11 Jan I am Enough from Amy Wuthrich
You know that scene in Mary Poppins where Mary pulls out her magic tape measure and uses it see how Jane and Michael measure up? No? You don’t? Well, I do. Let me give you quick recap. Mary measures each of the Banks children to get a better understanding of them, and instead of feet and inches, they are measured by personality characteristic. One was declared to be “stubborn” and the other “unkind”. Then Mary measures herself and the tape tells her this: “Mary Poppins: Practically Perfect in Every Way.”
As a little girl, I recall thinking that this was super cool. How awesome would it be to be “Practically Perfect in Every Way?” Who wouldn’t want that? And being something of a perfectionist even back then, I totally bought into the idea that of course striving to be perfect in every way, shape and form was exactly the way one should approach their life. And I was off to do just that.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a huge list of things that I wanted (needed!) to accomplish so I could “be somebody” (who?), “make a difference “(what?), and “go places” (where?). I don’t think this is a bad thing, necessarily, because my desire to reach my highest potential has motivated me to keep moving towards my goals. This desire has helped me achieve some of the things of which I am most proud. Still, take a perfectionist and hand her some serious control issues, and it can get out of hand fast. The magic measuring tape of my youth kept telling me that I wasn’t quite “Practically Perfect in Every Way”, so I kept working harder, trying to do better, trying to measure up.
I spent a large chunk of twenties ignoring my inner voice, and instead letting the analytic, methodological part of my brain try to convince my heart that I was happy, that my marriage was healthy, that I didn’t want or need to have children, that what I was “accomplishing” was exactly what I had always wanted. This couldn’t have been further from the truth, but I was checking off things on my “to-do” list right and left: Graduate degree….check. Own home….check. Nice car…..check. Good job with lots of potential for promotion….check. Married with lots of friends….check and check. I felt like, after all these accomplishments, I should have been much closer to that “practically perfect” measurement that I was chasing.
The problem was that I wasn’t fulfilled and I didn’t feel valued by anyone, including myself. I didn’t do any of the things I loved, and despite my many acquaintances, I didn’t have many real friends. Instead I filled up my days trying to be the perfect employee, convinced that would bring fulfillment. I spent my nights trying to hold together a marriage that was crumbling around my feet, although I refused to acknowledge the signs. And I spent my weekends either with a bunch of people who didn’t know me and didn’t care who I really was, or feeling sick and depressed because I was so far out of whack with who I wanted to be.
Life has a way of hitting us over the head with a large hammer when we refuse to pay attention to the signals it has been giving us for a while, and my life did just that. After an unexpected pregnancy that culminated in a divorce, I found myself as a single mother who had no choice but to negotiate the overwhelming task raising a newborn and continuing a full-time, demanding career on my own.
This sounds like a recipe for disaster, and on a few days, it was. It was definitely a recipe for a lot of heartache, a ton of guilt and self-doubt, and a heaping helping of feeling inadequate and scared.
But then my “to- do” list tendencies caught up to me, but this time I had the luxury of designing a life that was only centered around me and my baby. I got up and got busy creating the life that I wanted to live. I did things differently than I ever had before. I defined my own priorities. I took care of myself and my child, and stopped taking care of everyone else. I started listening to my heart and following the small nudges it gave me. I tried new things and met new people. I threw myself into creating the life that I wanted to lead so that I could give my daughter the one thing I felt was incredibly important: a happy, healthy role model. When I started taking care of myself, when I started leading a life that I was engaged in and proud of, the small sparks of joy and light and life I used to feel find here and there burst into an all-out flame that couldn’t be contained. And somewhere along the way, I kicked out the perfect version of myself who wielded the measuring stick that I used to torture myself with, and replaced her with kinder, gentler voice who reminds me of all that I do every single day, and that it truly is enough.
My life has grown by leaps and bounds since the day my daughter was born, and I am happier, healthier, stronger and more alive than I have ever been before. My world is filled to the brim with amazing people and wonderful experiences, and if overflowing with laughter and goodness. I still have my fair share of heartache and disappointment, and there are still days I have to gently remind my perfectionist self that she can’t come and play here with her unfair tricks and magic measuring tapes. There are the days when she is insistent and I have to kick her in the teeth and throw her out the door. And yes, there are days when she kicks me in the teeth and lays me out for a while. But I’m pretty tough, and one day I wrestled her down and took her measuring tape from her, erased the “practically perfect” description that I will never attain, and changed it so it read that read that no matter where I fell on the continuum, I measured up as enough.
And you know what…?
About Amy Wuthrich
Amy Wuthrich is mama to a little Genius/Troublemaker and a Research Associate at the University of Utah. When she isn’t engulfed in those roles, she can be found reading , writing, and exploring the Utah outdoors on her bike, snowshoes, or Cross Country Skis. She can be found online at http://www.learningtowalkinheels.blogspot.com. Photos courtesy of Carrie Malmberg at Carried Away Photography.