Don’t Ask How It Happened

Don’t Ask How It Happened

One of the most exhausting and frustrating questions for me, for my brother and for other trauma survivors I’ve talked to is “How did it happen?”

That is none of your fucking business.

If you weren’t there, if it wasn’t your experience, not only will you not understand, but I don’t owe it to you to explain it to you. I don’t owe you answers. I don’t owe you an explanation. I don’t want to relive it. I don’t want to repeat it over and over and over again. I don’t want the constant reminder. I don’t want to hear what you think about it. I don’t want to hear you ask if it could have been prevented. I certainly don’t want to hear you state with authority that it could have gone differently. I may not even have processed the answer. Sometimes it takes time and a lot of pain to do that.

None of that helps me. Not a single fucking bit.

Beyond the personal side, trauma often involves legal action or investigation. Asking how it happened potentially exposes me or whoever I need to protect to legal issues that I am better off not having to face. Not only do I not necessarily want to share that information with you, I don’t know that you won’t share it with someone who will hurt me with the information.

This is not about you and your desire to know. This is about the person at the center of the trauma and making sure that your ignorance doesn’t compromise or damage them further.

Don’t ask how it happened. If we want to tell you, we will. We tell our stories to the extent we can, we want to or we have the emotional energy to. Or we don’t. Trauma was not a choice for us, telling you is, and don’t ask us to make that choice. Ask us how we feel, ask us if you can help, but don’t fucking ask us how it happened.

Smothered Pork Chops

Smothered Pork Chops

My mom and brother apparently have been watching some food tv while he recovers from surgery, and they made a very specific request for smothered pork chops. I have never made said dish, but was happy to oblige. We have had so many very kind people provide meals, but this is not one that will be as good after traveling…especially since they also wanted fried okra.

Basically, we were done with salads for the day.


Smothered Pork Chops

4 regular bone-in pork chops (I didn’t use thin cut chops because I didn’t want to risk overcooking them)

1 large sweet onion, halved then thinly sliced or diced, whichever you prefer

1/4 cup butter (half of a stick)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp each garlic salt, black pepper, cumin and paprika

4 cups chicken broth

Mix the flour and spices in a shallow dish. Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat and toss in the half stick of butter (or a bit more). Dredge the pork chops in the flour mixture and press the flour into them. Pan fry 3-4 minutes on each side in the butter until golden brown. The chops will not be cooked through. Set them aside on a plate.

Keep the pan on medium heat and saute the onions until soft and translucent. Add the flour from the dredge pan and mix thoroughly. (If you forget the onions and add the flour first, make the roux then add the onions and it will still work out fine. I would know!) Cook the flour in for 2-3 minutes until everything is mixed and a dark brown. If it is too dry, add a little more butter. Stir in the chicken stock one cup at a time until a smooth gravy develops. Add more chicken stock if the gravy is too thick – it will cook down for about another ten minutes.

Place the chops back into the gravy (I had to cut the bone off a couple of them to make them fit) and cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until done. The gravy should be bubbling hot. Serve over potatoes with okra, then follow with brownies, ice cream and Mad Max: Fury Road.


Like Job Am I

Like Job Am I

I sat at a table in a restaurant with a group of acquaintances and strangers and cried for almost an hour after someone asked about my brother. And they let me.

I found myself in the friction of perception v. reality when I realized that because I have chosen to praise God for His Grace, His faithfulness and His provision, people have not necessarily understood how horrible and painful my brother’s accident has been, both for him and for myself and my family. For me,

it is easier to praise God than it is to sit with the pain.

As I came face to face with that reality, after spending years avoiding pain, I decided that this time I wasn’t going to wait to do the hard work. So I let go of any concern I had about how I might be perceived, and I was broken, vulnerable and in a lot of pain there at the table. They gave me space to do that.

There was no picking sides or choosing paths, no either or. It was all of it. And Job 13:15 was spoken to me, which so perfectly fit where I am:

Yea though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.

The verse, the statement Job made after his life had been obliterated, doesn’t ignore the pain, it fully acknowledges it. At the same time, it acknowledges a deep faith that is fulfilled by a deeper God. More importantly, it doesn’t ignore my pain and it expresses my faith. I am so thankful for the woman who listened and responded in a way that met me where I am.

I continue to be both shattered by the pain of my circumstances and built up by the depth of God’s Grace poured out over myself and my family. And I can be both.

Hill Country Magic

Hill Country Magic

This is my homeland.

There is something deeply emotional for me about the Texas Hill Country. It is the land of my mother’s people, it is where I grew up and it is where my ashes will be scattered.

A lot more people love it now than when I was young, and why not? It’s a stunning and ever-changing landscape, and it is rich in natural resources, including the world-renowned flora and rivers that are clear to the bottom, no matter how deep the water gets. The towns still proudly show their heritage and host tourists from all over the world with the trademark Texas friendliness.

Late spring and early summer usher in some of the most volatile weather. Storms, flash floods and high winds as much a part of the landscape as the hills. There is a beauty to the volatility, and I got to watch a downpour from a hilltop vista on my way to a job yesterday. It served as a reminder of who and what I am.

In trying so hard to push away pain, I have ignored the deep and profound beauty of volatility. I had to observe a storm play out in front of my face to understand that the storm I am in (and the storms that I keep finding myself in) can be dangerous and destructive just as they can also be breathtakingly beautiful.

Mature perspective comes from a lot of pain. Appreciating beauty in the midst of pain…that has taken a long time. And a little Hill Country magic.


Hit the Pause Button

Hit the Pause Button

I’ve been gnashing my teeth at what I perceived as a setback in my recovery.

I’m angry.

I’m frustrated.

I’m disappointed.

I’m scared.

I’m tired.

Now all of those emotions have a name. And now I can let go of them, because I acknowledged them.

Thanks to a helpful and perspective-filled therapy session this morning, I am now viewing this as less of a setback and more of a pause.

Pause because I have to deal with a crisis.

Not a setback because I haven’t lost anything, and my response – all of the feelings named above – is, frankly, natural. I know way more than I did before, my abilities are way more than they were before and I am so much more than I was before.

Pause is not something I like, ever. Pause does not interest me. Pause annoys me. So I am fighting the very thing that needs to happen in order for me to address the situation at hand.

Years ago in undergrad we had a group that met to practice quick sketches called “Embrace the Suck”. The idea was to own the fact that you suck at sketching buildings and things and to work to get better at it.

Time to Embrace the Pause.

“I’m at high risk for substance abuse.”

“I’m at high risk for substance abuse.”

I’m thankful that as part of my trauma recovery I have had very little desire toward substance abuse. I’m a long-term thinker, and the negative consequences usually outweigh the benefits for me. That changed this week.

My brother’s accident has brought out some of my less desirable traits, which are only in my head, but something I have to deal with nonetheless. The desire to yank bad drivers out of their cars and tear their throats out, for example. Also my new and ever-present desire for a Xanax and Bourbon combo meal for dinner – or any other meal. Or vodka. Whatever.

I took a couple of day to think about how I wanted to address this, and decided transparency was going to win the battle. I do not have a history of substance abuse and I have not been through addiction recovery, but I know enough to have an idea of how to do this with as little destruction to self as possible.

I started telling my friends.

“How are you?”

“I’m at high risk for substance abuse. How are you?”

I’m not going to hide this or be embarrassed or ashamed by it. I’m going to be open about it because that way I am not struggling in silence, and someone will be checking with me to see if I have managed to keep the combo meal idea in my head or if I have actually done it. This is in the light, and because I have amazingly supportive friends, I have received zero judgement and a lot of support.

Have good friends. It makes all the difference.

Not to say that all of my friends are standing with me, but some of them are, and that’s enough. I am not to the point to ask anyone to come sit with me so that I don’t do anything foolish, and I’m not sure that any of them even would, but then again I didn’t know how my “how are you?” response would go over either, and that has worked out great.

Yesterday I exercised a lot, went on a couple of walks, did yoga, worked with my kettlebell. I didn’t help that much. Today I am taking a day to rest (and catch up on some work), and that may not help much either. So I am expanding my toolbox.

When I want to drink, I pour about 4 oz of unsweetened cranberry juice or grapefruit juice into a glass of sparkling water. It’s not water, it doesn’t have sugar (I’m still making at least some effort toward diet changes), it doesn’t taste awesome and it’s close enough to filling the bourbon/vodka void. When I want pills…well…I just don’t. There is still some clawing going on here.

This. is. Sparta.

This. is. Sparta.

Life just kicked me into a pit, 300-style.

It’s reasonable that trauma atop trauma will not have a desirable outcome. My brother’s accident has set me back about two months in my recovery.

I don’t blame him in the least. It was not, after all, his fault. I don’t blame me. Not my fault either.

It just is.

And that is a place and an acknowledgement that I have learned is so important in trauma recovery. When you can say it just is, without assigning blame or meaning or demanding answers why, you don’t carry a burden about the event.

It just is.

Is for me right now is angering, frustrating and depressing (that pit is a not-so-subtle nod to depression). I have lost all of the motivation I had three weeks ago, getting a handle on my not-so-healthy coping mechanisms is hard again and, frankly, getting out of bed is hard again. I also have a strong potential for substance abuse (pills and liquor) right now, which I have avoided doing so far. This is the worst it’s been in my entire recovery process. Shit.

I worked with my kettlebell, did half an hour of yoga and walked for over an hour today. I worked, made healthy food choices and drank kombucha. I skipped my afternoon caffeine. I still didn’t feel better.

Sometimes you can do all of the good things and you don’t get a good outcome. Some days are just hard. Some days you have to just claw your way out of the pit that life just kicked you into. The difference this time is that I have already been through these two months, I have more tools at hand now and I know a lot more about how to fight my way back successfully.

I may not be in fighting shape yet, but thanks to a lot of hard work I have what I need to fight.