April 2016: After three years away from this blog I'm back. It was originally started so I could make sense of the madness that ensued after my marriage to a sociopath. Much has changed, grown and been created since then - including reclaiming my full birth name Melanie Pledger.
My voice has become stronger, and so has my mission. I'm here on this earth to share the life-changing magic that developed as a result of my personal journey overcoming abuse, abandonment, manipulation and betrayal. I've learned that many of the rules we've been taught about life are fundamentally wrong. They've been misunderstood by most, misused by some, and deliberately misdirected by the manipulators who live and breathe among us. I've also learned that it's easier and more enjoyable than people think to shift things around...
Now I know there was a reason for it all. So now I'm back to fill in the gaps. To share what I've discovered, and dispel the myths that don't serve us... I look forward to reconnecting with old friends, and discovering new ones.
Thank you for being here.
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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