I’m remembering the time someone suggested that I’ve gotten where I am — healing, sharing, teaching — because I must have had more and better resources than other survivors.
If she’d had any idea how long I’ve struggled financially and fought emotionally, how many times I’ve pulled myself up by the proverbial boot straps, how often I’ve pushed my sorrow, anxiety, anger, trauma into raw hope, the weeks and months and years I’ve spent incredibly alone with only myself to rely on, she’d have never said a thing.
But perhaps that wouldn’t have mattered to her.
Perhaps all she needed to understand was that fighting for survival isn’t about resources, anyway. Not really.
Do resources help? Hell, yeah. And we all deserve them.
But what truly matters in our fight for survival is how willing we are to hunt down those resources—because they don’t just show up at the doorstep—and also, how willing we are to become resourceful.
What matters is how soon we realize that no one can or should come to our rescue and make it easy, or take away the fight. Because we have to take on the journey ourselves.
And what matters is how readily we understand that we actually have to do the homework of building our safe space,
breaking the patterns that only we are responsible for and which cannot continue,
establishing the boundaries necessary for healthier choices and future relationships,
and transforming our mentality from that of victim to that of a warrior.
Of course resources help. Support helps. Financial aid helps. Having a good job helps. Surprise opportunity — like being in the right place at the right time — helps.
But not as much as choosing our path forward, laying claim to our very future, and then showing up every damn day to manifest the life we deserve.
And I wanted you to know.
It’s never happened to me with a book before.
(Movies, though, more times than I can count.)
I bought this one in May while on vacation but only recently started reading. It’s 482 pages. Published in 2016.
The plot was all brand new until about two-thirds in. That’s when something rang a bell. A sub-thread. One of the supporting characters. But I assumed it was just a familiarity with Sparks’ writing.
And yet the farther I get — my bookmark rests at page 233 now — the more I feel sure that I’ve read Two By Two before. The bell is ringing more often and more clearly with every turn of the page.
Which is wild. The biggest plot pieces aren’t something I remember. The drama, the conflict. Zilcho. And I have no idea where it leads from its halfway point, which is where I’ve paused, or how it ends.
But I do know how to explain this phenomenon.
It’s because the trauma we experience, not to mention the stress of post-separation abuse, affects our memory. It blocks us from recalling conversations we’ve had, shows we’ve watched, experiences we’ve lived while in the midst of chaos, worry, instability, upheaval, heartbreak.
I never expected to go through this with a book though. I’m a tried and true book girl. Who forgets what she reads?
Especially a fat, layered book which features a character whose behavior is quite uncomfortable and triggering—because it feels so much like behavior I’ve lived with myself. Gaslighting. Projection. Stonewalling, to name a few. Of all things, you’d think I’d remember that.
Unless that’s why I buried it…
“It’s a really good one,” the clerk said that day in May. She held it up as she completed the transaction, to make sure I saw.
I wonder if I agreed with her the first time I read it.
It doesn’t matter what the person who abused you thinks. It doesn’t matter what their enablers think. Or what the people with whom you have a personality conflict. Your bully boss, the manipulative friend. That new person you’re dating—don’t start that connection by caring too much about meeting their preferences and expectations. You HAVE to learn to be true to yourself.
Because all that matters at the end of this life is how you loved and perceived yourself.
Need a reminder today? I’ve got it for you.
It’s okay if all you make for dinner is mac & cheese or Ramen. You’re busy trying to heal.
It’s okay if the laundry has piled up. You’re busy trying to heal.
It’s okay if you cry in the shower longer than you lather your hair. You’re busy trying to heal.
It’s okay if you go to bed early and sleep a lot. You’re busy trying to heal.
It’s okay if you can’t socialize with friends right now. You’re busy trying to heal.
It’s okay if you forgot x, y, or z for the kids. You’re busy trying to heal.
It’s okay if you feel angrier than ever. You’re busy trying to heal.
It’s okay if you can’t find the motivation to run errands. You’re busy trying to heal.
It’s okay if you don’t want to see anybody. You’re busy trying to heal.
It’s okay if you turn away from your favorite hobbies. You’re busy trying to heal.
It’s okay if you can’t find the steam to “hustle.” You’re busy trying to heal.
It’s okay if you have to let go of certain relationships. You’re busy trying to heal.
It’s okay if you prioritize which bills get paid first. You’re busy trying to heal.
It’s okay if you can’t remember everything everyone expects you to. You’re busy trying to heal.
It’s okay if you don’t want to “put yourself together” the way you always did before. You’re busy trying to heal.
It’s okay if you sit on your couch all day and watch the show you’ve already seen a dozen times. You’re busy trying to heal.
It’s okay if you explain yourself to no one. You’re busy trying to heal.
Because it’s okay to put your healing first.
The superficial, patriotic noise & nationalist pride of today’s America do not bring me joy on this Independence Day, and give me no cause to celebrate.
They can have Old Glory. I made my own flag.
As a DV survivor, ally, and advocate, I choose and fight for personal freedom & autonomy every day.
As such, my flag features the color of domestic violence awareness: purple,
seven stripes to signify the average number of tries it takes a victim to leave their abuser,
raised fists, empowered, in diverse shades, representing all genders & orientations, and
its own declaration, which is to say we will not turn away, back down, or let the superficial, patriotic noise & nationalist pride shake our survival—or our will to fight for what’s right.
I won’t apologize for calling it what it is.
Because it’s abusive to pick and choose which scriptures prevail and which ones get conveniently swept under the rug. Which ones are to be interpreted literally and which ones, under no circumstances, aren’t.
It’s abusive to decide which “sins” are permissible, as in humanly forgivable, and which “sins” are to be openly shamed. Which “sinners” are to be turned away and excommunicated, and which are to be welcomed with open, accepting arms.
It’s abusive to preach about agency — the will to make decisions for oneself — and then dictate what decisions must be made (or else).
It’s abusive to use your religion as a means for power and control over others.
It’s abusive to favor the men, to place them on pedestals, to hand them more power because of their penis, to believe the men before the women in dynamics of domestic abuse, to shame and discard the women after divorce but not the men who are the abusers.
Self-righteous judgment is abusive.
Misogyny is abusive.
The patriarchy — in church and beyond it — is abusive.
The double standards and hypocrisy of organized religion are abusive.
Demanding conformity is abusive.
Using the man-made church, and its doctrine, and all related, interwoven coercive control (defined by Laura Richards, a criminal behavior analyst, as a strategic pattern of behavior designed to exploit, control, create dependency, and dominate) is abusive.
And what’s more, as if all that isn’t enough, spiritual abuse enables domestic abuse.
I can’t and will never see it any other way,
because my life was forever changed by it.
I’m bettin’ the chances are good: yours was too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.