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, 9 April 2018

Calling out BOLLOCKS: "Women are perfectly capable of defending themselves, so why play victim to abuse?"


This, believe it or not, was the BOLLOCKS I faced during a lunchtime conversation this weekend. The comment (and more) came from an otherwise intelligent, kind and caring man in his fifties, married for thirty years to a wife who had been sexually abused as a child, and who himself had been adopted. 

Referring to a recent survey that reported over 80% of women have been sexually harassed or assaulted, he became more and more agitated and upset. Repeating time after time that "women are women, men are men, it's natural to have an attraction isn't it? Surely this is life!" he demonstrated his argument by lightly touching me on the shoulder and asking, "so now even a greeting among friends could be counted as assault?"

I truly believe that this man meant no harm in what he was saying, and that he was actually trying to understand. Emotions were running high - and a large quantity of wine had also been flowing freely in his direction. With intimate experience of the aftermath of sexual abuse, I was certain he would never belittle the damage it creates! So the way I chose to take his words, rightly or wrongly, was this: 

He knows for a fact that these horrors happen. 
Perhaps he couldn't bring himself to comprehend the enormity of the problem. 
And perhaps rather than go there, instead it was easier to assume that women (and men) are perfectly capable of defending themselves... and that therefore many of the abuse claims must be nonsense. 
Labelling the whole thing as another big brother government attempt at control and separation, and bewailing the growing fears that are being encouraged between men and women. 

Ignoring much of his less concrete and wine-fuelled arguments, I told him calmly that I had experienced abuse, without specifying any details. This came directly after his observation that he sees me as a strong, grounded, intelligent and independent women. The immediate silence was deafening, and we agreed to revisit the whole subject - including how my work helps women and men to overcome these kind of experiences - at another time.

Still, for me, even years after I have freed myself from my own prison, his words irritated me. From somewhere deep within I remembered again the helplessness and exasperation I felt at that time, trying to explain the inexplicable, even to trusted friends who loved and cared for me. Questions like "did he hit you? Did he threaten you?" and all kinds of other enquiries that stemmed from the well meaning innocence of ignorance, simply resulted in triggering my shame and self-doubt.

No, it wasn't easy to speak about what happened. It was soul-shattering to realise and accept that the strong person I believed myself to be had become a victim of systematic abuse. My own healing took years of hard work to overcome - and still to this day, as shown this weekend, even innocent words can sting. Today though, I know who I am and I understand what happened. So it was only a little prick (no pun intended). Nothing more. And my work today helps others to understand and free themselves so much more quickly than I did myself!  This is why my work has become my life's mission.

This is also why I am 100% in favour of the #metoo movement, and every other body that supports men, women and children to speak out, stand up and reclaim their peace. I am constantly horrified at the continued ignorance (at best) and refusal to accept ("it's not my business" an often quoted excuse) or (at worst) the deliberate ploys to belittle and silence those who've experienced abuse at any level. 

It doesn't matter whether we have physical scars or bruises to show for what happened. It doesn't matter that we may not be able to put into words exactly how we came to be in the situations we found ourselves - and frankly, why should it be deemed necessary to justify pain? Hurt is hurt. Bullying is bullying. Abuse is abuse. End of. And the more people who are speaking out, each with their own unique voice, the more others will finally be able to hear. Then more people can start to accept the facts, even without experiencing the horrors themselves. And then we can all do something to change it. 

Years ago, when I was doing my best to make sense of my own situation, I came to the conclusion that it is our kindness and compassion - coupled with the BOLLOCKS misguided teachings that encourage us to aways put others first, to put our feelings aside and understand the other person better, to walk a mile in their shoes before making judgement - that unwittingly allow manipulators to live, breathe and thrive among us. Here's an excerpt from the blog I wrote as a result, entitled "Pain, Shame and the Winning Game - a Shark's Tale", published in August 2010:

It's these very same attitudes of optimism, self-exploration and personal responsibility that made people perfect bait for the coldest most ruthless of sharks. Sharks who sneer at the pain of another and who thrive on confusion as they deliberately muddy the waters to disorientate their target even more. Pain and shame is what allows these sharks to win - and that's all they want to do. It's the only thing they know how to do. Anything else they pretend to be, is just that. Pretence. But for the rest of us, the 96% of the population who have a code of ethics, an emotional response, a conscience, we simply cannot comprehend that this kind of creature can exist among us. It simply will not sit in our frame of reference - even once pointed out. For even once the truth is laid bare, we will still struggle to come to terms with the fact that the person we thought of as being like this or like that is actually no more than a hollow shell. Automatically we will still revert back to our own feelings of guilt for some imaginary support we failed to provide. And that's what can make recovery such a slow and painful process.

Now is the time to listen to what's happening inside. It's time for us to go within, to reclaim our own light first - and then shine brightly so others can do the same. I believe we are rising. Men, women and children. I believe our collective cries of "what the f**k!" are gathering volume, pace and power. The times they are a-changing. Our voices may be small. For now we may be few. And yet, just like David and Goliath, the bullying giants are finally starting to fall. 

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Calling out BOLLOCKS

Oh my goodness me, and oh my goodness me again!!!! What a load of old nonsense there is 'out there'... what a crock of poppycock and twaddle we have been taught to believe... what a bag of balderdash... in short, BOLLOCKS!

Now, those of you who know me can vouch for the fact that I'm prone to be outspoken with my opinions - particularly when faced with by ridiculousness or injustice. I spent so many years trying to fit in, to be the good girl, to be what I thought people wanted me to be, just so I could be accepted. And in doing so, I darned nearly lost myself.

These days I spend my life sharing what I've learned from bitter experience, so that others can also be freed from the bollocks that keeps us small, or believing that we're not good enough. What a load of rubbish that is! We are all magnificent, limitless beings. So let's stop squashing ourselves in an attempt to fit into a reality that simply doesn't serve us.

One of the BOLLOCKS subjects that really gets my goat, is this misguided belief that in order to be a loving person, we are required to be gentle, sweet and nice all the time. A couple of days ago I felt compelled to join in a conversation that was discussing just that. And to my surprise, my comment has been shared across Facebook! Over the next few posts I'll be sharing more of my myth-busting soap-box worthy opinions on life. For right now though, here's my take on 'love and light' that seems to have struck a chord with others:

"True 'love and light' is far from the fluffy wafty bollocks that many believe it to be. On the contrary. It's laser sharp. Determined in its passion to grow and shine... and rights in ensuring pure true love in our life - nothing else cuts the mustard.

No excuses. No sugar coating. Love and light. Simples.

This is what causes the darkness to tremble. This is what causes it to pull grotesque faces, to postulate and to shout. It is afraid that we're waking up to its lies.

Because for too long we've been told that being loving means being passive and weak. Now we're seeing things in other ways, and recognising love as a powerful strength and truth that throws light into every corner and banishes darkness...

'When the sun's at its highest the shadows show most clear'... that seems to me a pretty true reflection of what's happening now. I believe our light is collectively rising. And I'm in. Bring it on"

Oh, and by the way - I loved the acronym that makes up the word BOLLOCKS so much that I applied to get it trademarked. To my utter astonishment it was accepted. Hilarious! So put that in your pipe and smoke it, I've started now ;-) 

Chicken Shit for the Soul - an Absurd Awakening

To give some background to this post, it is intended as the prologue to my next book, which will explain my full journey since "I'm Still Standing" was published back in December 2012. I've decided to share it here now as my first post in a long time, to set the scene for further insights, stories and discoveries that have happened since then. Rollercoaster? Oh yes, you could say that... and more! Worth it? Oh yes yes yes yes yes, with whistles bells and knobs on! So... without further ado... my first post in a long long time ;-) 

Lying in my darkened hospital bed, a flurry of night staff rustling and shuffling their way through the corridors, I remain wired up to machines that pump me full of post-surgery drugs, my shattered right shoulder now held together with an array of freshly inserted ironmongery. Out of nowhere I suddenly start giggling to myself. The giggles that are bubbling up from deep within quickly turn into snortles that threaten to become uncontrollable. 

This in itself is not unusual. I have a tendency to do that - to find the absurd in traumatic situations. It's a survival technique for me, fine-tuned over 45 years of practical and very personal experience. Whilst it's become second nature to me now, I've learned that these somewhat inappropriate outbursts can shock people around me, which is why I stifled the giggling as best I could. No point disturbing the silent healing of other patients occupying the other beds. And certainly no point in attracting the attention of the night nurse. How on earth would I be able to explain myself? So I stuffed down the spluttering giggles, and satisfied myself instead with a stupid grin.

It was the beginning of December 2017. I had dislocated and broken my shoulder a few days earlier in a ridiculous accident. Aren't they usually that way? Ridiculous I mean. 
Accidents. One split second of bad timing, misjudgment, over confidence. And bang! It's happened. Ridiculous. 
Mine has been particularly ridiculous.  Caused by creeping quietly back to the main house after a lovely evening of (relatively) well-behaved singing, chatting and tomfoolery in the summerhouse with my newly re-discovered childhood friend... I say relatively, because whilst it was already past midnight, we'd actually stopped drinking wine a short time earlier. Plenty of previous evenings had seen us carrying on in to the wee small hours and beyond, such was the excitement about rekindling our friendship and catching up on the four decades that had passed since we'd last seen each other! Anyway, so there we both were, stealthily tip-toeing back across the garden towards the main house so we wouldn't wake the rest of the family, when I slipped on the wet grass, lost my balance on the tiny incline around the house, and smashed straight in to the outside wall. My friend smashed straight on top of me. He's always had an uncanny knack of somehow finding soft landings, no matter what life threw at him. This time it was me.

I didn't hear the crunch. I didn't feel the pain. I didn't know what had hit me, or who had hit what as I was squashed awkwardly between the wall and my friend. I do vividly remember (ridiculously) that my main concern was to not make a fuss. Not to draw attention to myself. Not complaining. And certainly not causing a disturbance that could have woken the rest of the household! I can assure you that all of those misguided intentions shot straight out of the window once an ambulance was called and the shock kicked in - hollering like a banshee and crying like a baby, my pain and excruciating shame exaggerated by the inquisitive audience that had gathered. Body shivering and teeth chattering wildly as I wailed, largely incoherently, for "anything, anything to just make it all go away!"

So how come then, some ten days later, after major surgery and the grim prognosis that I would never again have full upper body mobility, was I now giggling like a toddler?

I'd been replaying the accident, and remembering the fact that my friend had chickens in his garden. Fat, plump, well-fed birds that produced the most deliciously tasty golden yellow eggs. Plump, oversized, contented birds... who therefore produced equally plump oversized waste deposits. Particularly near the house, where they would gather expectantly each morning, waiting for the daily offering of tasty morsels.

"Chicken shit!" the ridiculous thought had announced itself. "I bloody slipped on chicken shit! And thanks to the surgery, I've also been right royally screwed!"

Chuckling at the absurdity, I gently settled in to the calm certainty that this was the heralding for a deeper awakening of my ever curious soul... 

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged?

I remember learning from a young age that judgement is a bad thing. That if we call out faults in another person or situation, it's because our own faults are showing themselves through the mirror of that event. More to the point, if I am sitting in judgement, then how can I really have a clear conscience, let alone call myself a caring, empathic person?

Still I can vividly recall the hot flush of guilt any time I'd feel something to be wrong. Because it meant I was judging - and that's not right. Right? 

I remember many evenings my guardian coming home from work. Often we would have had something to laugh about, and would be smiling comfortably together. I'd hear the front door slam, wait for the rattle of keys as he hung up his jacket, and then feel my tummy churning as he slid in to the kitchen - dreading the all too familiar tightened smile and cocky bounce. Because that meant one of us would be in the line of fire - at best humiliated, at worst sent to bed crying. I realise now that I lived with an overwhelming duty to protect, and I'd trained myself to be on guard for the unexpected. I felt it my obligation to rescue the situation, with humour, deflection or what I call 'dancing to please'...

It seemed I was the only one who could actually see what he was doing - how he deliberately deflated our fun and put us down, whether with looks, words or actions. Diminishing others was one of his favourites - particularly close relatives. He'd encourage his young children to practice short impressions of them, deliberately designed to embarrass and belittle. I'd see the whole game playing out - us trying be part of the 'fun' while his eyes flashed with enjoyment as his targets squirmed (and still laughed along) as they were ridiculed. 

I felt so bad. So often. Bad because I could see the bad stuff happening. Therefore, surely that must mean I'm bad because I'm seeing my own reflection? Or is it as my guardian said I'm 'uptight' and can't take a joke. Perhaps I should lighten-up. Perhaps I should just join in the sarcasm and barbed humour. But I couldn't. Why? Because I knew. And yet at the same time I was riddled with doubt. 

People regularly told me how lucky I was to have been given such a lovely home after mum died. "Such lovely people, such a lovely family! You really are very lucky Melanie, it could have been so much worse!" They'd come to the house, and smile and chat with my guardian. They seemed blind to the pain that both my sister and I were suffering. They were equally blind to the lies and covert bullying I saw happening in plain sight! Why couldn't they see it happening too? 

So I began to believe that I must be the one with the problem. That my churning tummy and feelings of discomfort were all because there was something wrong with me. So I pushed down my feelings, ignored the churning, and instead focused more and more on trying to fit in, to please, and to be accepted.

I followed this path for an entire lifetime. I bought in to society's broadcasts that say put the other person first. I swallowed the fairytale that if I love someone enough, they will heal. I happily put my faith in the forward-focus of goals and planning... and bit by bit, day by day, I numbed my true-self in to a comatose existence. 

Pleasing others, accepting who they are, flexing my behaviours to suit, and pouring more care and attention in to every situation, I was slowly killing myself in the process. And the crazy thing is? I didn't even realise it was happening...

Today of course I real-eyes that there was nothing wrong with me - there never was. What I witnessed was the truth. And when I stood up to protect, to fight for what was right, I was the one that was made the black-sheep. It's only in recent times that I understand why. I've finally 'got' the bigger picture. It's all finally clicked in to place.... Let me explain...

I was talking with a beautiful lady just this week about this subject of judgement. She, like me, had bought in to the idea that if we notice 'bad' in a situation, it's a reflection of the 'badness' that's in us - which is actually as nonsensical as the whole original sin idea that's pushed at us through many channels. Like many of us before, she'd been accused of being too needy when she'd asked for validation that what she was doing was right. This wasn't in a relationship. This was in the workplace. 

My experiences with sociopaths - personal and through the many targets I've worked with since the publication of my book, have opened my eyes to the fact that this is a perfect cover that allows manipulators to destroy people in front of others, because they just can't see it happening. Speak up they say. Own your feelings. Get real about what's going on for you! Yet if I dare to question something because it's somehow not quite right, or I'm just not getting the answers I'm looking for - then of course I can be pilloried as the one who is at fault. I'm over emotional, and clearly I have more work to do on myself in order to heal these feelings of inadequacy. You know that judgement is such a nasty trait.... so yes, there you go Mel, you've noticed what it is you need to heal! Well done. Now off you go and work harder on yourself, you've a long way to go.

Leaving the people around marvelling at the wisdom, while the manipulator rubs his or her hands, and keeps strengthening their skills of hiding in plain sight. The target, of course, is left bewildered and believing once again that they are wrong. Clever eh? Yes. And it's going on every day and in every walk of life. 

This is how it's happening my friends. This is how so many of us, striving to be good people (because that's what we are) end up being whittled away to nothing - while the other good people around us are oblivious, because while they continue buying in to these rules, they're also being numbed down as well.

Judgement is absolutely a right thing! It's our inner guidance, our sat nav, our instinct, our core, our soul... it's nudging us to say that something's not right, or could be improved. If we ignore, dim down or lose our sense of judgement, then how on earth are we ever going to know what's right or wrong for us - as individuals, teams, businesses and nations? And, for those of us who know what it's like to be sucked dry by a sociopath, without our judgement in tact, surely we're leaving ourselves open to be duped again?

Let me just be clear here - I'm not saying that everyone who talks about judgement as a bad thing is a sociopath. Neither am I saying that the intention behind what they are saying and the advice they are giving is anything other than honest and caring. No. That's not it at all.

What I AM saying, is that there are numerous 'rules' we buy in to and happily engage in with innocence... and it's these rules that provide shelter and nourishment to manipulators. 

They're subtle. They're clever. So understated that the vast majority of people don't notice what's happening. But I do. I always have done. And many others do as well.

My work now is about honouring intuition, recognising feelings, and increasing our own power to detect the truth and make judgements based on that truth. Without fear of guilt, shame or "not being good enough". That's the way we'll all see the manipulation for what it is, without having to go through the years of pain so many of us have suffered - and the minute we see what's happening, it loses power. That's the way we can live in openness, authenticity and love.

It's about learning first to trust in ourselves, and then in others - because then we'll know for sure the difference between truth and lies. I grew up in a world that taught me to do it the wrong way around... I'm here to set the rules straight. 

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Daring to Look Under the Carpet - Reclaiming my Birth Name

What springs to mind when you imagine looking under the carpet?  I’m not talking about a rug, or a mat, or a runner – I’m talking about a fully fitted carpet that’s been in place for many years. It’s laid silently under foot, furniture and food for all manner of family gatherings – parties, playtimes and celebrations. It’s held babies as they dribble through from crawling to walking. It’s soothed pets rolling, sleeping and scratching. It’s witnessed breakups and makeups and all manner of other life time shakeups. And still it stays.
So now, can you get a better idea about the dirt, grime and unidentifiable ‘stuff’ that might fester there underneath the carpet pile? Yep, I scrunched my nose up as well – and yet that is where I have metaphorically visited this weekend. I finally found the route to venture under the rich and colourful carpet of my life to find out what was lurking underneath.
To my surprise I discovered treasure; a truth that had eluded me and had been buried there. It’s a beautiful, big, sparkling bundle of treasure that shines bright with its own powerful and loving energy. And that hoard of huge riches had been swept away and hidden under the carpet. No wonder I’d been tripping over so often!
In recent months, I’ve been experiencing resistance and struggle on various levels – from IT equipment suddenly not working to my car blowing up on the way back from dropping a friend at the airport. From ‘in the bag’ work contracts dissolving at the last moment, to uncharacteristic behaviour from people I believed I knew well. Illnesses, missed appointments, losing things… you name it. It’s been getting ridiculous! And it’s not just me – it seems to be happening with other people who are on this journey with me. To the point where there’s no other helpful response than to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
While I’ve been perfectly able to continue surfing the waves (this is all comparatively small stuff when I remind myself of the other challenges I’ve overcome) none the less it’s been frustrating, and has started to become exhausting. I’ve known that the answer to all of this lies within me – yet for some reason it didn’t matter where I looked, how far I went in, what additional tools I called on to find ‘whatever it was’ nothing seemed to change.
Until it suddenly hit me. I was in my kitchen on Sunday evening, making a batch of fig and ginger chutney that I’d promised myself I’d do after two years. All of this had been niggling at me, and perhaps it was the action of stirring the saucepan, or perhaps just because I was doing something I’d been looking forward to – I don’t know – either way, it just suddenly hit me that I was being inauthentic. Yes, I had not been being true to myself – and in that moment everything fell in to place!
My work, my life – my mission if you like – is all about authenticity, cutting through the crap and speaking out for what is right. And here I was, steadily creating a whole life and is-ness around that, when I suddenly realised what had been holding me back. Of course it was me. And when it hit me, it was all so blindingly obvious, as I find these things usually are – it’s never rocket science!
whats wrong with just being you
It was all in my name. I was not using my true name. Something that (ironically) started when I wrote my warts-and-all autobiography in 2012. I had never ventured into the publishing world before, so when I was signed by a well-known publishing house, I was over the moon and happy to learn how it all worked. That was when I came up against the fear-run libel laws that had my lovely publisher nervous from the start. Because none of the characters I had written about have been convicted, and also because they’re alive (apparently it’s not possible to libel the dead) it meant that names, places and relationships had to be changed – despite the fact that I had black and white evidence to support all areas of my story.
So although I voiced strong concerns about bowing to laws that seem more interested in corporate arse covering in case the people with no conscience decide to sue, and that do very little to support the voices of the innocent,  I went along with it, believing I had no other choice. And I was happy with my decision, because the most important thing for me was to get my story out there – to finally validate what had happened to me, and to reach out to others who might be experiencing the same difficulties. I’m glad I did, because I have been contacted by countless people who have suffered the same – including people who know the characters in my book. My story has helped others, for which I’m deeply honoured. And it’s also brought some wonderful people in to my life, for which I’m deeply grateful.
As well as changing characters names, it was decided that if I change my name as well it would help with the ‘final top and tailing’ with the libel lawyer (that proved to be a whole other experience that deserves to be told as a stand alone story!) So I chose to shorten my first name and adopt my paternal grandmother’s surname Carnegie. I had always loved Granny very much, and was also proud of the ancestral links to Andrew Carnegie. So it sat well with me. And other characters in the book went along with it as well, giving me pseudonyms they would be happy for me to use in place of their real names.
Incidentally, the only person who refused change his, was my beautiful son. “My name is Dylan” he explained, sitting on the sofa together one evening. “I know our story and I’m proud of who we are and what we’ve done. I’m not changing my name for anyone.” How I love my authentic brave son, continues to teach me every day.
So that was how my name changed. That was how I started using the name professionally in order to avoid confusion. And after a while I changed my name on personal online forums too, because people were searching for me as a result of the book. And I remained acutely aware of the publishers’ fears – so it seemed simpler to give people an avenue to find me, and also to honour the libel laws I had been told about.
The way I see it now though, is that by using a name that in effect was chosen in order to protect the very people who had treated me so badly, meant I had actually become part of the very problem I’m so passionate about changing.  Aaaaaarrrrggghhh!!! Now THAT real-eyes-ation hit me like a steam train. It meant that I was not being truly authentic. That even though the magical work of Light-Up has woken me and countless others up to real life, the very fact I’ve been working under an adapted name means I’m once again denying my true self. DOH!
The ridiculousness of the whole situation coupled with an instant feeling of freedom, brought me a sigh of relief and some giggles too. Why?
Because for so many years both my sister and I were quite literally brushed under the carpet.
Filed away in the ‘too difficult’ pile and forgotten about.
Isn’t it ironic that I had been doing exactly the same thing to myself, and even more ironic that it happened when I’d finally found my voice to speak out the truth?
So Sunday night’s super moon saw me reclaiming who I am, by reclaiming my full birth name of Melanie Pledger. For this is who I am, and this is the person who has survived and thrived, and who is now on a mission to share her work so that others can claim their true power as well. No more playing small, and no more being anything other than my true authentic warts-and-all beautiful self.
As with most profound realisations, it’s a massive shift for me that has in such a weird way changed everything and nothing. I know it’s significant, because just yesterday as it was all settling, I suddenly shared with Yasmin, my right hand lady at work and oracle in life, that I now know what it feels like to be normal, a feeling that had evaded me since I was very small. It means I’ve finally come home – to where and who I have been all along…
I do make myself laugh you know – us humans, we’re such funny and adorable creatures when we dare to look under the carpet…

Monday, 4 April 2016

Three Years Later... Look Who's Back

When writing the previous post, I said to myself that it would be the last one for this page. I'd said it before, this time though I affirmed that it was the moment to finally move on from the blog. I decided it was time to get cracking with the job in hand - because by then, my life's work had already begun taking shape. Already the life-changing magic that is today known as DeNA Light-Up was moving through me. I haven't written much about how it was born - my book only goes up to a certain time in my life, and I stopped writing the blog as it was coming in to form. So it's odd actually putting this stuff down in black and white. Why? Because this work was not something I asked for - nor was it something I consciously designed. And yet it came with a force so strong that, try as I might, I could not turn away. Believe you me, I certainly did try to run from it! 

Right from the early days, I realised the power of the work that was taking form. From deep within me, I knew the magnitude, and I recognised the enormity of the work that was to be done as a result. Light-Up, as I now fully understand and accept, is something much bigger than me. Although I rarely use the word, I believe that it is my destiny. It's my reason. And it finally makes perfect sense of all the struggles my life has offered me.

Over the past three years (and more) I've worked with countless people who have suffered at the hands of a sociopath/psychopath/narcissist/bully - I don't care about the label any more. It makes no difference what we call them - it's recognising their actions, acknowledging the damage they do, and offering support to people who have been targeted that's of importance to me. Because this is a key area where my experiences and this work helps.

I've witnessed manipulators in all shapes, sizes and environments. The sly ones, the overt ones. Ones who parade a killer smile to match their drop-dead style, and others who spit their venom under the cloak of some imaginary disorder - garnering pity from caring people who feel sorry for their hardships. Yes, I'm getting to know these types, and recognise them quickly. And the amusing thing is, I've discovered that in most cases they know that I know... and they avoid me.

And still I'm learning, while also fine-tuning the power of the work I'm sharing with others. In a nutshell, my work now is light over dark. It's love over fear. It's connection over self-sacrifice. The work is gathering force. And the manipulators can feel it. They don't like it. I don't care. 

I wrote a while ago, during what now seems like a previous lifetime, about calling fellow survivors together. I'd once again been struck by just how many beautiful, compassionate, intelligent, bright souls are lured in to a living hell - and once again felt the stirrings that those of us who've been through it, can in some way light the way for others to follow. 

"I believe that we are the ones who can band together and make a real difference. From where I am standing, it is our painful experiences that make us authentic, giving us the hard-earned power to understand and empathise at the deepest level. We’ve been there, seen it and got the T-shirt, and perhaps have more reason than others to make sure that we find a way to stop these people continuing to hurt us and others"

Since then, I now have a proven experiential journey, DeNA Light-Up, that allows people to reclaim their dignity, their sanity and their self-worth after losing themselves to such people. Light-Up is for everyone. Not just for people who've been snared by a psychopath. Yet here are where the roots lie. Because here, through my own experiences, was where this life-changing magic was first born.

And now I have a solution that can help so many more people heal so much more quickly than the time I took to recover myself. Which is why it's important to me that this very special group of people is up to speed with what we're doing.

So now I feel once again compelled to write here. To fill in some of the gaps, and also to document the progress as this new chapter develops. I don't know how often it will be - I'll write when I'm stirred.

In the meantime - thank you for reading. It's good to be back in the saddle again ;-) 

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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