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Tuesday
Aug162011

i am enough from Priscilla Aguila

I went back and forth on what I wanted to write about.  Wasn’t sure if I wanted to write about the woes I had earlier in life, or what it’s like being a military wife, or even how I’ve had my own internal struggles to overcome. As I wrote each story, at some point, I stopped. I found myself not wanting to go on about the details. Honestly, there is a lot that makes me who I am today. And every minute and every detail is special, most importantly the bad ones because overcoming the bad makes the good just sweeter. 

So, just how do I know I am enough?

Because I came to realize that by accepting myself as I am, imperfections and all, that is enough. It’s better than enough actually, whatever that would be called. It took me leaving the place that I felt safe and the place where I felt loved, to find myself again. And suddenly, everything is clearer and everything is falling into place. I was a little tadpole in the huge ocean. But now that I am in a small pond, life is more manageable. It’s easier. And I can truly discover why I am enough. Not just by compliments I receive, or by what I hear people say. It’s because I believe in myself. Despite the rocky roads I traveled to get here. I got through it because I am enough.

...........

About Priscilla Aguila

 

Get more silly at http://sillyblahgs.blogspot.com, or @getsillytweets on twitter. 

 

Tuesday
Aug092011

I am Enough from C. Delia Mulrooney

I walked back into prison—hearing the metallic buzz of the doors locking behind me, smelling the antiseptic chemical air cut with adrenaline and testosterone—and felt myself shaking.  I said hello to the guards, entered the ladies room to change into my borrowed uniform and looked at myself in the mirror above the rust-stained sink.  My eyes flooded with tears and I leaned in close and allowed myself to whisper the words that had been echoing through me for the last two weeks, “I don’t want to do this anymore.  What am I trying to prove?”  I splashed cold water on my face and shook off the foreboding feelings.  In a classroom nearby, ten men waited for me to take my place at the front of the room and connect them to their creative writing…ten men who just happened to be convicted felons.  There was no time for me to be overwhelmed or to listen to my quiet little inner voice.  Instead, I was expected to be resilient and to listen to them tell about the bones they had broken, the glass they had shattered, the women they had violated…their words were like blades and I wasn’t allowed to flinch.  I headed into the hallway, ignoring again my instinct’s insistent impulse to run.  I didn’t know it then, but it was the last morning I’d face them…the last morning I’d try.

Hour two of class and a man raised his hand to read the piece he had written.  By the second line, a knife had emerged in his story.  By the third, it had met with the woman he was raping.  By the fourth, my stomach rolled and my tough façade was crumbling fast.  By the time the guard grabbed another student by the back of his neck and pinned him to the floor for an infraction, my heart burst, a piñata in my chest—emotions spilling everywhere.  I looked at the other men in the room and willed them not to move, not to do anything that would render me a tragic footnote in some prisoner’s story.  The room was stormed by a whole crew of guards in seconds, class was dismissed and, for the millionth time, I vowed never again to ignore my emotions and my intuition.

You see, this was not the first chance I had to trust the honest, muted voice inside of me that offered advice…and, like so many women, this was not the first time I’d disregarded it as being “overly emotional.”  I have always wanted to be tough…strong…brave.  Growing up sandwiched between two brothers (with an athletic, plucky oldest sister) I internalized the idea that being fearless was the only way I could prove my worth.  I climbed the neighbor’s pear trees with a pocketknife in my hand, overlooking the sting of my skinned knees and the fierce cloud of yellowjackets competing with me for the sun-warm fruit.  I read Peter Pan and found sweet, delicate Wendy completely maddening…shunning her introspection for Peter’s bravado.  I told the scariest ghost stories at slumber parties to establish my nervy nature, and later, secretly dated the boy with the motorcycle who was five years my senior (with a girlfriend besides) because he was the one who would show the rest of them that I was bold, audacious…enough.

The truth is, however, I was fooling no one. I was then and have always been dreamy, sensitive, easily-wounded, tender-hearted, vulnerable and thin-skinned.  I cry passionately and often.  I am prone to fragile moods, melancholy and deep weaknesses.  I remember everything.  I feel everything.  This has always been something I viewed as a deep character flaw.  If I could just “fix” this defect in my personality then I would somehow be good enough.  When my emotions start running high, I typically start running away.  I ignore them, snub them, call them girlie and push myself fiercely in the opposite direction.  What this has meant, though, is that the choices I make to prove myself to others have all too often wounded me again and again.  It is a complex process, to try to accept my femininity and fragility and feelings and to recognize their inherent value. 

Standing in front of that room full of prisoners, I did have altruistic intentions—I am a writer and a teacher and I believe in the value of literary expression as a therapeutic and dynamic art.  I wanted to reach these men and to allow room for their creativity to inspire healing for their own scars as well as the ones they’d inflicted on others.  And, in fairness, this was my second semester of prison teaching—the first was, indeed, mostly gratifying and effective.  But as soon as I knew that this particular group’s dynamic was off, I should have honored my instincts and my own needs for self-care.  For weeks, I struggled to connect with our common humanity, pretending like I wasn’t having violent nightmares based on the stories they told, imagining that the menacing texture of the space between us just wasn’t there.  I cried my entire drive to the facility and couldn’t go into the house after it was over to face my children with the horrors of their stories still so fresh in my mind.  I wanted to prove I was courageous, resilient and powerful enough to take anything.  I felt like, by quitting, I’d show my damaged, female self.  But, after the incident on my last day, I was forced to honor my intuition, acknowledge my frailties and consent to my honest reactions—not the ones I feel I am “supposed to have”.

Not all of us are facing down a room full of inmates to prove how intrepid we are, but there are infinite emotional prisons we put ourselves in: acting like we haven’t lost sleep for weeks with worry over our teenage son, pretending when our boss drops yet another project on our desks that we’re supremely confident and eager, denying our tears when someone we care about shatters our delicate heart.  All of these displays of bravado are ones we take on to show our protected, powerful selves and deny our exposed, unguarded ones.  Allowing ourselves to be bold and confident with how we really feel, and realizing we are still enough, even with our broken, bruised spots—requires a staggering act of strength and will.  Ultimately, I have prison to thank for setting me free and making me realize I don’t have to prove anything anymore.  Ultimately, just as I am, all on my own…I am enough.

...........

About C. Delia Mulrooney

 

C. Delia Mulrooney is a freelance writer, poet, editor and teacher. Her poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, and reviews have appeared in a variety of online and print publications. She is Editor of the Columns Department for Literary Mama Magazine, which is a popular online publication and hotspot for reading and resources "for the maternally inclined".  She has taught writing and literature at the college level since 2000 and has been a facilitator for a variety of workshops and organizations.  In 2008, she won an Emerging Artist Fellowship from the State of Delaware Division of the Arts for excellence in fiction based on work with her first novel manuscript. Delia has completed a second novel, started on her third and is currently pursuing her MFA in creative writing at Goddard College.  For more information, please visit her website.

Tuesday
Aug022011

I am Enough from Leah Day

 

(This post was orginally published on Leah's blog in January. She graciously allowed us to repost it here)

This is a post I've been wanting to write for awhile. I realized about 3 weeks ago while working on Sinkhole just how much some rippling issues were bothering me about that quilt top.

Rippling happens when a quilt wasn't pieced quite perfectly. It usually happens when a piece of fabric is cut fine, but either from being in a hurry or not paying attention, it's not pieced just right into the quilt. The result is a rippling effect where the fabric of the quilt top is baggy in certain areas and it only gets exacerbated when you start adding dense free motion quilting over it.

I fully admit to rushing through the construction process of Sinkhole, and it caught up with me when I reached the quilting and found huge amounts of rippling and bagginess over the outer rings.

This actually started to bother me more than the negative words did! The rippling was a huge imperfection and kind of like the quilt was saying "You're not as good as you thought, are you???"

While working through that quilt, I laid in bed one night thinking about these issues and how huge these flaws appear on the quilt. Then I started thinking about all the flaws on my other quilts and how enormous they appear to me. Why is it impossible to create a perfect quilt?

As I lay there thinking about this, I remembered the numerous quilters who write every day worried they will ruin a quilt by trying free motion quilting. I remember the number of times I've seen a gorgeous quilt, only to have the creator point out every flaw and issue with the quilt top and quilting.

So I know I'm definitely not alone in obsessing about flaws and imperfections, and I know this tendency stretched beyond our quilts too.

How many times have I complimented a woman on her outfit or her hair, only to hear her cut herself down for her weight, her complexion, or some other perceived flaw?

We look for flaws constantly in ourselves, we know our greatest limitations, our weaknesses, and visible imperfections so well, it's hard to see beyond them, and this bucket full of negative, flaw searching really makes it that much easier to hate ourselves.

In my quest through Sinkhole, I've really sought one thing: to overcome my own self hatred. By writing the dark words on my quilt, I finally faced the underlying causes - every negative, cutting, harsh word that I believed wholeheartedly and that had caused my eyes to focus solely on my flaws, never on my perfection.

Yes, I said the word perfection.

I'm not being stuck up or conceited. In every quilt I've ever seen, there are flaws, but the perfection always far exceeds the small areas with issues. Usually if the flaws hadn't been pointed out, I would never, ever have found them.

Which means that in every quilt, and in every person, there is overwhelming perfection just waiting to be seen and acknowledged.

For years I've been given many compliments "You are so creative. I love your work. Wow, this is so impressive." and those compliments never seemed to stick. As soon as that person was done talking, I was off again pointing out the flaws, nit picking every issue, and with each one found, reminding myself again and again "You're not good enough, you are not smart enough, you are not pretty enough."

And I realized laying in bed that night that these words are kind of like a mantra, chanted over and over until they become true, when in fact, they are the very reverse of true. They are a mantra of self hate, a focus on all things negative, shameful, and lacking.

I've said many times to my friends and family this month "Self hate is a habit."

It is a habit to say these things to ourselves. It is a habit to focus only on the negative, to ignore the perfection and beauty and possibility that lie in every person. I have to remind myself of this daily, so that as I dig myself out of this sinkhole, I don't fall back into my old habits of self hate.

You might think that something as small as finding flaws on your quilt doesn't amount to something as awful sounding as "self hate," but I beg to differ. If you are a quilter, making quilts brings you pride and happiness. To search for and point out the flaws in your quilts is to crush your pride and happiness a bit each time you do it.

Recently I picked up a magazine on crafty blogging only because three words were written on the cover: I AM ENOUGH.

The magazine article went on to describe an artist initiative created by Tracy Clark. It is a self-kindness collaboration of artists and women who share their stories. You can read many of them right here.
But those words stuck with me like nothing else. I Am Enough.

I had to ask myself: why is this so huge? What about these words moves me tears, to laughter, to change?

And then I realized, these words are the very reverse of that negative mantra and there is awesome power in their simplicity: I am enough. I am pretty enough. I am powerful enough. I am perfect enough. I lack nothing.

So this was the last line I wrote on Sinkhole:

I am enough. My love for myself is enough to move mountains. I do not need your approval to be happy or free.

I had to stop writing words at that point, to take some time off to make those words true. To get some practice saying these words, living them, and applying them to every part of my life.

At the same time the idea for Hot Cast popped into my head. A goddess that symbolizes this learning curve. Of learning how to allow love to flow from your heart freely, regardless of flaws or imperfections.

I am enough.

Say it with me because You Are Enough too.

 ...........

About Leah Day

 

Leah Day is a wife, mother, and online quilting teacher.  For the last year, Leah has been on a journey to overcome a past of abuse, alcoholism, and a crippling inner negative voice. Her personal journey is shared through a series of goddess quilts, which you can find at Day Style Designs.

Tuesday
Jul262011

I am enough from Amy Kessel

I wait patiently for the session during which my coaching client whispers, “I am enough”.  It always comes.  It comes after a grueling internal battle between “should be” and “am”, or a descent down a steep ravine of fear and doubt that eventually leads to a calm and peaceful valley.  Some journeys are long and arduous, others seem simple because she has courageously prepared herself for what she is undertaking.  Regardless of how, each client eventually arrives at this place.

I am enough.

The relief she feels in claiming her enoughness brings me to tears every time.  We sit quietly, drinking in the wonder of her discovery.  It’s an enormous feat and we both know it.  I encourage her to say it again. 

I am enough.

The realization I am enough marks a turning point for us wherever we are on our respective paths.  It’s the beginning of truth telling, of settling into our skin regardless of how young or old our skin may be.  It’s the self-love that mirrors the way we love others, yet have kept from ourselves until now.

For me, I am enough is a long exhale.  A relaxing in the body.  The hint of a smile and a slight nod.  A different way of living the outlines of my life.

My story is probably similar to yours.  I spent many years striving and perfecting and rehearsing and anxiously peeking over my shoulder to see if I got the nod of approval.  Wanting so desperately to be sure I got it right.  Looking for proof of my enoughness in the grades on my report card, the shape of my body, the words spoken by my parents.  Then the diplomas, the stamps in my passport, the performance reviews.

I was constantly on the move to gather proof that I was enough.  I figured I’d know it when I found my soulmate.  Nope.  When I fit into those great jeans.  No again.  Got the plum job.  Uh uh.  Okay, then, finally I’ll be enough when I’m living my childhood dream: husband, kids, house, career – the whole package.

Still, no.  The pieces were in place but I still was not enough.  Not down deep.

Then something happened while my children were very young.  Enoughness came crashing down on me.  I had no idea how to be a mama, and there are no training programs.  So I gave the babes the things I instinctively summoned to love them : my attention, my body, my adoration.  I was not a perfect mother.  And I was enough. 

At the same time my marriage was rocky and unsupportive, so I stopped looking to my husband to tell me what I yearned to know about myself – and I turned inward instead, where I found my enoughness intact, eager, fresh, alive.  It was ready to be brought out into the world even while my relationship was in shreds and I was a sleep-deprived new mama fumbling around in unfamiliar territory.  I realized that in the times of not knowing, when I didn’t rehearse or strive or prepare, I was enough.  And when the outward reflection wasn’t giving me what I wanted, I found it by looking inside. 

I fell in love with this new knowledge. So I made a practice out of being enough.

Once the floodgates were opened, I found I could reclaim enoughness again and again.  As a perfectionist overachiever, enoughness is a balm for my old wounds.  A lightness set in, a new delight in messiness and imperfection.  Amazingly, I found I am enough even when things go sideways.  When I underestimate, or overcompensate.  When I misstep, or say something awkward, or embarrass my kids.  Or myself.  Once I let myself off the hook, I could relax and appreciate the pieces of my life in a whole new way.

I wish I could say it’s a permanent change, but it’s not.  Knowing enoughness is a practice for me, and I still have moments of profound disappointment, self-doubt and shame.  The overachiever in me doesn’t like to stay in the back seat, so I work hard to keep her there while also being authentic in my commitment to my work and my passions.  The balance between doing things well and being enough is a delicate one, and I am always aware of it.

I’m not surprised when my clients show up with their own version of the same story.  I listen, and offer support, and hold space for them while they poke holes in the shroud they have wrapped around themselves.  I bear witness to the remarkable truth revealing itself before me, and nod in agreement when she acknowledges for herself and for all of us, I am enough.  Right now.  As I am.

...........

About Amy Kessel

 

Amy Kessel is a life coach, mama, yogini, and recovering perfectionist.  She is enchanted by women who are hungry for change, and writes about personal transformation at www.amykessel.com.  Click here to receive her free eGuide, Reclaiming Your Brilliance.

Photo courtesy of Valeria Spring of The Red Balloon Photography.

Tuesday
Jul192011

I am Enough from Reese Leyva

When I was in my very early twenties, I wrote this little snippet in my journal about my enoughness:

You told me once I'm ugly, that no one could ever love me. In fact, you told me many, many times. You also told me I was never good enough. Over and over with your words and your actions, not good enough. Never enough. Never good enough. They echo in my head, not just your voice but your actions echoing over and over on the History Channel reruns in my mind.

It's like dropping a coin into a deep, dark well. There's an emptiness, but you know something is there, just past the emptiness, just past the darkness. And you wait and you wait for the coin to make a splash, to hit the ground, but it never does, or, rather, you never hear it. But you wait because you know it's there.

It just has to be there, the splash, the end of it all. I'm still waiting for the end of you, your echo in my head. And maybe I just never heard the splash because all I hear is the waiting, the silence, the emptiness inside of me begging you to tell me that I'm enough.

Ten years later, I finally formulated a response:

I stopped waiting. I stood by the well for so long, staring into the darkness, that I let the damp, thick blackness cover me and all my light.

I waited for so long that the weather parched my skin, dulled my eyes, cracked my lips, taught my hands to forget to work, and stripped the voice of my soul completely from my body.

I loved you so much, I waited a lifetime. I loved you so much, my tears grew cherry blossom trees around me. I loved you so much I sacrificed myself to this well, bidding myself be fertilizer for the trees and the grass and the flowers discovering life around me.

This was my truth until I realized I’d sacrificed myself not for you, but for me. I believed you. I believed you and this was the destiny I proudly accepted.

Then one day, the scent of the flowers around me awoke my subtle senses. The tree’s shade played light on me so drops of sunlight could dance. Critters of the earth tickled my fingers and toes, telling me I was yet alive and look at all I’d created by just being me. Trees. Flowers. Grass. A forest. A home for other lovely, divine beings. And they were telling me that it was time for me to live, too.

And so I grew thankful. I felt blessed by the trees that drew life from my tears, the sun that shone to bring blood to my face, the flowers whose scent would tempt me back to life. All I’d done, without you, came to me and strengthened my spirit, reminded me that this is my life.

No more waiting. No need for words or apologies or forgiveness.

I have always been utterly enough.

 ...........

About Reese Leyva

Reese Leyva grew from a felon to a finance professional to a successful entrepreneur, speaker, trainer and dancer by listening to and following her inner light. Now she spends time writing, sharing her passions with the world, and mentoring others to let their own light shine. More information about Reese, her Shine Your Light Speaking Circles, and her 1-Day Shine Intensives can be found at www.ReeseLeyva.com

Featured photo courtesy of Francine Alex.