“Enough” is a funny word.
The dictionary defines “enough” as: “as much or as many as required.”
Is there ever such a thing as “enough?” Are you ever really “enough” of …… anything?
I wasn’t “enough” for a recent boyfriend. We dated for six months. He was a decade older than me, and I imagined that he might be wiser. I had a key to his house. He made me space: dresser space, drawer space, closet space. I had the requisite shower space, too – a toothbrush, conditioner, razor, the hair dryer tucked into a closet spot. We made a little life together, however briefly.
But at the end of the day, no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t “enough.”
I wasn’t feminine “enough,” fancy “enough,” together “enough,” tan “enough.” I was too opinionated, too “resistant,” too loud. I was too gangly, too skin-picky, too anxious, too poor, too uncertain, too messy, too much.
And you know what? At the end of the day, I didn’t care.
But that’s stupid. Because I cared. For a while. Until I didn’t. Until I couldn’t any longer. Until the weight of the trying to lose myself became too unbearable.
For a long time, I wanted to be “enough.” I wanted to be tan, sweet, feminine, kind, and ultimately, “enough” for him. I wanted to be the wife he wanted, the future wife that he saw in me.
But I wasn’t ever “enough.” I never could have been. I was too much me, which was never “enough” of the “right” thing. It never worked and it wasn’t going to, and yet for a long time, I wanted so desperately to belong. I wanted to fit into his world, to be his person, to make his life the things that he wanted them to be. I wanted to fit into his ideal of what it was to be “enough;” I wanted to wake up in his arms and roll over and have him validate me, to tell me that I mattered to him, and that I was “enough.”
It didn’t start like that. I came into it enough.
There was so much of that. There were mornings where I felt “enough,” like the first time we showered together, and he washed my feet and held my legs ceremoniously, and I felt pure and clean and perfect. Worth washing, worth the soap.
And eventually, it became about him. It wasn’t me. It was his routine, his lifestyle that I was leading. I let go of who I was at the beginning, and I attempted to become the person that I thought he wanted me to be. I was still kind, of course, still accommodating and sweet, but I stopped being sassy and sharp, and started being him.
He made me oatmeal every day before I went to work. I pushed for more fruit in the oatmeal; eventually I learned how to make his oatmeal, except I made it in a way that made me happy. I thought in those moments that it was a compromise that would work. We had made communally acceptable oatmeal, and dammit, we were going to make it. Naivete, Katie, naivete. So stupid and pure, your soul. Dumb, deaf, and blind to the reality of the whole thing. Dumb, deaf, and blind with hope.
I would make the oatmeal, and take it to work with me, and I’d eat a part of it, sort of, and then throw the rest away. I hated the nuts. I worked for the fruit. I ate through the oatmeal for the fruit. And the rest, I’d dump into the trash can. I’d proudly take the empty container home at the end of the day, a sordid continuation of an empty charade.
I guess I should have known earlier. I didn’t. One night, we were all at Red Rocks with friends, and I was happily hopped up on things, and he was stone sober. We ran into friends. Months later, after it all fell apart, a friend told me that he had known it wasn’t going to work at that moment: me, loving everything, and him, sober, the two of us on different planets. The friend was right.
I don’t belong. I have never felt as though I belong in his world, the contradictory connected moments few and far between. I never have. I couldn’t have ever existed in his world, particularly not in that situation. I didn’t play by his rules; I didn’t subscribe to his beliefs; I didn’t play the world the way he does.
For him, I wasn’t enough.
But…I am enough.
Not “enough,” but enough. In my own right. On some other level. Unequivocally enough, somehow, somewhere. That’s the hope, right?
We spend the majority of our lives attempting to live by some unspoken set of rules. We attempt to find truth and meaning in our experiences, in our attempts, and in our ways of attributing all of that to society.
There is, in society, nothing and everything. It is such that the benefits are rooted in survival of the fittest, the most adept at acclimation. There is financial gain, to be certain, but that comes at the expense of our time – we mingle and -monger in the ways that benefit us the most, but at the end of the day, we have become indebted to a structure that is unsustainable. At some point, all that we have is ourselves, and I think that’s the most sobering reality of the whole endeavor.
If and when our business ventures fail, when we are no longer successful or fancy or en vogue, we lose the things that connected us to those people in the first place. And then what? The struggle for the sham that is societal validation stagnates. We are left with nothing but the ongoing attempts to verify and validate and recreate in order to remain relevant.
I don’t play by those rules.
And so I lose.
I lost that man. That was okay. The story I tell you here is not one of longing, or hope that someday we’ll find each other in the stars. Hah. It’s the stark opposite. I’m attempting to explain to you what it means to be “enough.” I knew it then, even through the convenient neglect of that glaring fact, and I’m attempting to explain how and why the broken parts of my soul saw the broken parts of his soul, and thought that finally, I had arrived at something that was “enough.” I was wrong.
Life has a funny way of giving you everything that you need, in a way that is the absolute worst. Sometimes it seems the best, but even then, you have to be cautious, because good is uncertain, unsustainable, and incredible. Incredible is a funny word, almost as funny as “enough,” but that’s another story.
You can never trust the incredible. You can (and should) feel it. Feel it fully, as the NLP tapes say. Feel that shit fully, and incredibly, and let it settle into you in a way that stirs you straight through to your curdled, clammy soul. But don’t you dare try to hold onto it, because with a flash, it’s all gone. Milk and clumpy flour through your fingertips, cold and wet and intangible.
When the end happened, as was inevitable, and could have been foretold by anyone and everyone (and was), I wasn’t upset, hurt, or devastated. I was free. Free from someone else’s version of what it meant to be “enough.” I was hopeful, happy, and free to resume rampant gluten consumption. Which I did.
I was alone, and I was okay, and I was enough.
It’s funny; last night I was at a thing with some people and I was talking with this incredible woman and we were commiserating about things, and I explained that situation, briefly, and she was shocked. She asked me if I knew another of his exes, whom I know well and love deeply, and she told me that they’ve had more than several conversations since the two of them (this man, and this ex whom I love) briefly dated about what it means to be “enough.” She said that he had scarred her in ways that I was also now regurgitating. I laughed, only because the sudden realization landed that in spite of being free and sweet and kind and resilient, whatever it was that happened did set loose some sort of internal stirring, a shaking unsettling of the self.
It was as though so much that had been done had been undone, unintentionally, but certainly. The questioning resurfaced, and those stupid long-buried thoughts still linger, like unwanted guests, long after the table has been cleared and the curtains let down to guard against the dark.
I knew before that I was “enough,” whatever that means, that my bright weird soul shines, even if it doesn’t always shine in socially sanctioned situations. I knew that I was okay, that my opinions mattered, that my sense of self worth was tenuous but tangible, and that I am, in some way, valuable. I must be.
I know that we all get those moments of choice, where we get to choose who and what we are, and I know that sometimes, most of the time, we let our emotions run everything in a less than desirable way. I know that because that’s what I am, that tangled emotionally-driven hot mess of a human. That’s what human is, the unbearable heavy weight of feeling. It’s all bullshit, but that’s the essence of our experience. We can’t be without that drive, we can’t ignore that inner guide, especially when it’s screaming about something or other.
Yesterday, the five year old that I nanny for asked me “anxiety” meant. We were on the way to pick up his siblings, and his little voice reached out from the back seat and asked that beautiful question. I told him it just meant being nervous and worried, on guard, sometimes for no reason at all, usually detrimentally so. They’ve traced a lot of that to childhood experiences, you know, that consistent stirring of panic, the result of years of uncertain situations with uncertain outcomes, the constant evaluation of any number of consequences arising from any given action, inaction, reaction.
I’ve had enough of the uncertainty, enough of the panic, enough of the unsettling. I’ve had enough of being enough but not enough-enough.
This morning, I talked a mother through a divorce.
I hold so much for other people, and I love that it. I love being there for people. I love holding people. I love explaining election results to children in an understandable manner. I love holding my six year old before I leave because she loves me and one hug just isn’t enough. I love the demands that I come jump on the trampoline with the kids, because they don’t want to jump alone. I love answering the phone for my crazy ex-boyfriend when he has no one else to call.
It means that I matter, but I don’t do any of it to be needed. I do it because I know what it’s like to be alone, and uncertain, and to feel stupidly unloved. That feeling resonates, in a very real way. I am anxiety incarnate, the eventual expulsion of the nervous energy that was my upbringing.
I was forceful about it – I told a dude, in no uncertain terms, that I hadn’t been enough for my ex-boyfriend, and that if I wasn’t enough for him, that wasn’t my problem, it was his.
Dear god, that felt good, the silly verbal assertion that I was enough. It stuck. It felt warm and true.
Goddammit, I’m enough. I’m a lot; I’m aware that sometimes I’m too much, but at least I’m me and not someone else’s version of what they wanted me to be. I own my shit, I understand my panic, and I feel too much. There are certain things that just can’t be taken away, that don’t meld into the normal. Those things aren’t always pretty, but at least they’re real. Intangible but manageable.
Ha, maybe that’ll be the title of my memoir, “Intangible but Manageable.”