On Friday, at the beginning of the retreat I attended in Austin, the room of women looked like Facebook in situ. We brought our best selves to this group of relative strangers and held our breath. We presented our best possible images, hoping. Hoping to feel accepted, to find that calm in the center of chaos, to wiggle into our spot in the group. Hoping to keep the screen between image and reality firmly in place.
On Saturday, the women made paper chains of all the lies they told themselves. We wrote these kinds of things:
- I don’t belong here.
- I am not pretty enough.
- I am not thin enough.
- I am not a fast runner.
- I cannot run at all.
- I do not know Scripture like so and so.
- I cannot sing like her.
- I cannot speak like her.
- I am just a [wife, mom, teacher, amateur]
- I should [be more, do more, lose weight, learn to sing, be better at]
- I am not [smart, kind, thoughtful, talented, organized] enough
A woman at my table said something I think we must all have been thinking:
I don’t treat myself very well.
By Sunday afternoon, our faces stained with tears of knowledge, empathy and kindness, we had moved well beyond the perfect Facebook image and far into the realm of intimacy.
We try. We try to shrug off the heavy mantle of our shoulds and our justs. We try to hold enough up to the light so we can see that the boogie monster is not in the closet, that we are indeed more than enough. We try to remember that should is just another way of saying we didn’t live up to some impossible standard set by some great unknown.
Being in a room where we can be who we are, in all our broken yuck, is a nice place to be.
And then we have to go home to laundry and chores and reality. Then the lie comes like a tickle in the ear, and it seems so true, and sounds so real and feels so at home that we let it in. We allow it to slink back into its familiar corner and stoke it like a pet. Our precious.
I can’t stop thinking about the sharp edge of pain in the voices on Sunday, the depth of the need and the utter confusion in some eyes, wondering, “What do I do now? What do I do with this?”
We have to stop. We have to stop the justs. There is no such thing as “just” a half marathon and there is no such thing as “just” a mom. Enough of smartness, enough of organization does not exist. Its quantity cannot be found. There is no algorithm; brains plus beauty does not equal enough. It equals two parts of a person. If I could, I would grab every woman in the world and tell her this.
You are. That is enough.