I am Enough from Jen Lee

I am Enough from Jen Lee

I like to make up games for myself, to practice things that are hard for me.  One I created recently is the Bare Minimum Game, in which I take the list (written or imagined) of things I think I should do or need to do, and I ask myself, What is the bare minimum that really must be done?  I edit the list ruthlessly.  And then I run it through the Bare Minimum filter one more time, editing again.  The answer to the bare minimum question is always less than I can easily admit.

The Bare Minimum Game came out of a time when I questioned my assumptions around activity and doing.  I often get sucked into the common assumption that activity = impact.  But if I’m really honest, the majority of my activity is not having a great impact.  The majority of my activity is a self-constructed hamster wheel, designed to make me feel productive, busy, important or worthy, as I chase after some measure of “enough-ness” that is somehow always just out of reach, like a carrot I can never quite catch.  The truth is, the only thing that activity equals is activity. 

The first thing that came up for me when I started the Bare Minimum Game was a loud chorus of internal critiques.  All my expectations came shouting to the surface, and they were ludicrous mix of the following: be an inspired artist, a sexy and attentive wife, an always patient mother with a never-ending stream of fun crafts and activities, and a June Cleaver-type housewife who keeps immaculate care of a home that is an uncluttered, spacious urban retreat, and entertain on top of it all, goddammit.

The impossibility of this combination of expectations was staggering, and I immediately looked for someone to blame.  Who put these on me?  Who said I needed to be all of these things, all the time?  The search was short.

I found the whip cracking away at my back.  It had been there all along, in my own hand.

No one needed me to be any of these things but me.  And all I really needed was to stop.

Stories like my friend, Jeff’s, have shown me another approach.  I’ve been thinking more lately about presence than activity, really trying on the idea that me just being here on this earth for these limited days is enough.  Enough to celebrate and enough to love.

Now when I think about things I could be doing, I run the options through a new grid.  I ask myself things like, What can I bring my full presence to?  Instead of asking, What work can I crank out?, I ask, What work can I inhabit?

Through the playing the Bare Minimum Game and focusing on presence over activity, I’m gradually integrating my being with my doing.  I practice uncurling my fingers from the whip, and I sink into the love that’s here for me, just because I am.  And every day I am believing more and more that I am enough, whether I am moving or whether I am standing still.


About Jen Lee


Jen Lee is a regular performer in New York City’s storytelling scene, including The Moth Mainstage and The Moth Radio Hour.  Jen has a line of inspirational apparel, along with a blog and podcast for people doing creative work at jenlee.net.   You can also find her on Twitter.


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  • kalanicut
    Posted at 17:43h, 14 December Reply

    Fantastic article Jen. So well said. So much to teach us, to remind us of. This is definitely something I needed today and in my life right now as I try to make the most of my life, meet my obligations and find pretty somewhere in the middle. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and striving goal to remember you are enough. Bless you. Happy Holidays.

  • jane
    Posted at 17:45h, 14 December Reply

    oh my lord Jen… this just made me breathe more deeply – at this hideous time of busy (end of school year for us, christmas, obligations, preparation, dread) i want to thank you for the new version of Pollyanna (Jenanna???) that i will hold very close to my heart x

  • Karen D
    Posted at 19:20h, 14 December Reply

    there must be something in the air we all breathe.. I do all these things also (sans the june cleaver 😉
    thanks for the reminder that we are own stern taskmasters and we just need to loosen the grip a bit.

    Karen D

  • Katie
    Posted at 20:46h, 14 December Reply

    Yes. So well said, especially during this chaotic season. I need to remember that no one else expects as much of me as I expect of myself. (Thank goodness.)

  • Jenna/The Word Cellar
    Posted at 22:14h, 14 December Reply

    "What work can I inhabit?" — Thanks for putting into words the question that's been floating around inside of me lately. Now that I can name the question, I can move toward answering it.

  • CheyAnne
    Posted at 16:40h, 15 December Reply

    This is it exactly. I use to feel all those mixed up "I should be this, I should be that" and my life fell apart. Now I know better and just a teeny tiny part of me wishes I could go back and redo (mainly for my childrens sake). We all know thats impossible, so I go forward with what I've learned about letting the whip fall and my life come forward and shine RIGHT now and be what it is.
    Thank you for your beautiful words putting these confusing feelings out there for all of us to read and reflect on.
    peace n abundance,

  • lu
    Posted at 17:11h, 15 December Reply

    Very good and such an appropriate message to chill the hell out!

  • Colette
    Posted at 00:47h, 19 December Reply

    Bravo. What wise words.

  • Christa
    Posted at 13:26h, 19 December Reply

    Oh, Jen, you are so amazing at weaving words around the felt sense of things.

    I'm in the process of uncurling my fingers from my own whip and it is so good to know I'm not alone.

    Thank you.

  • Eydie
    Posted at 20:51h, 02 January Reply

    Hi Jen,

    What a great game… one that I have been yearning to play. My mantra for 2011 is "simplify".
    So perfect and such great timing. I enjoyed visiting your blog

    I also read your friend, Jeff's amazing story. He is a gifted writer.
    Thanks for sharing.

    I also wrote a piece on Tracy's blog on Nov 16th. stop on by.
    All the best in the New Year.

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