There’s a great big old gray area between knowing it to be
true that right here, right now, right as you are, you are enough, and the
inner yearning to be better, to be more content, to connect more with others,
to give more, to connect more with the divine.
There is being enough vs. being more. Yearning to get to that place in our hearts
where our interior and exterior lives align.
Yearning to be a better person.
Yearning to find your right work.
Yearning to find a partner in life, a soul mate. Yearning to receive more love and give more
I am in my heart someone who knows I am good enough. If you are very lucky, you have family, a
very good friend, a mate, a coach, a therapist who has taught you that you are
good enough. You don’t have to wait to be enough ‘til you are thinner, ‘til you
volunteer more, ‘til you spend more quality time with children or spouse or
friends, ‘til you lose all your fear.
You don’t have to wait to be enough to have a better job, to have a
boyfriend, to have a bigger apartment.
Does this mean that we shouldn’t want more or better? Well, no.
We have to live in that gray area.
We have to prioritize what’s really important. At either end of the
spectrum we are enough, and while we sort out how to navigate the gray area of
want and betterment in the middle we are enough, too. This flies in the face of Buddhist teachings
that any striving (with the possible exception of being a better meditator) is
inherently wrong or foolish, but this is a case of a black and white approach I
just don’t buy into.
I think it flies in the face of human nature to be
100% content all the time; there’s just too much going on out there in the
world, too much change, always room for improvement, particularly in our
relationships with our fellow human beings, whether close or strangers. And that’s fine, as long as we don’t let that gap
between who we are now and what we might be better at define us, and remember
that with or without being better, we are worthwhile human beings, parents,
children—we are enough. We need to love
ourselves now, not later.
Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future
I’ve been thinking a lot about hope lately--trying to
maintain it in myself, trying to share it with others. I have a lot of friends and family going
through a lot of bad stuff lately, health-wise, job-wise, family-wise. A lot of
loss. And then there’s the situation in the world, such suffering. I’ve decided that in the face of worry,
uncertainty, rapid change, impatience. and anxiety, in the face of war and
hunger and illness and injustice, we have to feed ourselves hope. The media won’t do it for us. We have to read uplifting stories; we have to
be raised by the beauty of music and art, marvel at the timeless mysteries of
nature. We need to come together in community, in our churches, temples, and
mosques around a sermon, or as neighbors around a block party barbecue or a
book club pick, as volunteers to help others less fortunate, as women in a living
room support group. We must create and
In their book Putting
Hope to Work, Harry Hutson and Barbara Perry define hope as “an orientation to a positive future that
engages our heads, hearts and hands.” Hope, then, must move us, must change our
minds, must spur us to action. We need
to live out of faith in, not fear of, one another.It’s why in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, we can’t
throw up our hands, can’t become so cynical we cease to strive for change or turn
against one another. It’s why we each have
to do what works for us to look forward to getting up every day, whether it’s
meditation or medication or massage or a book of affirmations or a religious
It’s why some of us go to house concerts to listen to folk
music (which always reminds me of its noble past in change movements), it’s why
we become involved in political campaigns, it’s why we recycle and switch to
non-toxic cleaning products, it’s why we sponsor friends and family in walks
for a cure. It’s why we donate money when a natural disaster occurs halfway
around the world or a few states away, it’s why we donate blood now and organs
when we die, it’s why we look forward to being grandparents.
It is also critically important that we instill hope and
faith in our children, whether they are first graders learning about global
warming or college students facing the first election in which they can vote. Maybe, just maybe, they hold the keys to
solving some of our worst problems. But
first, we must give them hope. Jane
Goodall is just one of many people doing that, effecting change with a program
called Roots & Shoots. It stresses that one person can make a difference and
offers youth hands-on opportunities to demonstrate care and concern for the
environment, animals, and the local community, as well as linking them
nationwide and internationally with other like-minded youth.
Inspiration for hope is all around us in past and
present. I was inspired by Nelson
Mandela and the Truth & Reconciliation Commission hearings in South Africa
after apartheid. I find hope in His
Holiness the Dalai Lama’s consistent message of compassion and peace. And like many of us, I have a well of hope in
reserve from how I was raised, in my case with a mother who would regularly
rush injured birds to the wildlife sanctuary and unquestioningly help friends
or strangers in need.
There is also hope to be found in media, though sometimes
one has to look hard.The Greater Good Science Center at UC
Berkeley does research into the roots of human happiness and altruism, and
explains how to turn that information into action. The Daily GOOD e-newsletter from good.is greets me with hopeful news
every day in my inbox. And I was filled with hope by Bill Clinton’s book, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World
( by giving money, time, things and skills, even in what we consider small
measure, and also gifts of reconciliation and new beginnings).
We need to talk to one another about things that matter to
us. We need to listen deeply to our friends but also to others we don’t call
friends. Margaret Wheatley reminds us, “[I]f we meet, and when we listen, we
reweave the world into wholeness. And
holiness.”We need to rise in grassroots
action because every day around the world we can see that people coming
together around something they care about can make a difference, whether it’s
bringing down a wall, a repressive government, or a company acting in flagrant
disregard of people and the environment.
We must turn toward all that can scare, anger, and render us
impotent, and we must stare it down with love and compassion and
community. We must envelop it with
The book Putting Hope to Work relates this Native American parable.
"An old Cherokee Indian was
teaching his grandchildren about life.
He said to them:
fight is going on inside me. It is a
terrible fight, and it is between two wolves.
One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorry, regret, greed, arrogance,
self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, ego,
and unfaithfulness. The other wolf
stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness,
forgiveness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion,
and faithfulness. This same fight is
going on inside you and inside every other person too.
They thought about it for a minute,
and then one child asked his grandfather,
It’s that time
again—time to acknowledge our ambivalent relationships with the holidays, a
real mine field of gray areas. We’re
supposed to be merry, and embraced in the bosom of our families, and we’re
supposed to make the dreams of those around us come true, and make memories to
last a lifetime, and give everyone a seat at the Norman Rockwell table, and if we’re
not Martha Stewart then by god she’d better be on hire for the season
decorating the house and cooking the Christmas dinner. Talk about pressure! No wonder many of us are
harboring a barely hidden layer of dread below our Ho-Ho-Hos!
intellectually that I am not responsible for making the holidays perfect for my
son and for my mother, who lives nearby, but darned if I don’t feel that
responsibility at some gut level and get sucked in year after year. I used to feel absolutely pulled in two directions
with their visions for how we celebrate (do I cook, do we go out, how far do we
go with the decorating, do we have a live tree or an artificial one). I finally took charge and we developed a
rhythm—Thanksgiving I bought the turkey out but cooked the sides homemade, and
Christmas we picked a country and made a themed feast (this made it feel more
fun for me and no one complained at the Italian baked ziti, antipasti and chicken
parmesan, or the chateaubriand and buche de Noel. The hard clench of my insides
eased a bit with the advent of having taken control of the holidays, but there
was still a lingering sense of dread as they approached. Sort of a forced march.
changed now with my 25-year old son a burgeoning foodie who serves as head
chef, with me very happy to be relegated to sous chef. My mom helps with chopping veggies or chats
in the living room with any other guests we may have and the pressure (from the
pressure cooker that was once me) is off.
But there is still this free-floating anxiety that overtakes me at this
time of year. No, it’s not just Seasonal
Affective Disorder, where the shorter days and lack of sun can take some of the
wind out of my sails. I’ve attributed it
to a sense that my son didn’t feel like it was a real family, just the three of
us, or that my mom always mourned the holidays of her married past and more
that were meant to be. But as I had a
conversation about this with a close friend, I suddenly wondered, was it just
about them or was it about me, too? Was
I feeling like three at the table instead of four didn’t equal a real family,
or was I mourning not only the holidays of my married days (or more accurately,
my vision of what they could have been) but those of my childhood, to which I
attribute retroactively a Norman Rockwell-esque glow?
reasons, I’m my own worst enemy, and I know I’m not the only one who falls into
the trap of expectations and perfectionism at the holidays. I need to re-read columns and blogs I’ve
written over the years about kicking Martha to the curb, and needing to
breathe, and gratitude. Let’s make a
pact to make perfectionism a four-letter word, and understand that expectations
are the enemy of a good time. Let’s
accept our families, and ourselves, for who we are, and realize that being
together—whether with the families we were born with or ones we’ve created for
ourselves—is a gift not to be taken for granted. That the relentless push of consumerism to
do bigger and better with presents and house decorations is corporate America
doing its job—but that doesn’t mean we have to buy into it. And that the impulse for giving this time of
year is the one we should be listening to, not the voice of impossible
extravagance and the pretense that families—or we ourselves—are perfect.
I’m hoping to put a little more jingle in my step this year, and if the halls
don’t get decked, well, I still know which list Santa’s got me on. It’s The Good Enough List, dwelling place of
good enough moms and dads, good enough grandparents, and mischievous children,
all of whose hearts are in the right place.
As Thanksgiving approaches I think about gratitude for the
many blessings in my life. One of my
favorite Thanksgiving memories is my mother giving me a framed poem about the
blessings of friendship and all the kinds of friends who enrich our lives.
Last night as my spiritual reading group discussed Brene
Brown’s Daring Greatly, we got to
talking about how we sometimes think our lives are so terrible but in fact, a
little perspective (a typhoon in the Philippines, tornados in Ilinois) is all
it takes to make us count our blessings.
Brown’s book, which focuses on shame and how it keeps us from connecting
with one another, reminded me of the blessings of belonging and relationship.
Today, cleaning out some files, I was confronted by
blessings again, this time in an article reprinted from My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging
by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. She has some
beautiful and insightful things to say about blessings, and I thought I’d share
Remen calls blessings “a moment of awakening in which one
remembers the holy nature of the world… [and] heaven and earth meet and greet
and recognize one another.” Blessing
one another can be as simple as a smile or an offer of help or compassionate
I absolutely love her distinction between prayer and
blessings: “[A] prayer is about our relationship to God; a blessing is about
our relationship to the spark of God in one another…When we bless others, we
offer them refuge from an indifferent world.”
But a blessing “is not something that one person gives another,” it is
more reciprocal than that. “A blessing
is a moment of meeting, a certain kind of relationship in which both people
involved remember and acknowledge their true nature and worth, and strengthen
what is whole in one another.”
“When someone blesses you, it reminds you a little—untying the
knots of belief and fear and self-doubt that have separated you from your own
goodness. Freeing you to bless and
receive blessings from everything around you.”
Remen and I share a fondness for the Indian greeting of
blessing, NAMASTE: The divine in me greets the divine in you. We’d be doing well to remember this concept as
we pass each other in our busy days, and we will all be enriched by the effort.