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Thursday
Aug232012

i am enough from anne westhart

For Today, I Am Enough

            I wonder, at times, just what I had expected of the journey to my “enough”-ness. Perhaps that it would arrive as a single “Aha!” moment or a tingling, shimmering awareness.  I’m almost certain that I expected it to stay once it arrived, an unflinching constant of my worth to myself.  Surely I expected its arrival when I had reached some sort of pinnacle or scaled a summit of intellectual pursuit - a college degree or best-selling novel designed “to show them” just how talented I really was after all.

            What I didn’t expect was discovering that “enough”-ness is a process of integration and a slow, somewhat fitful progression toward more good days than bad.  I didn’t expect it to be any more difficult than thinking about it hard enough until I convinced myself of its presence and managed to lock it down.  I knew that it might involve a peeling away of sorts but I didn’t expect the layers to be made up of other people’s gunk, values, and baggage that had been heaped upon me over the years.  I didn’t expect all the tears I would shed, nor the pain I’d feel as each layer of my particular emotional and spiritual “onion” was removed and all that remained of the true me would be a small, almost naked nub of soul, raw but still burning.

            The peeling away of layers was the process of reconsidering virtually everything I’d held onto.  Did I believe in a Higher Power? (Yes, on most days.)  Was it male or female? (Neither, really.) Was it grounded in religion (not for me) or spirit (yes)? Did I have a purpose?  (Probably.)  Would I ever discover it  (Maybe; maybe not.)  Did I believe that I was living my purpose, even if I couldn’t see the path?  (Yup.)

            And then I got stuck. My head told me that I was enough but my heart simply didn’t believe it.   Now what?

            I stopped writing because it didn’t feel right to me and I promised that I would stop taking classes, too, because it seemed as though the learning of things kept me from the doing of them.  And wouldn’t you know - in what would turn out to be a moment of perfect synchronicity - I found an online workshop.  An online workshop, the links to which kept “showing up” wherever I looked. A workshop designed to use art journaling as a tool for restoration.  Despite my rather recent decision to avoid such environments, I listened to the whispers of my heart and intuition rather than the resolutions of my head.

            I took the first workshop. I started playing with markers, colored pencils, artist pens, and paint.  (I made some awful thing with them, things that I now cherish deeply.)

Then, I took the second. And a third.

            And those workshops, filled with with incredible sincerity and love, finally gave me the opportunity to recognize and validate two very important gifts (gifts that we all have, actually) that would allow me to take my enough-ness down into the depths of soul and keep it there.

            Discernment.  And courage.

            Discernment is the art and ability to take something - a value, a belief, a story - down to its roots to determine its “rightness” for myself. It’s learning to look at a long-held notion and deciding whether to let it go as belonging to someone else or keeping/modifying it so that it’s true to the deepest parts of me. It helps me deconstruct the accusations I hurl at myself and recognize them as the accusations and innuendoes of others - family, advertisements, culture - which I’ve taken personal ownership of and internalized.

            During the deconstruction process, discernment was (and continues to be) about not just asking questions but asking the right questions; not just the “what” but the “how” and “why” as well. I had to begin having dialogues with someone other than my critical voice. My old dialogues went something like this.

            “I want to write.”

            “Yeah, sure. That’s why you don’t,” said Critical Anne.

            “It’s just that I can’t think of any plot ideas and my characters aren’t talking to me,” I said.

            “Hmmph.  I wouldn’t want to talk with you, either.”

            “I know I want to write. Why can’t I?” I said.

            “Just one more failure in a long list of them, girl,” said Critical Anne.

            Gosh, I hated the smirk in her voice. But I decided to try the different, gentler approach the workshops suggested. I went on walks but didn’t invite Critical Anne. I banished her, in fact, despite several attempts on her part to crash the party. Instead, I invited my soul and listened to her.

            “I want to write.”

            “Are you sure, Anne?  Seems to me that might be coming from someone else,” said Soul.

            Several days went by while I considered this.  Then another walk.

            “I don’t want to write literary fiction.”

            “Why not?” asked Soul.

            “It focuses too much on fatal flaws and stuff. It’s too dreary.”

            “And...?”

            “I don’t even like reading it.”

            “Okay. Then what’s wrong with not doing it?” Soul asked. “Are you sure this is really what you want?”

            “It would be just one more failure in a long list of them.”

            “Maybe don’t call them ‘failures.’ Maybe think of them as ‘lessons’ that have the benefit of helping you out.”

            “Huh?”

            “Well, at least now you know what you don’t like -”

            “But I can’t give it up. It would mean that I’ve just wasted all that time!”

            Several walks later and I saw the roots:  it wasn’t so much that I’d wasted the time completing a writer’s program but that I’d completed a program which wasn’t my own goal. It was something others said I should pursue and the chosen craft of a relative I was encouraged to emulate, a relative whose hand-me-down clothes somehow always managed to end up in my closet when we were growing up.

            So many things fell into place after learning to ask the right questions of myself. That long line of failures? Well, those were the result of trying to do things according to other people’s values (ie, the only thing worth pursuing were things that make money and art costs money). The feelings of never fitting in, that I’d carried since childhood? My need for solitude versus other people’s belief that successful people have lots of friends. The feelings of isolation? The gift of being intuitive and not yet realizing that some people 1). don’t welcome certain insights unless those insights are what they want to hear and 2). often aren’t comfortable hanging out with people who see things that clearly and, often times, well in advance of others. The feelings of inferiority? Too many reasons to name but suffice it to say that few adults in my early years knew how to deal with such a sensitive child, and a precocious one at that.

            So, for me, discernment was - and continues to be - the domino that, once put into motion, got those inner things moving and keeps them moving. It’s the vehicle that keppss my enough-ness soul-centered.

            Courage, then, is what allows me to look at what I see and be able to stare it down. It keeps me looking, despite the pain and grief, until I can determine what is the truth for me and what are the lies.  It’s what keeps me living true, not giving into other people’s expectations, not going back to the old destructive ways, not picking back up the old baggage and carrying it as my own. It allows me to bless my past and let go of the parts that vie to keep my soul dusty and dying. It keeps me separate from the lies, the gossip, the drama of other people’s lives. It permits me to come home; to write; to create - my true soul work.

            Discernment and courage.  The gifts we all have and which wait for us to recognize as vital to our well-being. The real roots of being enough and taking “I am enough” from the head to the heart.

            Works for me.

...........

            Anne Westhart is a writer and artist who lives in South Florida with her husband and their small menagerie of pets.  She credits the workshops offered at www.bravegirlsclub.com with helping her to recognize her “enough”-ness and actually believe it in her heart.  She blogs at www.annewesthart.com and is currently working on a book about the healing power of art.

Thursday
Jul262012

i am enough from nicola able

Guilt. 

That word overtakes my life sometimes.  Years ago, in therapy, I was given a homework assignment: Go home and write down what you feel guilty about.  I think my therapist was expecting a few notes scribbled on a piece of paper, not the giant tome I handed over to her the next week.  The look on her face was priceless---let's face it, it's kinda cool to shock a therapist.

But the down and dirty truth is that I feel guilty much of the time, about so many things that are beyond my control.

I feel guilty that I am not a good enough daughter.

I feel guilty that I am not a good enough sister.

I feel guilty that I am not a good enough friend. 

I feel guilty that I am not a good enough teacher, student, writer, dancer, and the list goes on.

Basically, I feel guilty that, in my own mind, I am not a good enough person.

I feel like I am not good enough.

I feel like I am not enough.

That's what's at the heart of all my guilty feelings.  Somewhere along the line I told myself that I was not enough, and that story stayed in my head, messing with my self esteem, my pride, my relationships, my life.  I am 37 years old.  I have a wonderful family, amazing friends, a fulfilling career.  I go on adventures.  I challenge myself.  I laugh loudly, until my sides hurt, all the time.  I make other people laugh.  I discover new things about myself.  I reflect.  I grow, change, evolve.  I am a work in progress, and most of the time I am so proud of who I have become, and who I am aiming to be.  But sometimes that story, the one about not being enough, rears its ugly head, and every anxiety I have worked so hard to suppress comes crashing in around me.  So how can I fight that story?

There are tricks I have learned along the way.  I exercise regularly, because it keeps me sane.  I go to dance classes, hike, walk, lift weights, whatever I can fit in to my day.  But many times I just put on music and dance in my living room, pretending I am making a music video. This is surprisingly therapeutic, and great cardio.  I strut, flip my hair, shake my hips like Shakira on crack.  In those moments, I am enough.

I write.  I write down every crazy thought that pops into my head, the ones I would be too embarrassed to share with even my closest friends.  The ones that reveal my deepest insecurities.  Once I write it down, I feel like I am released from the roller coaster of anxiety I sometimes find myself on at 3 a.m., a time when perhaps the faux music video shoot wouldn't be appreciated by my neighbors.  And here's a key part---I try to never reread those thoughts.  I also write down the funny stories from my life, the ones I not-so-secretly dream of developing into a book one day.  I concentrate intently on finding the right tone, word, or expression to bring to life some of the wacky, crazy things I have experienced, in a manner that hopefully strikes a cord with readers, and allows them to laugh.  This too is calming for me.  When I finish with a story, in that moment, I am enough.

I sing, mostly in my car.  It's important to note that I am a terrible singer, but I believe that the act of singing is a joyful one, so everyone should do it, no matter what they sound like.  And I don't just sing any old songs.  When I am looking for that relief from the “You're Not Enough” story in my head, that's when I get in my car and get the “I'm a Badass” playlist ready.  I created that playlist one dark day when I really needed to be reminded of my total badassness.  (I'm ignoring the red squiggly line that is trying to tell me that “badassness” isn't a word.  It should be, dammit.)  It has become my best weapon against the story in my head.  The songs on this playlist are mostly by strong, fierce, confident women like Pink, Tina Turner, Lady Gaga, the Dixie Chicks, although there are some guys on there too.  (I'm a sucker for Uncle Kracker's “Good to Be Me” or Cee Lo Green's “F**k You.”  And Jason Mraz's “Living in the Moment” is my current anthem.)  It's hard to feel anxious when you're flying down the highway, screaming out lyrics like “So what?  I'm still a rock star!”  In those moments, when I've got my rock moves, I am enough.

And, probably most importantly, I teach.  I am a high school English teacher, and it is a career I started five years ago.  At that time, I was in a relationship that was going nowhere.  I was settling, and that is something I pride myself on not doing.  As I interacted with my students, I realized that I wanted to always feel like I was setting a good example for them.  Granted, I don't discuss my personal life with my students, but deep down, I would know that I was settling for less than I deserved, and that is something I would never want for any of them.  I figured out pretty quickly, thanks to my students,  that I needed to end that relationship and allow myself to be open to something fresh and new,  relationships that would add to my life, instead of take from it.  My students are 14 and 15 years old, and they can be frustrating, maddening, and heartbreaking.  But they are also always my favorite part of my job because they are compassionate, funny, surprising, intelligent, silly, and kind-hearted.  They remind me every day of the great possibilities of the future.  And when they say things like, “Ms. Able, I love being in your class, because we laugh a lot,” well, in those moments, I am more than enough. 

So I guess this isn't a story about the one moment I realized I was enough.  I don't know if I will ever feel that way, all of the time.  This is the story of all the little moments, the daily reminders, that I, just by virtue of being born, am enough.   

...........

Nicola Able is a writer, dancer, reader, teacher, traveler, and all-around kick ass human being, who currently lives in Connecticut.  She discovered the “I am Enough” blog on a day when she was beating the crap out of herself emotionally, and mindlessly googled the phrase “When will I be enough?”  She didn't truly expect to find anything particularly helpful, so imagine her surprise when she happened upon this amazing collaborative.  She believes in laughter, making wishes on birthday cake candles, and serendipity. 

Thursday
Jul192012

i am enough from cathy sly

 

She now understands that the doubting started with the phone call from her doctor some nine years ago.

The tumor was indeed malignant.

She had breast cancer.

They had caught it early.

She was probably going to be okay.

The first six months were full of doctor visits, rounds of chemo and radiation, and she fought. Fought hard, coming out the other end stronger. Amazing herself at times with her strength, but also aware that she had not cried, or felt much sorrow throughout the ordeal. What she did feel was fear, anger and betrayal.

She had always taken her heath seriously. Friends teased her about her “organic ways”, no jarred baby food in her home when her boys were babies. She spent hours in her big organic garden; ground her own wheat made all their bread.

It was not fair.

This was not supposed to happen.

She found herself doubting herself. Doubting the choices she had made and felt confused. She had been so animate and so sure she was right and now it seemed to have done no good.

She felt as if the very soul of her being had turned on her, and she no longer trusted her passions, her gut feelings, her body, nor her chosen life style. The woman she had been was all wrong and so she tried hard to get rid of her, or at least ignore her. Soon bits and pieces of the strong, passionate woman she had been, started to fade. She had a new normal, suddenly white sugar was back in the house, along with ice cream with ingredients she could not pronounce.

Time went by and at her five-year mark her doctor told her he was releasing her to treat patients who had cancer; this was great news, but she hated to leave the security of him. Now she was on her own, and every ache and pain was cause for worry. But that was not all, another horrifying journey had started; not her journey but that of her oldest son.

It was dark.

It was scary.

It was life threatening.

People told her it was not her life, that she needed protect herself; her counselor telling her over and over it was not her fault, but the new her didn’t cry or feel sorrow, she was pissed.

She felt cheated all over again.

She had been a good mother, homeschooling their three boys, allowing them a childhood full of wonder and learning. She and her husband had a strong marriage and had taught their boys honesty and good morals, taught them to be kind and allowed them to follow their passions. And here she was; everything she fought so strongly for, felt so passionate about, all for not. She had done things wrong again.

It seemed that her whole life was somewhat of a joke. She didn’t know who she was any longer; she lost her passion, her drive, and found herself on autopilot. Pretty soon days turned into weeks and weeks into months and then years, and she was stuck. She knew she had to do something or she would just shrivel up inside and become a bitter old woman.

And then it happened. One day, while sitting at her desk at school, watching the rain fall outside her window she knew she had to make some changes or she was going to be gone. It was a bit of an epiphany really and she knew exactly what needed to be done for her to start to feel alive again. She needed to feel something, even if it was scary and uncomfortable, she needed to take chances again and start living again.  She needed to put herself first, and not worry about how it might affect others.

And she did.  Over the course of the next year she did things, which not only surprised her, but those around her. She quite her teaching job, spent three weeks in Europe, (the eleven hour plane trip, which so scared her, had always stopped her before), moved to be with her husband full time, picked up her camera and started a blog.

She started writing about her fears, her passions, her questions and misgivings. Trying to sort it all out and make sense of it all. She put herself out there for everyone to see almost everyday and it scared her but also made her feel alive. She started taking online photo classes, and in one learned to turn the lens around on herself, capturing bits and pieces of her for proof; proof that she was here and that she was enough.

The whole thing scared her right back into life and she started living again; started crying and laughing and accepting herself. Finally understanding the young woman didn’t do anything wrong, understanding that she did the best she could, followed her gut, and her passions and that she was okay; in fact, she was more than okay, she was enough. Enough and beautiful and strong and she now had the proof.

 

............

 

Cathy Sly is a retired teacher who bounces between Western Washington, where she and her husband own the home they raised their three sons in, and Eastern Washington, where he is currently working as a nuclear safety engineer. She doesn’t go anywhere now without her camera, captureing her everyday moments, no matter how big or small. She also turnes the camera around almost daily on herself to prove she is here and living.  You can read her blog at: http://mycornerthroughmylens.blogspot.com/ where she muses about her thoughts, passions and feelings, sometimes even crying. She also can be found hanging out in Flickr. Her oldest son is in recovery now and has been clean just over six months. She wakes up every day, loving her life and feeling so alive.

 

Thursday
Jul122012

I am Enough from Lisa MacIntosh

I sat and stared at this coffee cup. It had my name on it, but who am I?  Who is Lisa?  It sent me into a spin that lasted the entire day.  Suddenly I wasn’t sure who Lisa was anymore. Where had I gone?  What had become to the woman who ten years ago was so very different.

Ten years ago I was driving home from work, sitting, waiting to turn into a gas station.  One loud and heavy crash and my world began a downward spiral that I thought would never end.

The Lisa of ten years ago was happily married, sober, working with disadvantaged youth in downtown Parkdale, Toronto. She owned a home, had her father living in the basement of that house, had two well-adjusted boys, was active at church and alcoholics anonymous, did street outreach one evening a week. She was the most active person I knew.

The pain after that accident left me without use of my left arm.  Eventually that moved into neck and got so bad I had to stop working.  Just like that; a career that I loved with every fibre of my being was gone and I began to lose interest in everything and everyone around me. I was consumed with agonizing pain and no one knew why.  When they finally discovered a herniated disc in my neck, surgery was my only option. But, I was ready for anything to make the pain go away. I desperately wanted my life back.

Surgery came and went and so did life as I knew it.

Within two years my somewhat ‘normal’ life was anything but.  My surgery was a failure and I was left with a spinal cord injury.  In no particular order, here’s what I lost:

my marriage

my home

my dad

my job

my outreach

myself

My goodness, there were many, many dark days.  When I look back I sometimes wonder how I got through it, how I didn’t just throw in the towel, pick up a drink, end it all.  Sadly, the thought of ending it all hung over me like a heavy cloud.  My children were what made me hang on. They were my reason for living.

Ten years later I have:

a new marriage to a wonderful, caring man

two amazing sons who are now young men

a home that i love

a dog that loves me

a supportive church family

sobriety

myself?

I put a question mark beside myself because I still ache for what was. I still terribly miss some parts of my old life that are now physically impossible.   Some days I sit here and look around and think “am I good enough” or  “is there more that I could be doing?”  I often find myself weeping at the smallest of things, drifting off in thought, saying “I’ll be happy when...”

And then I either give myself a good shake or a friend will reach out and remind me of all of the things that I am today…the things that I tend to forget:

mother, wife, lover, friend, photographer, dog walker, listener, small business owner, artist, tea drinker, colleague, volunteer, sidekick, caregiver

Today I do all that I can do. Many days I overdue and I really pay for those days dearly.  Today I will give of myself as best I can.  I’ll do for others, I’ll always do for others.  Today I will be FEARless and I will have faith in myself and in my dreams. 

Today I will see and believe what others see.

Today I know that “I am Enough” and I will run with that and breathe it in and feel it deep in my soul and I will hope to remember to feel it and believe it again tomorrow.

...........

 

Lisa MacIntosh is a photographer who resides in Port Credit, Ontario, Canada.  Living a life by the water, sharing it with people that mean the world to her.  You can find her photography and greeting card company here: www.photographiegreetings.com. 

Thursday
Jul052012

i am enough from Beryl Young

 

I had a moment recently where I started doubting everything. My abilities as a wife, mother, friend. and the places where I live and work. The wear and tear of a 2 hour daily commute to a full time job all while mothering a toddler and building a creative business on the side had finally taken it's toll. I was being stretched too thin and spread in so many different directions.  It was mommy guilt at it's finest and in my mind I was failing at it all.

I am not usually a crier. So on this day, when I broke down in a puddle of tears before bed, my husband - my rock, my calmer, my guide - knew something was seriously wrong. 

In between sobs I'd fret over the amount of time we were wasting in cars driving too and from full time jobs instead of frolicking with her on the playground. The number of home cooked family dinners we were missing out on because by the time we arrived home at the end of a day it was too late to cook an elaborate meal. The number of hours we all spent apart because full time work was a necessity for us both if we were going to make ends meet.

He embraced me tightly and told me that everything is temporary and it was all going to be ok.  He made proclamations of my amazingness and my ability to 'do it all'. But, his words fell on deaf ears, because I still felt like a failure. I tearfully drifted off to sleep that night hoping for answers and dreaming of a better tomorrow.

Weekending the next morning brought us all together around the breakfast table where we watched our daughter's fascinating 21 month old mind babbling her usual strings of nouns: mama, daddy, kitty, neigh, up, Elmo. Then she did something so silly it set us all off in fits of belly laughter, the kind that instantly soothes the soul. When it was over, she turned to me, smiled, and whispered the sweetest adjective - her first adjective - oh so softly:

"Happy"

I looked at her and turned to my husband stunned, shocked, and amazed.  I asked her to repeat what she said to me one more time.

"Mama. Happy."

And that moment I realized that even in the midst of all of life's craziness - the jobs, dreams, demands, and my unmet expectations - I am enough to her.  And I am enough just as I am.

...........



Beryl Ayn Young, serves as chief photography muse over on her personal blog and serves as a teacher of the photography lessons to nourish the mind, body, and soul. She believes in lifelong learning, photographic healing, & a glass half full perspective. Beryl offers e-courses and and mentoring are aimed at teaching you how to improve your camera skills and cherish life’s journey.