked what could be done to make her wait more comfortable, they shrugged their shoulders, with another rolling of eyes, and told me that there was nowhere warm she could wait.

After making sure that they would indeed keep her up to speed with what they were doing, and would keep an eye on her while she was waiting, I made my way back to her and put my arms around her (making sure, of course, that the policemen saw what I was doing). I reassured her that they were doing all they could to get her home and that she was going to be ok. I then helped her do up her coat and put her hood up so that at least she would be warmer. I stayed with her until the tears stopped and she let me know she was confident that she was being looked after. Looking over at the policemen, I made sure they acknowledged me with nods and reluctant smiles.

So why couldn't these policemen have offered this vulnerable girl just some simple human kindness in the first place? Have they perhaps become so used to people attacking them that their automatic response is just to stay away? Was that why they all bristled when I went up to speak to them...? Or perhaps they've just joined the 'what's the point' brigade that is threatening to drown our system of humanity. Have we become so trapped by our rules, following blindly without checking the results or even questioning why they are there? Are we becoming that robotic in the way we lead our lives that we've become immune to what's really happening?

I don't know. But as I walked away from that young lady, knowing that at least I had done all that I could, I felt even more certain that I'd done the correct thing in turning down the barbed TV invitation. It's a sad state of affairs when it seems fear and separation is seeping in to our society - but it's not too late to do something about it.

I for one am absolutely determined to do all I can to stand up, speak out, and jolly well wake people up to the reality that we CAN make a difference. It doesn't take much. Just an honest reality check and a small amount of courage to shift the way we respond.

I am on the case and fired up. Watch this space my friends, watch this space.

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Right Place

Wow...! What an astonishing few days... and what an astonishing change from where I've been eh? Regular readers will know that I have often turned to songs and music to help get me through some of the tougher times. One of my old favourites was Eddie Reader's "The Right Place" - in fact I'm pretty sure I mentioned it in a much earlier blog post. Well there have been many times that this song has been a mantra for positive growth, rather than an acknowledgement of the truth.

Hey, ain't that all changed around now - and how! Just last week I was interviewed by a lovely reporter called Amanda Cable. It was a telephone interview for the Daily Mail, and the very next day they sent photographer Ben Lister and make-up artist Alice Theobald to my home in France for a (very specifically styled) photo shoot. Incredibly, the piece was then posted in the paper on Monday morning - it all happened so quickly there was barely time to take a breath! I know that the Mail Online (love it or hate it) is one of the most popular sites on the worldwide web, so I was expecting some responses. But goodness me, nothing but NOTHING could have prepared me for what has been happening!

With 830 comments, 100 Tweets and 1,100 Likes so far, it has attracted an unprecedented response. I am told they were expecting around 50 comments... And I have been inundated with messages from people all over the world thanking me for telling my story and helping them to make sense of similar situations. Some of the messages have quite literally brought me to tears - for example this beautiful email here:

I read your article today. I'm only 17 and never knew such thing existed. my exboyfriend showed almost all the signs of a sociopath!!... thank you soo much for sharing your experience you really have made me soo happy knowing its not my fault! ... I have finally after two months been able to let go and move on! thank you soo soo much! I almost cried with happiness this morning knowing I'm not the only one! And now everything he did makes sense! 

How amazing is that? Just by sharing my experiences, a young girl has found out early on how to spot the signs. She knows. And now she can look forward to enjoying her life without any fear of being trapped or duped again. 

Her wonderful email is just one from the many I've been receiving. I can't begin to put in to words the feelings of joy and gratitude that well up inside me knowing that I am making a difference. And it just makes everything I have gone through worthwhile, because it gives me a reason. As I said to a friend a few days ago, I have shed many many tears over my lifetime. Now, with each new confirmation that I am doing something to help people in a positive way, it turns a tear from the past in to a pearl of the present. I am feeling, quite literally, showered with blessings. It's wonderful. And I am grateful.... for everything. Yes, everything.

Along with the great stuff, of course, I know there are a number of less than kind comments that have been left by people who have read (or skimmed) the article. I was warned to expect that. And I have deliberately not even bothered reading them. Why? Is it because I'm scared? Nope. It's because there's no longer any need for me to 'fight' or justify who I am or what I'm doing. I've overcome so much, and come through smiling - so reading a few misguided comments will do nothing to serve me. It's not worth the fight and I'm quite simply not going there. Because nothing and nobody can push me off-course now. 

I am on a mission you see. A determined and focused mission to share all the tools and techniques I have learned over the years with as wide an audience as I possibly can... Not just the men and women like me who have been targeted. No, this is a set of tools that can be used in all walks of life. Corporate, consumer, young and old. I have a wonderful team of people working with me on this and the finishing touches are coming together even as I'm writing this post.

And at the same time the media circus is gathering momentum around me - so I am being given the opportunity to share my story in more ways that I could have imagined. Watch this space... 

Both my parents used to regularly say "the world is your oyster" and you know what? I believed them then (which is partly how I survived) and I believe them now - and each time another tear turns in to a pearl, well, I give thanks for their wisdom and love. They may not have been with me very long, but they sure did prepare me well.

So now? Today? I know I am absolutely in the right place. I'm excited. I'm determined. I'm ready. And I'm fizzly.... oh boy am I fizzly.... BRING IT ON!!! 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

It's all PR to Me...

Goodness - talk about feeling fizzly...! I am walking a new pathway now, and life is continuing to expand in the most delicious and exciting ways. It's now coming up to four years since my life collapsed around me. The dust and rubble has now cleared, and in it's place I am truly living a life full of joy and happy expectations. The surprises are still there, for sure - but whereas I had been used to scary or dangerous surprises, it seems I am now surrounded by good ones. Some of them so good that I am literally pinching myself to make sure it's not a dream! More of that when I can give details...

In the meantime, I am beginning to learn about the power of PR. I have met some extraordinary people who are continuing to help me to get my message out there - it's a whole new science, and I am loving being a student. I now have an active Twitter account and Facebook page (thank you to Rachel and her lovely team at Au Fait Marketing) as well as LinkedIn, this blog and personal pages that I've had for a long time. I am receiving messages from people all over the world - making new connections, sharing ideas, and pooling resources. It's really quite amazing!

And you know what I'm also coming to realise...? Is that it was my own inner PR work (the skills and techniques that I used for myself, and that I train to others) that brought me to this place. I kept on telling myself the story as I chose it to be - rather than the nightmare that had appeared in front of me. I would share my dreams with others. I would share my ups and downs along the way - much of it through this very blog, as well as in conversations with friends. And you know what? It jolly well worked. It worked for me back then, and it's working again for me now. This time, though, the PR is not to myself to get myself through trauma. No, this time the PR is to help get the messages out to others, with the dream that my story will help others to come through their own challenges.

As a result of today's PR work - (together with the constantly strengthening relationships with existing friends - I never knew life could continue to grow so much!) I am continually inspired, prodded, lifted and generally 'steered' in the right direction by people who share similar dreams and passions. It's deliciously exciting...

All this is happening NOW, and the paperback version of my book isn't even out yet...!

Just today I have had an interview published in Female First, and there are plenty more on the way. The book though, as I have said for a long time, is just the start. It's the platform. And very soon my dear friends, I will have so much more to share with you all.

It seems I am indeed learning the previously elusive quality of patience - because while part of me is bursting to spill the beans, I know that there is more crafting to be done. So I'm happily biding my time, knowing (finally, surely, and for certain) that all things happen at the right time, and for my highest possible good. I am indeed guided, and I am indeed blessed - it may have taken me more than four decades to learn this, but crikey it has been worth it..!!

BRING IT ON...!!!! :-)

Meantime, here is the interview as it appears on Female First

14 March 2013
What can you tell us about your new book I'm Still Standing?
It is often said that true life can often be stranger than fiction… I’ve been told that this is certainly the case for me! Since I was a child, my life has been peppered with a series of life-changing events, starting with the sudden death of my father when I was four years old, catapulting me in to a different world. My mother died equally suddenly when I was 16 and my sister 11 – my world changed again, and once again I had to learn to adapt to a whole new set of rules in order to survive. But that was just the beginning!
You might think that the death of both parents would be enough for anyone to deal with, but for some reason the ‘hits’ kept coming – and I kept adapting as a result.
The most recent (and arguably most traumatic) shock came in 2009 when I discovered that the husband I called my soul mate had betrayed me in the most terrible ways. This last trauma just about destroyed me, and it was then that I fell back on all the life-skills I’d fine-tuned since early childhood – together with all the career and personal development training I’d learned (and taught) over the years.
The book is my story of how I have succeeded in overcoming adversity time and time again; my message is that if I can come through – not just surviving, but thriving – then so can others.

You are the founder of a successful leadership development company; tell us a little bit about it.
Sure. Professionally I work as a leadership and change development coach, helping business leaders and their teams to achieve their best potential. My company is called The Top Banana Bunch (www.thetopbananabunch.com) and I absolutely love what I do because I am driven to help others succeed, particularly through tough times and change. No surprise, really, bearing in mind my personal experiences!
All of us ‘Top Bananas’ are equally passionate about what we do and continue to gain enormous satisfaction each time we make a difference. Running by the ethos of ‘rigid flexibility’ we are all totally committed to getting the best results for our clients which, I am sure, is why we are so successful.

Your blog was the inspiration behind the book, so tell us about the blog in its early stages.
Yes you’re right – it all started with the blog! It was just a few weeks since the evening I’d discovered the truth about my husband, and although I was putting on a brave face at the time, I was in emotional turmoil trying to make sense of the living nightmare that my life had suddenly become. I happened to meet a very wise lady (who has since become one of my closest friends) who had previously worked as a counselor, and who had also been married to a sociopath – both facts unknown to me at the start. She advised me to ‘just write it all out Mel. Don’t edit and don’t judge. Just write it out and eventually it will make sense’ – and so I did.
Rather than using paper and pen, I decided to keep an online diary. It was private. It was for me. And it was where I slowly learned to pour out the pain in my heart and soul. After a while I invited a few friends to read it – mainly just to help explain where I was at, rather than continually repeating the craziness of my situation.
So eventually I took the plunge and made the blog public, quickly attracting readers from around the world, and a continuing stream of encouraging messages as well!Their feedback came as a total surprise to me! Various people explained how, in different ways, my blog posts were helping them to make sense of stuff in their own life – and they encouraged me to share my writing with more people.
After being told time and time again that I should write a book about my experiences, I decided to take the plunge, and I’m Still Standing was born.

How difficult was it to relive your experiences through the blog and the book?
The blog was remarkably easy because it was talking about what was happening in the here and now. Each time I wrote, it was truly cathartic, because I was able to spill out exactly how I was feeling – and through writing it out and then re-reading later on, make more sense of what was happening. Exactly as my dear friend had originally promised!
Writing the book though, was a very different story. I knew that I would need to provide a solid explanation as to how I had come to start writing the blog. So that meant trawling back over childhood memories that I thought had been dealt with and accepted. Boy was I in for a surprise! The process of actually writing it out, and seeing the truth there in black and white stirred a maelstrom of deep and unexpected emotions. I can tell you, there were many times I would be typing furiously as the tears rolled freely down my cheeks.
Through it all, seeing it all there in front of me has provided a further healing process. It has helped me appreciate on an even deeper level how much my sister and I endured as we grew up – I felt angry, I felt sad, I felt hurt, and I felt grief. Over all though, I ended up feeling more love, compassion and appreciation for just how far my journey has taken me since those times.

Tell us about the feedback you have had from the blog.
It has been astonishing, which is why I eventually decided to write the book. These days I am receiving the most amazing feedback from people who have downloaded and read the book – rather than from the blog. Feedback that regularly brings me to tears!
Right from the beginning I set my intention that if my story could help just one other human being make sense of whatever troubles they were facing, then all my own traumas would have been worthwhile. It’s only been a short time since the eBook came out, and the paperback isn’t out until 1st April – yet I have already been overwhelmed by the personal emails as well as the reviews on Amazon. Just yesterday, for example, I received this message in my inbox:
I am reading your book at the moment and am so moved by it. You are an amazing lady to survive such a nightmare. Your story is giving me the courage and hope to get through my own personal issues. I thank you for writing your story.
Each time I receive words like this, I am warmed to my very soul. I feel deeply privileged to be able to help, and it’s true, it does make everything worthwhile.

What was your biggest high and low during the writing process?
Wow – there have been a few… of both! The biggest low? It was more of an on-going ache when going through the legalities of the publishing process – another story in itself. There were so many delays that at times I felt I was banging my head against a brick wall. But we got there in the end.
I think the biggest high of all has to be the moment when I actually held a copy of my book in my hands. It felt absolutely amazing! Seeing it and feeling it in print, flicking through the pages and smelling the ink was a completely difference experience from reading it on the screen. Suddenly it meant that everything was real, and I’m not ashamed to say that I shed a few tears.

Why was it important to you to share your experiences?
Good question. There are two reasons. The original driver was because I simply had to find a way to make sense of the insane nightmare that had suddenly become my life – which was why I started the blog. As I began to share my soul-searching with others, I slowly came to realise that by explaining my own struggles I was somehow helping others. Eventually that became the overriding reason for writing my story out in a book – the idea that others would be able to identify with different parts of my experiences, and find ways to deal with their own troubles. In the process, of course, it helps me as well because it brings me huge joy to know that I’m making a difference.

What would you say if someone told you that we can only be better people if we have suffered pain?
I would say that’s a sad way of looking at things. First of all, whoever says we need to be ‘better’ in the first place? That, surely, is all part of the judgments we make on each other and ourselves, which only serves to diminish who we are as people. Why not learn to accept and be happy with who we are right here right now?
And no, I don’t believe that pain is a necessary gateway to happiness – there are plenty of people who are happy and contented without having suffered to get there! Having said that, I do also believe that any kind of difficulty can offer a new perspective on life – it’s up to us to choose what that perspective is going to be.
Me? I first chose strength, and then ultimately peace and love. My job now is to accept more of the wonderful stuff in to my life – what a fabulous challenge!

What is a normal day like for you?
To be honest, there’s no such thing as ‘a normal day’ for me at the moment as I seem to be entering in to a whole new world and I’m loving every moment of it! There are times; it’s true, when it feels a little scary, as I often don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to the next. Then again, feeling scared is physically almost identical to feeling excited – it’s just the label we give to those movements inside that dictate whether we call it positive or negative. So I’m consciously excited about what is happening and thoroughly enjoying the process of moving through the unknown.

What is next for you?
I’m currently working on a follow-up book to I’m Still Standing as there is so much more that has happened since I finished the manuscript!
I’m also working on a business book based on my years of working with leaders in the corporate world. I am increasingly concerned that people are losing their voices in the workplace, and I’d like to continue my work sharing techniques to help others stand up and reclaim their power. I’ve seen too many cases where even senior managers feel helpless to take action when they know something is wrong. The reasons for this vary of course, but it seems to me that many of our businesses today are suffocating their people who are, after all, the lifeblood of any successful company!

What else is in store? 
Well the fact is I simply don’t know, and that feels amazing! I’ve come to understand that life can shift in the blink of an eye, so I have stopped holding tightly on to plans or next steps. What I know for absolute certain, though, is that whatever happens next will certainly involve helping others, while continuing to learn and grow myself in the process.
I can happily say that I am loving my life right now, and I have a wonderful feeling that the adventure has only just begun…
Thank you for interviewing me!