How much is “enough”?

25 06 2009

Back when I was in high school, the yearbook theme for my sophomore year was “Enough? Never!” (Not to make anyone on the yearbook committee feel bad, but . . . seriously? Like there is really anyone out there who can’t get enough of high school.)

It became a sort of inside joke for Stan and me way back when. We’d be doing something, and one of us would say, “Enough?” And the other one would answer, “Never!” Fiercely.

The concept of “enough” has been on my mind the past few months. Let me explain.

In April, when my life seemed to be spiralling out of my control, I had to face some deep, not-very-pleasant truths about myself. Mainly, I have adequacy issues.

I’ve actually known this for some time, but it wasn’t until I really started facing them head on that I discovered how deep and pervasive those issues are.

Ironically enough, it was only after truly staring them in the face that I could let go of them.

As a Mormon woman, I have been taught from the cradle to desire perfection. “Be ye therefore perfect”, right? All through my formative years, I taught myself to do the very best I could. Every “A” on my report card, every paycheck or raise indicated to me that I was on the right track. “I’m headed for perfection, and I have the marks to prove it!” This need for outward validation shaped me.

Enter: motherhood. Exit: outside validation.

Thrust into the day-to-day rigors of caring for babies, I often found joy in them and in all that they were doing. What I didn’t find joy in anymore was myself.  Nothing I did seemed good enough.

This feeling of inadequacy would ebb and flow through months and years, some being better than others.

Believing the gospel is true and believing all the doctrines also pertain to me personally has been a challenge. Though that doesn’t make a lot of sense, it has been a huge hurdle to overcome. I was in the presidency of the Young Women in my ward, and I had a testimony that each of those girls was special and loved by their Heavenly Father. Even so, I had a hard time believing it about myself. Every time I saw the love of God manifest in someone else’s life, my testimony was strengthened even while I wasn’t sure it could happen to me.
 
I felt beaten down by my own expectations of who I was supposed to be. I feared being honest with myself and looking at the details of my life because I knew they would be lacking. I got to the point where I was surrounded by darkness, completely alone. Music has always been an important part of me, and I often sang to lift my spirits. At this point, I couldn’t even do that. Anytime I opened my mouth to sing, all I could do was cry. After a failed attempt to sing my son’s bedtime song, I knew something had to change. My heart, in all its anguish, cried out to my Heavenly Father. I asked, over and over, why am I not enough?
 
The answer came slowly, like water coming out of a hose for the first time in the spring. It trickled in the beginning. I felt the word, “Peace.” It was a little reminder, saying, “Calm down.” I clung to that word, to the sound the letters made together: Peace. I thought of the scripture, the one that says “My peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be dismayed.”
 
I pondered that. My heart was definitely troubled. There were other circumstances in my life that had thrown me into chaos, and I felt like I couldn’t even take a deep breath. The constant inner voices, continually jeering and stabbing that my house wasn’t clean enough and my food wasn’t good enough and my face wasn’t pretty enough and my children weren’t well-behaved enough, reached such a clamor I knew I had to find that peace before I wasn’t able to take care of my family.
 
I had struggled with adequacy and depression for years, off and on, but it wasn’t until this other thing entered my life and began to consume all my energy that I knew I couldn’t pretend anymore. I needed to find that peace, to reconcile myself to my weaknesses, and allow the Savior to fill in my empty spaces.  

Would it work? Would it really happen? Could I attain that divine peace?

It wasn’t the work of a single moment or one prayer saying, “Fill me, please.” But that is how it started. One prayer, like one brick in a wall. Joined with other prayers and lots of study, I realized somthing.

I am enough.

When I am yoked to the Savior I am always enough. I believe it was Robert Millet in his book Saved by Grace that said (and I’m paraphrasing) any negative number plus infinity is still infinity. So Wendy + Jesus Christ will always = infinity.

I also found this great quote by Sheri Dew: “Clearly, Satan wants us to see ourselves as the world sees us, not as the Lord sees us, because the world’s mirror, like a circus mirror in which a five-foot, ten-inch woman appears two feet tall, distorts and minimizes us. Satan tells us we’re not good enough. Not smart enough. Not thin enough. Not cute enough. Not clever enough. Not anything enough. And that is a big, fat, devilish lie. He wants us to believe that there is no status or significance in being a mother. That is a lie–and an evil lie. He wants us to believe that the influence of women is inherently inferior. And that is a lie.” (No Doubt About It, 46).

I had been looking at–and believing–the world’s mirror. Satan’s lies.

It has been a difficult road. It’s easy to slip back into unhealthy thought patterns, especially if those patterns have been prevalent for years. I’ve never fully bought in to the idea of positive self-talk, but I must admit it has helped me so much in recent months.

Whenever I start glancing back at the world’s mirror, I remind myself: I am enough.

At first it was hard to do. I didn’t really believe it. (I have almost an entire page in my journal filled with “I am enough”s. Trying to convince myself.) But that trickle of water from a hose in springtime has turned into the gush of a creek outside its banks from spring runoff. I have never felt so good about myself.

Enough? Yes, thanks. I am.

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10 responses

25 06 2009
moniquel319

Thank you for sharing this Wendy. I think that issue you mentioned, Enter motherhood exit outside validation is so important for us as women to both recognize and come to terms with. I know my struggle with this was a life changing event for the better I’m glad to report. And we all need to be reminded of the truths you have spoken here. Thank you.

25 06 2009
Dina

I am happy that you have made so much progress in this area in such a short amount of time! We all feel this way as mothers at some point or another.

It is also helpful to recognize that depression is a real disability that can be treated. I think many people think they can just try harder or “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” and often that isn’t enough.

Hugs to you during this difficult time! Love ya!

25 06 2009
Wendy

Thanks for pointing that out, Dina. Mental illness is ILLNESS, and there are treatments with medicine as well as other methods and therapies that should not be dismissed. I did not mean to come across as negating any of these.

25 06 2009
Tami

Thank you! Thank you! You are more than enough, actually. I am glad you are seeing yourself through the Lord’s eyes and not the world’s. What amazes me even more is that you have always made me feel like I am enough, and given me great confidence in myself. Love ya!

25 06 2009
Mandy

I often find it difficult to grasp the concept of doing my best and leaving the rest to God. Because really, what does “just do your best” really mean? As an admitted perfectionist I struggle with the belief that I can always do better. I feel like too often I am straddling the line between feeling inspired to do better/try harder vs. feeling overwhelmed and discouraged which often ends in complacency. Satan knows us well and knows exactly which buttons to push to lead us down paths of discouragement and depression. I am proud of you–of your striving to more fully appreciate yourself as a daughter of God and your willingness to share your insights. I love you!

26 06 2009
Mrs. Olsen

Wendy.

You are brave and beautiful.

You (and me) are doing a powerful and thankless job.

p.s. sometimes your words sound like mine so I am grateful you are putting it out there. I was in YW when I had a major bout with PostPartum Blues and loved and believed in the girls but felt like it was a joke that I could be their leader.

Blogs only make it worse. We always post about the cute things we made, the cute things our kids say. I just got home from grocery shopping with 3 kids and said to myself: “It’s a damn wonder I even go out in public”.

Anyway, it’s a journey and a process. Thanks for your bravery! May you continue to find peace in your home life, spiritual life, and married life.

26 06 2009
Kathleen

Wendy, I love you. I love that you wrote down these feelings and experiences. Life is hard, but that peace is so real. And He is so willing to give. I would never have guessed that my super talented cousin would feel down on herself. But knowing it makes me realize how real satin is. He tries everyone. I seriously have always looked up to you. You are amazing. And you have always boosted my self esteem with your kind words. I am glad you know you are enough. You are beautiful, smart, and talented. Thanks for sharing.

26 06 2009
Niki

You made me cry lil’ Wendy. I just want to hug you. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m so proud of you for making this journey; You are so talented and wonderful I still am having a hard time believing that you didn’t think you were enough. You are so beyond enough and don’t ever forget it my friend.
I love you.

30 06 2009
jennica

You just wrote my thoughts and my life right now. Thank you.

30 06 2009
Alias

Made me cry, too, dagnabit.
In a good way, though.

The timing of my catching up with your blog astounds me. I had a very similar breakdown last night. Not very fun. I constantly struggle with “enough, never!” issues. Especially especially especially right now. (It’s a shame, really, that pregnancy is as miserable as new babies are totally worth it. Sure would be nice to skip the next two months. Sigh.)

Let me add my thanks and love to those who’ve already expressed theirs. You are talented and wonderful and I’m grateful that you’ve included me (us, really, your dedicated readers and fans) in your journey. 🙂

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