Good enough

Something that has come up more than once over the last year or two is the idea of “good enough”. And not just in one area of life, in many. I guess that sometimes we just get tired of trying so hard to be the best, the brightest, the most thoughtful, the most loving…that it’s time to relax and just be good enough. Still get the job done, just not with all of the bells and whistles. And that’s okay. Sometimes.

But, good enough can also transform from more than a moment, or a period, of your life. It can become your life.

Become your career, your parenting style, your relationships, your marriage. Instead of seeking out better or best, or trying to improve it or fix it, it’s so much easier to just float along, letting the waves take us out further, and be good enough.

But is it really enough? And is it even good?

I think I began this habit of accepting good enough pretty early on in my childhood. We weren’t wealthy, or even middle class in the beginning, so we learned to just not ask for, or expect, more than was considered good enough from anything or anyone.

 

Some people use this childhood experience as a catalyst, or a motivation, to get more of everything that they’ve ever wanted as adults, but were denied as children. They live for their high-powered careers to take them on their amazing destination vacations and to wear the latest designer fashion trends. They collect tokens of success, totems to show the world that they have achieved a higher level. They need to show the world, and their inner child, that good enough was never good enough for them, and now they are in control and now it will be more than enough.

Others of us became trained to not only accept good enough, but to expect it without question or argument, and to live our lives that way. I’m sure most people from my generation – and definitely the ones before – had this hard wired into our brains from the generations before us.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not blaming my parents or grandparents for any type of brainwashing, nor am I whining that I should have been pushed more to stand up for myself or to excel in school to have a super fabulous adult life. I am not making excuses for my poor choices, or lack of voice, that led me to ignore what I truly needed or wanted out of life and my relationships. It’s only an observation of what lead me to this epiphany, the realization that I have been living ‘good enough’ in too many areas of my life.

The entire premise of ‘good enough’ becomes a slippery slope over the course of a lifetime. It starts off with the small things that you accept because really, what does it matter in the end? It’s such a small thing, it’s not going to have much impact in the long run. It may even relieve you of some frustration, or lighten your load of responsibility a little bit, let you off the hook basically. And who doesn’t want that sometimes?

But then, the small things slowly get bigger and bigger over time, and your expectation of what can be excused or shrugged off as “good enough” becomes more elastic, more forgiving. And that idea spreads to those that are close to you, they accept that you accept good enough often, so it must be okay.

And pretty soon, good enough isn’t just a school project or a work report. It’s not getting your meal served luke warm in a restaurant and eating it anyway. It’s not asking for  It’s no longer just skimming over the small details to save the peace and a little time anymore.

It’s your everyday life. It’s your career, your relationships, even your marriage.

You start off wanting so much from all of these areas in your life, expecting nothing less than greatness. Pure and real, you will work hard at all of it to be successful, determined that you will be more than good enough now because it’s about time.  You’ve accepted good enough long enough. Now you deserve to get what you really want, what you feel you truly deserve, because you’ve read the books and watched the movies that tell you exactly how it should all play out. You are ready to speak up and make demands.

You’ve witnessed all of the wrong ways to go about it, family and friends being the examples to learn from, so naturally you won’t be making those mistakes.

But your expectations for great accomplishments in all of these areas meets up with good enough along the way, because you can’t prepare for what you don’t know or what you haven’t witnessed or experienced before. You can’t guess what will happen, see the future, because you are only one part of the equation. There are so many other people, and events, that bump into your expectations along the way taking you off course – sometimes only a little bit, other times much bigger detours – that the possibilities are endless.

The only choice we really have in the end is to regroup, retrain, and begin again with new knowledge and new expectations. Accepting that we didn’t really know all that we thought we did. We couldn’t have predicted how other factors, people or events, would come into play or how they would affect the plan that we truly believed we had prepared for ourselves.

And everyone’s idea of “good enough” is always a little bit different, so what may seem good enough for you may fall very short for someone else. Or quite possibly it may be more than they hoped to receive. It is the difference of our experiences that can bring us together and separate us all at the same time.

It’s a wild card. A wild card that keeps reappearing throughout our lives.

And with any setback or disappointment there is always a lesson in there, if we are willing to pay attention. If we are willing to accept it and learn from it, accepting that our good enough was obviously not enough, maybe it will keep us from settling for or expecting good enough next time. Hopefully it redirects us to a better path and better choices.

Life isn’t meant to be lived “good enough”. Your job, your friendships, and definitely not your marriage, they deserve more effort. They deserve more of your time, your care, you attention. You deserve it too, whether you’ve been told so or not. And so do the other people in your life.

 

 

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Why Is Bringing Up Divorce Considered to Be Awkward?

The days of the ‘Scarlet Letter’ regarding divorce should be done and over with, but sadly, they are not it seems. It’s a part of life and relationships and we all need help to navigate new territory, why should divorce be any different?

Lessons From the End of a Marriage

The headline on my news feed grabbed my attention.

Kelly Ripa Wraps Up First Week Back to ‘Live!’ With Awkward Divorce Comment to Michael Strahan

The names didn’t garner my notice – I haven’t seen Kelly Ripa since she was a newbie next to Regis and I had never even heard Michael Strahan’s name at that point.

What drew my eye was “awkward divorce.” And so I clicked.

And grew confused. I have not seen the clip, but from what I have read, the comment didn’t seem to merit the backlash it has been getting. The, “How dare she bring up his divorces?” As though the mere mention of divorce is taboo.

Fueling the stigma and feeding the shame surrounding divorce.

Maybe I’m just desensitized from years of teaching middle schoolers who randomly shout out things like, “How old were you when you first kissed a boy?” in the middle…

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10 Ironclad Rules for Living After Divorce

I love this list, and will keep it in mind for my future self. The road to divorce is a difficult one, most definitely, but I have the feeling that the road after divorce is just as rocky and difficult to navigate if you keep doing what you’ve always done.

Lessons From the End of a Marriage

While I was in life limbo post-divorce, I crafted 10 rules for myself to follow. These were rules born partly of pragmatism, partly of fear and anger and mostly of determination. The rules were written in the relative vacuum of the weeks following a divorce. Easy to craft. They’ve proven harder to follow.

So here they are, my 10 promises to myself. Maybe you’ll decide to make them too.

1 – Never Give in Expectation of Reward

I played by life’s rules. Played it safe. It was a barter of sorts – I’ll sacrifice now and you’ll spare me later. But life didn’t play by those rules. And I grew angry. I felt betrayed not only by my husband, but also by life. I did everything right, so why was I being punished? I promised myself to give up on the idea of sacrifice. To instead give or abstain…

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Beautiful

One word. Only one word. But such a deep, meaningful word if used correctly or said by the right person. Granted, it’s thrown around quite a bit most days, and used to describe somewhat trivial things at times, but at it’s core it is one of the most appreciated compliments one can receive or give.

To be called “beautiful” isn’t something that most people say to one another just in passing. “Good morning, Linda. You’re beautiful. Want a coffee?” “Hi Sam, can I walk with you? You are beautiful.” To use the phrase “beautiful” one has to be so moved, and feel somewhat connected to the receiver, to feel comfortable usually. And yes, there is the casual “hey beautiful” from construction workers and the occasional creepy old man. Or your girlfriends trying to cheer you up. But the norm is usually something much more personal and intimate.

I realized this idea not too long ago while out with a friend one night. We had gone to a concert and walked over to a local bar afterward to have a drink with other concert goers. The crowd was happy, singing along to the songs on the jukebox, it was festive and friendly.

As we walked in, two gentlemen were standing at the bar watching us walk in – not something that I am accustomed to at this point in my life after twenty years of marriage. Somehow being 50 makes you feel invisible in most places. They immediately invited us over and offered to buy us a drink, and we started the process of getting to know one another.

As the evening went on over the next couple of hours, one of the men commented to me “god, you’re beautiful! ” To say that I was flattered would be an understatement. I blushed like a schoolgirl! He didn’t just say it once and let it hang there, no. He repeated it to me a few times over the course of the night. I blushed and thanked him each time. It felt weirdly good, even exhilarating. I smiled more, I laughed more. I felt confident.

Me? Beautiful? When was the last time I had been told that I was beautiful?

I thought about this over the last couple of weeks and realized that it had been a long time since I had been told that I was beautiful. By a stranger or even my husband. True, my husband had written it in a birthday card recently, but from my memory, he had never really said it to me. In over twenty years. Ever.

And that made me think about how important one word can be to a person. How it can affect how they see themselves, how they feel about themselves, and how they feel about their place in their relationships. Feeling beautiful from the inside should be enough, I agree. But feeling, knowing, that someone else finds you beautiful is like breathing in the freshest air on the clearest day with the sun warming your skin.

It fills you up, it lifts you, and you feel invincible. You feel beautiful.

 

My year of “Yes” begins

It’s only been one month since the idea occurred to me to challenge myself, break out of my old habits and comfort zone, embrace new challenges and new social connections. I jokingly referred to my new look at life as “my year of yes!”.

My friends laughed, and I laughed, but then when opportunities came up – social invites, new ideas, new skills, new social invitations, things that I had turned down in the past – those words came back to me. I have been gently, and not so gently, reminded of the promise I made to myself, to make this the year of yes, more often than I expected! Lesson learned: be careful what you say out loud amongst your friends and family.

Prodding me. Pushing me. Challenging me. Reminding me. It all comes back to this.

So to follow through with my vow, I have taken a sewing course to finally learn how to use my beautiful, expensive, sewing machine that I have owned for over seven years! I could only thread the bobbin and possibly do “practice” stitches, but never tried making anything or even putting in a hem. I truly wanted to learn before now, but never made the time to do so, or found a way to make it work with all of my other perceived “important commitments”. Suddenly, there was a Groupon with a beginners sewing class on offer, and I couldn’t ignore it or pass up the opportunity. It was only three classes, for two hours each evening, but that’s all that I really needed to not be afraid to try it. I actually MADE SOMETHING. An apron, that was made with my own hands and in a fabric that I chose. I felt like a blushing middle schooler in Home Ec class when I was done!

I also realized that I have lost the ability to read an entire book in the last few years. It seems that I can only pay attention for so long before my mind wanders and I think I have more important things that I should be doing, or I get distracted with family things or feel too lazy and just watch TV. I was down to reading magazine articles and snippets online, and feeling as if my brain were shrinking! So, I took on the challenge to read 25 books in 2016 through Goodreads. Going from zero books in 2015 to twenty five in 2016 sounds daunting, but I am hungry to read! I am working on three books simultaneously now, and it feels great!

I recently went to a bridal show with my soon-to-be sister-in-law, and during the vendor visits I agreed to take dance lessons at Arthur Murray Dance Studios. I originally agreed so my brother and SIL could get a free lesson towards their wedding dance lessons, but I’ve always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance and never made the time – or had the real opportunity since my husband had no desire the last twenty years. Who knew that you could take dance lessons alone? They promised me a young, good-looking instructor…now you’ve got my attention!

I signed up for and have successfully participated in my first ever public crossfit competition, the Trodo games, and finished with my team to earn the “grit award”. It was by far one of the hardest competitions I have ever been a part of, and I seriously underestimated what it would entail. I almost quit during the first WOD and truly felt like sitting down and crying, but it got better and I did it. I survived, and I am honestly looking forward to the next one! Maybe now I will make the time to take my training seriously and actually eat better to feel better.

And the latest challenge from a good friend is to wear makeup everyday for thirty days to see if it will change my life, or at least the way I feel about myself. I am the average SAHM, honestly. Most days I am in some sort of t-shirt, with jeans or yoga pants and casual shoes – no makeup. Everyday. It’s been interesting to say the least. I have tried each day to do something with my face, even if it’s just mascara and some blush. So far, after only one week, I am feeling more confident in myself. I take an extra minute to look at myself in the mirror (maybe I’ve forgotten who that strange woman looking back at me really is?) But within the first week of this challenge, I have realized that my makeup is pretty basic and could stand to be updated, or should I say, more age appropriate? I’m probably using the same techniques and colors that I did when I was a teenager, and that wasn’t last year let, me tell ya. Time for a makeover. Bobbi Brown, here I come!

All of this is just the beginning. It’s more than a resolution, it’s a promise to myself to be better to me, kinder and more forgiving of myself. I have been living for everyone else but myself for a very long time – usually it was my own doing, but sometimes completely out of my control. Or so I thought. I just turned fifty a few months ago and an idea became crystal clear shortly afterward. I only have one life, and only so many days and nights left to it. I should do what makes me happy, what brings me joy, and share it with those that make me happy and bring me joy. It’s time to let go of the negative, the exhausting, the sadness and make myself open to the positive, the exciting, the joy and all of the new opportunities that the future has in store for me.

 

She was my friend

I read some bad news today, as soon as I woke up and checked the Facebook icon on my phone. I lost a dear friend to breast cancer.

She didn’t just die from breast cancer, she died from a long drawn-out battle with breast cancer that took both of her breasts one at a time then moved on to her back and the bones in her pelvis. She died from the numerous chemo treatments and multiple surgeries. She died even though she did all of the “right things”. She ate well, exercised, slept, laughed, loved and touched so many around her in so many ways.

She got cancer anyway.

It didn’t just take the breath out of me when I first read the post on Facebook, I honestly thought that my brain wasn’t functioning correctly and that I was misunderstanding the message. Somehow, I thought, this can’t be true and the real post should read “she has made a miraculous recovery and will be dancing at her own birthday party next month!” It took me awhile to process the news. It was early morning and I was alone for the first hour in the kitchen trying to wrap my head around it. 

I made coffee. I cleaned up the sink area. I checked email. Then I went back and reread the post. It was still there and condolences were being posted. I tried to write my own, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not yet. Surely we were all reacting too quickly and it would turn out to be incorrect information, right? I would hate for her to think that I gave up on her.

Then I cried.

Every time I tried to think of her being gone I cried again. I cancelled a coffee date with another friend by text, too afraid to use my voice for fear that all I would do is cry. I spent the better part of today in a monk-like silence, working and cleaning inside of my home and hoping not to have to tell anyone or say it out loud. I cried again and again, for my loss and for her children’s loss. For her husband left alone to raise their children.  For her mother who buried her husband only two years ago. How would they all deal with their grief and loss? Hadn’t they all suffered enough already as they watched her fight for her life?

I called to make an appointment with my OB/GYNE determined to finally get that mammogram – it’s been three years since my last one. The last time we Skyped I promised her that I would do it. I don’t pretend to believe that it’s a magic spell or a shield against the same diagnosis happening to me, but I promised her.

I will think of her often, and all of the people that she touched along the way, and over time I will stop crying each time I am sure. I will remember the way she brought so many different people together and was the glue of so many groups, the life of the party, the planner of parties, the friend who would listen and not judge or judge for you against whatever/whomever was making you unhappy. She made you feel special, always.

She was stunning, beautiful, warm, funny, entertaining, brilliant, loving, caring, generous and most of all she was my friend.