Today, I interview Linda Bello-Ruiz who grew up in Redwood Valley, California, in a family of six children. Linda was blessed with great parents, but with a crowded household, she wanted to find her own way to stand out. She craved attention, so she often used her height and bright red hair to turn heads.
Her experience with her siblings also gave her a boost in maturity, and she soon became a comfort and a leader among her peers. She remembers getting in trouble for this, hearing her teacher advise other kids not to follow her example. This was the first time she remembers her voice being shut down. Linda was anxious to get out on her own, and she tells us that as soon as she finished high school, she was packed up and on her way.
She made her way to San Francisco and was excited to start her new adventure, having already been accepted to a college and planning on staying with family in the area. She eventually met a man who would become her boyfriend and end up changing her life. Linda yearned for the approval of a man, and this man made her feel special – at first. As it turns out, he was a drug user who also became a pimp in the area. Soon, various women were calling Linda to get his permission for certain things, and she realized that her life was quickly falling apart in a very drastic way. Her friends and family begged her to leave him, but she was blinded by the validation he gave her. Her full awakening happened one night when he wanted to put her on the corner with the other girls. She was afraid, but she dressed the part and stood there. She felt so out of place and lost, having gone against her instincts. She changed her mind and told her boyfriend she wasn’t willing to do it, and he took her home and beat her. This was the wake-up call she needed.
After several humiliating, confusing, and extremely dangerous situations following her departure, she found herself on the beach with no will to live. She asked God to reveal himself to her, and he did in an amazing way and with perfect timing. Linda is grateful for the turnaround her life made that day. She regained her voice. In her new wisdom and learning to forgive, she continued in ministry and found ways to help others, a mission that continues today each time she shares her heart and her story with others.
Award-winning author, Linda Bello-Ruiz co-founded and directed a safe haven for street girls, runaways, and sex-trafficked minors in Costa Rica. Upon her return to the United States, she earned her Master’s Degree in Psychology and worked as a bilingual counselor for 26 years. In retirement, Linda wrote her award-winning memoir, From Tears to Triumph, and later authored three ‘based-on-true-events” books, all with a message of hope and purpose. She is an Inspirational Speaker on choices, consequences, and hope.
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Transcript of Interview
Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode # 86 Linda Bello Ruiz
“From Tears to Triumph”
(00:36) Dr. Doreen Downing
Hi, I’m Dr. Doreen Downing, I’m a psychologist and I host this podcast, Find Your Voice, Change Your Life. The reason why I introduce you to guests is because I want you to come closer to what people have struggled with in order to become the magnificent beings that they are now. We don’t just pop out of the womb and our arms wide open, say, “Hello world,” and step into a great big, beautiful life. It’s oftentimes not easy to navigate those early years. That’s what we get to explore and to understand and maybe hear some of your own stories and what people talk about, their challenges, their struggles to find who they really are, who they’re meant to be and their voice since this podcast is Find Your Voice, Change Your Life. Thank you. I’m so excited. This is a new friend to me. Hi, Linda.
(01:45) Linda Bello Ruiz
(01:46) Dr. Doreen Downing
I’m going to read a bio about you so that people get to know a little bit about you right away and then we could launch into discovery mode.
(01:58) Linda Bello Ruiz
Perfect. Let’s go.
(01:59) Dr. Doreen Downing
Okay, award winning author, Linda Bello Ruiz, co-founded and directed a safe haven for street girls, runaways, and sex-trafficked minors in Costa Rica. Upon her return to the United States, she earned her master’s degree in psychology and worked as a bilingual counselor for 26 years in retirement. Oh, is that true? Retirement? Is that really true? In retirement, Linda wrote her award-winning memoir, From Tears to Triumph, and later authored three books based on true events, all with a message of hope and purpose. She is an inspirational speaker on choices, consequences, and hope. Oh, I just have to take a big breath to take you in and I’ve heard and read some of what you’ve put out into the world. I know it’s very tender, and I just want to let people know that you’ve been nose-to-nose with some very dangerous situations. Not only have you come out alive, but also with a lot of information to help others. First, let me just give a lot of gratitude for your courage.
(03:31) Linda Bello Ruiz
(03:35) Dr. Doreen Downing
What we usually do when I start because all of us don’t know where you came from, is just some little details, a little bit of family history, just so we could place— Where did you start?
(03:52) Linda Bello Ruiz
I came from little vineyard community in Mendocino County, called Redwood Valley. Not a lot of people know it by its name, except if you start mentioning Jim Jones who established the People’s Temple in Redwood Valley, but we’re up north of Ukiah. That’s where I was raised and went to school and had my struggles. In being such a small community, I was one of six children of professional parents, I couldn’t wait to get out. Graduation night from Ukiah High School, my car was packed, I hit the road, and just started my life. That’s who I was and I continued to be, wanting adventure.
(04:46) Dr. Doreen Downing
I love that phrase, “Wanting adventure.” I do have to pop in and say that I was born in Willits, California.
(04:54) Linda Bello Ruiz
You know exactly what Redwood valley is.
(04:56) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, I have family in Redwood Valley, so I know exactly where that is. I was only there for about the first five years of my life only. But not that I got in a car drove away, but somebody else drove me away. Anyway. Let’s come back to— You must have, in that moment when you decided to pack your car and probably head south, I don’t know, to Northern California, some kind of— I feel like there’s two things. One would be a reason that was propelling you to leave, but then also a reason that was calling you to go find something. Either way, which might you want to share first?
(05:49) Linda Bello Ruiz
I was a little bit more organized than just heading off into the wilderness without a plan. I had already been accepted into Sonoma State University. I knew I was leaving in June, and I knew that in September, I would start university in Santa Rosa. I had a place in San Francisco with friends of my family, my sister’s in-law to stay down in San Francisco. Ill-equipped coming from a small vineyard community to live in the big city. That’s where I initially landed in San Francisco to make my way.
(06:37) Dr. Doreen Downing
But you just said that you stayed with your in laws?
(06:40) Linda Bello Ruiz
I stayed with my sister’s in-laws.
(06:43) Dr. Doreen Downing
Okay. I was saying [inaudible 06:45], “Were you married that early?” No. Well then let’s go back to what the family life was like because there had to be some challenges like most of us have growing up.
(07:00) Linda Bello Ruiz
Well, being one of six kids of very hard-working professional parents. It was awesome. Yet, I was the fifth of six, and I remember not knowing my place in the family, trying to get attention. Although my parents were awesome, wonderful people, I wanted to be different to get attention. I think that’s what shaped me to have some rocky roads along the way of needing to get attention. We talk about voice. I was tall for my age. I started kindergarten late because of the December cut-off of birthdays. I was more mature, taller, curly red hair, freckles, and a bit dominant, even in kindergarten. I became a leader. Classmates remember how it was me who comforted them when their mommies and daddies left them in kindergarten those first days because I was already mothering. I was thinking about this today, a teacher in fourth grade didn’t like whatever it was I was doing, and she sent me out, expelled me from the classroom. I remember sitting outside the door and heard her telling my classmates not to follow me, that I was not a good role model, that I shouldn’t be listened to, and she did not want me to lead them. Although I cannot remember what sin I caused that day, I had a voice. I just took my voice, and I swallowed it. I was afraid to be the all of who I could be.
(09:10) Dr. Doreen Downing
I have never heard that phrase in all of over 85 episodes I’ve done. The idea of swallowing your voice feels very physical. The whole idea of taking the power of you and scrunching it down, down, down, so that it almost becomes inaccessible.
(09:38) Linda Bello Ruiz
Yes, it did. That was kind of my first recollection of, “I wasn’t worthy to have a voice. I wasn’t worthy to be a leader. I shouldn’t lead people I shouldn’t let my voice be heard.” In that swallowing metaphor, by age 12 or 13, I started gaining weight and became obese as a teenager, which made it even worse because now I didn’t want to speak but I couldn’t hide because I was so big. Now, I’m tall, freckles, red curly hair, and fat. It was a bit of a cocktail for disaster, as I’ve been known to say. Then with that, you take it out into the world and see what happens.
(10:39) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, that “see what happens”— I think a lot of us who might have been in your shoes, or somewhat similar, know what “see what happens” results in and it’s usually not a lot of happiness.
(10:59) Linda Bello Ruiz
Mine was finding approval through men, boys, if somebody liked me, then I was valuable. Obviously, I didn’t have a lot of boyfriends in high school. I did not have the long blonde hair and the cheerleader body, so I had to fight for whatever place I had. I was relatively popular in terms of being vice president or secretary of the student body in high school. My strong personality kept me alive but I needed a man to define me. That led me on the streets of San Francisco walking. That led to the book, From Tears To Triumph. The day that I was coming home from work, and this cute, African American handsome man whistled at me and said, “Hey.” I stopped to talk. He did that a few times and that led to a relationship. When I went back to Santa Rosa to start college, he came to live with me, and that started me down a road of complete insanity.
(12:28) Dr. Doreen Downing
I know this is always more going down this path to hear a little bit more can be treacherous, but you’ve gone through it and share it and that’s partly what’s given you so much power now. You say insanity. What was insanity?
(12:53) Linda Bello Ruiz
Insanity was trying to be what he wanted me to be yet trying to be what my parents expected me to be. I was in college taking classes at Sonoma State to be a sociologist. My major was sociology. Having one personality with my friends at school, and yet having this man in my life who did drugs, and later ended up being—I don’t know if he’s the first pimp of Sonoma County—but was a pimp in Sonoma County. I found myself receiving phone calls from his girls on the street when they needed permission for x, y, z. Having that staying inside just isn’t me. I shouldn’t be this person, but I was caught and I didn’t know how to get out. That’s the insanity. It’s no longer painful. It was for many, many, many years. But when I wrote my story, from tears to triumph, and when you write, you lay it all out there, and then it can’t come back and bite you. It can’t come back and haunt you because you’ve spoken it. You’ve used your voice to say, “This was me. This is how it happened. This was my responsibility that I took. This is how I got out.”
(14:41) Dr. Doreen Downing
What you’ve just communicated is not only about the situation that you found yourself trapped in but how healing can happen through writing. Thank you for mentioning that and that your book was a way to find your voice and to not feel ashamed of it and to know that your story is one that is something that you have struggled with, but that sounds like you triumphed. Before we move on to the triumph part, there was obviously this trapped feeling and I know that so many people feel trapped. What would you say about how do you become aware of it? How do you start to move out? What happens about un-trapping oneself?
(15:42) Linda Bello Ruiz
In my case, my parents counseled me. My siblings counseled me. My friends begged me to walk away. But he validated me. It wasn’t until he wanted me to go out on the street corner and make money for him, to prostitute for him that the light started coming on, but not a lot because I did it. I actually said, “Okay, but not Santa Rosa avenue.” My big defense. He drove me down to San Francisco and I put on— I had no clothes to be a streetwalker, but I found something and put makeup on and stood on a corner and watched other girls looking at me, and wondering why I was on their corner, and just— Finally, the humiliation. What am I doing here? How low does one need to go? How low do I need to go to find my voice and say, “No.” I got in the car and I opened the door and I sat down and I said, “No, I won’t do this.” He drove me home in silence. Then that night beat the crap out of me. That’s what it took for me to finally go, “I don’t think I’m in a good place.” Then it was finding my voice as my face and eyes are swelling, and my lips are split, he’s drunk and passed out, that I got the phone and I used my voice and called my sister and said, “Come get me. Come get me.” Some people can be smart. Some listen to counsel. Some have to go through the deepest of experiences to finally say, “No, this is not me. I won’t do this.”
(18:07) Dr. Doreen Downing
How powerful and when you said, “No,” I felt it. For those who aren’t viewing this visually and are only listening, there was a way that you used your arms and your hands to just do this big cross. No. What I got was your whole body saying no, not just your voice but just every cell of your body. The way you just demonstrated it felt like the “no.” That, to me, feels like one of the big messages here is finding your “no” to something like that.
(18:44) Linda Bello Ruiz
Not to disappoint you. I ended up going back to him or wanting to go back to him. That is a battered woman syndrome, as you would know from your profession. After I left him, I tried to be on my own. I started minimizing it. “He was drunk. He was just mad. I shouldn’t have disobeyed. He’ll change now. He said he would change. He does love me.” Those are all of the excuses that battered women go through. I’m not going to say I just walked down and never looked back because I did go back. What saved me there was been less than a week when I went back to confront him and begged to be taken back. I found out that he had moved somebody else into our apartment. I found her things, and he had his next person there. I got really angry and I called the police and rather than them doing anything about him, he put a contract out of my life to have me killed. That got me running out of Santa Rosa back to San Francisco. After all that, that was the final thing that led me to a beach in San Francisco, wanting to commit suicide, not being able to face everything I’d done, from my normal upbringing to where I had found myself. I just wanted to die. That’s when I hit bottom. Then came the triumph.
(20:40) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, thank you for your willingness to just point out and paint this picture for us in such detail. Your story is obviously something that has many layers to it, but it is painful to listen to because it was a human being going through a lot of struggle yet, I’m smiling because you’re here with me. You’re here to tell it and then close to saying this life is not worth it. Then what happened?
(21:19) Linda Bello Ruiz
On the beach that day, just before I stood up, I was with a friend that was living with me down there that I had called to live with me when I escaped Santa Rosa. We were on the beach and I went to stand up and I was going to swim and swim until I drowned. I had that plan. I said this silent prayer and I said “Lord, if you’re real, show me.” Few minutes later, this group of hippies, Jesus people back in the day, we’re talking early 70s strode by with their guitars and their long dresses and hippie looking. Two of them sat down on the beach next to me and said, “Let me tell you about Jesus.” I said, “No.” It’s weird, right? I could just cry it out. Here they were. There’s my answer. There they are. I go, “No.” I didn’t want to be a Jesus person. I was already fat. I was already bad and tall with red hair, and some semblance of popularity. If I was a Jesus person. I’ve never been popular. That was my crazy rationale. But they didn’t give up on me and they talked to me for five hours. They ministered and they sang. They talked and they told me stories. Finally, after five hours, the dam broke, I found my voice, and I said, “I surrender.” My voice is, thank God, has never been covered up since. That was the day, June 13, 1971.
(23:18) Dr. Doreen Downing
A band of angels.
(23:21) Linda Bello Ruiz
(23:24) Dr. Doreen Downing
Coming to take you home.
(23:27) Linda Bello Ruiz
Yes, I joined the Christian commune and I traveled all that traveling venture traveled into Central America, Mexico, was put in jail for preaching in Mexico, opened up a home for young girls in Costa Rica. You see, my life experience, just moved on and decided that I have all of these gifts of wisdom and forgiveness. I have so much to give. I want to give, and that’s what I’ve done. The Bible says, or maybe it’s some adage somewhere, maybe it’s a song, but it says “There but for the grace of God, go I.” Every time I see someone poor, or hurting, or homeless, or addicted, or lost and troubled, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Then the other one that I always remind myself is that “To whom much is given, much is required.” I have this heart so full. Where can I give? Who can I help? Who can I touch? Where can I use my voice for somebody else who’s struggling?
(24:56) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, that’s what you’re doing today with me. Who is ever listening today— Thank you, listeners. I’m sure you’re totally captivated by Linda’s story, because it’s pretty dramatic, but it’s also pretty powerful that shows you what is possible to come back from, to heal from, to recover from, to find your truth. What I love is what we’re learning right now, turning it around to being such a giver.
(25:30) Linda Bello Ruiz
Yes, that’s my essence.
(25:36) Dr. Doreen Downing
I love again watching you smile in the way that you are when you just said, “That’s my essence.” It just feels like you know yourself all the way down through your heart and soul to know that that’s what you’re here for. We’re almost out of time. I want to make sure that if there’s something you want to tell people about what you’re currently doing, or how they can find you…
(26:00) Linda Bello Ruiz
Sure. My books are under my name, Linda Bello Ruiz. I’m very Google-lable. If you go put my name in Google, you’ll find interviews and things that I’ve spoken at meetings. I’ve been talking about sex trafficking in your backyard. My books all speak of truth and give hope for the reader. I’m in Mexico right now. I’m here six months a year. I have four foundations. One of them is sending kids to high school under full scholarship. I have a committee down here. Now with a board of directors. We’re now a legal association. We choose the neediest and yet brilliant children out of middle school, and we pay for their education all through high school and then we have several in college. In fact, a lot are getting law degrees. One wants to become an architect. One is in pharmacology. I have that program down here that I just love. I also have an angel project program down here where we give food to the needy, and medicine and doctor visits and we help during COVID with oxygen, saving lives. I have a committee for that as well. Wonderful people that step up and say, “Let me help you.” I’m here giving.
(27:39) Dr. Doreen Downing
I can see. I can hear. I can feel. Thank you so much. Now you say google, but is there a direct way, like your email or something that you could just…
(27:49) Linda Bello Ruiz
I have my actual website at lindabelloruiz.com and then if you google my name, a bunch of other stuff shows up.
(28:02) Dr. Doreen Downing
The full-faceted you in all of your layers you revealed today is just beautiful. As I said earlier, the courage and bravery and now almost saintly. Just the way that you are selflessly giving. Thank you so much for sharing your voice today.
(28:32) Linda Bello Ruiz
My pleasure. Thanks for the invite. You’re amazing in what you do. Thank you from all of us. Thank you.
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Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.