14 Dec 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.