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.”
“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.”
“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.