Out Of The Shadow

In a shadow I have spent my life. Always behind, always hidden, always not quite enough to be seen first, always just missing the mark, always a bit short of meeting expectations, always just too much of being me. It was under the shadow of my sister I was placed. Please hear my heart as I write this. I have no anger at my sister. She did not put me there. She had no intention for me to go unnoticed. It was other people who positioned me behind her. It was other people who wanted me there. It was other people who for some reason were afraid to let me live in the light.

I lived behind the sun.

My days were spent literally and figuratively walking with her in front. I trained myself to let her lead, to let her be steps ahead, to let the sun hit her first. Behind her I stood, letting her be touched by the sun, letting her feel the love, letting her get the praise. It would not matter what I did, what I said, what I tried to be, she naturally got the attention. She was the first to be seen in a room. She was the first to be heard in a crowd. And a lot of times, that crowd was her and I and one other person. I had to fight my whole life to feel I was a presence, to believe I had a voice, to not wonder if I was some mistake.

To be me was never enough.

I had to live up to what my sister was and would be. Every footprint she left behind, my foot had to fit in. In school I was just her little sister. My name slipped people’s mind. I had a reputation I had to live up to. There were preconceived notions I had to fulfill. At home, I tried to go above and beyond to have a name, to have a place, to break free from being the second daughter. There was no place I could go where I was not in a shadow, where my name was unattached and I was free and unhindered to unapologetically be Jenna.

I could not be more than what she was.

In body, in spirit, in personality, I could not be bigger than my sister. So as a result, I shrunk myself. I slipped away. The darkness in the shadow I made my home. It became my safety, where I belonged, my normal. And in the darkness of punishing myself and hurting my body, I made it impossible for anyone to expect me to be her. If I could barely walk up the stairs, how could I walk down an aisle? If I could not be a healthy weight, how could I ever have kids? If I could not take care of myself, how could I hold down a job? To become a shell of a person seems to make people stop seeing you as human and that meant I was nobody, nobody to have to be or in which to live up.

The eating disorder was my key to freedom.

The anorexia became a way to sabotage my life so nobody could hold me to standards, to keep moving me farther away from the footprints of my sister. I did not want to walk that path and I risked my life to not be forced on it anymore. I chose over and over decisions to free me from expectations to be all that I was never designed to be. It would have been easier to not be on this earth than to keep being seen as who I should be, as who I am not, as what I have failed to become. I could not continue to be looked through. I could not spend my whole life fighting for an unconditional love and acceptance that seemed to only be achieved by what I could offer materially and what dreams of another I could fulfill.  I was shouting with my body for someone to just see Jenna, for anyone to just listen to her, for people to let her be.

The dark was my reprieve.

I stood in that shadow so long I got to the point I got scared to be in the light. My truth became that I was not meant to shine. I was not born to be seen. I did not deserve to witness the glow on my skin. I did not warrant the flame within me to be lit. I conditioned myself to hide from the sun and to extinguish myself so others could shine. I lost my purpose. I lost myself. It was too dark for me to find them. So I kept letting what people threw at my sister she did not want and the things she was deemed too good for to fall on to me.  I let her past be my present and dictate my future. I built my life on the dust she left behind.

The only way out was to walk in front myself.

Even in her passing, the shadow seemed to grow. The expectations became higher. The looks of who I am not increased. But I thank God for where He has positioned me in this time of grief for once what would have destroyed me is now only a stumbling block. I have been walking a treacherous road beginning months before my sister died in an effort to stop living apologetically for who I am and stepping out more into the light. I was being prepped for this moment. And it was in what would be perceived to many as the most difficult task that I was touched and set free fully. As I stood at her service and spoke to a crowd, on behalf of her but with my own words and my own voice, it was then I accepted I deserve this place. I deserve my life. It is okay to be seen.

The shadow is no longer where I belong.

Standing under a literal spotlight in front of darkness, I found myself at home. With only the light on me, a light that was only mine, I felt what I have been missing, what I have longed for, what I starved for, what I wished I could have always felt.  All that people tried to hide from me experiencing and all that people tried to convince me I was not yet worthy to obtain was mine to own, in my reach to grasp ready to be held. To feel the light and to step into it was my ticket to attend my own life. It was time to start showing up and being the main act, the starring role.

I fought for my light and I won.

I know people in that crowd were looking at me wondering why I was the Laird daughter to be standing there. How was I the one who survived? Why did I make it? For many it did not make sense. I live with that question from someone every day. But I sit here, out of the shadow, knowing that no mistake was made. It is not some fluke I am alive. And it is not an error that I escaped the dark. And it is not a miscalculation on God’s end that this daughter was the one who has more works left to be fulfilled on this earth.

I have a purpose standing on my own.

I have no intention of changing my life, my goals, and my purpose to match what my sister would have done. While I will embody the traits of her that align with me, I am not going to change myself to become her to fill a void in other’s lives. I will not sacrifice all that I am and who I have become through my journey just so one person can look at me like I deserve to have survived. If people want to continue putting me in a shadow, I will just keep moving. I am going to keep chasing the sun. I am free of my desire to live under expectations.

It is time to shine.

Hope, love, and blessings,

J.L.