"Write What You Know"—Paying Attention to the Character Journey


Okay, yesterday I shared the tragic story of my father’s passing to give to an idea of what it means to “Write what you ‘know'” and today we’ll continue, but it’ll be a bit different. We’re going to talk about character change.

My dad was a HOOT. Both of us were always like kids. One time we both bought Christmas gifts for each other. Any year the anticipation would have KILLED us and we would have totally spilled the beans early, but this time we waited until Christmas morning to “unveil the PERFECT gift”—only to realize we both bought each other the same things; a Klingon dictionary and a tape to teach you how to speak Klingon.

My dad was always a little unconventional. Other little girls grew up wanting to be models or ballerinas. I wanted to grow up to be a ballerina-Navy SEAL. My father (former Navy Intelligence) used to tote me from ballet lessons to Karate (back in the days when girls were NOT in Karate), and I was one of the first girls to fight competitively (when it was ALL boys).

Dad taught me to shoot when I was eight and how to sharpen knives properly by the time I was ten. He bought me an SAS Survival guide for my birthday in high school. To train me to be better with my feet (a tad too much ballet and not enough power) he hung a canvas sea bag for me to practice.

I recall when I made a certain belt, I had to learn how to use a weapon and I chose the long staff since it was the most practical (and one of the few not illegal, LOL).

So Dad is in the yard training me for my test with the long-staff. He says, “Okay, on the count of three…” then whacks the holy $%#@%^&*&%$# out of my shins. As I am curled on the ground in pain, he hovers over me, grinning and says, “Fights in the real world don’t give you a count of three.”

Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

In later years I went to a ritzy private college (was one of the few poor kids allowed in under the fence) and while other girls were in sororities, I was teaching Ju-Jitsu. In fact, I was one of the first instructors of Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, commonly known as Gracie Ground-Fighting. Doesn’t matter how big you are. Get a fight on the ground and know what you’re doing and the other dude is toast.

My Dad gave me an extreme sense of sticking up for others. I remember one day I was in between teaching classes and our dojo was located in front of a major traffic light. I’d taken off my belt to rest and stepped outside when I noticed this guy beating the holy hell out of his petite girlfriend in his truck. Without thinking (and barefoot) I go flying into the road and dare the guy to hit ME.

“Come on! You like hitting little girls? Hit me. I’ll even give you the first swing.” I probably would have dragged the guy out of his truck but the light turned green and the coward took off.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

Since teaching Ju-Jitsu didn’t pay the best, I also worked selling newspaper subscriptions and often was out in apartment complexes after dark (gets dark early in winter). I had some drunk try to mug me for my briefcase, which made no sense because the only things in there were paperwork and my expensive retainer, which was useless for pawning.

*rolls eyes*

He came up behind me in an arm-bar choke hold, but what he didn’t know is there is a nerve in the forearm, that if you crank down on it? Is VERY painful and will make most people release. I then beat the bejeezus out of him with the very briefcase he was trying to steal.

And y’all thought I was so sweet and delicate :D.

I mountain-biked before it was cool. I rock-climbed, went bouldering, jumped out of planes, and ran rapids. To my knowledge, I was the 46th person in the state of Texas to have a Concealed Handgun License. I only got one because I went camping almost every weekend. I lived life like a Mountain Dew commercial, largely because of my dad. I wonder to this day if he realized he had cancer and was trying to teach me to make the most of every moment.

But back to the bigger story…

I believe abusive people are often attracted to the strong to see if they can dominate them and break them. By the time of my father’s passing, my Evil Ex had changed me into a person I didn’t recognize. Through years of mental abuse, I no longer had an opinion or chose my own clothes. I didn’t visit family or friends because it wasn’t worth the verbal beating. I no longer camped or rode trails on my mountain bike because he “didn’t like outdoors stuff.”

I literally lived with the guy from Sleeping with the Enemy. He had labels in the pantry and all cans had to be facing forward and behind the “proper” label. He’d insist I vacuum all the floors then use a carpet rake to make all the lines go the same direction. He loved to play racquetball, namely so he could spend an hour laughing as he used me as target practice (then tell me I had no sense of humor, that he was just “playing”).

Never mind all the bruises.

Trust me when I say Evil-Ex was NOT this way before I accepted the marriage proposal. He was an ideal boyfriend and seemed he’d be an ideal husband. My family loved him (Dad hated him).

When it comes to abuse, it’s a lot like the story of the frog. Toss a frog in boiling water and it will jump out. Yet, set the sucker in cool water and turn up the heat slowly? The frog will boil to death without realizing it’s in danger.

So after Dad passed away, something of my former self ignited. Within a couple months, I began to ignore Evil-Ex’s antics. No insult worked. I wore what I wanted and grew my hair long. I even bought a gorgeous citrine ring (because Dad’s favorite color was yellow). When Evil-Ex had nasty comments about the ring, I replied, “You don’t have to like it. You aren’t wearing it.”

All along I was funneling money and plotting my escape and Evil-Ex began to notice the verbal assaults were being ignored. About a month before I left for good, he was yelling at me over something and must have noticed it was no longer having an impact.

He raised his hand to hit me and I replied in a low voice, “Go ahead. Hit me. But you better pray to God you knock me out long enough to start a new life somewhere else. I know a thousand ways to kill you and get away with it.”

I didn’t, but must have been very convincing.

I left and never looked back, but this “story of my life” reveals something about character arc. Yes, Kristen in the beginning was somewhat of a bad@$$, but obviously something was lacking. I grew up very poor, so when a wealthy man from high society showed interest, I ignored the warning signs. Deep down, I believed he was better than me…and that was the opening. I had to be tested by fire to grow into a person who believed in herself, who accepted she wasn’t “girlie” and that was okay.

This is my BOOM-STICK!

This is my BOOM-STICK!

I had to learn that money was meaningless. Yes, I lived in a big house and rode around in a Mercedes and took lavish trips, but I was miserable and hurting and NO MONEY, NO RITZY LIFE was worth the price. I had to become a person who was willing to live in poverty if it meant being happy. I had to learn what “security” really meant and I can tell you from experience it ain’t always a bank account.

Now, I can bemoan the experience, but it was VERY valuable. Not only did I grow as a person, but this time prepared me to become a writer. When Dad died, he never realized his dream. I had the same dream and was willing to do anything to fulfill it. There were many years I lived on Ramen and saltines and worried that the lights might get turned off. I wore clothes I rescued from Dumpsters. Nothing would stop me from becoming a writer.

So when you hear “Write what you know” harvest those emotions, but also pay attention to your personal journeys. What changed? What was missing initially that the “journey” provided. I am much the same person I was before Evil-Ex, but that critical flaw is now gone (probably replaced with New & IMPROVED ones, LOL).

What about your journey? Have you been through something difficult and when you look back, you SEE how you changed? And changed for the better? I want to hear YOUR stories!

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of October, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Announcements: I LIED. I will announce September’s contest winner TOMORROW. Yes, Kristen IS human. Forgot today was Dad’s birthday and not altogether “there.” Sorry. Great ploy to get y’all back :D.


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  1. Kristen…what a great tribute to your dad. You certainly write what you know…and you know how much you miss your dad. It’s in your words! Great post!

    • Jen Connelly on October 9, 2013 at 10:18 am
    • Reply

    Your awakening reminds me of the final episode of Buffy when Willow gives all the potential slayers their powers and the one girl stands up to her abusive boyfriend for the first time. Very powerful scene (oh Joss Whedon, how I love thee).

    And your dad sounds like an amazing guy. Happy Birthday to him and *hugs*. My mom’s birthday is in November and it’s never an easy time especially with it being around Thanksgiving.

    • Melissa Lewicki on October 9, 2013 at 10:19 am
    • Reply

    There really are wicked people out there. Your ex was one obviously. I am so glad you were able to draw strength from your dad. Thanks, again, for sharing.

  2. Yikes! Your dad may not have known what your life would bring, but God did and brought your wonderful dad! Not many people are prepared to handle what you had to, but you were. Yahoo! And now, you’re YOU! Isn’t it grand?

  3. You are so awesome.

    1. Awww, shucks. Thanks *hugs*

      1. You’re welcome. *hugs back*

    • Lanette Kauten on October 9, 2013 at 10:32 am
    • Reply

    Your dad sounds awesome. I didn’t grow up that way at all, but I know what it’s like to forget who you are and walk away from the things you enjoy and what defines you because of a relationship with someone who eats at your soul and controls every aspect of your life. I also know what it’s like to break that stranglehold and embrace who you are again and forever.

  4. Wow. What a character arc. Thank you for sharing a part of your life story. Inspiring indeed.

    • Suzanne on October 9, 2013 at 10:37 am
    • Reply

    Happy birthday to your Dad. He would be super proud of you.

    • lornafaith on October 9, 2013 at 10:50 am
    • Reply

    Amazing story Kristen…thanks for being so real with all of us:-) My story is similar, only it was my Dad who was physically abusive. You’re right in saying that part of the journey is doubting yourself and what you’re made of…but thank God as you keep going you learn that deep inside of you there’s a fighter and a winner underneath all the mess you’ve lived through:-) I guess I haven’t searched deep enough in my own background to write from the deep well of experiences I’ve lived through. Thanks for the inspiration from your own journey. I’m ready to dig deeper…

  5. Holy moley. I hope that since we share the same first name, I have some latent badassery in me somewhere! Note to self: buy boom stick and try Ju-Jitsu.

    1. I HIGHLY recommend Ju-Jitsu for females, even if you only take a few classes. Ju-Jitsu was designed for smaller, unarmed villagers to take on armed (and bigger) Samurai. It’s ideal for women because the smaller you are, the better it works. Since our center of gravity is lower, we can throw someone twice our size quite easily…and most people don’t know how to fall. It also relies on a lot of joint locks. No matter how big someone is? Get them in a wrist-lock and they change their tune quickly ;).

      Other forms rely on a lot of punching and kicking but a small female can only punch or kick so hard. Yet, it doesn’t take a lot of strength to throw someone because it relies on physics. Also, it only takes a couple pounds of pressure to break most joints. I really like Ju Jitsu because we live in a highly litigious society. Punch someone and break their nose and they can sue. But, someone tries to punch you and you turn it into a joint lock? You have options. The person is immobilized, but you can turn loose and they be unharmed.

      1. I don’t have a lot of need for it in my everyday life as an admin assistant/starving writer/mom, but would totally love to be able to take on a marauding Samurai if the need arose. Seriously, though, it’s crucial for us undersized females to be able to protect themselves – the world out there can be very uncool sometimes. I will definitely look into some local classes. Thank you for taking the time to respond and try to be happy today, knowing that you’ve shared a piece of your incredible dad and more of your fantastic personality with all of us. <3

        1. Hey, muggers and purse-snatchers abound. The Arlington PD got a real laugh when I called the cops after the drunk tried to mug me.

          Cops: Can you give a description?
          Me: Look for the guy bleeding and limping. Might have a dent in his face that matches the corner of this briefcase :D.

          1. Best. Description, Ever,


  6. A fantastic story Kristen. My dad worked hard all his life, but he was an alcoholic and had trouble paying rent and buying groceries. He was a cook and cowboy, and wanted me to follow in his footsteps, but I saw the Army as a better life, and at age 18 left home to see the world. I never regretted it. I’ve been detailing some of my early years on one of my Blogs you might find interesting, if you would care to visit it’s http://thegemtheater.blogspot.com/ I’m glad that you escaped the Evil Ex!

    1. Ha, love it! 😀

      1. Ugh, sorry, Tom! That was supposed to be a reply posted to the comment above. :

  7. This is one of those things that hit me hard. I’m going through a divorce right now and your Evil Ex reminds me of her. That’s…not always pleasant when you’re still coming to terms with the abuse (she was the one who decided the relationship was over).

    Harnessing the questioning and the doubt and the pain is something I intend to do when I write. It’s how I process all things painful.

    1. Writing is a great way to process the pain and give us our “happy ending” :D. It’s hard getting away and we don’t heal overnight for sure. I condensed this into a blog post, but it took a good ten years for me to be “right” and a lot of the healing came from my wonderful husband who loves that I am not girlie and that he can give me knives and guns as gifts, LOL. I am one of the best-armed wives in the country, ha ha ha ha ha. You will get there ((HUGS)).

  8. Reblogged this on A Place That Does Not Exist and commented:
    Since I’m apparently taking a hiatus for a minute here, read this. Good for both writers and people. Bonus points if you accidentally listen to “Your Congratulations” by Alanis Morissette right after.


  9. Thank you please find a story enclosed although nowhere near finished if there is too much I am sorry.

  10. This is an amazing post. You’ve lived such a fascinating life, both the ups and the downs, and have come out on the other side with great strength. I loved this line: I believe abusive people are often attracted to the strong to see if they can dominate them and break them. I believe this too, and when you really stop and think about it, it’s a chilling thought.

    1. I think it’s the narcissism. It’s like “Big Game Hunting” for them. Creeps. I have ZERO tolerance for abusive people. The ones who hit are easier to spot, though.

  11. No wonder I enjoy your blog more than other blogs on writing. Not only are you a strong woman, you’ve been through the wringer too. I think that what make us all able to identify with you. No matter what it is, you seem to have been there.

    Happy Birthday to your dad. I’m sure he’d be so proud of you!

  12. Kristen,
    Thank you for sharing your story with us. We are better for knowing your story and escape.
    You are an inspiration.

  13. Well that was one hell of a way to illustrate character arc. Nice boomstick, btw. Were those the bones of your enemies on the ground behind you?

    1. LOL. Nah, cow and deer bones. The Lamb kids like collecting them off the property. I’ve never shot anything more menacing than a paper target, :D. But maybe I should run with your version ;).

      1. As you, I’m usually plinking at paper or beer bottles. But yes, I think you should definitely run with that story!

  14. Awesome post Kristen. You truly are inspiring. Makes me want to work harder to get to my goals. Thanks for that. PS I took Karate as a kid too…only one boyfriend ever attempted to hit me. I told him to try it and it would be the last thing he ever did…lol then I left and never looked back. It is too bad that emotional abuse is harder to spot.

    1. Oddly, I had a similar thing happen before I met Evil-Ex. Briefly went out with a guy who apparently DID like to hit women (and was a cop). He told me all the Ju-Jitsu was crap (um, we were the ones who trained the Fort Worth PD) and that he could cuff me, so I let him try. Every time he tried to get me in a hold I easily got out of it and turned it back on him. He never asked me out again. Later a girlfriend of his somehow got my name and number and called me. She was really embarrassed, but she asked if Such and Such ever hit me and I said, “He’s still alive, isn’t he? So, no.” Long story short, he’d been using her as a punching bag and she was 4’11” and weighed about 85 pounds. He’d recently beat her so badly, her one eye was permanently damaged from his class ring. I walked her through what to do to document the abuse, called a lawyer pal of mine, and contacted Internal Affairs on her behalf (she was too frightened and reasonably so). Not only was the guy fired from the police department, he went to jail for assault and battery.

      Never had a problem fighting for others, just had to learn to stick up for myself.

      1. Sometimes that’s harder.

  15. I love that post, Kristen. As a 5’0″ female who “blossomed” at age 11, I learned early on that I was often viewed by men either as a plaything or as prey, and so I took up judo, which, like ju-jitsu, depends on leverage and it is thus usually an advantage to be shorter than your opponent. It’s so satisfying to be able to throw a grown man across a room, isn’t it? I am lucky that I have never been a victim, although some abusers have tried. Unlike your supportive dad, though, I think my defensive attitude was mostly a mystery to my parents, who probably thought I should be content to be considered “cute.” And yes, my mystery character Summer Westin is petite and (when she needs to be) a kick-butt gal, too. Like everyone says, write what you know.

    1. I LOVE JUDO. My favorite guy to spar was actually on the Olympic Judo team and MAN he could throw. I swore one day he was going to throw me THROUGH the mat. And to others this might sound painful but it isn’t when you know how to fall. You want a partner who knows how to throw solidly. The people who hurt you are newbies trying to be “careful.”

    2. Urgh – “cute”. It’s a four-letter word, I tell ya.
      (Unless it’s applied to someone under the age of five or so, or a bunny-rabbit, kitten or somesuch – that’s Legitimate Cuteness.)

    • annerallen on October 9, 2013 at 12:37 pm
    • Reply

    Congrats on escaping from that monster and becoming the real-life kick-ass heroine you are. What an amazing story. I think you’re totally right about the “big game hunting.” Abusers love to subjugate powerful women. (And men. I’ve seen a few women verbally abuse men into low self-esteem and helplessness.)

  16. What a great, inspiring story about your dad and about you! I had a moment, right after leaving an emotionally abusive relationship (loooong time ago), where I was standing in the supermarket with my cart. I picked up a jar of peanut butter. His brand. The kind I hated. I was looking at it, and it was as if I felt the chains around me snapping. I could buy whatever I wanted! The peanut butter I liked! The bread I liked! After that, I carried a sense of fearlessness with me like a cloak slung over my shoulder, and a sense that I could do whatever I wanted. I try to remember that in the dark moments.

    1. I could have done with knowing Judo or something when I woke to find a strange man next to my bed one terrifying 3 am

  17. Amazing post! A great tribute to your dad and an incredibly inspiring personal story. I copied the information about Ju-Jitsu and sent it to many women friends. Your posts are always the best but this one really rocks! You are awesome. Thank you. 🙂

    1. Thank YOU. And one note. Try to find one that teaches ground-fighting because rapists particularly will try to get a woman on the ground and pinned. Gracie jujitsu makes the ground YOUR domain. Not only can you break free, but you can then make your attacker into a human pretzel :D.

  18. Wow. I just shared this on my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/thealogicallady) as an example of how to write a character. Bookmarking this for my reference when I finally dust off that novel I was writing that never went anywhere.

  19. Oh how this resonates with me! What a great post and so on the button. I lived for years with no self esteem due to a man telling me that I was useless, who controlled every moment and aspect of my life even down to the clothes I wore or the way I did my hair. He was a tyrant and a bully yet when meeting people socially they would think (initially)- what a great guy! The verbal and emotional abuse would leave me shaking but I felt I had to try to hide it – because of the children. they of course were not fooled for one minute. I found the strrength to leave and have never looked back.I realise now that all those emotions – all those miserable years have actually provided a wealth of material to draw from. Thank you Kristen.

  20. I hope this doesn’t sound creepy, but I enjoy hearing/reading snippets from other writers lives. It reminds us that we are not alone in our own troubles, others have survived and we can too. It demonstrates that you’ve been ‘on this ride’ a time or two and that’s validating in some sense. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself to demonstrate character journey. It’s proven that characters should evolve, because in real life, people do.
    My ex enjoyed control of my life in a financial sense. He kept all bills, checkbooks and bankbooks, and bank cards with him. When he went away to fight fire in the woods, he could be gone for months at a time, so I never saw any money unless he came home. When I was pregnant with our second son, I was eating one meal a day to make the food stretch. I had a toddler and no cable, no tv. no dvr, no way to entertain the toddler except my imagination and a park across the road. My now-Ex was gone for three months. In which I was 8.5 months pregnant, had no phone, in a town where the only people I knew where my midwives. When I developed anemia, midwives hit the roof, found him and threatened him with all sorts of things. With the support and love of my current sweetheart, I developed enough of a backbone to leave the Ex and I’ve never looked back.
    Took a long time to see, but I believe that to be who I am today, all of that was necessary. I am stronger, better and have a tougher skin because of all that.

    We are survivors!

    1. We are not alone, for sure :D.

  21. Hummmm. You may have inspired me to dig deeper in to the “dark” moment of my life and explore it more. I do know I grew because of it and am much better for it, but it’s still scary. Maybe time to let it fly through the fingers and see what comes out. Thanks for the push.

  22. Another great post — I was definitely engaged with your character arc! 🙂

  23. Everytime I think you can’t amaze me any more than you already, you DO! So glad you made it out, the bad thing about the abusers who learned early that throwing the little woman up against doors and walls might leave marks but belittling and denigrating the same person verbally could be gotten away with for that hapless female would be told when she tried to leave,”You don’t have a busted lip or black eye, he doesn’t abuse you,he takes real good care of you,just go back home!”

  24. I lived this story. Its almost identical to my own in almost every way. I love martial arts i love guns i even have the same sense of sticking up for others. I got engaged to a horrible well-to-do individual who tore me apart and destroyed everything i was. Then i had a child, and everything changed it became about my son and they realized i was no longer afraid of them and i fought back. Truth was i was still afraid, I just had someone now to protect and I wasnt about to let what happened to me happen to my little boy who couldn’t stick up for himself. That even significantly changed me as a person – giving me the drive to push forward against all odds to also become the author i wanted to be.

  25. Thanks for sharing this Kristen! Reading your post made me cry…
    I’ve had a similar story, being engaged to an evil man for several years that was killing me slowly, controlling my life and abusing of me psycologically… until he broke his business and left the country leaving me alone with a half million dollars debt…
    After that I began to train kung fu, and that got me out of my depression condition.
    Now, 10 years later, I’m thankful to him. He taught me to “smell” bad people from distance, and I feel I am stronger so that no one else will be able to mistreat me that way again!!
    So lets celebrate our sad past – it brought us to success!!

    • melorajohnson on October 9, 2013 at 6:09 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story. It was a good reminder. I’ve been writing a short story that is very personal and I am about to post it to a reader contest where I know it may be slammed because it’s very honest about what I went through, but I want to get it out there. I know it might help someone.

  26. Thank you, for doing what you do. I read voraciously, but nothing as religiously as your blog. No matter what my day is like, I make time for your writing. And it’s posts like this that demonstrate why. So personal, so raw, so real–your voice is amazing. I would like to drive to your house with a dump truck full of accolades to leave on your lawn, but I hope this will do. 🙂

  27. Wow, the remark about abusive people being drawn to strong people to try to break them … that’s so spot on. I had an abusive jerk as an online friend who really wanted me to be his offline girlfriend (thank goodness he lived on the other side of the country!). He was incredibly verbally abusive, but in a kind, cringing way that made me always think it was my fault. I couldn’t live any kind of social life online because he was always there, watching me. Finally I blocked him from all my media and life improved SO DRAMATICALLY! I still think of what would have happened had I stuck with him. Kind of the way you shudder at the top of a cliff at the idea of what a fall would do to you. The man I eventually married is the kindest, most giving person on the face of the earth, the complete opposite of the psycho.

    If I wasn’t 8 months pregnant, I’d sign up for Ju-Jitsu right now. 🙂

  28. You are so brave. Loved your post – thank you for sharing all you do.

  29. This post made me cry and cry. It touches on so many things I’m struggling with right now. I pulled myself out of the abusive situation(s) I was in, and now I’m trying to make sense of what’s left of me. I’m writing a novel and I know it’s supposed to represent all that somehow. I hate, hate, hate writing about my own experiences, but I wonder if I need to (as actual nonfiction) before I can get my characters’ journeys right.

    I’m glad you got out.

  30. Thank you for sharing this. It’s powerful stuff, and shows amazing character on your part, as well as providing a great example of change in character that can inspire writing.

  31. I think there is a curious truth about writers. Without meaning to be perverse they can look back on ‘bad’ experiences and thank God they had them, because without them they never would have gained the insights which helped give their creation merit. As to your own life. It is not the first time I’ve read of a strong women de-powered, if there is such a word, by a trick of the light. Isn’t it strange how the passing of your unbelievably impressive Dad, who hatred your Evil-ex, provided the catalyst for you to change your life around. It is a moving story of being inspired from beyond the grave. I read your post yesterday, and it saddened me all day, but this re-birth he gave you, has had the opposite effect.

    • Karyne Corum on October 10, 2013 at 7:03 am
    • Reply

    Kristen, you are one awe inspiring woman. Every time i read your blog I mentally thank my friend Laurie for introducing me to you.
    I was also the girl who didn’t fit the girlie mold, too smart for the boys in class, too “uncool” for the girls. I spoke up, spoke well and voiced my opinion often and usually quite loudly. For all that I was mocked and made fun of, and though I had my share of tears, I didn’t let it stop me from being that girl. But for years I cringed when someone called me a B*&% for being that way. Then, I turned 40 and suddenely I realized, that if being a B*&^% meant being who I was, smart, fiercely loyal and strong enough to stand up for what I believed in, then bring it on!

  32. I knew you were cool! Daddy’s girl, tomboy, ass-kicker. Love it!

  33. Your dad sounds awesome!

    I kept reading the story and thinking ‘Why isn’t she kicking her husband to the curb, literally!’ You’re so right about the frog syndrome. I’m glad you found yourself and happiness.

    I like to look at the challenges that are thrown at me (and the stupid stuff I do) as opportunities for personal growth. I beat myself up less. 🙂

  34. This was an inspiring, touching story. Thank you for sharing. You’re truly amazing, but then I’m not all that surprised because it comes through in your writing. There’s a certain confidence and self-assurance that I hear between the lines.

  35. I am more amazed by you every day… I’d be happy just to know you’re out there living a bad@ss life in the world despite what’s gone before, but what’s amazing is that you share so so much and let people in to your life so that it can change theirs as well… Jeez, when I first found your blog, I thought you were this gifted social-media sharer and thanked the world for you – it’s amazing how much more people are than they seem… And how much more they can be to people when they share…

    You asked for stories…. When i was 17, one of my closest, best friends, who had had so much trauma in her life, told me she now had breast cancer. After a TB scare, a diabetes scare, a benign lump scare and having a stalker a year before, it was heart-breaking. She didn’t want Anyone to know. Except me. Not the teachers, not any of her other friends. She didn’t want anyone treating her differently. She would be sick and writhing in pain and I would sit in the toilets with her, missing class, holding her hand. Some days she was off I’d skip school too, and be on the phone to her all day. I was on the phone to her every night. My grades slipped, obviously. I became a horrible person to live with. My parents didn’t know what was going on and didn’t understand why I was so awful. It was because I thought I had perspective – nothing was important, not school, not the petty complaints of my parents – I mean Jesus my friend was Dying, but I couldn’t even tell anyone so no one understood. She was on a cocktail of drugs making her sick. And then, she had a fight with her boyfriend in which they broke up… On his drive home, he crashed. And he died…. She got sicker. She was told she had a 30% chance of living…. I spiralled with her. She wrote me a suicide note. I was breaking but not asking for help – why should I need help? I wasn’t sick…..

    I broke one day at home. Screamed at my mum what was happening so how dare she tell me off for being messy. She questioned the situation. I got even madder – was she Doubting my story?! I went off the handle. She called the school nurse and said this situation with my friend was having a terrible affect on me. I nearly failed math that year. My friend, however, got an A. Amazing. The school nurse said to my mum…. ‘What cancer?’ Even she didn’t know. My mum thought she should know, obviously. I didn’t even question it.

    The next day I got hauled in front of the head teacher and school nurse and my mum. They all told me my friend wasn’t dying. I didn’t believe them.They brought her dad into the room to confirm it to me and finally I believed. I made excuses for her then – she’d been through so much, the death of her boyfriend, her health scares, her stalker – no wonder she was after attention…. They all looked at me – none of those things happened either.

    While obviously I wish that my friend wasn’t unwell (she obviously had issues… although there must have been spite there too – to fake pain in front of me, to write me suicide notes, to show me her self-harm to get the reaction from me)….. If that experience had to happen to someone I’m glad it happened to me. I am a STRONGER person for it. I am a Better friend. And the fact I am still able to trust people is something I love about myself. And loving and accepting yourself is the best way to be the best person you can be.

    Thanks for being the best person someone can be Kristen, and showing other people how.

  36. That was a great tribute to your dad, Kristen! Wish I could say the same. I really enjoyed your story and you honesty. You too have been through much.

    I have so many stories (many involving abuse from age one), that I probably won’t live long enough to tell them in fiction. My entire (all three) childhood family was dead by 1984. Dad, alcoholic and problems emotionally from World War II saw his best friend’s head blown off right next to him; mother probably personality disorder and bipolar (but didn’t have those labels in those days); and my brother drug addict and alcoholic. All three abused me for years, even into adulthood when I had two babies. That’s when it ended and I stood up to them. I mainly hid from my brother who when on drugs looked for me with a gun and knives off and on. But, I buried all three after taking care of them with their illnesses, then married an abuser. He was not a drinker, no drugs, but had seen his mom sleeping with his dad’s best friend when his dad was dying. I took it for three years with police reports, hospitalization, etc., then took by two babies, one three months and one three years old and left by the time he returned from work one day. You are right about abusers picking on strong people. I went on to raise my two lovely daughters alone working my way up the ladder with panic attacks and ‘running in my sleep ‘night terrors.’ I believe some just have really strong spirits, a strong will to live, and other than my best friend who after many, many years of friendship from the age of ten went to the Lord from lung cancer while I was fighting breast cancer, mentored me on how to be a mother and I certainly already had the love and hugs to give as God carried me through my childhood. I am now writing crime novels and have been a professional fine artist all of my adult life, as well as having worked in management in the medical field while raising my daughters. God is good. I did get an apology from my dad when my mother died for them all abusing me. I have a lot of health problems because of all of the abuse, but people tell me they’d never know it when they meet me. It’s something how we can hold so much inside, isn’t it? Take care and smell the roses.

    • Yvette Carol on October 10, 2013 at 7:59 pm
    • Reply

    Wow, see what you’ve done, Kirsten? In your awesome shining truth, you instigate heaps of folks to do the same. Soul-bearing is so good for us!! I’m happy you’re making your dad proud. I loved what you said to your ex that last time. Yes! My exes were emotional abusers too. But the one time any of them lifted a hand to me was always the end of that relationship. My personality arc is a continuous journey of feeling ‘less than’ and striving to overcome it, and gain self belief. Therefore, that’s what my protagonists constantly do also 🙂

  37. It’s amazing how you honor your Dad, Kristen.

  38. Kristen: you come across as strong, intelligent and cool — not to mention talented and spacious… brava! I too had to fight tooth and nail for my freedom — I was born to a traditional Indian family with the typical double standard and tonnes of gender and other bullshit. When people commented on my ability to shred creeps with my tongue, i told them it was my only weapon against the eastern patriarchy, which gradually made me an expert word fencer.

    If you get the chance, please check out my blog: miraprabhu.wordpress.com — Shiva’s Spectacular Gender Divide is one series of posts where I speak about what i went through growing up…and with another Evil-Ex — very similar to yours — I called him THE WASTELAND – because he laid waste to those who made the mistake of falling for the good looks and the rich but false facade….

    Love your blog!

  39. As a follower of your blog, I would have never guessed you endured those personal experiences had you not written this post. I feel a kinship with you because of shared abusive experiences and totally agree with the comment above that being strong for other people can often be easier than standing up for yourself. I always look to your posts for education on the art of writing, but now I will look to them for survival inspiration. Keep on going!

  40. Good for you, Ma’am.

  41. Oh my goodness! That is a powerful testimony. And a timely reminder….thank you for the peek into what makes you so authentic! Have a blessed day!

  42. Beautiful! You are a true inspiration for me as a writer! Thank you :o) P.S. I tweeted about your blog to all my friends. They love your work!

    1. Awww, thanks Vanessa ((HUGS)).

  43. Catching up here…I love this. Wow, what a journey you’ve been on. Your dad sounds like a great man, and I think it was very wise of him to teach you about stuff girls necessarily didn’t do. I have had to learn over the years to listen to warning signs, set boundaries and not tolerate crap too, and it’s a process. I came to the conclusion a long time ago that even bad life experiences are valuable as long as you are learning from them, and that you do have choices. Above all, I keep in mind that rough times don’t last forever.

  44. I wept when reading these posts, Kristin. My experience was not nearly as extensive or extreme as yours but I’m learning that we feel what we do for a reason and if we don’t learn from it before moving on then we’ll continue to repeat until we choose to break the pattern. Much easier said than done. I’m awestruck at your perseverance and spirit. Thank you for sharing.

  1. […] Kristen Lamb put a follow up post up about her dad and writing what you know.  It was another very powerful and emotional story that made me laugh and feel sad. I can only imagine how hard it was to write since today is her father’s birthday (and the anniversary of his death). […]

  2. […] Okay, yesterday I shared the tragic story of my father’s passing to give to an idea of what it means to “Write what you ‘know’” and today we’ll continue, but it’ll be a bit different. We’re going to talk about character change.  […]

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