Lately I’ve had the distinct feeling of being Not Good Enough. It visits me at random moments, like when I was standing next to Josie at this strange French concert she took me to last week, where I was surrounded by men in leather jackets and scarves and pointy shoes watching strange French women sing and dance. Right as I was watching all of the strange, strange people around me, a pang visited me, square in my gut and whispered, “You suck.” That was fun.
It’s been visiting me more often than not. I go around with the pang of “you suck” or “what do you think you’re doing?” and “you are definitely not good enough” as I drain the pasta for dinner or help with math homework or fold laundry and take a bath or read something ridiculous about Jamie Fraser in an Outlander book, and I don’t know why.
I keep floundering in my writing. I’m revising my book for submissions to publishing houses, and as I rewrite, I keep getting the pang. “This is not good enough. This is crap. Stop it. Look! This is no good! Give up now! What are you even doing, pretending to be a funny writer lady?” and then I revise it again, only to the same result. I keep yelling at my kids, and thinking, “This is no good. If I knew what I was doing, these kids would never be yelled at.” I keep messing up so many things, and the pang just grows and grows.
And then I think: why me? Why do I deserve a shot at book publishing and mothering and being a wife and all of the other things I’ve been given? I’m clearly not good enough. Look at the mess I’m making of things! I keep trying, and I keep messing up. And then I want to stop, and to cry, and to give up. But mostly, I want to get rid of the pang.
I want to get rid of the pang so badly, and so this is my pep talk to myself. I don’t really want to give the pep talk. I want someone else to give me the pep talk, to know the exact right thing to make everything better. The problem is, I think I’m the only one who knows the exact right thing, and so I’m the only one who could give the pep talk to myself.
Sometimes, I think, the exact right thing is knowing that I’m enough. And so, this is my pep talk.
I read an article the other day in the New York Times called ”The Psych Approach,” and it was about how childhood traumas can cause lifelong damage, and the more traumas, the more likely a person was to die of cancer, attempt suicide, have learning problems at school, etc. It was more than a little bit depressing, and I was talking to Gregg about the story. I asked him, “But I took the test they used in the study to determine childhood traumas, and I scored in the highest risk group. And yet. I’m fine.”
“I know,” he said.
“You don’t understand!” I said. I listed all of the things I’d been through on the test, and how people with a score as high as mine should be dead, or in prison, or at the very least not happily married, healthy, living in a warm house with plenty of food on the table, not someone who has the chance to make her wildest dreams come true. Gregg said, “Well, I’ve never met anyone with as much determination as you.” (He’s a good guy.)
I’m not including that in here to humble brag, I wanted to write it in so you would know I disagree. There is absolutely nothing special about me. I didn’t have a fun childhood. I’m not exceedingly smart or pretty or talented or athletic. I didn’t come born with any special gifts. I should be suffering, biting my nails down to the nubs and drinking the day away.
The only reason I’m not is because of one thing that usually keeps the pang away. This is it. This is the only, only chance I get. I don’t want to fritter my time away on anything I don’t love. I don’t want to make the pang go away with drugs or alcohol or violence or even mindless TV or overeating or procrastinating. I want to spend every, every second appreciating what I’ve been given by making the most of it. That’s the only difference. That’s it. No special gifts. Just this.
So maybe the pang won’t go away today, or maybe it will always lurk in the background, but it’s not worth not trying my best. Maybe I’ll fail. OK, I’ll probably fail. I’ll fail a lot. I might not be very good. My wildest dreams might not come true, but that’s not even the point. The point of being here is to try, whether the pang lurks in the background or haunts me every day, whether I fail and feel miserable some of the time or not. The point is to not let it stop me, because whether it stays or goes, I only have this. And what if I succeed, even a little? Or what if the failure leads me to something better than I could ever have imagined? It’s happened before. It might happen again.
And so, no, this isn’t the perfect pep talk. I’d like it be less rambly. I’d like it to use better vocabulary and grammar. I’m not the best writer, and the thoughts in my head aren’t translating quite how I want them. I wish I was better at this. I’m not good enough to do this, but I’m doing it anyway, because this is it.
So maybe I do deserve it, because I know what a gift it is to be here every single day, to be alive and warm and happy and unharmed and pursuing my wildest dreams. Not many people get all of it, so I’m going to try, and fail, and pick myself up, and try again.