Community Identity running writing

Just, Should and Enough


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.

10 Comment

  1. I am grabbing you, sweet friend, and saying this: Jennifer Luitwieler, YOU ARE. By the way, I’m getting really good at spelling your last name.

  2. First of all, AWESOME that you put a LOTR reference in your post. I’m such a nerd that I did a little happy dance when I read that. Secondly, your post made me think of Louie Giglio’s book i am not but i know i am. Have you read it? I’m normally not a book-espouser, but this one is chock-full of good, simple truth. Thanks for this! God bless you today!

  3. Nodding. Tears of understanding. Dangit, I am! Thank you for this. And I still struggling to spell your last name half the time. 🙂

  4. I’m so glad you’re shouting this message from the rooftops. I can’t count how many times you’ve reminded me what an evil word “should” is, and yet I still need to keep hearing you tell me again.

    But it’s such a tough thing to fight, you know? I guess the answer to “What do I do now that I’ve seen the light?” is not some magic formula, but just the hard work of trying again to see it, every day, and reminding one another that it’s out there—to keep reaching.

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