Is ‘good enough’ a target that I keep missing? Why? How do I improve my aim?
A weekend morning when staying in bed, if not home, would’ve been so easy. I showed up to share the intimate experience of a healing circle. Outside the weather was chilly, a storm kicking up on the edges of the valley, but we settled into the warm room on broad wooden arm chairs with cushioned seats. The question came up: what does “good enough” feel like?
After brief introductions, the leader ran us through several exercises, that frankly felt a little odd. But I practice keeping an open mind because I know what happens when we shut out the possibilities. We ignore what we feel, then we don’t speak of it until finally, we couldn’t possibly see the words, even if they were written right in front of us in stone. Dreams are dismissed along with the intuitions, the realizations, and the coincidences. We smother whatever tries to leak out, suffocating our feelings and trapping ourselves into itty bitty boxes labeled LOST and ALONE. I didn’t want to feel lost and alone. Was that the real reason I was here?
While I contemplated the reasons I came, the leader asked us to pair up. Instructions: as one person represents the concept of Good Enough, the other locates herself to express a relationship with it. I sighed. What did “relationship” with Good Enough mean exactly? Did I feel good enough? Was this a good day? If not, when was the last time I felt good enough? What helped me feel this way? How do I find the feeling again? My mind whirred with questions as the leader finished her instructions. Having been tested by a wavering marriage and the loss of my parents, I volunteered to represent Good Enough first, mostly as a delaying tactic. Standing in for Good Enough would allow me to determine how I actually felt and frankly, how much I felt comfortable revealing.
I stood still to let my partner find her place. Questions about what it meant to represent Good Enough flitted distracting me. What would Good Enough look like? Where would Good Enough be found? My mind drifted back to my mom. She was good enough. Yet I have always wondered how that was possible. She had had an alcoholic father and a workaholic mother. She lost her little brother when he was only two. With little more than a high school diploma and experience as a housewife, my father divorced her and left her with four kids to raise on her own. She was only four feet, eleven inches tall, had one leg significantly shorter, a bad hip, a knee that ached forever, and a body that would eventually be weakened by kidney disease, diabetes, tuberculosis, and cancer. Yet she was generous and kind and forever optimistic. For a woman who had to overcome a lot just to hold it all together, I’m sure there were days when she felt so short of good enough. But I don’t know about those days. Except for her last year when I saw unable to breathe, when she told me she was dying and when she felt ignored by nurses while she lay helpless in the hospital, I don’t have a record of days when she wasn’t ok with the world. Four days before she breathed her last breath, she told me not to cry, that her passing was a good thing. Unbelievable. I cried anyway.
Mom’s gone now and I can’t ask her how to get through the days when I don’t feel good enough. I so want to. I’d ask her how to get past the days of feeling less than. But it’s a silly wish. If I could see her one more time, and I asked her, more than likely, she’d just shake her head knowingly. I imagine how I’d see myself in her dark gentle eyes, as she said simply, “You just do. It all works out.” And in that one phrase and the touch of her hand on my shoulder, she would have said it all.
I returned to the room and glanced around, peeking at the others in the room. I saw one pair, back to back. Another stood to the side of each other, while another pair had several feet between them. I turned away uncomfortably and scanned the room for a place to look. Through the window, stood a tree twenty feet away. It just stood there, not asking anyone for permission to be a tree. My shoulders let go of their tension and pulled back, allowing my head to lift slightly. I stood taller, and imagined myself a large, beautiful tree. My leaves shaded those who came near, and I possessed a deep, abiding faith that the sun would shine on my branches, that the rain would come when I needed it, that my roots traveled down deep to help me find what I needed to not only survive but grow strong.
Opening up, I felt calm, complete, unafraid of what might come. I didn’t think about being less than or more than. I was good enough because it was unimportant whether I was good enough. I was part of something larger, connected to all that had come before and all that would come after. It was as though I had awakened to some power the universe spoke; its words came up through my roots, up through my trunk, outwards through my branches and leaves. I felt resplendent.
I’m not sure if it was this moment of imagining what good enough felt like, of opening this door to the idea, but when it was my turn I looked at my partner, now Good Enough. I stood close to her. I put my hand on her shoulder to share the energy from my imagined tree. I felt strong. I felt unalone. Before we parted for the afternoon, we hugged each other tightly and promised to return to the circle next month.
On the way home, I thought about my own real tree in my own backyard. It has stood for over fifty years. I like it to call it the Mother tree. It was here when we first moved into the house, when I was a child and I lived here with mom. The tree was here when my daughter, my husband and I moved in. Threatening to cut it down, he rakes up piles and piles of leaves that have fallen from its branches. But I can’t bear to lose it. It reminds me of mom and makes me feel connected to all the moms stretched out behind and before me. The shade its thick waxy leaves give and the fruit it provides, the tree remains. Last summer I moved my lawn swing under it. On every warm day I could manage, I would sit under it, looking up at the sky through its branches. Listening to the rustle of its leaves, I felt good enough on those days. I didn’t have to be anywhere, be anyone. It was good enough and so was I.
On the days when we need the reminder that we are good enough, we all need such a place, a place that helps us feel good enough, if only for today.