Don’t Be Less

I did it.

My head spun in a disoriented fog.
My limbs trembled with weakness.
I felt sick to my stomach
and my heart felt as though a boulder was sitting upon it.

Everything within me screamed at the top of my I-can-barely-breathe lungs
and I wondered if maybe curling up and actually dying would be preferable to saying what I knew I needed to say:

I pushed through the terror.
I spoke up anyway.
I crossed my own confining lines,
lines that have left me feeling powerless time and time again.

I finally honored my relational pain threshold,
which I have come to realize is quite high.
I had doubted myself,
convinced myself,
shamed myself,
guilted myself,
blamed myself,
hated myself
for long enough.

Until I couldn’t.

I was a pressurized bottle who had borne tremendous responsibility for others’ pain and insecurity,
and yet they kept heaping on more, more, more.
I responded as I always have:
I believed them.

I listened as I was being told to do, as I am wired to do, as I have been conditioned my entire life to do.
I absolutely believe their anguish because it is very real.

I tried to endure it, to take it on, to validate it, to express compassion, to suffer as they have suffered.
I excused patterns of disrespect, bullying, lying, and ethical violations in order to prove that I truly saw them.
I all but forbade myself to boundary my heart and mind so that I could better empathize.

I made myself less, less, less
until I didn’t feel like I had a right to exist in that space.
Confusion, anxiety, and dread began to overtake,
and shoving it down became exhausting.
It required all of my emotional energy.

As I finally began to distance and protect myself,
a seismic awareness arose within me:
They used their hurt and anger as weapons to make others pay,
to make me pay.
The price became too heavy for me to bear.
I wanted to. I tried so hard. I believed I should.

Til something within me finally burst.

As I drowned in the weight of their misplaced rage and gasped for air,
they reminded me in clear ways that I deserved it.

Six months after speaking up and walking away from a dynamic that was slowly killing me from the inside out,
I still wonder sometimes if maybe I did deserve to pay,
if maybe they were right about me and my place.

Guilt and shame within me often agree with those throughout my life who have made me responsible for their own hurt,
those who have told me I ask too much, need too much, am too much,
that I misunderstand, I am unreasonable, I need to “forgive and forget,”
that I must recognize my many blessings and patiently absorb the pain-inducing choices of others,
that I should “turn the other cheek as Jesus did.”
These deep, dark voices are often louder than every other thought and knowing I have.
Truth and lies become a tornado of cacophonous confusion.

It is hard for me to reconcile what it looks like to hold the hurt in the lives of so many while also leaving space for my own.
It is an ongoing challenge for me to know how to acknowledge others’ losses
while fully embracing the goodness and joy in what God has given to me.
Am I allowed to hold both?
Do I have a right to protect myself?
Can I believe me?

Even as I write these words, I feel familiar pangs of self-doubt arise.
The tension still looms large.
How do I honor the truth of the harm I experienced at their hands
while still desiring to honor their immense pain?
How do I reconcile the weight of their personal traumas with the traumatic impact of their words and actions on me?

It can feel so wrong to believe me, to value myself, to say, “Something is wrong here, and I cannot continue to endure.”

I am still learning what it looks like to extend empathy without swallowing poison,
to give compassion without feeding others’ entitlement to blameshift,
to hold space for others’ pain while still giving credence to my own.

Jesus is leading me to show the same lovingkindness to myself that I desperately try to extend to others,
to believe His grace is sufficient without me killing myself to prove I am worthy of it,
to be still and know that He is God
and that I do not need to be more or less in order to have a right to show up fully.

Lacey Wood is a wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend who is learning to embrace life’s many changes with open hands rather than white knuckles. Having invested over a decade into full-time mothering and homeschooling her long-awaited daughters, she is re-entering her profession as an Early Childhood Deaf Educator. She endeavors to extend compassion to herself just as she does to those around her and to truly abide in the love of Christ. Connecting with others and their stories in deep ways is a source of joy and growth. In doing so, she grows in her ability to love them and Jesus better. Finding balance between doing and being, getting out of her own head, and welcoming silence before God are just a few of the ways she is intentionally being kind to herself in her current life season.