26 Jul i am enough from nicola able
That word overtakes my life sometimes. Years ago, in therapy, I was given a homework assignment: Go home and write down what you feel guilty about. I think my therapist was expecting a few notes scribbled on a piece of paper, not the giant tome I handed over to her the next week. The look on her face was priceless—let’s face it, it’s kinda cool to shock a therapist.
But the down and dirty truth is that I feel guilty much of the time, about so many things that are beyond my control.
I feel guilty that I am not a good enough daughter.
I feel guilty that I am not a good enough sister.
I feel guilty that I am not a good enough friend.
I feel guilty that I am not a good enough teacher, student, writer, dancer, and the list goes on.
Basically, I feel guilty that, in my own mind, I am not a good enough person.
I feel like I am not good enough.
I feel like I am not enough.
That’s what’s at the heart of all my guilty feelings. Somewhere along the line I told myself that I was not enough, and that story stayed in my head, messing with my self esteem, my pride, my relationships, my life. I am 37 years old. I have a wonderful family, amazing friends, a fulfilling career. I go on adventures. I challenge myself. I laugh loudly, until my sides hurt, all the time. I make other people laugh. I discover new things about myself. I reflect. I grow, change, evolve. I am a work in progress, and most of the time I am so proud of who I have become, and who I am aiming to be. But sometimes that story, the one about not being enough, rears its ugly head, and every anxiety I have worked so hard to suppress comes crashing in around me. So how can I fight that story?
There are tricks I have learned along the way. I exercise regularly, because it keeps me sane. I go to dance classes, hike, walk, lift weights, whatever I can fit in to my day. But many times I just put on music and dance in my living room, pretending I am making a music video. This is surprisingly therapeutic, and great cardio. I strut, flip my hair, shake my hips like Shakira on crack. In those moments, I am enough.
I write. I write down every crazy thought that pops into my head, the ones I would be too embarrassed to share with even my closest friends. The ones that reveal my deepest insecurities. Once I write it down, I feel like I am released from the roller coaster of anxiety I sometimes find myself on at 3 a.m., a time when perhaps the faux music video shoot wouldn’t be appreciated by my neighbors. And here’s a key part—I try to never reread those thoughts. I also write down the funny stories from my life, the ones I not-so-secretly dream of developing into a book one day. I concentrate intently on finding the right tone, word, or expression to bring to life some of the wacky, crazy things I have experienced, in a manner that hopefully strikes a cord with readers, and allows them to laugh. This too is calming for me. When I finish with a story, in that moment, I am enough.
I sing, mostly in my car. It’s important to note that I am a terrible singer, but I believe that the act of singing is a joyful one, so everyone should do it, no matter what they sound like. And I don’t just sing any old songs. When I am looking for that relief from the “You’re Not Enough” story in my head, that’s when I get in my car and get the “I’m a Badass” playlist ready. I created that playlist one dark day when I really needed to be reminded of my total badassness. (I’m ignoring the red squiggly line that is trying to tell me that “badassness” isn’t a word. It should be, dammit.) It has become my best weapon against the story in my head. The songs on this playlist are mostly by strong, fierce, confident women like Pink, Tina Turner, Lady Gaga, the Dixie Chicks, although there are some guys on there too. (I’m a sucker for Uncle Kracker’s “Good to Be Me” or Cee Lo Green’s “F**k You.” And Jason Mraz’s “Living in the Moment” is my current anthem.) It’s hard to feel anxious when you’re flying down the highway, screaming out lyrics like “So what? I’m still a rock star!” In those moments, when I’ve got my rock moves, I am enough.
And, probably most importantly, I teach. I am a high school English teacher, and it is a career I started five years ago. At that time, I was in a relationship that was going nowhere. I was settling, and that is something I pride myself on not doing. As I interacted with my students, I realized that I wanted to always feel like I was setting a good example for them. Granted, I don’t discuss my personal life with my students, but deep down, I would know that I was settling for less than I deserved, and that is something I would never want for any of them. I figured out pretty quickly, thanks to my students, that I needed to end that relationship and allow myself to be open to something fresh and new, relationships that would add to my life, instead of take from it. My students are 14 and 15 years old, and they can be frustrating, maddening, and heartbreaking. But they are also always my favorite part of my job because they are compassionate, funny, surprising, intelligent, silly, and kind-hearted. They remind me every day of the great possibilities of the future. And when they say things like, “Ms. Able, I love being in your class, because we laugh a lot,” well, in those moments, I am more than enough.
So I guess this isn’t a story about the one moment I realized I was enough. I don’t know if I will ever feel that way, all of the time. This is the story of all the little moments, the daily reminders, that I, just by virtue of being born, am enough.
Nicola Able is a writer, dancer, reader, teacher, traveler, and all-around kick ass human being, who currently lives in Connecticut. She discovered the “I am Enough” blog on a day when she was beating the crap out of herself emotionally, and mindlessly googled the phrase “When will I be enough?” She didn’t truly expect to find anything particularly helpful, so imagine her surprise when she happened upon this amazing collaborative. She believes in laughter, making wishes on birthday cake candles, and serendipity.