‘Anyone Can Be an Abuser’ – NNEDV

It’s so true. Not only is the abuser an expert with smoke and mirrors, with a well-crafted and usually long-preserved facade, but the one being abused — because of malignant manipulation and conditioning — is also pretty adept at keeping up pretenses and pretending life is good (even to him- or herself).

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How? Social media posts that highlight only happiness and success. Anecdotes to friends and family that leave out the worst of truths. Assimilation into the community and/or a church family, with behavior that is intentionally presented as morality, peace, false humility, as though there could never be any serious wrongdoing.

But to be educated about statistics and the realities in our homes, in too many homes, we must let go of preconceived notions. We must take a naked look at those around us, without turning a blind eye just because everything looks peachy on the surface-level.

We’re smarter than this! We must believe the victim when he or she finally “wakes up,” begins to disconnect from his/her abuser, and seeks help. This is really important in changing the abusive environments around us. We can’t let ourselves continue to be fooled.

#endabuse #TheNationalNetworktoEndDomesticViolence #NNEDV

National Single Parent Day

For all the parents who struggle on their own but keep going. For all the parents who stay the single course, whatever the reasons. For all those who do it authentically and with your eye on the prize: Your kids.

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photo credit | Janna Leadbetter

Because whatever you’ve been through, whatever’s ahead, they deserve your heart first. That’s why you keep going. And it’s why you deserve recognition today. #NationalSingleParentDay #March21 #celebrateyourself

Let the single parents in your life know you see them and their efforts. Someone might really need a gentle pat on the back today. 

Changing Need to Choice

Last night was one of those nights with strange dreams and intermittent wakefulness.

Somewhere between the dream about a guy from high school twenty years ago who I wasn’t friends with showing up at my door, in a home where I’ve never lived, to borrow Super Nintendo games that don’t exist in my reality, and the one where I — a non-athletic gal — am trying to train for a marathon with an acquaintance known to be an amazing runner, my ongoing to-do list cycled on through.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

I need to clean the kitchen and do laundry.

I need to work on that client’s resume.

I need to finalize some important paperwork.

And it came to me how much pressure it is to constantly use that word with myself. Need. It manifests an undercurrent of urgency, which in turn manifests stress. And then if I don’t accomplish that thing I’d “needed” to do: failure.

But how might it change my self-assessment and expectation if instead I speak to myself as though I choose what to do with my day?

Do you ever think we all must be geniuses in the middle of the night, around two or three a.m., when we’re free from constrictions and filters, and our heart and brain can communicate directly with one another? I think it’s when our creativity is at its rawest, too.

What if, when a friend asks, “What do you have going on today?” or if I’m working through that pending to-do list, I switched my approach to something less pressure-filled, more easygoing, with a gentler expectation. What if I’m actively, consciously choosing what to do, instead of dictating to myself something that must be done? Sure, we’re only talking semantics, a mental change, but could it make a difference in how the day goes? In how the day feels?

Today I choose to put the clean clothes away.

Today I choose to pick up outside in preparation for spring.

Today I choose to get the oil changed in my car.

I’m going to try it. My internal language is going to be a little bit different, so as to test this theory that I could put less pressure on myself while still getting stuff done.

Can I gain a greater sense of control over how my day is spent?

What do you think?

Just Say No to ’50 Shades’

Mayim Bialik — yep, of both Blossom and The Big Bang Theory fame — shares a powerful point in an essay, linked below, and that point is why I won’t read or watch the 50 Shades franchise.

To echo one of her sentiments, it’s not my place to judge a consensual relationship that might include some extreme behaviors — if they’re mutual and respectful to those involved — but what’s been pretty clear from the get-go is that what we have here isn’t a fantasy based on adult bedroom behavior, it’s a fictional world built to include psychological abuse (manifested in numerous ways) and sexual coercion.

IMAGINE A PROMOTIONAL MOVIE PHOTO HERE.

BECAUSE I COULDN’T FIND ONE TO SHARE THAT DIDN’T TURN MY STOMACH.

Is fear romantic? How about manipulation and mind games, do those make you swoon? When was the last time you thanked someone for forcing upon you something for which you didn’t give consent?

As one with a history of abuse and a present passion for advocacy, I ask you to think about what message you’re accepting and supporting when you buy the books or sit in a theater, expecting entertainment. #education #advocacy #abuseisabuse #justsaynoto50Shades

Ms. Bialik’s commendable essay can be found on her website GROKNATION.COM.

HERE’S A DIRECT LINK.

You’re welcome.

Changed: Reminder Around My Neck

I have a fair assortment of necklaces, most special for some reason or another, but I always seem to favor this one. Wear it nearly every day. There’s an Origami Owl locket, gifted by a dear friend and holding significant baubles, a vintage typewriter J key (because duh), plus this charm which says “changed.”

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Bought that soon after my divorce—so hard to believe that all started right at six years ago—because I knew then that I should recognize the change in ME which caused my waking up and leaving. Fast forward the way time does…

Now the charm usually hangs around my neck with no thought from me, but occasionally — like this morning — I catch sight of it and remember I still celebrate my change, and can’t forget how thankful I am for it.

TV Off, Creativity On: A Change in MO

I used to watch a lot of TV.

No shame. It’s not that I was lazy, a couch-ridden slug. I’m the kind to bounce up at every commercial break, and sometimes in between, to accomplish whatever task or another. The older I get, the more my attention wanders and misroutes and redirects, so I wasn’t glued to the tube.

But it’s how I would spend my downtime. That’s how I decompressed after a taxing work day, with the stresses of life. Or how I found me again, connecting with Just Janna, whenever Mom Janna was off the hook. I think, too, it’s how my subconcious did what it needed to do. (See my recent post which relates, called Composting All This Time.)

It takes stillness to face your truths, and reconcile your past, and claim your future. It takes stillness to think. That, for me, happened with and around repeated reruns of cop dramas. (Oh, yeah. The good stuff, like Criminal Minds or Law & Order: SVU.)

But it’s changed.

Except for maybe an hour of the Grammy Awards, and a movie or two with my kids, I haven’t had the TV powered on in at least a month. Maybe even six weeks. Why? I’m not entirely sure, just that something shifted in me.

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Okay, wait. Back up.

If I’m transparent, I have an idea about a partial prompt for the shift. Perhaps the inciting incident. See, I’d been dating a great guy, and then all of a sudden I wasn’t. (He was still great, I just wasn’t dating him anymore.) And I knew me. I knew I’d sit on the couch and mope about the break up, start to focus on all the things that aren’t right or are difficult in life, and over-analyze what’s beyond my control — that’s a thing about me, too, I over-analyze everything, and it’s rarely helpful — like with all my other break ups or dating disappointments, or like when my anxiety gets to be too much, or when I don’t have an answer for myself and so desperately need one. That’s how I’ve dealt with all the life I’ve been handed the last five or six years. I turn inward and I contemplate, which freezes me. It’s a fault.

I knew I needed to get past this way of processing my existence and its details — which, I’ll admit, despite all its trouble offers a lot of internal growth — and put my energies toward something more productive, something tangible. I needed to keep myself busy so as not to dwell and feel too much and dwell over feeling too much.

I needed to write again. Because come on, Janna. It’s time.

That meant watching TV was wasting precious focus. I was, maybe, indulging in too much downtime.

And I was right. It’s amazing how much more creative stuff there is, how much more output, when you put your energies into doing instead of thinking. Oh, I still think. I’ll never not be a thinker. And thinking is exactly what I should have done in these recent years, no regret. But I’m less idle now, finally. I’m writing, as evidenced by the number of blog posts that are building again, and by the word count which grows on my newest novel. (Number 4? 5? I don’t suppose it matters.) I’m cultivating my online presence and platform. And I’m reading again, voraciously. Not sure there’s a writer person who hasn’t yet seen reference to Stephen King’s admonition, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” [On Writing.]

We’ve got to read. We’ve got to write. We’ve got to chase our creative pursuits, otherwise, how else will our dreams ever come true?

Don’t get me wrong. Downtime is super-important. We all require it. We should each carve some out for ourselves on a regular basis, for personal balance and mental health.

I still have my downtime. My need for it didn’t disappear. I just forced a shift in what it looks like for me.

It looks like less TV, as a matter of fact.

Plus, I think I’ve seen all the reruns more than once anyway, so it all works out.

Dear Church: It’s Time to Stop Enabling Abusive Men

Late last night, the link to an important, powerful article came through my feed on Facebook. The title (used here as my post title, as well) was enough to hook my interest. I’d never consciously thought such a specific thing, but before I even clicked through I knew the author, Gary Thomas, was absolutely right.

I’ve seen it — that enabling — with my own eyes, in my own situation, at my own (former) church. And plenty elsewhere, too.

To read the article in full, click HERE.

But whether or not you feel driven to take in the whole essay, which is approached from a Christian perspective, there are several noteworthy passages that I can’t leave unshared.

“If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions.”

“This woman needs to be protected from such grotesque abuse, and if divorce is the only weapon to protect her, then the church should thank God such a weapon exists.”

“When these men aren’t confronted, and aren’t repentant, they don’t change.”

“I want a man who was abusive to have to explain to a potential second wife why his first wife left him.”

Let men realize that behavior has consequences, and that wives are supposed to be cherished, not used, not abused and never treated as playthings. If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it, and let him know it can be lost.”

This article only scratches a surface. Mr. Thomas approaches the topic as if the men in question might acknowledge their wrongdoing and be honest about circumstances and their behavior. This typically isn’t going to happen with an abuser—especially if the ball is passively left in their court—as there are powerful disorders and distortions at work. He will ignore and hide the truths, even lie about them to avoid any accountability, also paving the way for his continued misbehavior.

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photo borrowed from the original article on ForEveryMom.com

But this writer is absolutely right to call out the church and its leaders, for not confronting their men and for not demanding humility and guiding change, real change. It’s right for this writer to call out the church’s followers, too, who are often too quick to turn a blind eye and make uninformed assumptions, as well as harsh, mislaid judgments toward the women/victims.

Why aren’t we protecting the women, instead siding with the men? Why do we so easily offer blind acceptance when swift consequence is warranted? Why don’t we loudly demand that men own up to their behavior or else?

Awareness and advocacy and education can be so powerful, and those efforts must be present in church homes as much as anywhere else.

I’ve done a lot of research, and therapeutic efforts (we’re talking intense, long-term therapy) for rehabilitation are only successful a scant 10% of the time—and that’s for the few who actually recognize a problem with need for change and put forth authentic effort to begin with. First must come an internal awareness, and those who perpetuate the abuse inherently fight that awareness, day-in and day-out. There is usually no hope, and this is heartbreaking.

These norms and staggering statistics won’t begin to shift until or unless others — whether someone in a position of authority, like clergy or law enforcement, or everyday folk like you and me — begin to call out and hold abusers accountable for their incredible wrongdoing.

Until abusers are told (and told and told and shown) that we aren’t going to allow it anymore, nothing is going to change.