Dignity, Faith, Family, Friendship, Intentionality, Jesus, Marriage, Motherhood, Personal Reflection, Worthy

Enough

Several days ago, I shared a photo on Facebook. Not a personal photo. Just a photo of some words that, on that morning especially, were relatable for me. It crossed my mind that it was likely relatable for others too, so I shared the photo and moved on.

Reactions and comments are still trickling in on that post, and it hasn’t yet left my mind. The text in the photo said this: “We expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work.”

I was already feeling this before my workday started on Monday. Although my son loves school and both of he and my daughter enjoy their babysitter, there is inevitably at least one day each week when one of them clings to me a little extra in the morning and expresses their wish that I could stay home from work with them that day. Also inevitably, that is among the hardest moments of my week. Monday morning happened to include that moment with my daughter.

I’m blessed with a good job. It is enjoyable, interesting work in a healthy environment with a solid team of people. I’m grateful for it and challenged by it daily. No matter what though, I am a mother. I am always first responsible to my family and then to everything else. So I work extremely hard to balance it all (again, a statement that so many of you can relate to, undoubtedly). Workdays, meetings, projects, schooldays, doctor appointments, drop-offs and pick-ups, mealtime and playtime and bedtime and everything in between. Balance is a constant goal.

On Monday afternoon, I had a brief meeting with my supervisor. A generous, flexible woman who knows the life of a working mother, I’ve been thankful for her understanding in this balancing act. Among other topics covered in this meeting though, she shared that someone in our office had voiced complaints about my comings and goings. This anonymous individual was bothered by what they felt were too many times I had to adapt my schedule to those school and sitter drop-offs and doctor appointments and sick kids and so on. While I was in no way reprimanded or told to stop adapting my schedule to those needs, I still can’t dismiss the disappointment that this is what someone thinks of the work I put in at my job. Whomever it is doesn’t necessarily know about the number of days in which I work through lunch, or the nine, ten, or eleven hours I put in when I’m working from home while simultaneously caring for my children. They don’t necessarily know why I arrived at 8:10 instead of 8:00, or why I had to work remotely from my home unexpectedly. They see what they see and form their opinion.

I’m going to be fully honest here. I want to look that person straight in the eye, possibly grabbing them by the collar, and say this: “I am doing the best I can do.” I want to inform them that I already know it will never be enough. Their input is not needed for me to know this.

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The current trend in women’s self-help/self-esteem culture is summed up in one phrase:

I am enough.

It crops up in articles, books, and social media posts with head-spinning frequency. I’d even wager that the image I used above was designed to serve that message. Those words are the mantra of many tired, over-extended, trying-to-meet-all-expectations women, and they are a lie.

I am not enough. You are not enough.

If we ever want to stop striving until we break, we must admit this. If we want to quit the worldwide, olympic-level competition for Instagram-worthy perfection on the surface while we are unraveling when no one is looking, we must admit this.

I am not enough.

If I were enough for my children, they would not need their beloved father or their dear grandparents and extended family. If I were enough, I would not need my husband’s partnership and love. If I were enough, I would not need my teammates and managers at the office. If I were enough, I would not need my church community, my writing community, my health and fitness community, my neighbors, or even those most precious friends who know the real me. Above all, if I were enough, I would not need my Lord.

I am not enough.

Certainly, I can understand the intentions behind the popular message of being enough. It is answering the emptiness countless men and women carry inside of them. It is speaking to the ways we punish ourselves for not living up to our or others’ expectations. It is reminding us that our worth has been forgotten. I do understand. But believing you are enough doesn’t admit your inherent need for others. Believing you are enough doesn’t admit your need for the Divine.

I am not enough.

I cannot do it all. I literally cannot. I only have one body, one mind. I only have 24 hours in my day. I am only capable of being in one place at a time. Unlike God, I cannot be all things to all people. Admitting this is not a detriment to my self-esteem. It is an enlightened self-awareness. It fosters a great amount of freedom, clipping the binding ties of strife and disappointment.

I am not enough. I am a member of a marriage, of a family, of a friendship, a community, a church, a team for that very reason. While I will always work to be my best, I will not misguidedly carry the weight of striving to be enough. I am not enough and I am happier for knowing it.

Because the Saints Said So, Friendship, Gratitude, Saints

Because the Saints Said So: Find a Friend (St. Thomas Aquinas)

Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious. (St. Thomas Aquinas)

“Even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.” Isn’t that the truth? What is your agreeable, tedious pursuit? That aspect of life that is rich with worth, a source of joy, yet as days pass there is an element of the mundane. For me, it is motherhood and writing. Both endeavors are reservoirs of goodness in my life, but, boy oh boy, can they become tedious. The nitty gritty becomes a nuisance. The repetitive details become boring. The depth to which I must dig to find my motivation becomes deeper.

With friends, though, what a difference there can be.

Friendship is indeed a source of great pleasure. Genuine friendship is life-giving. It builds up. It highlights and enhances your strengths, while meeting you in your weaknesses. Friendship finds common ground in the agreeable, yet tedious bits of life. Besides that, friendship is just plain fun! It offers laughter, smiles, mutually loved activities. Friends are shoulders for leaning, hands for holding, minds for collaborating. “Iron sharpens iron; one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

I don’t think I need to expound on this much further. It rings too true for us all to require a lot of explanation. I’ll only add, say thank you to a friend today. Or two, or three. Love them, and be grateful.

Friendship, Love, Marriage

Seven Years Ago

Seven years ago on this day, I went to dinner with my sister, our mutual best friends, and the husband of one of those friends. We ate at one of our favorite restaurants, Good Company, in Appleton, WI. The hostess seated us around a large circular table in the front section of the first floor of the large, two-story restaurant. Later that evening we would attend a concert at a local church. Our conversations probably ran through a gamut of topics. I don’t know. I only remember one.

I told them about a coworker who lately was offering frequent smiles and inquiries into how my day was faring. Occasionally he invited me to join a group of peers for lunch. Sometimes the flirtation was clear but more often he left the impression of straightforward, genuine friendliness. After encountering him each workday, I usually wondered two things: was I assuming too much about his interest and, if not, then why the hell was he interested in me? I’d sit in my chair behind the reception desk, running reports, handling mail, and finding ways to pass the slower hours. He’d walk by to reach our adjacent show room, on his way to fix whatever technical issue had cropped up on one of the machines. Eye contact, smile, small talk or a joke, then the day rolled along.

I consistently turned down the invitations to lunch. I kept the small talk brief. I silently questioned why this guy bothered to talk to me. My skepticism was not because I was clueless – which might have been excusable considering my lack of adult dating experience – but because I was afraid. Oh, how I was afraid. All the seeds for that fear were planted in earlier years, having nothing to do with this man and everything to do with me.

At dinner that night, as we waited for our entrees to arrive, my closest friends listened to me talk about this man. Eventually, one of them interrupted me with a single demand: the next time he invited me to lunch, I had to say yes. I laughed and she asserted the demand more vehemently while the others added their support. They did not relent until I agreed.

I spent the rest of that Saturday evening negotiating with the fears in my head. I spent the remainder of the weekend debating whether or not I hoped my coworker would invite me to lunch just one more time. The following Tuesday I shared a meal with my husband for the first time.

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.
Joseph Campbell

A couple months after that first lunch date.

And 6 1/2 years later.
Friendship, Personal Reflection

Missing

What is it about today that has me missing a particular friend so terribly? I can’t put my finger on it. All I know is that it’s hitting me hard today. He has been the definition of “a good friend” for the last few years – good for a laugh, good for a hug, good for counsel, good for conversation. Due to some particularly trying circumstances, we’ve had to go our separate ways other than an occasional email. I miss him… and today I miss him more than usual.

My priest often comments on how we all have to learn the difficult lesson of letting go of certain relationships at the proper time. When clinging to it or remaining in it would undermine what was good in the relationship in the first place, or when the other person is keeping you from continuing on the road the Lord is taking you down, the question arises of whether that person is supposed to be in your life any longer (or you in theirs). His remarks had yet to hit home for me, not because I’ve never seen someone leave my life or experienced an end to a relationship but because all those endings have happened quite naturally. For one to end when nothing in me wants it to end… to have to make that choice because I know it must be made but nothing thereafter makes me glad it has ended… that’s a new experience for me and not one that I am enjoying.

Friendship, Gratitude

Shoulders

“Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Oh what would I do without friends? Shoulders to hug, shoulders to lean on, shoulders to laugh on, shoulders to cry on. I am feeling utterly grateful for them today. There is an aspect of loneliness to the situation I’m dealing with right now that could overwhelm me if I allow it. It could obscure the reality that I am not alone, that I am well loved.

Friends are God’s greeting cards; His notes of well-wishes and encouragement, intended to give you a smile, a sigh of relief and a bit of confidence that all will come right.

Faith, Friendship, Holiness, Personal Reflection

Questioning

A situation has arisen that has me questioning nearly everything. My motives and intentions, my ability to love as I ought to love, my friendships, my work; I feel like I’m being subjected to a scrutinizing exam to which I have none of the answers. That all sounds a bit dramatic which is something I don’t like to hear in my own words. I tend to get that way when I am feeling this low. Let’s put it this way: it’s tough to be hated. How am I to react to that? Apology, guilt, shock, sadness, anger, defensiveness – each of them have marched into my heart and are taking turns at the top of the stack.

Of course the words of Christ keep flashing into my brain, “turn the other cheek”… and the work of mercy to bear wrongs patiently. This isn’t to say I have no responsibility in this situation or that I am wholly without guilt. Yet I have never felt more keenly what Christ was talking about, that there would be circumstances that call for meekness instead of anger, patience instead of rash reactions, sacrifice for reparation instead of defense of pride. Only He knows what I’ll need in order to actually do those things; they certainly aren’t going to come out of my own strength or goodness.

For now I’d settle for some confidence in the “this too shall pass” mantra.

Catholicism, Friendship, Gratitude

Side by Side

If you’re hoping for a detailed summary of the March for Life excursion, please don’t be too disappointed. Certainly, there are plenty of details I could share and anecdotes I could tell, but those are not what is on my mind. I do promise to post some pictures from the journey and event, just not in this particular post.

What is filling my head and heart for the time being is grateful amazement. The goodness of God, His generous heart, continues to catch me off guard. This trip to the March for Life reunited me with some traveling companions of my youth. The experience of partnering with them once more for a faith-based event brought about an eyes-wide-open perception of God’s goodness toward me. My teenage years were filled with normal, average teenage experiences for the most part, but they were interwoven with the out of the ordinary as well. The out of the ordinary came in the form of numerous travels, retreats, conferences and gatherings with my fellow Catholic teenagers from the Diocese of Marquette, MI. While I’ve always known that these contributed a great deal to my formation, I have still managed to underestimate their effects.

For one reason or another, it hit me this past week how much I owe to the Lord for placing me amongst the people and providing for me the experiences of my youth. I grew up with my very own “cloud of witnesses” running with me on every side. What courage was gained from the relationships forged by faith! What might have been different if that faith hadn’t been rooted, nurtured and solidified at such a young age! In the last week, as I was plopped into a scene so closely resembling my past, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the beauty of my friends.

Beauty…. The joy it effected thankfully had an outlet in the laughter and prayer we were continuously engaged in for the last five days. I ought to give those friends credit for that aspect of my life, too. Learning to laugh, to simply tumble about in humor and enjoyment of each other, came through this group of friends. Then to have these friendships not be merely a memory but a blessing that continues to braid itself into my life with all the other things I am caught up in as an adult, for that I am grateful, to say the least.

“My cup runneth over…” I kept thinking of the Kingdom of God parables that liken the kingdom to a buried treasure or a perfect pearl. Worth everything, priceless, abundant, beautiful; the kingdom of God includes the people in it.