I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough…


I fancy myself the kind of person who gets things done. I set my goals for the week ahead, and try to block my time to best achieve them. I have my habits and routines, and my litany of tasks and chores to complete. Productivity has always been some kind of measure of success for me. If I don’t have an agenda, a tasklist, a goalpost to work towards, I can start feeling pretty antsy and itchy. If I’ve accomplished nothing for the day, I’m left feeling a bit guilty, and uneasy. I guess it’s my way of making order in a wild and chaotic life. 


Was I always like this? What’s this race I’m trying to win? What awful thing might fall upon me if I don’t strive and push, and check all the boxes on my to-do list? I mean, obviously I’m aware what the consequences will be for missing short term / work related deadlines – and the practical eventuality of not cleaning up the house, doing the laundry, etc…. It’s easy to see what will come of my lack of attention in those areas. But what do I think is really going to happen, if I don’t constantly produce – be ahead of things – on a meta level? What looming punishment awaits? What dark specter is keeping tabs on me, ready to shame and humiliate me if I don’t “measure up”? It exhausts me, this never ending attempt to be in control, to be good enough. Maybe I’m not alone. I’m going to take a page out of Brene Brown’s book – and agree that we need to normalize this. 


I know in my rational head that falling prey to thinking like this is not healthy or good for me. I know that fundamentally, it’s a losing battle. I know that this Herculean effort to cram everything into neat little boxes and bring order to the world will never see its desired end. I am aware that I could busy myself every waking moment, and still never complete the checklist. I wonder … When will I give up this idea of “scratching the itch”? How will I figure out that enough truly is enough? Will I ever surrender to the chaos, and find some peace within it? I’m thinking that’s probably largely up to me, and I’m going to need to get busy, and do my work. But in an effort to relieve myself of this heavy responsibility, I’d like to do the super healthy thing, and take a minute to blame it on someone else. Let’s talk a little bit about my family of origin. 



I come from a family of do-ers. My dad was more laid back about things, and didn’t mind napping on the weekends or taking time to write or read by the fire. But still, he got things done. He had a strong inner drive to understand, and somehow capture the REAL meaning of things. He was consumed with a need to get his mind around the ultimate purpose of life on earth, and “what it’s all really about”. He was so consumed by this lofty endeavor, in fact, that often the daily tasks of being human often fell by the wayside. It was certainly a good thing he had my mother to attend to his daily needs, otherwise I’m not sure the practical tasks like eating, laundry, paying the bills would have ever been accomplished. This isn’t to say he didn’t work hard – he did. But his head was often in the clouds, looking for Truth and Goodness. Couldn’t be bothered with the “little things”. I always admired his search for what really mattered, even if he left some mess in his wake. I probably inherited a smidge of this, in some ways.


My mother, on the other hand, was clearly motivated by getting things done, in a visible way. Her striving was more worldly, shall we say. Her car was spotless and serviced regularly. She dressed for success, every day. It clearly affected her mental health when the house was in disarray – which I don’t remember it being – ever. A well ordered house to her, I’m sure, represented competence. It projected the image that all was well. Everything was taken care of – nothing to fault her for. No mess – she was doing a great job. You couldn’t possibly fault her or find any criticism. She was in the clear. Other people were a mess, but she and our family sure weren’t. Or so it may have seemed. There’s a really great blog entry in there somewhere…


To this day, my mom, who is 86 years old, starts most of our conversations with “Let’s see, what have I gotten done today?” Honestly, it makes me squirm a little each time I hear it, even though I understand this sentiment all too well. Both of us can be driven by a ceaseless motor, and we tend to define ourselves, and our self-worth from our ability to keep up with it. It’s as if there’s an unending made-up competition against ourselves to be the most productive, to ensure there are no signs of idleness. That would be unforgivable, and embarrassing. You know what?? It’s kind of bullshit. We need to be kinder to ourselves, and find some ease and acceptance in living a life that is beautiful and full of grace, simply by nature of having loved and having been loved. We don’t need to clean out the basement to be worthy. Life won’t last forever, and my wish for her is a carefree and fulfilling last chapter of life. And yet, the spinning motor goes whhhhirrr whhhirrrr whhiiiirrrrr. I know this motor. Love it or not, I am my mother’s daughter.

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