Wednesday, December 18, 2019

All I Want for Christmas - a DV poem

Dedicated to Domestic Abuse Survivors 

I do want a lot for Christmas
But it’s not too much to ask
Because I’m learning what I’m worth
And that I have innate value (at last)

First on my list is the freedom to be me
Without criticism or argument
Able to be and do and think on my own
Since I’m not someone else’s puppet

Second is room to grow, Santa
Because I’ve been held back for too long
It’s time for me to thrive
Without feeling like it’s wrong

It won’t be easy and will take some practice 
Not to be selfless the way I’ve been conditioned
But they say self-care is a must
So next comes my own prioritization

Also on my list is peace
No more anxiety - peace in my heart
No more eggshells - peace in environment
It’s time for calm, a fresh start

Related to peace is clarity, I mean of boundaries
Which are my rules for do and don’t
And the strength for me to abide by them
Especially when other people won’t

I want to breathe freely, and deep
And know that from here forward I get to decide
Who has permission to hurt me
I’m ready to test my voice: “go ahead, I dare you. try”

I want to laugh when something is funny
From way down, a real place
Not because I have to pretend I’m okay
With jokes at my expense

I want to trust myself
That I’m capable, smart, whole
That there is life beyond my trauma
And that there is good, better in store

I’ll need the bruises to fade,
Santa, and for the wounds to heal
But I’m okay with scars, since they remind me
That what I went through was real

I’m learning the abuse was not my fault
That I am enough without apology
I’m learning I can be loved
And I will be, just for being me

So I don’t want actual presents
Health and healing are my concern
All I want for Christmas is a lot (see above) 
Because it’s everything I deserve.

by Janna Leadbetter, advocate and coach
Founder of Breaking the Silence for Women/Facebook
All I Want for Christmas | copyright December 2019

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Jiminy Pays a Visit

Recently I read a reminder that grasshoppers are good luck, and realized I hadn't seen one in ages.
On Thursday I spotted a GIANT one on the outside of my living room window.
Yesterday morning I woke to find a small one inside, resting high on the closet door in our front room. When he was still there last night after work, I decided to keep him and name him Jiminy. When he was still there this morning -- exact same place -- I realized he's probably terrified, and it's probably not good to keep a grasshopper indoors. So, I set him free.
As he hopped off my front stoop, he called over his shoulder, "Thank yoooouuuu, Janna! I'll put in a good word with Geppetto about that good luck you're duuuuueeeee."
You're welcome, Jiminy.
And thank YOU.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

New Resident Log: Day Two

It's cozy here. Not real tidy at the moment, but homey none the less. I can overlook the dirty dishes.
I'm being very careful to exist with little to no lasting impact. Nobody likes a new roommate who isn't conscientious about that.
Janna doesn't know that I've been sleeping with her at night. (And she thinks that guy with the weird eye---she calls him Rooney---is the bed hog. If only she had a clue!) She talks in her sleep. Funny stuff.
She hasn't yet noticed that I shower when she does, which is only because water conservation is important. I'm sure she'll thank me later.
There are SO many books here. I wish I could read.
There might be just as many pairs of shoes, but since I've got eight legs I can't borrow any.
Okay, that's it for today's log. I can tell Janna is pretty drained, and I think she's headed for the couch. I hope we watch another episode of Law & Order, I like that show! BUH BUH! Ha.
Until tomorrow,
*Stanley is my real name, not The Biggest Spider I've Ever Seen, as Janna initially assumed.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

From Fiction to Truth

Back when I was a writer of fiction, and planned the same for my future, I had no idea how important truth would become to me.
Now, roughly a decade later, truth is my platform.
I didn't anticipate the shift. I've been hesitant to wholly accept it, too. Thought I still had to honor the fiction dream, make room for it, keep myself promised to it. That *that's* what made me a writer.
I've allowed a feeling of guilt about it to fester, even---not just because there has literally been no head space for fiction, but also because some part of me didn't think it was okay to change my mind. To change course.
Cue epiphany!
I see now the course for me was set all along, I've merely had to arrive at it in my own time. With my own truth in tact, and with an understanding that it's my power and ability as a writer which helps me share truth for others. That's what my advocacy is borne of, and it bolsters the plans I have for the foundation I've been building and want to expound upon. Ideas on top of ideas, and that's my power and ability as a creative.
Maybe my fiction was only meant for that life before, the one I got myself out of. Maybe it's good and intended that I choose truth now, fully, not just for myself, but for all the others who need it.
Fiction has its place but I don't think it's with me anymore. It's time for me to embrace that.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Journey with Janna: finding JOY after abuse

From my Facebook advocacy page, Breaking the Silence for Women:

Dear Sister Survivors,
Breaking the Silence for Women was established to educate and empower women who are experiencing or have escaped domestic abuse.
What if, instead of working to "break the silence" for collective other women, I shifted gears to help individual women break their own?

Don't panic.
That doesn't mean you have to take on the task of telling your story... Instead, to me, it looks like fine-tuning my page content and coaching women to:
*define what healing means to you
*set goals to approach and maintain that healing
*understand self-worth and how to embrace yours
*learn how to be single after abuse to become self-empowered
*manifest the life you want and deserve
*find JOY despite everything (see NEW profile and cover photos)
To BREAK YOUR OWN SILENCE you must accept your past, take charge of your present, and shape + demand your future.
I promise to help you. PM the page inbox to learn more.
With you in healing and joy,

Not to be Torn

It occurs to me after much recent contemplation, and some studies which align to what I'm about to say, that the key to avoiding the torn place I mentioned a couple weeks ago is this:

Gratitude, joy, and good things are manifested by continually believing something wonderful is going to happen. So do it. Believe. Expect wonderful.

Expect wonderful for yourself and from the universe, in whatever ways it sees fit.

The self-protection part doesn't negate this approach. It merely means you've taught yourself and embraced knowing that even if and when "wonderful" doesn't happen, you're going to be okay anyway. Life is good when we will it to be so.

We have to believe that, too.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

When Public Housing Gives You More Than Your Abusive Ex Ever Did

I and my two teenagers live in public housing. People make assumptions, but all I say to those assumptions is that one does what is best when considering all options, and also, what makes a home comes down to a whole lot more. Plus, while it’s already been four years here, this won’t be a forever thing, so who the hell cares?

Today, before lunch, the maintenance men delivered a brand-new refrigerator upgrade to my unit. I never asked for it, and the old one was working just fine. Still, new fridge! I am pleased as punch.

I can't help but think how drastic a difference that is from back when I was married…

The last marital home we shared was a house we’d purchased to remodel. Top to bottom, inside out. We did everything ourselves, or hired individuals to help, rather than construction teams and legit contractors. (There’s an essay there, too, about the way my ex cut corners and fraudulently paid for much of that house, which I did not know at the time, but for another day…)

The project saved for last was the kitchen. The heart of a home. The place you (ideally, when it's a happy home) gather to cook and eat many times a day, and talk and share and exist together. His reasoning was, it's the most expensive project. Best put off for last. Maybe that's true. Maybe that's bullshit just like so much else he blew around. Maybe it's because I wanted an adequate---not even grandiose!---kitchen desperately, more than any other project. But as a narcissist whose primary goal in our relationship was power and control, he operated by doing (or not doing) things to spite me, avoid my happiness, and serve himself.

I wanted something other than the old gas oven and range I believed was unsafe. A range hood with exhaust was high on my list---I didn't have one of those at all. More cabinetry was a necessity. I wanted a dishwasher, which was another thing I didn't have. And a new fridge. I really wanted a new fridge. I wanted insulation and real, pretty, painted walls---instead of particle board-type single-layer inefficient and ugly crap which literally had the exterior shingles on the other side. But I couldn't have those things.

What I did have was an unpleasant room and a collection of box elder bugs. I had gaping gaps along the north and south walls, right at the floor---maybe six inches wide?---and those opened directly into the smelly, dank crawl space beneath. I also had an out-dated linoleum floor that had been curling up to expose chip-board base since before we moved in.

Does the mental picture help you understand why the kitchen was top of my list?

Eventually, after almost six years in, attention did turn to that part of the house. Insulation, drywall, paint were first. Still without fanfare or any speed to speak of, mind you, but things were happening.

Turns out this was long about the time I began reflecting and connecting with the truth of my reality, which is what became the process of learning I had no choice but to leave a marriage that had been nothing but abusive.

Closing the gaps and new flooring were next.

Turns out, after I announced my decision about divorce, and had arranged to physically leave with a scheduled date for doing so---suddenly, magically, as if I'd finally hit the right switch---new beautiful cabinetry was installed. Immediately following, a large appliance package including matching fridge, dishwasher, oven/range and range hood were purchased and installed. Isn't that magical?

Except let's be honest. Rather than magic, what we have here is the game of a narcissist which can be viewed in one of two ways: 1) a lavish last-hour attempt to give her what she wants, what she has always wanted but was never given, so as to finally fulfill her desires and, hopefully, manipulate her into staying, because the pleasure or gratitude might be strong enough to pull her back in, and keep her dangling on his string; or, 2) it's just another blow to her wants and needs, which don't matter, made all the more clear since now that she's leaving and won't be here to enjoy it, there's a mad dash to do it all. "See, it CAN be done. Just not for you."

I've always believed that in my case, it was #2.

It's been eight years since I moved out of that house, and left its new kitchen.

I haven't thought about this story in such a long time.

It came to mind today only because my new refrigerator was delivered. And I didn't even ask for it!

Public housing, at least where I live, is just that good. They take care of us here. The office staff and maintenance team work full time. They operate with attention and address with regularity and care for their people. They mow in the summer; throw salt in the winter. They fix. They mend. They replace. They call me "Hon." They see me, and they know my worth.

Not even my ex-husband had that going for him.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

When the Universe Hears and Replies

Sometimes I feel like the universe doesn't hear my call. My wishes. My deep, dark wants, which feels like I am left without. But then sometimes the universe does hear---and it doesn't just hear, it replies. That's when I know I am fulfilled.

Such was true over the holiday weekend.

Memorial Day is a big deal for cemeteries in America. And because I'm employed by a large funeral home, which operates and is situated on the same grounds as a large cemetery, it means a big deal at work for me and my colleagues. It's a fun time. Truly.

It's a chance to get off the phone and out of the office, away from paperwork. Away from the intensity of grieving families who literally JUST lost a loved one, and instead out in the fresh air with (hopefully) sunshine; mingling among those who bring quiet, experienced reverence to their loves ones' final resting place.

Staff are divided into sections of the cemetery, and sent out on golf carts for ease of patrolling. We are armed with maps and a locator app, to guide visitors -- they number in the many thousands -- to an exact grave.

We take down service requests. We answer questions. We offer an ear.

I reflect, too.

On Sunday I thought about my dad a lot. He's been gone nine years this month.

On Monday the universe delivered to me three men, all about his age, each one alone. Because a companion or tag-along just wouldn't have fit the need.

Man One wore cargo shorts and a collared shirt, plus a newsboy cap. Just like my dad. He had a bit of a tummy pooch, too, just like my dad. He struggled to climb into the golf cart so I could give him a ride around the garden, the way my dad would have, all long and tricky limbs. He offered a calm, comfortable presence. My dad would have done that, too. And after we found the grave he was visiting, when we were parting ways, he placed his hand on my shoulder as a goodbye. It was such a dad thing to do.

Man Two smelled of a rich, masculine aftershave or cologne, like something my dad wore. I was so happy to breathe it in, little did he know.

Man Three gestured with his hands as he spoke. I was so happy to watch him from the corner of my eye, little did he know how much warmth those movements gifted me.

Just when I think the universe---God, really, that encompassing power and knowledge all around us---has gone quiet, it speaks.

It listens the whole time, and just waits for the right moment.

Sometimes, weirdly, the right moment happens in a cemetery.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

I'm Just Tired

I don't know about you, but

I'm tired of being nice. I'm tired of being thoughtful and of offering consideration toward others, without receiving the same in return. I'm tired of being responsible, and productive, but also of not being able to do enough. I'm tired of being strong, and of doing so much on my own. Of pulling up my boot straps while knowing it's because I have no other choice.

I'm tired of smiling, and putting on a brave face. I'm tired of having to work so hard at my peace. I'm tired of having to work so hard at my assertiveness, where for others it comes so naturally; and of believing they benefit with no hesitation from the universe.

I'm tired of people who don't operate honestly or by integrity, getting (seemingly) everything they want in life---and of believing they benefit with no hesitation from the universe---while the rest of us work so hard to get the things we gain and yet still find certain bits of life lacking.

I'm tired of the cheats and liars and sociopaths we encounter every day, who take advantage and claim more than they deserve, and also hurt people in the process.

I don't know about you, but

I'm just tired.

I'm burned out at work, and at home. Burned out carrying more than my own load; working hard when others don't. Burned out with customer service. Burned out with meal planning and prep, with dirty dishes and laundry, both dirty and clean, and pet care. With car maintenance and commuting. Burned out here at the end of the school year, though it's my teens wrapping up their spring academics, not me. Burned out over being single, and with the hope of eventually not being single anymore. Burned out by disappointment.

I'm in a pitiful mood. Going through a rough patch. I know that's what it is, and that it'll turn around, but can't fix it yet. No one else can fix it, I know that, too.

No one wants to listen to their upbeat friend who normally has her shit together whine and complain.

I don't even want to hear me whine and complain. But I write it here, my internet safe-space established years ago, where I used to share without a second guess. This is where I used to write about the human condition.

I don't know about you, but

today's human condition for me is pretty pitiful.

In five days I'll embark on a week-long vacation from my day job. Home time. Project time. A chance to retreat, disconnect and decompress more than for just one evening or a Sunday, to find my reset button, and reboot.

I know my rough patch will turn around. It always does, after the pitiful wears away.

Maybe this time next month I won't be so tired.

Friday, May 17, 2019


Torn between hope

"Always expect something wonderful to happen"

and self-preservation

"The only way to be happy is to stop expecting anything from other people"

in perpetuity.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

How Our "Selves" Help Us Heal from Abuse

I’ve been thinking about something since last weekend, and knew an essay was coming. Here it be.
What follows are my personal interpretations of a theory presented by Mark Ettensohn, Psy.D., in his book, Unmasking Narcissism: A Guide to Understanding the Narcissist in Your Life.
Dr. Ettensohn suggests the idea that we each have three selves. I feel strongly that understanding these selves is imperative to ALL of us for living a well-adjusted, enlightened life, as well to domestic abuse survivors for living a healed one. Stay with me...
First, and again, in my own words, is the conceptualized self. This is the day-to-day portion of our awareness, and it bogs us down in thought, which is often superficial, and in reaction. In definition. In labels. Example: I conceive -- have conceptualized -- that I’m a single mom. I’m a fatherless daughter. I’m a worker bee. I’m a victim. I drive an old car. I live in a tiny duplex. I am tired. I am sad. I am anxious and worry about my future. I am weak and unworthy... That’s my conceptualized self. It sees vulnerability and mistakes or problems. It focuses on the upsetting or the stressful, and lets the negative hold court.
But, “you are not your thoughts,” says Dr. Ettensohn.
Second comes our observing self. This self takes into inventory the entire picture. Bird’s-eye view of whole experience. Through this self I am more than the labels my brain assigns. I’m human---more than a mom or daughter or sister or friend, or on my own---and I am the human condition. I love. I feel. I understand. I’m not just a worker bee; I work for myself and for others. I am bigger than what I drive and where I live. I am a survivor, and one who looks and lives beyond having been a victim. I am strong because I have been weak, and alongside my ever-present vulnerabilities, because I’m worthy. There isn’t just negative in me, there is also positive. I am not good or bad, black and white, I am both, and neither is wrong nor right. This part of us is constant, offers Ettensohn, and is unaffected by our thoughts. Think about that for a moment.
How much more peace could we feel every day if we embraced that those passing thoughts do not affect our whole?
Lastly is self-as-context. This is where the two other selves co-exist. Our conceptualized self is important for daily operations, because it helps us make decisions and solve problems and move forward. But the awareness of our observing self is how we maintain a greater perspective. It’s how we understand that trees create a forest, to borrow from Ettensohn.
The point of this theory in the book is that narcissists can’t see beyond the conceptualized self. They cannot observe the whole, so they don’t reflect or grasp perspective, or an understanding of how their disordered behaviors affect others.
So, too, in reading these theories, I recognized that many survivors of domestic abuse (by a narcissist) become suspended in the conceptualized self. We get stuck in those labels we were conditioned to believe for years. We mistakenly, at times, think that is all there is.
But it’s important to understand there is more. We are more than those things we were taught. We are good. We are worthy. We are greater than loss. We are purpose, not just task. We are whole experience, beyond abuse.
Think about that for a moment, too. And then have a talk with your selves.
[I absolutely recommend reading this book for yourself if the topic strikes any interest or need for understanding.

Once again, my summary here may not reflect Dr. Ettensohn’s intention as presented in Unmasking Narcissism (pgs. 160-163).]

Monday, April 1, 2019

Hello, Beautiful! (A Book Review)

Finally Love Yourself Just As You Are: An Interactive Devotional Journal for Women

With voices both affectionate and thought-provoking, Hello, Beautiful! co-authors Jeanette Levellie and Beth Gormong jump into a clear truth.
“We’ve all known women who’ve put their husbands, children, and friends ahead of their own genuine need for value and love, only to end up mentally burned out, physically beaten up, or emotionally bruised.”
Maybe we are those women.
Maybe we don’t have to be.
Hello, Beautiful! declares, “There is a better way to a life of joy: love yourself.”
Through warm, transparent anecdotes and with their Christian faith at the helm, Beth and Jeanette reach out to the insecurities and self-doubt most of us harbor, and ask:
Why are we so hard on ourselves?
Why shouldn’t we love and accept ourselves as wholly as we love and accept our dearest friends—and even mere acquaintances?
What does it take to recognize our worth once and for all?
Follow Jeanette and Beth through story, interactive challenges, prayer prompts, Scripture review, and even coloring pages to answer these questions.
“Are you broken? If you said yes, then good for you. I say yes to brokenness too. We’re all broken in one place… or ten. And when we readily admit it, we’re on our way to finding the help we need to become whole.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Check on Your Friends

We deal with a significant, heartbreaking amount of suicide at the funeral home where I work. I have yet to see a pattern.
So check on your friends.
The ones who are single, widowed, or divorced.
The friends who are coupled, even if they tout and shout happiness and fulfillment, but especially if they don't.
The ones who don't worry about finances, and the ones who do.
The ones living with disease, as well as the healthiest of them.
The ones who have asked for help, and the ones who haven't.
The ones who are lonely, and the ones you assume aren't.
The ones you don't see often, and the ones you do.

Check on the military veterans, and the military spouses.
Those who are set in a career path, and the ones finding their way. Professionals to blue collar.
The ones with clear sign of mental illness, and those who present like they have it all together.
Busy friends and idle friends.
The ones who are quiet on social media but loud in life.
The ones who are active on social media and reserved in person.
The friends who laugh a lot.
The friends who cry a lot.
The friends who give a lot.
The friends who have nothing to give.
The angels and the rebels.
Your straight friends. The LGBTQ ones.
The teenagers, young adults, middle aged, and retirees.
The Republicans, Democrats, and who's in between.
The Christians and Atheists, and who's in between.
The intellectuals and morons, and who's in between.
Check on the introverts, and the extroverts.
The confident friends, and not-so.
Check on the parents. All of them.
Any time someone crosses your mind, check on them.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Walking Was My Therapy

Several years back we lived in a small town of about 1800 people. It never felt like home to me, and for a couple of reasons. One was that life for my kids and me had changed drastically, but not so as to allow the fresh start I truly needed. (That would come later, and with good timing.) Two, because I grew up in the Northland of Kansas City on the Missouri side, and I will always be a city girl at core.

But our locale was good for a few things, among them the walks I took often and by myself. For me those walks were about physical fitness, mental awareness, and emotional repair.

I pushed myself pretty far. Down the street, through the neighborhood---traffic and uneven pavement be damned---to the other side of town, outside city limits among the gravel roads and livestock---including two horses who came to recognize me as well as I them---and back again. I minded my heart's pounding, my lungs breathing, my muscles working. I walked myself through.

I pushed myself pretty far. Those footsteps were matched in tempo and quantity by my thoughts. I assessed with naked honesty who I'd been for too long, with little autonomy, and also who I wanted to be. I turned over ugly, painful experiences, and looked at them head-on. I dissected what I'd begun learning about something called narcissistic personality disorder, and how that had ruled my marriage. I considered that, maybe, everything I'd been brainwashed to believe for years may not be true after all. I talked myself through.

During those walks I came to see I am in this moment. I am in this life. I get to choose how it goes now, from here forward.

I pushed myself pretty far, because nature and solitude don't judge. I let the feelings come to surface and lift away. Feelings of hurt, smallness, and regret from the abuse I'd left; feelings of potential, hope, and self-love because I'd gotten out.

The time and attention I gave myself on those walks were healing. It was about forgiving myself as much as grieving, and identifying my aim for the future as much as rehashing---and then letting go the hold on---my past.

I've never gone to formal therapy. Many have told me I should. I have nothing against it, can't pinpoint a reason I didn't seek out help for healing from a professional. I just didn't.

But I did walk. And I wouldn't be where I am right now if I hadn't.