I want to tell you a story about the day I let fear silence me and the approval of others began to dictate everything I said and did. However, before I do, I want to put a disclaimer on this post because, frankly, I’m scared to write it.
The purpose of this disclaimer is because anyone who was involved in or knows about what happened may try to say that I’m just not over it and haven’t moved on. That is why I am scared to write it — because of what “they” might say. But you know what? I’m tired of living in fear of “them”. So I’m writing this post.
This post is not about drudging up old stuff. It isn’t about villianizing anyone or playing the victim. I’m not talking about this because I’m still hurting, angry or have any unresolved issues with anyone involved (not on my end, anyway). I’m talking about it because I made the mistake of letting fear into my heart and mind based on the actions of other people and I hope that by admitting that, you don’t allow yourself to do the same.
I’ve told you about how six years we moved to a brand new town right on the border of Texas and Oklahoma. It was 2 and a half years after the death of our sweet baby Ike and we were still in the throes of unimaginable grief. We saw this move as a fresh start and were so excited about it. We quickly got involved in a small town community and made some super close friends right away.
Roughly six months into our move here things went wrong… very very wrong. I kinda began to get a clue that these “friends” were anything but when one of them began being mean to me in a very subtle way. One day she would text me about how much she loved me and the next she would say things like “I don’t like you because you get the attention that I want.” But I rationalized and defended her remarks to myself by saying, “Well everyone here loves her, so I must be just imagining things.”
And then things took an undeniable turn…
One day a group of ladies and me were sitting around a coffee table discussing life. Suddenly, the subject matter became very gossipy and I got very uncomfortable. Several of these women began “discussing” some frustrations that they had with some prominent leaders of our small community and things went south from there. Back then I had a no nonsense, very straight-forward approach to everything, including things like that, so I said something like,
“You know our leaders are going through some pretty major changes right now. Maybe they aren’t handling everything the way we think they should but I’m sure they are trying. I think that it is important to remember that they are human just like the rest of us and maybe we should show them some grace?”
The looks are on their faces told me that I had just offended half the room and the other half was still trying to process what I said. I wasn’t mean, but I also wasn’t ooey-gooey thrilled about the subject matter and they knew it. Could I have said it in a more tactful way? Oh I’m sure. Hind-sight is 20/20 after all.
Then it got worse.
After I everyone left, I stayed behind at the hostess’ home to visit just a little bit more. No sooner was her home empty than she began telling me about something another friend said about me and how she had to defend me to them. Y’all, I took the bait, My sassy mouth ran away with me and I made no bones about expressing my disappointment that anyone would talk about me behind my back. It took a little while for me to realize that I was completely out of line, but as soon as I did, I called her, admitted my mistake and asked her to forgive me. She said did, but by then the case against me started building.
The next day that same hostess and I were at another friend’s home. I trusted these two women, so I asked them for some advice. Some of the leaders had begun to show interest in bringing my man and me onto their team despite the fact that we had only been apart of this community for just a few months. Because we were so new, that made me nervous. I knew that that could really stir the pot with the community at large and I did not want to do that. That was the proverbial nail in the coffin, y’all.
The very next day I woke up a shit-storm of epic proportions.
Within days my “friends” stopped speaking to me. Within weeks they began calling other women in our community and “warning” them about me. The rumors were outlandish, y’all; absolutely and quite literally unbelievable. Everything from being crazy to having some stupid plan to steal husbands and split the community in half. Behind my back I was labeled a “Jezebel” and was shunned. And I use that word in it’s most literal sense… Several times I tried to approach a group of women. They would turn their backs to me and walk away. On the rare occasion that one would speak to me, I would try to talk things out, they told me that everything was fine and I was just imagining things. They stopped letting their kids play with mine and my children began sit alone everywhere they went. I became desperate to make sense of things and make things right.
It was devastating and, at the risk of overstating, it was traumatizing.
And y’all… six years later, we are still dealing with the residuals of all of that.
There are a handful of people who know about what happened and have asked me several times why we choose to stay in an environment that has been so toxic for us. If you’re reading this and asking the same thing, my reply to you echoes my reply to them…
No matter what has been said or done, we love this community with all of our hearts and as much as there have been times that separating ourselves from it has seemed like the easiest thing to do, being apart from them breaks our hearts. Besides… we’ve done nothing wrong, so why do we need to leave?
As easy as it may be for me to blame “them” for all of the hardships, I’ve recently seen how I have allowed this to perpetuate. I’ve been given the platform to speak out about this, but out of fear I have never taken the opportunity. I have skirted around it, and even heavily eluded to it, but I see now that by not confronting it, I have allowed it to grow bigger than necessary, if only in my own head. I let myself be intimidated by the opinions of people who have no idea what really happened.
Y’all… my gut tells me that I’m not alone.
In fact, I am currently mentoring a young lady who is wrestling with speaking up about certain events that have happened to her. My advice to her has been and will always be to talk about it, loudly if necessary. I’ve told her that she will have her critics, but that those who truly love her (and those who are worth her time and effort), will stand by her and help her through her situation.
How hypocritical of me, right? For six years I have let our side of this story go untold because I was afraid of my own critics. Ugh. Y’all, admitting that makes my stomach hurt.
Now please don’t misunderstand me, not every bad thing that is ever said about you needs to be addressed. Honestly, most of the time the wisest thing to do is to just let those things go. But sometimes, standing up for yourself and for your family is just what the doctor ordered. How do you know when to speak up? When what is said or done makes you afraid to. ANYTIME fear tries to introduce itself into your life, do the thing that makes you afraid. Don’t give it an inch. Rage against that fear and make it work for you instead of against you! And if you need a cheerleader, let me know, I’d be happy to tell you how awesome you are and how much I believe in you. You and your voice matter… never, ever let anyone or anything take it away from you.