Acceptance

Being Enough

September 29, 2014


Have you ever felt that somehow, you just weren’t quite enough?

Lately I’ve been pondering the concept of worth and of being enough, because I’ve been feeling inadequate. No matter what I do, it never feels like enough. And if I’m not doing enough, then I feel I don’t “deserve” good things. It’s not a happy way to live. I feel like I’m required to give and produce constantly before I can receive—be worthy of—love and respect.

I know part of this feeling is tied to money. I’m not earning right now, though not for a lack of trying. I have several essays out in the world awaiting judgment, and I’ve applied for several jobs in the past six months and have been met with silence. When you hit enough walls, you begin to doubt your worth.

In my head I know that my worth is not contingent upon what I earn. I contribute to my family and the world by giving love, support, encouragement, and even physical labor. In my head, I know that I have worth just because I’m alive. But…

I still struggle.

Here are some things that help me, and might help you if you suffer from the occasional feeling that you’re not enough:

Examine the concept of “enough.” Who determines what is enough? Is it the same or different for each person? Does doing “enough” equal being “enough”? Quantifying “enough” is treading dangerously close to the slippery slope of perfectionism and all the craziness thereof.

Do less, counterproductive as that may seem. It’s possible to set too ambitious goals for the amount of time I have. The constant failure to do everything on the to-do list, even if it’s unreasonable to expect to finish, makes me feel inadequate. I’ve taken to putting time estimates next to my to-dos so I can see if I’m packing the day with 15 hours of work. I’m now making a core to-do list with the most important things on it, and I’m limiting them to just a few each day. I’m going to give myself credit and a reward when I complete them. If I want to do more, that’s fine, but I can quit and consider my day productive if I’ve done my core to-dos.

Stop comparing myself with others. I am who I am, I do what I do. I believe what  teacher Jim Tolles wrote in his post, “Feeling Like You’re Not Enough”: “You are. I won't even say you are enough because that kind of statement presumes that in someway you could ever be ‘not enough.’ This is an absurdity. You are as you are. That is perfect in the sense that you don't have to validate your existence or your ability to be, receive, or give love.”

Be honest with myself. It’s true: sometimes (though not always) feeling not good enough is an indicator that I need to do something different, learn more, try harder. If my work doesn’t get accepted, it may be because it isn’t quite good enough, humbling though that is. I know I’m not the writer that I want to be yet, and I must keep learning, experimenting, writing, in order to improve.

Treat myself the way I would treat another. I wouldn’t criticize or put down a friend who was feeling inadequate. I’d offer support and encouragement. I need to be kind and gentle with myself because I know I’m doing the best that I can.

We in the U.S. live in a culture of more, better, faster, higher. A culture based on doing and tangible achievement rather than the more amorphous concept of being. I want to value myself just for being myself, no strings attached, no expectations to meet. And that just might be enough.

Fog

The Sun Lifts This Veil

September 24, 2014

Photo courtesy Tim Mossholder

Introduction by Ted Kooser: I’m fond of poems about weather, and I especially like this poem by Todd Davis for the way it looks at how fog affects whatever is within and beneath it.

Veil

In this low place between mountains
fog settles with the dark of evening.
Every year it takes some of those
we love—a car full of teenagers
on the way home from a dance, or
a father on his way to the paper mill,
nightshift the only opening.
Each morning, up on the ridge,
the sun lifts this veil, sees what night
has accomplished. The water on our window-
screens disappears slowly, gradually,
like grief. The heat of the day carries water
from the river back up into the sky,
and where the fog is heaviest and stays
longest, you’ll see the lines it leaves
on trees, the flowers that grow
the fullest.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2007 by Todd Davis from his most recent book of poems, “The Least of These,” Michigan State University Press, 2010. Reprinted by permission of Todd Davis and the publisher. Poem first appeared in “Albatross,” No. 18, 2007. Introduction copyright © 2010 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Everyday adventures

Planting Hope

September 22, 2014

Is there anything more optimistic and hopeful than planting a garden? 

This weekend, my husband and I prepared our largest garden bed for fall planting. We had to dig out the old soil, pull up the tree roots creeping into the bed, put down cardboard to slow their return, and refill the bed with a mixture of the old soil and a good helping of fresh soil from our compost heap. It was hot, drippy work, but we were left with a beautiful, ready-to-be-planted bed.

Before/during

After and ready for planting
We’re also growing our garden from seeds—another hopeful and optimistic endeavor. Can you imagine sweet sugar snap peas coming from these:



Or carrots from these:


That’s what we’re hoping for, along with a few other Florida cold season crops.

There are many garden-to-life metaphors/parallels/life lessons, such as: in gardening as in life you have to get your hands dirty if you want things to grow, or gardening and life both have “seasons,” and so on. One of my favorite lessons, however, is that beautiful things can come from unprepossessing beginnings. Tiny, dead-looking seeds produce luscious tomatoes, beautiful blooms, crunchy carrots, and aromatic herbs. This makes me feel hopeful that when I feel parched and withered, with the right care and nurturing I can produce something beautiful and delicious, too. Even though each seed contains new life, it will not sprout unless its growing conditions are met. The spark of creativity and life within me must be nurtured as well. All I need to do is look around me for the nurturing I need to grow and bloom. And, sometimes the hardest part, allow myself that nurturing, whether it is a delicious meal, an afternoon nap, a coffee date with a friend, or half an hour spent daydreaming and listening to music.

I’ve been feeling tired, parched, and withered lately. While I have been allowing myself time for dormancy, for just chillin’, I’m ready to leave this stage and move on to the next. My favorite season—fall—is coming and with it, the cooler, drier air that always gives me an energy lift. I want to feel that spark of creative energy wake up inside me, and I want to grow and bloom the way our garden will (I hope). While I’m waiting, I’m going to pay careful attention to my growing conditions.

In what ways can you make conditions right for your own blossoming?

Internet

Feeling the (Link) Love

September 19, 2014

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. Lao-Tzu |

Between rain and humidity this week, I’ve spent most of my waking hours inside. (And all of my sleeping hours, come to think of it.) I haven’t spent all my time online, but perhaps a bit more than usual. I plan to make up for that IF we ever have a fall. In the meantime, perhaps you’d like to explore this collection of links I found interesting, inspiring or just plain fun.

Don’t fall into the comparison trap.

Spoken.ly is a website that allows you to make your own illustrated inspirational quotes for social media. I made the image that illustrates this blog post there, and I can’t wait to play around with it some more.

Have you heard of StoryCorps?  It’s mission is “to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives.” It’s a national independent nonprofit organization that has collected and archived more than 50,000 interview with more than 90,000 participants. Stories are recorded on a CD and preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and can be heard on your local NPR radio station, or on their own Listen pages.  StoryCorps has also compiled several books from the stories.

Wise words about mistakes from my friend Laure Ferlita.

Check out these 50 simple ways to celebrate life. My favorites: number nine, number 13, number 22 and number 50!

I love manatees, and this site combines their cuteness with encouragement. Manatees for everyone!

This isn’t new, but it made me smile. Practice your insanity!

Happy Friday!

Blossoming

In Each Stage of Our Unfolding

September 17, 2014



“We do ourselves a great disservice by judging where we are in comparison to some final destination. This is one of the pains of aspiring to become something: the stage of development we are in is always seen against the imagined landscape of what we are striving for. So where we are—though closer all the time—is never quite enough.

“The simple rose, at each moment of its slow blossoming, is as open as it can be. The same is true of our lives. In each stage of our unfolding, we are as stretched as possible. For the human heart is quite slow to blossom, and is only seen as lacking when compared to the imagined lover or father or mother we’d like to become.

“It helps to see ourselves as flowers. If a flower were to push itself to open faster, which it can’t, it would tear. Yet we humans can and often do push ourselves. Often we tear in places no one can see. When we push ourselves to unfold faster or more deeply than is natural, we thwart ourselves. For nature takes time, and most of our problems of will stem from impatience.” 
Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Accomplishment

Chillin' Time

September 15, 2014

More often than not, when I go to the barn to see Tank these days I just take him to graze while I read a magazine or simply watch him with nothing particular in my mind. Even our riding has become languid in the sweatbox that is Florida in September. I feel slightly guilty about this—after all, shouldn’t we always be trying to do better, learn more, grow, progress?

Well, no.


There’s a time for pushing and learning and stepping outside comfort zones, and there’s also a time for chilling out, for hanging together with no agenda. For me, that time is late summer. I’m exhausted from nearly four months of unrelenting heat and humidity and all I really want to do is rest. And not sweat.

Surely Tank must appreciate a break as well. I make sure he maintains a certain level of respect and manners, but he’s a good guy and a mature horse. He does that almost automatically. I think he enjoys his work overall, but even when you enjoy it, isn’t it nice to have a break?

So, yes, this is our fallow time. The time we spend doing nothing, or perhaps having a water bath from the hose. The time for me to listen to the cicadas, watch the dragonflies, smell hot horse. The time for him to search for the most succulent grassy patches. No, I won’t feel guilty about this after all. There will be plenty of time for games and longeing, for practicing our jumping or lead changes, when it’s cooler and we both have more energy. For now, we’ll roam the property looking for shady spots to graze, walk up and down the dirt road looking at the cows, slurp down carrots and bananas, and chill (as much as we can when it’s 95 degrees).

Why do we always feel like we have to accomplish something? Tick off a box or cross out an item on a to-do list? Do you allow yourself to have some “chillin’ time”? What do you do—or stop doing?

Tank's favorite way to chill

Doctor Who

Five Happy Things

September 12, 2014

It’s only been a couple of weeks since my last Happy Little Things post, so instead of posting about one thing at length, today I’m going to share five mostly little things that are giving me hits of happiness right now. After all, life is so much better when we stop and enjoy the simple pleasures. 

1. Fresh flowers. I love fresh flowers but don’t often spend the money for them. This week, though, for three dollars and change I brought home these gorgeous hydrangeas:


They should last at least a week, if I can keep Prudy out of them!

2. Doctor Who. I know, I know, Doctor Who has been around a lo-o-o-ng time, but it’s only been this summer that my husband and I have made his acquaintance when we started watching the reboot of the series that started with the Ninth Doctor. We’re about to move on to the Eleventh Doctor (oh, how I will miss you, David Tennant). We’ve been borrowing DVDs from the library and have quite a few seasons to go before we catch up to the current season. Which is a good thing, because we don’t get BBC America and we won’t be able to watch the current Doctor until he comes out on DVD. (If you want to know why there are so many Doctors, you’ll just have to watch the show. It’s “timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly stuff”…

3. Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks. I used the last of a gift card to buy one this morning. Yummy.

4. Freegal Music. This awesome service, accessed through my library system, lets me download three free songs every week. I’ve significantly expanded my music library, three songs at a time. You library may also offer this, so check it out at Freegal.com.

5. Airplane reservations for California! In less than a month, I’ll be visiting my family—I can’t wait. (Better start choosing books to take with me, right Danielle?) 

What happy things are you enjoying right now?

Peter Cooley

A Writer's Hope

September 10, 2014

Desk of writer Frances Parkinson Keyes
Introduction by Ted Kooser: If writers are both skilled and lucky, they may write something that will carry their words into the future, past the hour of their own deaths. I’d guess all writers hope for this, and the following poem by Peter Cooley, who lives in New Orleans and teaches creative writing at Tulane, beautifully expresses his hope, and theirs.

The One Certain Thing

A day will come I’ll watch you reading this.
I’ll look up from these words I’m writing now—
this line I’m standing on, I’ll be right here,
alive again. I’ll breathe on you this breath.
Touch this word now, that one. Warm, isn’t it?

You are the person come to clean my room;
you are whichever of my three children
opens the drawer here where this poem will go
in a few minutes when I’ve had my say.

These are the words from immortality.
No one stands between us now except Death:
I enter it entirely writing this.
I have to tell you I am not alone.
Watching you read, Eternity’s with me.
We like to watch you read. Read us again.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Peter Cooley, whose most recent book of poems is “Divine Margins,” Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2009. Poem reprinted from “Pleiades,” Vol. 29, no. 2, 2009, by permission of Peter Cooley and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2010 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Books

What I Read This Summer

September 08, 2014

Here in Florida, summer—at least the weather part of it—won’t be over for another couple of months. However, since kids are back in school and fall decorations fill the stores, I’m going to pretend summer is over and do a summer reading round up. Maybe that will help fall get here sooner?

I broke with my usual summer reading traditions (no Wilkie Collins this summer—I missed him—and no writer’s biography). Instead, I’ve been steadily reading from my own shelves as well as consolidating my massive TBR (“to be read” for the uninitiated) list. As I have time, I’ve been looking up each book on my current list and deciding whether or not I still want to read it. If I do, I’m creating a brand new TBR list.  As I do this, I’m choosing a book here and there from the list to check out of the library. Nerdy as it sounds, it’s been a lot of fun!


Here are just a few highlights of my summer’s reading:

From my own shelves:

The appropriately-titled So Many Books, So Little Time, by Sara Nelson. Nelson’s chronicle of a year’s worth of reading a book a week woven into the events of her private life. I loved this and have added it to my shelf of “books about books.”

Old Filth, Jane Gardam. New-to-me author, and so good! I read about this on Danielle Simpson’s blog, and had picked up this copy at my library’s bookstore for a dollar. I will be reading more of Gardam’s work.

Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff, was another library bookstore purchase. This fascinating biography had me from the first page: “Among the most famous women to have lived, Cleopatra VII ruled Egypt for twenty-two years. She lost a kingdom once, regained it, nearly lost it again, amassed an empire, lost it all. A goddess as a child, a queen at eighteen, a celebrity soon thereafter, she was an object of speculation and veneration, gossip and legend, even in her own time.”

From my enormous TBR list:

The Awakening of Miss Prim, Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera. I was disappointed in this book. It sounded like the perfect read for me, but I was left with an overall feeling of “meh.” Still, it did have this lovely passage: “Miss Prim sipped her tea and nestled down into the storeroom armchair. She too believed in the value of the little things. Her first coffee in the morning drunk from her Limoges porcelain cup. Sunlight filtering through the shutters of her room, casting shadows on the floor. Dozing off over a book on a summer’s afternoon. The look in the children’s eyes when they told you about some fact they’d just learned. It was from the little things that the big ones were made, it definitely was.”

The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters. Just the right amount of spooky, and a story I keep thinking about.

And I just finished Still Life With Bread Crumbs, by Anna Quindlen, which I loved. From page 223: “One day she had been out walking and she had wondered whether she’d become a different person in the last year, maybe because of what Paige Whittington had said about the dog pictures. Then when she really thought about it she realized she’d been becoming different people for as long as she could remember but had never really noticed, or had put it down to moods, or marriage, or motherhood. The problem was that she’d thought that at a certain point she would be a finished product. Now she wasn’t sure what that might be, especially when she considered how sure she had been about it at various times in the past, and how wrong she’d been.”

And while I didn’t read a writer’s biography, I did read Agatha Christie at Home—and now I want to visit Greenway, her home in Devon!

There were also comfort rereads: Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders and Death in the Air (also known as Death in the Clouds), and This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart. (I forgot all about The Crystal Cave…still need to check that out at the library.)

As far as reading challenges go, aside from the Mount TBR challenge, I’ve been slacking. Time to get back to the classics and the Vintage Mystery Challenge.

What were your favorite reads this summer?

Bruises

That'll Leave a Mark

September 05, 2014

Recently I had blood drawn for a physical. My veins were especially uncooperative that day, and for a while I sported a pair of bruises on my forearms from the experience. They weren’t painful, but they were noticeable (sadly, I wasn’t able to think up a more dashing story to go with them). This got me thinking about bruises in general, and scars, too.

We can’t get far without collecting our share of bruises and scars. Life, it seems, has a way of marking us, reminding us of both our fragility and our resilience. We’re so fragile that a bump can break blood vessels under the skin and cause blood to pool in the tissues, and we can easily be cut or scraped, sometimes resulting in a scar.

But we’re also resilient. Bruises fade and heal, and scars, in fact, are proof of healing, at least according to Wikipedia: “Any injury does not become a scar until the wound has completely healed.”

Bruises and scars are badges of honor. We don’t get banged up by staying safe at home in our comfort zones. If we’ve gotten a bruise or scar, we were probably out doing something, learning something, experiencing everyday adventures. 

I've had a few bruises from Tank
Sometimes bruises and scars don’t show up in our outer appearance. Sometimes the injury occurs internally, but leaves a mark nevertheless. Those emotional wounds can be more painful than physical ones, but they eventually heal, too, little by little becoming less painful. If we can remember that healing is a process and an inevitable one at that, we’ll be able to handle the initial pain better. We’ve all heard Ernest Hemingway’s words from A Farewell to Arms: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

We all have bruises and scars, marks from experience won or lessons learned. We all have stories written on our bodies. What stories can yours tell?

Happiness

A Happy Truth

September 03, 2014


“The truth is, you can skip the pursuit of happiness altogether
and just be happy.”
—Joshua Fields Millburn


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