Power and Control Wheel : Divorcing An Abusive Narcissist

Good Afternoon World,

I just walked in the door from a meeting and I feel like it’s time for me to start this journey on my blog. I kept thinking that I would shoot a series of YouTube videos to follow the one that I shot last year ‘My Divorce, What Really Happened‘, but I just can’t get myself to do it. I don’t know if it’s because I’m naturally more inclined to write than to speak, or if it’s because this last couple of years has a felt a bit like the sh*t filled tube in the movie Shawshank Redemption. If you’re not familiar with the movie, watch it, it’s Amazing!

 

Shawshank Redemption

When he is finally crawling his way to freedom, his last journey is through a sewage pipe, filled with, you guessed it, sh*t. He wanted out so badly that he didn’t care.  I have imagined myself crawling that disgusting journey, on my knees, hand over hand, suffering that unbearable stench to get to this place. I think I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t get me wrong, the air is still stained with the stench of a life that I am fighting to pull away from, inch by inch, but I am resolute. There is only one direction, forward.

 

Shawshank Redemption Escape

 

For those of you not familiar with my family’s journey over the last few years, I will be writing a lot about that in the coming months, but for now just know that our home, our former life, was a beautiful Hallmark card, printed with disappearing ink. My ex husband, two beautiful children and I had all the trappings of a good life, but behind closed doors, we were living out a nightmare. The children and I lived in constant fear. We walked on eggshells. We were invisible cast members in the one man show ‘The Pilot’. We orbited my ex husband and his ego like confused planets in some twisted galaxy. We were extensions of his life. We were never a part of it. We were a necessary inconvenience for his career and ‘soul suckers’ as he used to put it. He wanted complete freedom, constant accolades and he was the star of our family’s story line. He was/is a narcissist and we were his supply. Then one night, one God damn awful night, it all just exploded.

 

Never Let Domestic Violence

 

I knew it was coming. You see your marriage disintegrating in front of you. You try to slow time. You try to make family memories before they are gone forever. You grab at straws. You try to have that one last family vacation. You try to make love to your husband one final time. You hold on like someone hanging from a cliff who just wants to see the sun come up one more time. You suffer things that you would formally have scoffed at. You do anything and everything to hold it together. You think that it will come to some natural breaking point. You think that you will know when the end is near. You think that you will have time to prepare for the worst pain of your life, but then it just happens. It’s as fast as taking a picture or ordering a cup of coffee and your marriage is over, click, boom, done.

 

Hands Slipping Away

 

I wasn’t prepared, not even close. I don’t even remember the last words that were spoken or the last time that his hand touched mine. It was all gone, in a flash. Yes, I feared him, but I was still very much in love with him. I wasn’t ready. Time stopped. My heart didn’t break. It shattered into a million pieces, some of which must still be in the corners of that fateful room where our marriage ended. Then time just sort of stops, well, slows down like some old fashioned movie where you can see the individual stills passing by. You are a shell of your former self, a zombie (a mombie in my case, because I have children), and you just exist for a really really long time. There is no joy. There is no laughter. There is simply an emptiness, darkness, and a deafening quite that fills your life. In the words of Pink Floyd, you become ‘Comfortably Numb’.

For the last few years, I said basically nothing. I said nothing because I couldn’t bare to tell the truth. I couldn’t speak it, or write it, or quite frankly even be honest with myself about it. I was am also afraid. I am afraid of making him angry. I am afraid of retribution for speaking the truth, but that is how they win isn’t it? Abusers abuse, they devalue, discard and replace you and then they expect you to be quiet about it to spare their name. Just like I said in my videos last year, which were met with a lot of love and a lot of hate, this isn’t about revenge. It’s about truth.

 

 

It’s about a truth that so many victims of domestic violence never get to tell, because their voices are silenced by their abusers. It’s about an insidious epidemic that happens behind closed doors in every city, in every corner of the globe. It knows no socioeconomic bracket, no race, no religion. It discriminates equally. So what should I do? Should I be silent forever? Should I never speak of the almost decade of torture that my children and I endured?

No! I reject that reality, because it is tantamount to having my voice silenced, which I can not allow because I am still here when so many others are not. It is to revictimize my own children and pretend that that chapter of their lives didn’t happen. It is to rip chapters out of my life’s story and leave the reader confused as to how I ended up here. I will not do that anymore. That ends today. It ends with every key that my fingers come into contact with on my laptop.

So where do you start? How do hand someone a book and then expect them to know the history of every chapter without filling in the blanks? You don’t. There is no good place to start. There is just a moment when your soul tells your fingers to type. There is a moment when you decide that you have once and for all had enough. That is this moment, today at 2:31 PM as I am typing this. I can’t tell the story chronologically, because it would be so long and sad that no one would be able to stomach it. I can start with today. I can start with why I decided to start blogging again and fill you in as I go.

 

fingers typing keyboard

 

My ex husband and I have had a few less than pleasant exchanges in the last few days. I always notice one overriding tone in his communications to me. I state the facts. I say what happened. I don’t hurl insults or call him names. I stand my ground. I repeat the reality that I know to be fact, not allegations. He minimizes my emotions. He calls me terrible names (you’re a cancer Raphaela, you never were and never will be worth my time, etc, etc). He plays the victim in a drama written and acted out by him. He never takes responsibility or even admits to his actions. He tries to make me feel like a worthless person, and it almost works. When he did this yesterday, I reached for the Power and Control Wheel (more on that in a moment) and it reminded me of the power of this piece of paper. It was just the push that the universe needed to give me to begin to write again. Thanks Universe!

There is just this burning desire inside of me to stand up and say no more. I just can’t take another minute of it. I think of all of the people who are currently sitting on the floor, face in their hands, wiping away tears, maybe blood, and wondering when it will all end. That’s who I am writing to. I am writing to those victims survivors and anyone who loves them and wants their pain to stop. I am writing to anyone who is so lost, afraid, confused, and completely broken because someone has completely devalued you. I am writing to anyone who believes that they are worthless, because someone in your life has told you that time and time again. You are not worthless. You are valuable. Hurt people, hurt people. You have to turn their voice off and turn yours up.

 

your life

 

When will it all end? I have a hard cold truth for you. It won’t. The truth is that the abuse hasn’t ended, even though we have been divorced for more than a year, and separated for almost three years. The truth is that when you escape that situation, you only put distance, not an end to it. The truth is that you will have to have more emotional stamina than you could possibly imagine to pick your broken self up off of the floor, day after day, year after year and fight just to keep your joy. Know these things to be true, accept them, prepare for them. Make your body strong. Make your mind strong.

It may seem like I am bouncing around a bit here today, and I am. It’s hard to begin telling this kind of a story or trying to throw a lifeline to someone who is drowning, which is how I felt just yesterday after yet another round of terrible insults courtesy of my ex husband. I literally felt as if the wind had been knocked out of my chest. I felt like the light in my heart had been put out. I felt all of those terrible emotions that I used to wake up with and go to sleep with every single day for so many damn years. I felt…..dead inside.

I dislike to even admit this on my blog, which I know that he and his lawyer read religiously. I don’t like that he may take satisfaction in knowing that he knocked me back a bit, but here is the bottom line. I care more about reaching someone who is hurting than protecting my own pride. They watch everything that I do online. They bring it up in court.

So, this line’s for you ex husband and his attorney. Know that from this day forward, I will not suffer your attacks in silence anymore. I will not allow you to attempt to destroy the life that I have rebuilt. You may not have my joy. You may not silence me with your intimidation and stalking. Read what you like and know that I will live this out for the world to see from now on. Your days of silencing me with the fear that you are watching me are over!

stalker, online stalking

I have chosen to say hell with it. I am going to speak the truth. I accept that there is a level of risk in writing these things. I accept that I may make him angry. That fact alone kept me silent for a long, long time, but that’s just another form of control and abuse, isn’t it? Sometimes, you just have to roll the dice and hope for the best. He doesn’t get to control my thoughts, words, or life anymore. I have a voice and for the love of God I am going to use it. You can’t just stop living. You can’t deny your story. You shouldn’t have to. You just have to learn to blow it off and give it less importance when people stalk every move that you make even though there is a court order in place that says they can’t.

 

If You Don't Like Me, You're A Fan

Or A Stalker. Your Choice.

 

Fortunately, I have been very blessed in this chapter of my life to be surrounded by a wonderful man and solid Christian friends who help me walk out this difficult journey. They all encouraged me to be patient, to wait for when I knew it felt right to talk about these things. I did wait. I waited for almost three years. I likely would have stayed silent if it had stopped, but here we are three years later and the abuse keeps coming like a bottomless bread basket. I have realized that it no longer matters what I do. I can say everything or nothing and it is the same difference to him. He will never stop, so I can not be silent. I have to speak up. I have to stand up.

 

friends, friendship, do life together

 

Remember a moment ago when I told you to make your mind strong? This blog post is about a tool that has really helped me to gain and maintain clarity in the midst of this storm. It is just a simple piece of paper, or a tiny image stored on your computer if you are too afraid to print it out. It is called the Power and Control Wheel and it changed, and in some ways, saved my life. A piece of paper saved your life Raphaela? Um…..yup, sure did. No, I am not being mellow dramatic, I am being authentic and transparent with you.

When he used to speak to me the way that he did yesterday, I would feel the life just leaving my body. I was at a point where I only kept going because of my children. The only thing worse than death to me during that time in my life would have been having this man raise our children. I could go on for hours about that, but I won’t because it no longer holds the same amount of power in my life. It used to make me cry, feel worthless, question myself, etc etc. Now, it makes me feel those emotions for about an hour. Then I drink some coffee, read a lot of scripture, pray with a friend, knock out a killer workout, focus on work and cuddle up on the couch with my man. Trust me when I tell you that this ability to reject my ex husband’s words was hard won. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen.

This Power and Control Wheel has eight ‘pieces of pie’ and it was instrumental in helping me learn to hear, but reject his narcissistic attacks.

 

 

  1. Using Coercion and Threats
  2. Using Intimidation
  3. Using Emotional Abuse
  4. Using Isolation
  5. Minimizing, Denying and Blaming
  6. Using Children
  7. Using Male Privilege
  8. Using Economic Abuse

On the outside of the wheel, you will see physical and sexual violence in black. On the inside of the wheel, you see the eight tactics that abusers use to establish and maintain dominance over their victims.

I could write a book on these different pie pieces, giving you examples of each, but this blog post is not to detail the specifics of my story. I will get into that in other posts as time passes. This blog post is to make you AWARE that this tool exists. You see, before someone showed this to me, I really genuinely believed that I was losing my mind. I later learned that this is called gaslighting, and is a common practice used by narcissists to destabilize their victims.

 

gaslighting, mental abuse,

 

His behavior was so cruel, so calculated it was almost impossible to articulate to people, which for the most part I did not even do. With the exception of a few very close friends, I endured this situation in silence. Partly out of shame and partly because I didn’t even know how to explain it, because it seemed like such unspeakable behavior.

Until I saw this Power and Control Wheel, I felt like a sick patient who continues to go to the doctor and tell them that something is wrong, only to have the doctor tell them that they could not find anything. Then one day, a doctor tells you, “Oh, you have this or that”, and you are just grateful to finally know what it is. I knew that I was being systematically torn down, broken on a cellular level, but I didn’t understand how to describe it or to convey how it made me feel.

I remember the day that I saw this wheel. I was in a coffee house in New Orleans with a very good friend who had flown in from California to see the children and I after my marriage ended. That person handed me this piece of paper and said only one thing. They said, “I want you to read this. I don’t want you to say anything for at least ten minutes. I want you to see if any of this looks familiar to you.” That very good friend walked away to get a coffee for the both of us. When that person returned to the table, I was no longer there. I was in the bathroom, with my back pressed against the cold tile, sitting on the floor after I had slid down the wall into a hysterical pool of tears.

I cried so hard that I didn’t even want to leave the restroom, because I knew that everyone would know that I had been sobbing. I tried to get myself together. I applied my signature lipgloss and headed back out to greet my friend.

 

NYX Pump It Up Lip Gloss

Seriously, I Love This Stuff.

 

My friend didn’t say anything. They didn’t have to. They knew all along what was going on. They had tried to tell me for years, but I could not hear them through the dense, confusing fog that was my life. People learn in different ways. I am a visual learner, so this hit me like a hard slap on a chilly day. In other words, it got my attention. In an instant, my life was changed. I knew what had been happening. I couldn’t deny it. I couldn’t sugar coat it. I couldn’t do anything except accept the cold hard reality that my life was staring back at me in 12 point font on a flimsy piece of black and white paper.

 

i was blind but now i see

 

I don’t know how to explain it exactly, other than to say that it was one of the most powerful moments of my life. It was like I had been wondering through a cloud, unable to see, and in an instant, someone sucked away everything and you are just left standing there. Suddenly there was this perfect clarity. That was the moment that I realized that I was going to survive this awful thing that had destroyed my life, my family, my joy, my hope……me.

Seeing all of the forms of abuse that had been taking place was like having someone translate my thoughts onto paper. It was validation that these things did exist and were real, as he had told me so many times that I was ‘making something out of nothing’ and that ‘this is just marriage Raphaela’. I knew all along that it was abuse. I knew all along that I never felt loved. I knew all along that I never was loved by this person. I just simply couldn’t understand why it was happening. Most importantly, I couldn’t make it stop. I was never going to be able to make it stop. That is what I realized in that moment. I was never going to make it stop, but at least now I knew what the problem was, and in the wise words of GI Joe:

 

knowing is half the battle meme

 

It was like when a newborn baby draws oxygen into their lungs for the first time. I could finally breathe. It was as if I had been holding my breathe for so long and someone suddenly pulled my head above the water. That was the moment that I became a survivor, not a victim!

I decided to read everything that I could get my hands on, make connections with those who had endured this terrible abuse before me, and I built a support structure so high and so wide that I knew that not only would this never happen to me again, but that I was going to one day help others claw their way out if necessary and find themselves again.

This post is my first step toward that mission. In telling you my story, I hope that you find the strength to write yours. I hope that hearing about this tool will help someone to ‘see the light’ or in some way understand that you are not crazy. Hold on to what you know is right and true. Don’t let them put your light out, silence your voice, or in any other way rob you of what is good inside of you that they want to erase from you.

Just hold on. Learn what you need to know. Make a plan. Create a safe place. Equip yourself and prepare for the fight of your life, because that’s what it’s going to require for you to get out. You can do this. I will do everything that I can to help you. There is help. There are tools. There are people that survive and live on the other side of this soul crushing abuse who go on to love again. There are people who care about your safety and emotional well being. Reach out. Call the Domestic Abuse Hotline. Get some perspective. You can do this. You can break away from this and survive it. You don’t have to stay a victim. Don’t you dare quit.

 

Never Be Bullied or Silenced

 

This post was not about pity, nor revenge. It was about truth, survival and hope. It will not be the last post on this, but this chapter in my life also does not define me. It is one spoke in a huge wheel that makes up my life. Thank you for spending some time with me today. Please share this information with anyone who you think needs to see it. I have a playlist on YouTube called ‘How Bare You’ that has videos that deal with domestic violence, restraining orders, etc. If you need for information, please click here to be taken to that playlist.

Please share the Power and ontrol Wheel. It really can save a life. I know that, because it gave me back mine.

Gratefully,

Raphaela

 

 

My Year In Review: Why I Have More Aliases Then A Colombian Drug Lord

raphaela, lorian, laurean, rafiela, name, change, merge, social, media, identities, accounts

Why Did I Merge Two Social Media Identities?

I will begin this post by saying that this is going to be a long post. It’s not a story that can be told quickly, and I am going to tell you the whole story. A lot of people that I know on both sides of my social media channels have been asking why the change, and what has been happening during the last year. So here goes……

Yesterday I engaged in the scary, but very rewarding adventure of merging two social media identities. For the last year or so, I had begun to develop my personal social media channel (www.raphaelalaurean.com). I began to develop this channel for two reasons. I was training for a Bikini Bodybuilding competition (say what??), and preparing for my EnvyTan products to move to Amazon.com. As you read this post, you will learn how these two things are tied together.

Initially, I started to develop this channel because I had taken on the challenge of training for a Bikini Bodybuilding Competition to really push my fitness to the next level. For reasons which seem kind of silly to me now, I was not really ready to share that kind of information with every person that I have ever known. It strikes me as odd, and very amusing, that people will share the most intimate, terrifying, personal moments of their lives with strangers without hesitation, but they always give pause when considering whether to share with those people who they truly know. Why is that? I can’t speak for you, but for me, I am sure that it is mostly insecurity. I am sure that it is rooted in a fear of rejection, and of being judged. People like to compartmentalize the people they know; this person is a great dad, this person is a business woman. It becomes very uncomfortable for people when someone that you know jumps out of any one box, and attempts to leap into another. My Mom has always said, “No one is a profit in their own town.” For example, I am sure that the people who knew a young Tony Robbins or Glenn Close did not take them very seriously when they were rising to stardom.

Anywho, back to the story. I joined Bombshell Fitness, went to their training camp, trained exceptionally hard for roughly 3 months (in the gym 2.5-3 hours daily), and was on track to do my first Bikini Bodybuilding show a few months later. During this time, to connect with all of the exceptional team mates and community members that I was meeting, I developed my ‘Raphaela Laurean’ page. It would have been fairly obvious to anyone on my other social media pages that I was bodybuilding if all of a sudden all of these ‘bodybuilders’ were my friends and posting ‘bodybuilding content’. I loved training with this team.

I saw amazing changes in my body and confidence levels (something every relatively new mom struggles with). Then one day, I fell down the stairs. At first I dismissed it because I thought I tripped. Then it happened again a few days later, but this time I was holding my baby boy when it happened, and I knew that something was very wrong. I started falling down stairs, not being able to speak properly (couldn’t recall the words that I was trying to say), I had terrible tremors, constant nausea, and I was in pain everywhere. After seeing every specialist in Warner Robins, and then Macon, GA, I was sent to the Mayo Clinic in Florida. I spent several months commuting back and forth to the Mayo Clinic (5 hour drive each way) with what seemed to be a mystery illness. As you can imagine, my training stopped, and I was suddenly planning for a different version of my own life. It was at this time, that I began to research moving my products to Amazon.com, and the real reason that I did that is because I was preparing for a situation in which I was either not present, or not well enough to manage the details of EnvyTan any longer.

I had CAT scans, PET scans, Biopsies, Blood work, MRI’s and things that I can not even pronounce done. My mother and I did eventually, and only by analyzing test results, figure out what was wrong (that is for another post). I have to thank my Mom for never stopping her research. She worked tirelessly around the clock analyzing the information that was being returned on these tests. She is the one who figured out what the problem was, not the doctors at the Mayo Clinic. Let’s just say that the show ‘House’ isn’t happening at the Mayo Clinic. They did not look at the overall picture, they looked at segmented pieces of information, and just couldn’t put it together. Regardless, I am extremely lucky to have such an intelligent and dedicated mom who simply would not give up on finding the truth. Thank you Mom. I love you.

I am not going to die, so don’t get too excited and start trying to lay claim to my personal treasures :-). While you are reading this, you will likely be thinking, I didn’t know anything about this. As I will explain later in this post, I never shared details of my personal life online, so this was completely a private struggle that consumed my life for more than half of a year. All the while, I was trying to run my business, raise my children, keep up appearances, and deal with my husband’s constant mini deployments (1 week here, 1 month there). Let’s just say that 2014 was not my best year.

However, I did learn some things during this year. I learned that when the rubber really meets the road, and you actually do share and ask for help, people are usually willing to be there for you. This was not a strength area for me. I learned that I can try to plan for anything that I like, and that I will almost certainly have to move left and right to get to that goal, where I used to think that it was a straight line. Becoming that ill, that suddenly, is a very humbling experience. When you have to ask someone to help you hook a necklace, because your hands are trembling too much to do it for yourself, you will quickly realize that you are not as perfect as you may once have believed. After months of living in uncertainty, and treasuring every day with my babies, because I was getting worse, I am a much more grateful, patient person now.  Things are different now. I have to listen to my body now. I have had to slow down a lot. I have had to learn to let a lot of things go, to keep stress levels very low. I have been given a gift to see people in a new way, and to appreciate that if someone is being grumpy or mean, that they may just not be feeling well, and it may have nothing to do with me at all.

Most of all, through all of the research, my eyes have been opened, very wide, to what is wrong with traditional medicine, and how it is practiced. I have learned that you ARE your ONLY advocate, and that if you don’t have someone (thanks Mom), or yourself advocating for your health needs, you will be swallowed up whole by the medical system. If you think I am joking, out of sheer frustration one day at the Mayo Clinic, I asked one of my doctors how this could be happening, and how they could not have an answer, he said, “Well, Raphaela, that is why it is called practicing medicine.” They would have had me taking more than 10 pills per day, living in constant pain, and never have fixed the problem. Enough said, I had to take control of the situation, and with my mother’s help, and a LOT of research, the situation is now relatively under control and I am happy to tell you that I do not take a single pill (mainstream medicine) to manage this situation. There is so much to say on this topic, and it will be the subject of later posts. For now, let’s get back to the meat and potatoes.

The second reason, which as you now know is only really an extension of the first reason,  was in preparation for my freedom from sitting as the “President/CEO” of EnvyTan.  I am still in charge of things at EnvyTan, but after 10 years in business, I have decided to reward myself by letting Amazon manage the warehousing, inventory, shipping, etc for my business. This decision was arrived at out of necessity, but in all honesty, the business has grown to a point where it is the best thing for our customers around the world. It is faster, less expensive, and requires much less of my time and energy.  All of the products will be available on Amazon right before Valentines Day this year, February 14, 2015.

As a result of this, I am finally free to have some kind of ‘personal’ life online. I always felt that it would be very inappropriate to share details about my personal life while I was running things from the corporate location. For example, no one wants to see you enjoying time off on vacation if it means that you are not available to answer their questions, or tend to their needs. That is a small glimpse of what I am talking about. Now imagine hearing that the person who runs the company where you buy your supplies is very ill. People tend to jump ship in these situations to protect their own business interests, and I completely understand that. Suffice to say, I felt it was easier and more inline with my company image not to share these kinds of personal things. All of that said, while reviewing my goals for 2015 yesterday, I decided that it was time to stop living this ‘Double Life’ and merge these two identities.

I have multiple sides of myself, as we all do; business owner, wife, mother, DIY’r, beauty enthusiast, and the list goes on. I guess I come from the tail end of a generation that was brought up to believe that if you can’t sell yourself, you can’t sell your products. That is still true, but the interpretation of that has morphed substantially over the last decade. People want to really ‘connect’ with the people that they do business with. They don’t want to buy from a brand, they want to be part of an overall experience. They want to be in the fold, not on the perimeter anymore. This is wonderful, but it takes a little getting used to. It takes time to embrace the idea that people are open to the fact that just because someone bakes silly cake pops with their kids on Saturday, doesn’t mean that they are not exceptionally good at manufacturing sunless tanning solution, the other 5 or 6 days of the week.

So, with multiple social media channels come many names. This was simple for me, as I have changed my name several times in the last 20 years. My brother says, “Sis, you have more aliases than a Colombian Drug Lord.” I think that’s a pretty fair assessment. 🙂

Legal: Raphaela Laureana Theresa Robertson (Maiden)
–Insert one or two marriages and you have various last names 🙂
*My friends in high school called me Terri, short for my middle name Theresa. Why is this you ask? Well, let’s see, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out and then became insanely popular when I was about to start high school. Let’s review their names; Leonardo (nope, not a problem), Donatello (nope again), Michelangelo (hmm, my sister’s name is Michaela) and Raphael (you have got to be freakin’ kidding me). It was choose a nick name or suffer eternal wedgies in high school (lol).  My sister and I both chose nick names. Come on, you have been to high school. It’s like prison rules. 🙂

When I moved to LA, I figured that since I had finished college (you know like a decade later), that people would let that whole Ninja Turtle thing go….wrongo! Every time that I said my name, some knucklehead would say, “Oh, like the Ninja Turtles?” To which I would respond graciously, “Wow, yup, that’s first time that I have ever heard that.” In truth, I was slapping the crap out of them in my mind, but they had no clue.

Then, one of the 2 or 3 thousand guys that I dated in LA (ok, those numbers are slightly exaggerated), called me Elle. It was like a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Why hadn’t I ever thought of this? Regardless, I didn’t keep him, but the nick name stuck. From 2002-2013, this was my name. Come on, 11 years is a good run. 🙂

Flash forward to last year when I started Bodybuilding, I really wanted to switch back to my ‘real name-Raphaela’, and so I did. I am not using my legal last name for security reasons.When you share things online, you get to know a lot of people, and some of those people want to know you better than they need to ;-), so it’s just a safety thing.

Where does Laurean come from? My grandmother’s name was Laureana, so to honor her I chose to use Laurean as my last name on this account.  You get to an age, coming up to the ole’ 40, where you just become who you are, and you just stop caring so much about all of the other stuff. You take down your walls, and you celebrate what makes you unique and weird, even if you do have to share names with a Mutant Ninja Turtle (why, God, why did this movie have to be released again a few years ago to prolong this torture?) I am kidding. I just don’t care anymore. That’s my name. It was important enough for my parents to choose it out of the thousands that they could have chosen, and I will honor them by using my given name.

I was somewhat fearful that a lot of the people that I know in my ‘personal life-as Elle’ would reject this idea, but I was wrong. Almost every single person that was on my old Facebook page is on this new one. That was exceptionally flattering, not only because it meant that they want to keep in touch, but because it meant that I was now going to be free to share all of the information that I want to share with everyone in my life. I took a leap of faith, and so did the people that I value as friends.

So, what does 2015 hold? It holds the absolute possibility for a better year than last :-). I spent the last 4 months getting settled in our new home in New Orleans, getting well physically, and deciding how to spend the rest of my life. It has been the first time in more than a decade that I did not work more than 10 hours a day for EnvyTan. It was a much needed ‘Nomadic Year’ that only lasted for four months.

I am going to start training again, but not yet with Bombshell Fitness, as this program is extremely intense. I am going to start TerraFit, on the 12th of January, as I was invited by a family member to try this. Later this year, I will begin bodybuilding training again and I will keep you 100% in the loop, good and bad. I am going to focus on sharing this year. I am going to share all of the things that I have learned in life, in business, as a mom, military wife, and more. Most of this will be on my YouTube channel, because it is far less time consuming than writing blogs, so if you want to follow what I am doing, go and click the subscribe button to stay in the loop. No, this is not a shameless plug, this is me sharing how you can keep up with what kind of craziness I am getting into this year without having to read a blog :-).

Mostly, this year, I am going to spend more time dedicated to improving the lives of others, because I have been so very blessed in my own life. Even this year’s medical challenges were a gift. They have opened my eyes, my heart, my mind, and my life to opportunities which would otherwise never have been present. I wish each of you success, confidence, and authenticity in 2015.

Happy New Year Everyone. Make it Count! Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan!

Gratefully,

Raphaela Laurean