At every transition in my life, I get restless, thinking I should be doing more.
When the kids used to start school in the fall, I felt an urgent need to pack my life with something more meaningful than what I was doing.
It didn’t matter that I might have organized a new early morning club at the school to teach elementary students how to produce a newspaper or volunteered to be the room mom in two classrooms, taken on the social director job for our neighborhood and organized a party with a live band and a Halloween parade on top of a demanding assignment overseeing a women’s organization of hundreds of women at church.
I still needed to do more.
Saturday, when my girls flew back to college, I felt the energy and purpose in my life go with them. The house was silent and truly empty…again.
I am not mourning the loss of my children. Don’t get me wrong on that. They are exactly where they should be in their lives and I am exactly where I should be in mine.
Our houses aren’t meant to be full of children forever.
But as soon as they left, my life suddenly seemed empty, like the house.
Yes, there are blogs to write, public affairs assignments I put on hold over the holidays, beach house work that needs to be done before the high rental season begins, and the list goes on.
But, what am I doing that really matters? And is it enough?
I’d like to be able to answer with an emphatic, “Yes!” to those questions, but I confess that I go through the “Am I doing enough?” phase as often as every other woman I know. (Maybe men go through this too and just don’t talk about it. Come on, men, weigh in on this…)
When I take the time to think it through and be reasonable about it, I know I’m just fine and that my life is unfolding beautifully. But, until I do that, I let myself worry and toil awhile with all that self-doubt and insecurity that can make me so crazy.
(If there’s a person out there that doesn’t go through this kind of downward spiral once in a while or routinely, I’d like to hear from you. I want to know how you avoid it.)
Thankfully, I pull myself out of it well and never dwell in the poor-me pit for long, but I’d be lying to say I never go there.
My conclusion is that every time there is a transition in my life — like when I quit a job I loved and left the professional world, or when my kids started a new school year or I ended my master’s program, or when any major assignment ended and I was gearing up for the next one, I lost a bit of my identity.
If I’m not a mother, who am I? If I’m not a professional woman with a career label, then who? If I’m not a writer, a student, a yogi, a public affairs director or any number of titles, then who am I?
My first response is to hurry and find a label — get a job, a degree, a certificate, a new assignment, anything that the world deems as respectable so that I will then be enough.
Last night, I reread one of my favorite articles by Patricia Holland called “One Needful Thing.” She wrote it for The Ensign magazine (and LDS Church publication) back in 1987, but it is as right today as it was then. She wrote about being a busy mother and having a demanding assignment in the church’s youth program, and even though she was exhausted from running so fast, she thought she needed to run a little faster. She worried she wasn’t doing enough.
“Too many of us are struggling and suffering, too many are running faster than they have strength, expecting too much of themselves…We must have the courage to be imperfect,” she said.
She quoted one of my favorite writers, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who said, “Woman today is still searching. We are aware of our hunger and needs, but still ignorant of what will satisfy them. With our garnered free time, we are more apt to drain our creative springs than to refill them. With our pitchers [in hand] we attempt…to water a field [instead of] a garden. We throw ourselves indiscriminately into the committees and causes. Not knowing how to feed the spirit, we try to muffle its demands in distractions. Instead of stilling the center, the axis of the wheel, we add more centrifugal activities to our lives — which tend to throw us [yet more] off balance.”
I get caught in the water-a-field mindset too often and need to remember the water-a-garden one.
I read in my journal this morning about a conversation I had with a friend after Annie started college and I experienced an empty nest for the first time. I said, “Maybe I need to find a job.”
She shot back quickly, “You absolutely do not! That’s the last thing you need. You need to learn to just be.”
(This friend, Sherry Clarke, http://www.clarkecoaching.com/also is a personal coach who said that I should just “be” as an empty nester for at least a year before jumping into anything. Very wise advice.)
Now, I don’t want everyone writing to me with reassuring words about how amazing I am. I’m not looking for compliments, sympathy or even understanding here. I’m just being honest about that little voice that can get too loud in my head and pester me with the question of whether I’m doing enough.
I know the answer.
I absolutely am doing enough.
I am enough.
And, so is every one of you reading this blog because if I know anything about my readers, I know you live full, busy and meaningful lives.
I just want to remind you, while reminding myself, that you too are enough. So in this time of big, hairy New Year’s Resolutions, bucket lists, and fresh starts, start with the premise that you are enough and build from there.
Believe me, I’m right there with you.