Recipe for Happiness

I’m no wiz in the kitchen but I’ve been working for years on this recipe that I’d like to share.

It takes time to make, fair warning, and it can get super messy. Also, while the specific ingredients I’ve listed are important and necessary—I haven’t found any substitutes—it’s okay if you decide you need an extra dash here or can omit a spoonful there. Trust yourself as you go.

There is no clever name. It doesn’t need to be fancy. We’re going to call it Happiness.

Here’s what you’ll need.

* 1 vat sense of self
* 1 warm batch self-love
* 1 room temp batch self-love (for backup)
* a dollop growing intuition
* 1 bunch boundaries
* a single sense of humor
* lots of water (every day)
* large sack independence
* medium sack solitude
* full carton broken patterns
* 2 cans trigger spray
* homemade peace (cannot be store bought)
* good sleep (to taste)
* therapy (as needed)

Bake to desired consistency.
Serves one.

Wait, I know, I know. Supplies are running low everywhere, not to mention you may not know where to even look for some of this stuff. Don’t panic. I’ll help you find them. Message me. My sources are reliable.

Also, I know you’ve been holding onto the expectations of others, and that lifetime supply of people pleasing, just in case you’d need them again—I did, too—but we’re gonna throw that shit out. It’s stale and lost its flavor years ago. We don’t need it. Never will.

Oh! And everyone else’s opinions. We’re gonna put those in that dark corner, way back in the pantry. We can forget about them for now. We’ll just check on them occasionally, see if any is useful.

Pick the apron with the colors or pattern that give you a zing of joy. Use your very favorite spoon. (I know you have one.)

Turn on some music, if you want, or stream your comfort show in the background. Or relish the silence around the soundtrack of your mixing and stirring. It’s your choice today. And tomorrow. And next week.

Do you think we should add anything? I’m open to suggestion, so long as we don’t get too many cooks in the kitchen, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, go on. Get to it.

Chef’s Note: The messier you get with this recipe, the better it turns out. I promise.

A Survivor’s Superpower

Guess what, you?

YOU are capable of change and growth and healing.

YOU are capable of an authentic life driven by deep joy, satisfaction, and stability.

Your abuser is NOT.

(A supporting text that will help you understand why is Lundy Bancroft’s book, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.)

Your abuser will never be reflective, self-aware, or humble. They will never consider that they’ve done anything wrong, or are responsible for anything which has failed or hurt or had any negative effect and attention.

They aren’t capable of holding themselves accountable, or hearing/validating anyone they’ve done wrong. Especially you.

They won’t participate in individual or couples therapy, unless it’s with an approach meant to fool and manipulate the expert and/or convince them *you’re* the one with the problems who is responsible for the abuse and your failing relationship.

They can’t sincerely apologize or change who they are—they merely play to their audience, mirroring and mimicking what they know is expected of them. Remember, they are experts at manipulating others. And they are clever people-readers.

They will never fulfill their promises, or become who they’ve pretended to be. No amount of catering, countering, or wishing on your part will ever make that different.

So I repeat, YOU are capable of change and growth and healing.

And this is your superpower. With it comes great responsibility…

but even greater reward.

Change Anyway, Survivor

THEM: “You’ve changed.”

YOU: “I had to. Can’t you see?”

Not everyone’s going to understand or support the transformation that’s required of your hurting and healing journey.

Change anyway.

Some will think that when you finally start expressing your opinion, you’re being argumentative.

Be opinionated anyway.

Some will believe that your new signs of independence mean you’re selfish and self-absorbed.

Be independent anyway.

Some will get mad when you assert boundaries, because they benefitted from your lack of them before.

Assert them anyway.

Some don’t like it when you start doing, behaving, being differently.

Break all your unhealthy patterns anyway.

Some assume you’re incapable of making your own decisions.

Make them anyway.

Some will get offended when you tell them “no,” because they think it’s about them.

Say “no” for yourself.

Learn. Grow. Change. Evolve. Find enlightenment. Love and protect yourself.

You deserve it.

Survivor, Give Solitude a Chance

Solitude is hard to handle when you’re used to chaos.

Being alone is difficult when you’ve been conditioned to codependency.

Sitting quietly with only one’s thoughts can be torture when those thoughts are dominated by triggers at every turn, and memories of the abuse.

But I’m asking you to give it a chance.

Solitude is where we taste peace at long last.

Being alone is how we manifest independence, a necessary counter-measure to the patterns of abuse.

Sitting quietly with only our thoughts is how we create the space to hear ourselves, and learn who we really are, with no one else’s bullshit getting in the way.

My unsolicited advice is to learn to get comfortable with it. Use it to your advantage.

Inside and around solitude is where the magic happens.

Tattered Hearts and Their Repairers

My best friend collects heart-shaped rocks. I’m not sure you would believe the sheer amount and variety her devotion has rendered. It’s impressive, and makes one want to start their own collection.

She gave me this one. Can you guess why by the visual?



Yep. Because it’s scarred, just like my own heart.

Tattered.

Marked by deep grooves that will never completely smooth into non-existence.

And the reason I’m bringing it up is because, as survivors of domestic/intimate partner abuse, we often fall into the trap of thinking someone else will and should fix our cracks and broken spots. That our rescuer is just over the horizon, running our direction with all the salve and bandaging we might need.

But I’m sorry to say, this isn’t true.

And it’s one of the first truths in survival we must face, that no one is going to swoop in to save, mend, or heal us; rather, we simply have wounded and unrealistic, romantic notions of such things.

This is (in part) because we have no idea yet the difficult journey before us. We only know that we want to stop hurting, and to be loved and valued and to feel safe, and on some level that we don’t want to be responsible for making these things happen ourselves. It’s just too much to face. Too big an undertaking when we are so low.

But listen, anyone who *does* swoop in, who allows us to believe they’ll “save” us, is more often than not a vulturous predator who’s taking advantage of our vulnerabilities.

Can you agree with me that that’s the last thing we need?

What we need, instead, is for patterns to stop and cycles to break. We need to teach ourselves about abuse, and learn about self-love. We’ve got to train ourselves to the red flags, and establish boundaries that will protect us into the future.

We must wield our own salve and bandaging, friends.

Because it is the only way we truly heal.

“Am I Being Annoying? Do They Hate Me?” | No, It’s a Trauma Response

I gave this pep talk to my kid this morning, and it just occurred to me that you might need to hear it, too.

(I’ve tweaked it some, since you’re probably not an almost-17yo dude. But I watched as enlightenment crossed his face, and I hope it reaches you, too.)

When you worry others are irritated with you,

that others are blaming you for <insert here>,

that you annoy them and they don’t want to be your friend/coworker/companion anymore,

that’s a trauma response.

And it’s because you’ve been conditioned, by someone in your life, to believe you’re an irritation and annoyance, that you’re the responsible one when things go wrong (and especially if it’s not done their way), and that you have to circumnavigate and/or avoid and/or counter every possible negative emotion they (or anyone else) may experience, at your own expense.

When this anxiety tries to consume you, pause. Remember this. It’s a trauma response.

The chance that your friends and cohorts and loved ones are ready to discard you is so far from likely. You’re not annoying. You’re not bothering them. They’re not prepared to un-choose you.

(So stop feeling so awful, for one, and for two, quit apologizing just for taking up space and being an individual.)

And in the off-chance someone is irritated or triggered by you?

That’s on them. It’s not your fault, your responsibility, your issue to fix.

Head up.

Shoulders back.

Find your center.

Let calm find your spirit.

You are worthy. You are loved. You are human.

Let’s Talk About Forgiveness

Many pieces of our American society — especially through the arm of Western religion — make you think that forgiveness (releasing another from the harm they’ve done you) is required for your peace and well-being.

My hot take is that forgiveness toward the one who abused you is not necessary for proper healing and happiness.

Because wrestling yourself toward that end only keeps them top of mind and maintains their hold on you. That’s not healthy, nor is it productive.

Not to mention, peace comes from educating yourself about what you went through and why,

learning red flags,

establishing boundaries,

identifying your triggers then mastering control of your reactions to them (more often than not),

and determining what healing looks and feels like for you. You and no one else.

Happiness comes when you’re able to define it for yourself. Authentically.

None of this requires releasing your abuser.

Honestly, forgiveness of self may be where it’s at, anyway.

You don’t have to carry the weight, regret, guilt, anger, sorrow any longer. Let it go.

And let go of this expectation impressed by others that you can’t move on or begin again until you forgive someone else.

Your conscious removal of the negativity and trauma can be self-motivated and self-propelled, with no stipulation connected to your abuser.

We need only release ourselves from the harm done.

Vacation My Way

As the house lights faded, my nose burned with emotion.

It’s rare that I don’t feel more than one emotion at once.

That day, last Saturday, it was gratitude, awe, pride, all together.

My kids, both older teens, and I had settled into our seats. Row 13, slightly off center. The theatre had filled fast around us, everyone thrumming with excitement over the renowned illusionist who was due to take the stage any minute.

It was a phenomenal show, I’ll say, but it was more than just a show to me, which circles me back to the emotion of the moment, of our long weekend.

This was our first vacation, the three of us. Our first real vacation—more than a single-night “staycation” in my native Kansas City, which we’ve managed a couple times over the years.

This was the first book-a-hotel-for-multiple-nights, coordinate-and-pre-purchase-event-tix, build-a-full-and-fabulous-itinerary, drive-a-fair-distance-from-home vacation we’ve ever been able to take together in the full decade (and then some) I’ve lived as a single mom and DV survivor.

There hasn’t been a budget before now, any/all wherewithal completely lacking. I’ve had so many more important things to do, for literal years. Work. Re-establish and stabilize. Define myself. Fight. Create and maintain a safe space for my kids. Heal.

But it was finally time. And I was finally able to pull it off.

Just so you know, we’re not talking grandiose scale. We took a modest trip, which was exactly right for us.

We did what we wanted. We balanced entertainment with leisure, and lots of delicious food. We enjoyed each other and manifested a peaceful, easy, happy time.

The “vacations” of my life before weren’t so. You probably know, survivor. Trips are mostly filled with tension, usually some ulterior motive, and fueled by someone who cares more about what others think about the projection — and audience consumption — of the fancy, impressive “vacation.” All that matters is how it looks to others, not whether it’s actually fun, enjoyable for everyone, rejuvenating for those who need and deserve it.

I’ve had enough of that for a lifetime. Of the emotions I used to associate with vacation.

But this time, long overdue, I did it my way. My little family did it our way, and it did not disappoint.

I still feel so much gratitude, awe, pride.

And for the first time in years, I look forward to another vacation.

Why I’m More Likely to Believe Amber

I see many women taking pleasure in bashing Amber Heard

and praising Johnny Depp

without understanding there is an emotional + psychological tactic in domestic and intimate partner abuse that is literally called “crazy making,” wherein the abuser convinces the victim and select outsiders, through all sorts of neat tricks and tools, that she is unstable.

And without understanding that some women are “diagnosed” with mental illness when what’s really at play is the symptomatic reaction to abuses they’ve been living with and continually subjected to.

Without understanding the victim’s life has been so stripped of healthy reality and stability that she can’t think straight, communicate well, or represent herself in the best way. Especially when, yet again, she is triggered and attacked by her abuser.

Not understanding this makes us question the women who need to be heard, shown a little grace, given a chance to find their center, their reality, and their stability—which is absolutely possible once they are free from the abuse.

Not understanding this makes us believe the narrative of men who are far from innocent, but instead cunning and charming manipulators who are, somehow, automatically given the benefit of the doubt simply because they present their case so calmly and confidently.

Not understanding this makes us contribute to the societal patterns of sexism and misogyny which dismiss “weak” and “hysterical” women in favor of “strong” and “responsible” men, and loses us to the drama of the shit show they’ve always baited us with.

I can’t. I won’t.

Please listen to the women who, like me, are trying to tell you these things.

We know what we’re talking about.

What’s Not Okay

It’s okay if you don’t know what you’re doing. What’s not okay is anyone in your support system making you feel bad about it.

It’s okay if others want to help you. What’s not okay is for them to take control the way your abuser always did.

It’s okay if you’re still figuring out your boundaries. What’s not okay is for others to take advantage of your uncertainty, then treat you like you’re the one doing something wrong.

It’s okay if you can’t be what others need right now. What’s not okay is for them to expect what you can’t give, especially if it’s more than they’re willing to offer you when you’re in need.

It’s okay if you can’t remember everything (it’s a trauma response). What’s not okay is for others to hold a grudge about it.

It’s okay if sometimes people aren’t happy with you. What’s not okay is for people to act like you’re responsible for their emotions.

It’s okay to feel everything you’re feeling, back and forth, up and down. These are confusing times, your healing. What’s not okay is for anyone to shame you about your journey, or your humanity.

It’s okay if you discard people who don’t belong in your new life.

It’s okay if you piss others off, especially if it’s while doing whatever is best and healthiest for you.

It’s okay when you mess up, even if you feel like you’re losing progress—because you’re not.

And it’s okay to celebrate when you are victorious.

It’s okay when you’re sad, angry, vulnerable, strong, giddy, elated.

You’re going to be okay. Actually, you’re going to be great. Powerful. Happier than you ever thought possible.

Keep going.