For the past two years I have celebrated my birthday with posts honoring what I have learned in four decades of this lifetime. (Here are 40 and 41 in case you missed them). This year I intended to do the same by writing out a lengthy list of all the things I understand to be true and helpful in sorting through the challenges of life. However, in the past 12 months those challenges have been overwhelming, and honestly, I haven’t been all that successful in sorting them out.
Unlike my past tendencies, I harbor no shame for that however – which is actually huge growth in my opinion. I don’t need to justify my choices. I don’t need to please anyone but me. I AM ENOUGH. You are too. That is the overarching lesson I wish to share, one that has been learned through a lot of rough waters. No matter what you are going through or how much you feel like you are failing or floundering – you are always ENOUGH.
The Truth Will Set You Free
I wasn’t sure I wanted to reveal all of this here, so publicly. However, one of the major lessons that I know to be true is that our secrets can make us sick. I have gotten so much strength from those who have publicly shared their vulnerabilities (Liz Gilbert, Glennon Doyle Melton, Melody Beattie, Brene Brown, and Lisa A. Romano, to name just a few). So, I am putting on my big girl panties and letting this all out. This is what the past year has looked like for me:
After finally coming to terms with the fact that although I thought I had “handled” the multiple deaths I experienced in 2014, I really had not. I was deeply depressed and totally stunned by how few people were there to support me as I wallowed in that pain. It taught me a very big lesson about how readily I give my love, energy, and time to people who are unable and unwilling to return it. It provided so much clarity that I finally realized with much anguish, guilt and fear that I was not meant to be married.
The Universe (God) then sent me a job that I felt was a calling, and I took it – in spite of it being over an hour away from my home and everyone I knew, and not exactly the most rational choice given my circumstances. I had an emergency appendectomy costing $1000s just days before I was set to start that job. I moved to a townhouse (the only one I could afford that would allow my cat) by myself with no help from anyone, because I refused to ask the few deeply caring friends and family who support me to make that kind of time commitment. (All while someone I thought would always love me, as I will always love them, watched me struggle with boxes, physically exhausted and covered in bruises from falling down the stairs because I had tried to lift too much).
I left behind one of my beloved cats, the person I had lived with for 16 years, and a piece of my heart, realizing that there are all kinds of deaths – some we must choose. As if that sh*t show weren’t enough, I still have 3 chronic illnesses that decide to appear with mystery symptoms like broken blood vessels, fatigue, and digestive problems – all at random – although most commonly when I am in hot, humid conditions. Oh, and did I mention, my townhouse is over the boiler room and is like living on the surface of the sun?
With all of this swirling around me, I am stunned to report that I have never felt more fulfilled, more empowered, or more blessed. Is it hard? Hell yes! But, this hard stuff makes me really appreciate the graces that life has presented and the genuine love that surrounds me now. It has also been a powerful reminder that this is MY life. I get to decide what the remainder is going to look like. The work I do at a hospice center also puts things into perspective. No one is getting out alive! We have to live according to our hearts while we are here.
You Decide What Is Enough
Even with all that I accept intellectually about this reality, I still find myself returning to the norms of how a “good girl” behaves – always doing what everyone asks of her, never asking for anything in return or being disagreeable. Yet, interestingly, the level of stress and strain I am under has forced me to see the absurdity of that way of life. I no longer have the luxury of living according to anyone else’s expectations. It is such a strange reality that I am certain it has been manufactured for me by a higher power.
The lessons we are meant to learn crash into us over and over again, like raging waves, until we decide we have had enough and bravely dive directly into them. Yes, I am struggling and sinking at times, but the more I surrender to the belief that I am enough, the easier it is to see calmer waters ahead.
All You Can Do
In short, and boy has this gotten long, my Mom used to always ask me the question (and somehow I could never see its worth) – Did you try your hardest? The answer 99% of the time has been, “Yes!” I can see now that I can’t possibly expect more from myself than my best effort. That is enough.
If you have gotten this far – thank you for reading! Having others witness your pain is a strange sort of gift. It makes it more real, which makes it that much easier to accept. And, thank you to Melody Beattie who first taught me the notion of being enough through her groundbreaking work on codependency. Her affirmation book, “The Language of Letting Go” gives me the strength to face each day.