03 Aug I am Enough from Lindsey Mead
For thirty years I thought it was my accomplishments, my resume, my brass rings that made me enough. My father said a thousand times that my greatest skill was “doing just well enough to get to the next thing,” and I took that to heart. I was enough, but it wasn’t really about ME. The enough was in my performance, in my achievement, in my leaping over the hurdles that I saw in front of me.
What made me enough was what I did. And what I did was what I thought the world was asking of me. And so for years I did that, to feel like I was enough. I went to boarding school, to an Ivy League college, and then to another Ivy League graduate school. I was not unhappy through these various phases, because I was so tuned into the world’s approval. The clamorous applause of the world at large drowned out any whispers of concern that I might have heard from my own internal voice. In retrospect, I am aware of those whispers, though I did not recognize them at the time. There was the leave of absence I took from my first job because I did not feel I had the space to process the deaths of two close family members while I kept working. There was the time in the crypt of the cathedral at Assisi that I burst into tears, unbidden and un-understood, and was unable to stop. There was the panic attack the week before I started business school, where I could not breathe at night and wanted desperately to pull out of my class.
All of these, I recognize now, presaged the knot of feeling in my chest that grew more and more intractable in my early 30s. In my early 30s, I began to realize that a life strategy built on accomplishing the next most impressive thing collapsed entirely when there was no next thing. My smooth, speedy reaching of milestones that I’d considered an asset my whole life, dissolved into a frantic restlessness. I began to feel a vague but persistent unease in my own life. I knew this life looked charmed on the outside, but it echoed emptily on the inside. My life, which had gone exactly as I had planned, was nothing like I expected. I did not, in the ways that really mattered, feel like I was enough at all.
It took years of work to realize that truly being enough wasn’t about what I DID, but about who I WAS. It feels odd to call it “work,” since the work was mostly sitting still, breathing, reading, being calm, and feeling my feelings. But, perhaps sadly, all of those things were work for me – and often remain so. Still, I’m about to turn 36 and I am finally aware of the fact that my real life is actually in this very real, imperfect, beautiful moment. There is no point of focusing on that next glittering goal, because first of all, there aren’t any more to aim for, and second of all, that takes my attention away from the true riches, which are right in front of me. And it is in this dwelling, this quiet, this actually opening to the notion that life’s real meaning is right here, that I’ve finally realized that just by being me I am enough.
About Lindsey Mead
Lindsey Mead writes at A Design So Vast. She is a woman, daughter, mother, sister, wife, friend, and writer. She is also a runner, a sometime yogi, a disillusioned MBA, a reformed nailbiter, and a proud natural redhead. She struggles mightily to find a coherent sense of self in all of these splintered identities. She writes and works in the business world and tries to spend time with her children, her husband, her friends, and occasionally run as well.
She is troubled by her inability to live more presently, which makes her keenly sad about the passage of time. The way that her children mark the inexorable movement of time is sometimes so bittersweet that it is almost unbearable. Her blog, A Design So Vast is about both that and the moments of incandescent peace or laughter that she doesn’t want to forget. She writes about the challenge of truly inhabiting the moments of her life, the work of being a mindful person, and about her efforts to find something to believe in, as she gropes around the edges of her faith.