I Quit

The sweet spot. We are all looking for it. Be it in relationships, the perfect at bat, the ideal buzz, the desired spiritual high. We are searchers by creation. But, I’m tired. This exhausting effort to find the perfect feeling has left me hurt and untrusting of all the people and things. As a control freak, it is even more problematic because my search usually ends in one of two things: judgment of others or shaming of myself. Today, I surrender.

I have recently gone back to therapy. I could make a list of all the reasons that this was the right thing to do, but here is the truth. This ain’t my first rodeo. The topics and lessons and pain and tears have been rooted in the same issues that landed me on my first squishy piece of furniture in 2002. For decades, I have searched for ways to avoid pain. In some seasons, this has manifested itself in taking up new practices. In others, change has required putting down old habits. As someone that has seen the benefits of good mental health work, I should willingly walk into the rooms of professionals with excitement and honor for the transformation that is sure to come.

This time, however, it was not the case. I wanted to avoid this work. There is no better example of the journey of self-discovery and growth than an onion. Seriously, I’m using a Shrek reference for my hardest work. Because in my world, I need Eddie Murphy’s voice to remind me that I stink and that I make people cry. The bottom line is I AM NOT LIKE CAKE. I am a freaking ogre and my layers are many and deep. The only way to deal with the central challenges that I am sitting with for the um-teenth time is to peel back the next freaking layer.

The world that I live in tells me that I have the ability to do it all. I watch so many people in so many arenas of my life living gloriously “successful” lives. I would bet that many reading this think the same of me. “What do you need to work on?” “You have two great kids and a stellar husband.” “Team Hilbrich is a solid fighting machine.” “What could be wrong?” These things are true. And even with the truth of all the great things that life has given me, I have layers upon layers that are very far from the view of the masses. If there is one thing that I have mastered in this life, it is the art of the presentation. Sure, I come off a little mouthy and I have always been bossy and controlling, but in many circles those things have served me (and those that I have advocated for) quite well. I’m so perfected in this area, that my entire interior can be burning to the ground and I can still convince those observing from the periphery that the smoke is just part of the designed decorative accessories.

Want in on a secret? My chase has always been for the perfect combination of success and escape. That’s my sweet spot. The moment that the world believes that I have all the things together and I can simultaneously find the private and perfect ways to have the things that are “mine” out of your view of consumption. That’s how we avoid peeling the next layer. We don’t have to look deeper if we can live in that sweet spot. The one where we can come into our house or car or closet or porch and believe that we are alone and safe. Sure, we are safe from some things in these spaces. There are certainly ways that we can further that belief or prolong seeing the truth of the onion middle by avoiding the inner work but it is still there. And if you are anything like me, avoidance is only temporary. Because one day, you will be sitting in your safe spot and you finally admit that you can never escape your own soul. That’s the lie of the sweet spot. It’s a big fat liar.

For the record, there is nothing like a global pandemic and a major life shift to jerk off multiple layers at one time. This season has been fucking painful. It still is. Because when the layer is pulled off, we can’t put it back on. There is no amount of hot glue that can slap that sucker back on in a way that allows me to sell a together exterior once I have a half peeled layer flapping in the wind. This is the moment that I have a choice. I can live the lie that everything is fine (seriously, people, this is like my least favorite and most overused coverup) or I can face the reality that none of us are fine and instead embrace that the work of wholeness is just that – work. There is no shortcut. There is no easy way. There is no numbing or drinking or relationship or food or self sabotage that will make this magically disappear.

One of the first things that I have been asked to do as I begin this work is to pay attention to my body. Have I mentioned that I do not enjoy slowing down? That is the heart of paying attention. My body is speaking in loud and painful ways to me these days. It is tired. It is in protect mode. It shouts pain and fatigue and irritation and grief from every direction. There is a reason that my therapist asked me to pay attention to my body…bodies do not lie. I lie. My words do not match what I know to be true about my insides when it comes to my “fine-ness,” but my body does not lie. I woke up this morning after 10 hours of sleep (see, bodies don’t lie) and my shoulders were curled in on them selves. My gut was pained. My neck felt weighty. Even in my sleep, my body was screaming for me to listen.

So today, I just need to ask the Universe, am I the only one that is really ready to quit? Quit fighting the lie that there is a sweet spot? Quit believing that avoidance is the goal? Quit looking for ways to keep the exterior tougher so that the layer can withstand all that I throw at it? I hate being a quitter. Being is quitter is something that I fight with all of my everything. But my body and mind and soul and spirit and anxious heart and pounding head all tell me that it is time. So for today, I quit.

What If: Pain is the Great Teacher

I hate pain. H-A-T-E pain. Pain is a feeling. It hurts in its own way, but it has tentacles of sadness and betrayal and worry and fear. It brings with it the discomfort of the unknown. It reveals internal struggles that we want to avoid. Pain stings with truth and awareness that is raw and real and exposing. Damn pain. And yet as I fight the pain, I hear the stories of brave pain facers that have walked into the fire for the sake of the growth.

“Pain is not tragic. Pain is magic. Suffering is tragic. Suffering is what happens when we avoid pain and consequently miss our becoming. This is what I can and must avoid: missing my own evolution because I am too afraid to surrender to the process…Because what scares me a hell of a lot more than pain is living my entire life and missing my becoming. What scares me more than feeling it all is missing it all.”

Glennon Doyle, Untamed

There are three things that I know about pain. Please recognize with me that this is head knowledge. Only on the very best days, the days when all the stars and positivity and good thoughts march in an ordered system of understanding, can I find peace within my soul to embrace these things. So, I share them not as brilliant insights, but as marching orders for myself.

  1. Pain requires me to let go of control. At the very core of my being (just read the description of my Enneagram type) is the need to have knowledge of the next step. I have to know. I need to have the plan. When pain comes, I am completely ripped of my safety net. There is absolutely nothing like pain to remove all of the anchors of security. When pain begins to creep up, or slams its ugly head into me in a way that is jarring, I have no choice but to let go.
  2. It’s my choice to change the storyline. To be clear, this is not diminishing or denying pain. This is not even avoiding. Changing the storyline is an intentional decision in my mind to accept the things that I cannot change and tell myself (as many times as necessary) that past experiences show me that pain can transform and beautify so I will not fight the pain…today.
  3. Breathe When I feel pain, I tense my muscles. When my body is distressed, I panic at my core. In seasons of prolonged pain – both physical and emotional – my body bears the scars. My shoulders have knots. My breathing is irregular and shallow. Although it is not a natural response, my best pain remedy is a good deep breath. I breath from my toes. I allow the oxygen to go all the way to the roots of my pain. No, it doesn’t fix it, but it forces my body to slow and think and not react. That’s the single most important thing I can do in moments of pain.

I don’t want to admit it, but pain is a teacher. It teaches me to be myself. It teaches me to listen. It teaches me to slow down. Reacting and in the midst of pain is the warning flag, so for today, I feel you pain. I see you. I acknowledge your presence. I invite you to teach me. I give you permission to shape me for good. And I choose in that process to let go, change the storyline and breathe.

What If: Our Ability to “Let Someone Have It’’ is Really a Revelation of Trust?

I was listening to a brilliant podcast this week and the interview spoke to this idea. I was immediately challenged to think about the truth behind this comment. The discussion stemmed from the distance between a father and daughter of more than 13 years. As they rebuilt their relationship, there was a moment where the wounds of the past exploded in the fury of hurt. It was in that space that the dad, Lenny Duncan, said:

“We were a year and a half into living as a family and she was doing something she wasn’t supposed to be doing and I called her out on it. And she let me fucking have it. She said, ‘You ruined my fucking life. You destroyed everything. I’ve never had a family. I’ve never felt love. I’ve never felt like I had any worth. You stole everything from me.’ She screamed, Nadia, three inches from my face. And I walked outside and I got on the phone with my friend and weeped, tears of joy, because we knew she trusted me enough to let me have it, which means she knew I was not leaving.

Before I go any further, I need to clarify something that is key to this question. For this conversation,”letting someone have it” is speaking your truth. It is summoning the courage to finally say the things that have been on your heart and trusting someone enough to hear your deepest pain and most agonizing fear. This is truth telling and honesty, not shaming or berating. There is absolutely no excuse, no reason, to brutally wound with dagger pointed words, especially if there is not the established safety or security of relationship. That is manipulative abuse, not trust. Period.

Trust building is a sacred gift. By navigating the waters of pain and hurt and loneliness and fear alongside a co-journeyer, we invite others to battle with and take care of our hearts. As I listened to the revelation of trust in this father/daughter moment, I was reminded of times in my own life where I have broken through to new levels of connection with those that I have allowed into my inner sacred spaces. For people with wounds, and let’s be honest that’s most of us have them, we guard the soft spots. We know that by allowing others to see the vulnerable spots, we are risking further hurt. To find the level of trust that reveals love in the midst of the moments of fear of rejection is to launch a relationship into the next dimension.

If you have ever lost it, lost it in a way that all you could do was yell and scream and cry because rational thought has no accurate expression of your internal chaos, you know this kind of risk. But to have the one that you lost it on offer compassion or a unrelenting hug or a “I don’t care and I love you more because you just said that” is an absolute game changer.

Might I offer us all a challenge? Especially for those who need a little feisty release – let them have it. Let the person that you love and trust and are not quite sure how to express yourself to have that risky moment of truth telling. Not because you need to blow your top. Not because you need to yell. Not even because you have some things bottled up under pressure and they don’t have an exit pathway. Do it because YOU need to be you and they need to know that you trust them. I promise, these moments are magic.


What If: I Was Not Afraid to be Myself?

I’m 45 freaking years old. WHHHYYYYY is this still a question that I struggle with? You would think that with the internal excavation that I have done in my adulthood that I would have wrapped my mind around the fact that not only will everyone not like me, but I really don’t want them to. And here’s the real, true deal. I really don’t care about most of the big judge-y world. But there are some. The treasured few, that I allow to really know me. Within these precious relationships, I have found acceptance and love. I feel known and heard. I am challenged and pushed…until I balk. Until the moment comes that I feel that icky if they really knew me shiver come over my soul. I hate that damn shiver.

I know that the perception of my very out-there living life is one of truth telling. The danger with being someone that is regularly called “brave” or “open” or worse yet “vulnerable” is that I begin to believe that the stories that I tell and the writings that I offer are those things. And sure, I talk about things that most people would like to keep on the eternal down-low, but that’s just me. Talk about personality shortcomings, no problem. Talk about addiction and recovery, no biggie. Mental health? I’m totally down. I can tell all of these tales of life journeys with head knowledge and my beautiful rearview 20/20 vision. I’m all in. Until the shift happens. You know the shift?

When we move from head to heart, from facts to emotions, I don’t want you anywhere near me. I don’t want you to know that there are large chunks of my junk that I don’t want to tackle. I don’t want to admit that mastery is never going to happen in my world of real living. At the very core of fear is a very hot burning fire of doubt that you will ever believe, or trust, or even like me if you reallllly know me. If you could see the ways that I behave, if you knew the gaping holes of shame and insufficiency, you would see right through my tough exterior directly into the wounds that are still festered and infected with unhealed disease.

I have spent the last few weeks examining the next layer of healing that needs to happen in my journey of life. One of the things that I know to be the truest of true, when it comes to my own thriving, is my need to not keep a secret. There is nothing that will bore holes in my spiritual existence like the knowledge that I have done, that I know or that I am thinking about an idea in a way that I believe no one knows or will find out. Having the ability to deceive, or even the embedded lie in my head that I have the world fooled, is a dangerous and destructive path.

Let’s lay these realities down next to each other. I am not in a good space when I have secrets AND I don’t trust that you will still love me if you really know me. This is a recipe for constant chaos. There is a wicked dance of reveal…retreat…share a bit more…see if they run…give them a big one…prepare for rejection. This mental gymnastics meet has kept me on the sidelines of full honestly for so long. There are the life defining stories that feel vulnerable but are actually quite public. And then there are the ones that I still don’t have a resolution for, the ones that make me feel weak and unsure of survival. These are the secrets that still haunt me. They threaten sanity, sobriety, calm and serenity.

What I know about secrets is they multiply like gremlins. In a mind like mine, light and water are similar to partial truths or only sharing the parts of my life that I believe you will not judge me for. These choices for false vulnerability are the very tasty appetizers for my diseased soul. So what is the cure? How do I walk into these spaces with the hope that I can be loved? I do it one tiny step at a time. One minuscule risk in safe space for the sake of healing. There are absolutely unsafe spaces. There are untrustworthy receptacles of our love and hearts and hurts and pasts. But there are also those who not only want to walk with us, but they need us to risk so that they can risk. There is a beautiful, sacred gift when your vulnerability is met with not only love and acceptance but an equal revelation of pain and hurt. I don’t think it is an overstatement to call these moments divinely inspired. I certainly believe that my dumb decisions and moments of pain that are received in a gift of connection and trust can only be described as holy. To my treasured hope holders, you know me and love me. You give me faith in myself. You are a gift.

What If: I Choose Courage Over Comfort?

There are a handful of people that I go to when the pain is too great. They live on a special bookshelf and have a place of honor at my house. Only the wise truth tellers are found on these 3 shelves. I have mentioned a few of them to you already, but there is one voice that can cut through the heavy with bombs of emotional genius. If you don’t know her, stop what you are doing and order her books. Now. My people, it’s time for you to join the Brene Brown fan club.

“I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time. Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

Brene Brown Rising Strong

Oh, Brene. Why you gotta throw these truth bombs into my path? Here I am, minding my own business of wreckage and you roll up with the knock out truth punch. I want the comfort. I want to be admired and loved and honored. I want to say just enough where people think that I know the things, but not enough that I push myself to feel the discomfort of change. I don’t want to have my ass kicked. Unless, of course, I say that it is time for you to kick my ass and I know you are not really capable of hurting me because you don’t have enough weapons to do damage. Yep. That’s my very best thinking, people.

I am obsessed with Dateline, 48 Hours and all Oxygen and A&E Crime Documentaries. I love watching the investigation. I am fascinated with the way that people think they can commit a crime and cover it up. I can relate to this way of life. I am a master of the well thought-out and supremely organized cover up. No, I have not taken to the streets of hard crime, but I have done equal damage to my own soul with my expert ability to portray the version of Lacy that I want you to see. You like church Lacy? Check. Interested in the sarcasm and foul mouthed story teller, I got you. What about the soul diver? The one who could hit you with 2,020 questions to get at your truth but avoid her own at all costs? Well, hello, my little friend.

The more I unpack, the more that I feel. The more that I feel, the more that I see the damage of being comfortable. Comfort is the lie that tells you that you will be fine. Comfort is that facade that wants you to believe that you are safer in the box. Comfort is the doubt that tells you that you won’t be able to enter the fullness of truth and experience joy at the same time.

But, courage. Freaking courage. Courage is the moment that you admit in your soul that this does not work anymore. Courage is allowing yourself to think ‘what if?’ Courage is knowing that I can’t control the outcome – of responses, perceptions, relationships – and still being willing to walk through the doorways of the unknown. For me, these things are only possible by trusting myself. Knowing that I can tell my truth and still be loved. Trusting that by using my courage muscle, I am creating a bigger circle that not only includes my whole self, but welcomes others that have bought the lie that they are somehow excluded. Courage and vulnerability are the salve on the wounds of inauthentic living. It’s time for me to get to work.

What If: I Always Feel Afraid?

I promised myself at the beginning of this 50 day journey that if I reached a day that I could not write, I would give myself grace. I typically schedule my daily post to publish at 10am. It is currently 9:12am and I have exactly 2 1/2 sentences on the page. Why? Because I am living in the midst of a fear storm. If you are a person who does not fall prey to a soul flattening kind of fear, well, in the most loving way I can say this, fuck you.

What does fear look like for me? It is an all encompassing. It starts with a thought that deviates from the norm. Oh, “normal” is a lovely place. It has a warm, status quo where by the shallow water of life’s undercurrent has no waves. It lulls you to believe that you are safe. It rocks you with tiny, gentle swaying that allows you to believe that a simple, almost stillness is the perceived goal. For some, this may be the final destination. Remaining in the shallow is life giving for them. The wonder of the deep is not interesting. For most that hold this worldview, the deep is unnecessary. Why would you even look for more when you are safe? But I hate the kiddie pool. I’m one of those people that knows that the warmth of safety is actually the pee that heats the water. I hate that warmth. It is actually everything I hate. All of it. I would rather jump into the scary deep, the water with all the undertow, with the Great Whites or off the 10M platform than sit safely in the shallow.

Why? The number of times that I have had this question posed to me in life is beyond my ability to count. Why would you disturb the safe? Why would you need to change this? Why are you “messing with” a good thing? Because I cannot do anything but the guttiest of the gut level today, I only know my truth. I do these things because safe is not living for me. Risk is where the reward is found. Questioning is where the best version of me is unearthed. Jumping in, even on the days when I don’t know if I can swim or float or even tread water is the only thing that gives me life. It is the single greatest fear inducing reality of my life.

In case you can’t tell, the ‘What If’s’ are wrecking me. Most days this is a great thing. Most days, I am brave and untamed and stalking the peripheries of life with a confidence and passion. But, some days. Days when I think I may have ventured into the deepest deep, I find that I’m making camp with all of the fears. There was no way I could write this journey without a few days like today. I will always have fear. Fear is the pulse of a person that is alive. Fear is the reminder that we are not in charge. Fear is the only reason that I am forced to take a deep breath and jump. I need the fear. I hate the fear. But the choice is to die inside, so LET’S GO!

(If you made it to the end of this post and there is something inside of you that feels the need to “check on me,” don’t worry. I don’t write for attention. I don’t write as a smoke signal for help. I write to remind myself (and others that are on the same page) that I am alive. My deep diving is exactly what I was created to do, but that doesn’t mean it is easy.)

What If: I Can’t Ever Go Back to Church?

I have seen very few of my people over the last two months. Prior to the mid-March Stay at Home order, I would have told you that I am an introvert and really did not need to be around people. For the most part, this season has solidified this feeling. I have confirmed, however, that there is a distinct difference between people and MY people. I need my people. Like water and oxygen, I need my people. After almost 60 days of distance, I saw two of my closest in a socially distanced, no-contact, outside meet up last weekend. We drove in separate cars, met at a time that there wouldn’t be a crowd, collected our own coffee and sat (maybe not all 6′) feet apart while we talked. For hours. It was absolutely glorious. It was so wonderful that I actually had to force myself not to hug them – which, for the record, I’m not sure that I have ever hugged either one – but I did not because you know I’m not a hugger. But, for real, I need my people.

I met both of these friends in the circle of my religious life. I can honestly say that our paths may have not crossed otherwise. On the surface, we have very little in common. But there is a level of honestly that we have established that is safe. We speak to each other with all the passions of f’s and sh’s. We hold tightly to the belief that there is safe space. Even when I don’t think we intend to, we walk into conversations and suddenly find ourselves neck deep in what most consider controversial territory. It’s glorious, but not very churchy. Not very churchy, at all.

As we sat together this weekend, I confessed that I don’t know what to do with my current feelings of apathy about missing weekly gathering times. This led to a fascinating conversation about where we each were pressing into and working to find community. Our paths are very different, but we all come from the since-childhood Church world. Each with our own baggage and view of the value, we come to the table at different places of interest. It is at this point that I need to confess to you, dear reader, that this what if? question is mine. It’s one that I have been wrestling with since the pandemic began. I have never, not one time in my life, not been to church for 10 weeks. I took 4 weeks of maternity leave with child #1. I made it all the way to 6 with kiddo #2. Even when we were between churches, I visited (sometimes multiple) churches every week. And yet, here I find myself.

There is a huge part of my life, schedule and calendar that has been tied to the rhythm of all things church. We choose not to travel for certain holidays, so as not to miss special events. We prioritize the “extra” days because I have always believed that the practices of church activities were vital to my spiritual health. But something happened inside of me during Holy Week 2020. I didn’t not participate because I was not at church. I didn’t forget or even minimize the journey because I was not in charge of things. In all honesty, the opposite happened. I came alive.

I chronicled some of this in my Holy Week posts, especially my Saturday post. I allowed myself to do the things that I needed to do. I was not bogged down with telling the story so others could hear and understand, rather I told the story to my own soul. I gave myself space for quiet. I offered myself grace. It was so honoring.

My girl, Jen Hatmaker, threw down some truth on Facebook on Monday:

“Mostly, quarantine hasn’t created brokenness but exposed it. It has removed all the distractions and shiny parts that have kept us from the truth, from admitting what is real, and from the work.”

@jenhatmaker on Facebook

Thank, Jen. Thanks for calling out my crap right here on the carpet in front of the world and all of the truth tellers. That’s what this season has been. Most days have consisted of a long morning walk, gardening (yep, in my WEED FREE backyard), long writing sessions on the porch and some great conversations. I have talked on the phone WAAAAY more than I ever would. I have called friends that I rarely talk to because I needed MY people. I have trusted my truth and pain to new and old friends. I have searched for the truest of the true because I have been exposed. All of the cover of busyness and schedules were removed and I was forced to get down to business.

I have more to say about what’s next, post-quarantine, but for this question I need to honor myself. So today, I am going to speak to myself like I was speaking to one of my best friends. If they came to me and said, What If? I would say: Rest. Heal. Share. Search. Hope. Dig. Honor. Read all the things that you have been avoiding because of the what if’s. Listen to the voices that speak to you. Turn on music that stirs you to tears. Walk on the seawall at dawn when your soul is tired. Stay up too late and look at the fire. All of these things are Church for you, Lacy. And if, when the time comes, you are finding love and life in other ways, give yourself grace. God is not keeping attendance records.